Unification News for May 1996
Chicago Church Bids Farewell to Rev. Hong
by Bruce Sutchar-Hanover Park, IL
At the May 1st Leaders meeting at East Garden, True Parents assigned many of the Regional Directors to become National Leaders all over the world. Rev. Hong was assigned to be the National Leader of Peru. Therefore last week, the Chicago Church once again gathered together to bid adieu (adios--bio con Dios) to Rev. Hong and to welcome our new regional Director, Rev. Ki Hun Kim (back) to Chicago. It was a moving tribute, especially in that the entire Church auditorium was filled to capacity on a Wednesday night.
Through testimony, prayer and song, the brothers and sisters shared their grateful hearts. We are now excited to move forward on Rev. Hong's 7 year foundation with Rev. Kim and we pray that Rev. Hong will bring great victories in South America as he works to bring Christians from both the Americas together. This is my testimony:
My most intimate experience with a Korean Regional Director, occurred shortly after graduating from seminary in 1985. I was the assistant State Leader in New Mexico and was working closely with Mark Boitano. In December of that year, a "brand new" Korean leader arrived in our region. His name was Reverend Jong Bok Hong. Rev. Hong had not been in America over the past several years and I had never met him before. However, the day after his first visit to Albuquerque we received a phone call in the midst of our morning prayer. Rev. Hong had just appointed me State Leader of Wyoming and I was to report to Denver immediately to begin my new mission.
I would only be in Wyoming for about 9 months, but it would prove to be one of the most significant periods of my life. Working directly with any Korean elder can be a very special experience, but working with Rev. Hong proved to both enlightening and educating for me. 1985 was the time of the Signature Campaign and Rev. Hong would call or visit our center nearly everyday. Through his guidance I saw many miracles occur, both on a providential level and also in the lives of our young members. Through his guidance, our region, the lowest population region in America, came in third place in the country in number of signatures. And under Rev. Hong's direct guidance our Region flourished and our membership grew spiritually.
Soon we came to understand that our "brand new" Korean leader was a 36 Blessed Couple who was actually the 4th member to join our church in 1954. Rev. Hong had had so many experiences working directly with our True Parents and he spent many hours with our members sharing the intimate details of his life with us.
When my first child was born, Rev. Hong took several weeks to give him a Korean name. He explained to me that after he received a name in prayer, he sent it to a special prayer lady in Korea for approval. He explained how important it is for a child to have the right name. Finally it came--Kook Whi: a light shining out to the nation!
After coming to New York for God's Day in 1986 I became part of the ACC Africa mission. Soon I learned that it was Rev. Hong who had recommended me for the position. However, as ACC began in Princeton, New Jersey, I had the opportunity to return to my home town of Chicago. I returned only briefly to Wyoming to complete my mission and say good-bye to Reverend Hong.
Two years later at a meeting in East Garden, Father was changing all of the Korean Regional Directors and amazingly, Rev. Hong was chosen to come to Chicago. I was so elated--my heart leaped when Father anointed him to oversee Region #5.
I am sure that it was not easy for Rev. Hong to drop everything and come to Chicago. He had developed a very significant ministers base in the Denver Region, but he came immediately. He had heard many stories about the great success that Chicago had had with the CAUSA ministers. Yet, as with all principled work, Rev. Hong had to personally develop a give and take relationship with the members and ministers in Chicago. His arrival in Chicago coincided with Father's Korean Tour of America and then Mother's Tour, Father's Tour, the True Children's Tour, Mother's Campus Tour, the Blessing and Father's "True Family and I" Tour came to Chicago.
Recently, we just completed our fifth consecutive IWFC conference here in Chicago. 200 women attended the event which Rev. Hong once again orchestrated toward a great success. But as I reflect upon these past seven years in Chicago, I am so deeply moved by the example of sacrifice, service and love that Rev. Hong has taught the members of Region #5. As American members, coming back to our hometowns and beginning our families we are brought face to face with Rev. Hong's example. Rev. Hong has been living in Chicago since 1990 while his wife has been serving as an IW in Japan. In fact, Mrs. Hong was in Kobe the night the earthquake struck. At 3 AM she was thrown out of her bed and only through the grace of God she was not injured. The buildings on each side of our center were destroyed and one Buddhist priest was killed. Also, Rev. Hong's children have been separated from their Father and Mother for so many years. Happily, our members were able to share with Rev. Hong's son and daughter and finally Mrs. Hong herself, came to stay for a time in Chicago. Presently Rev. Hong's youngest daughter, Sun Sook and her older blessed sister Chin Sook are here studying in Chicago.
Several years ago when so many of the Korean leaders returned to Korea, we had a good-bye party for Rev. Hong. For me, it was very sad occasion that he would be leaving Chicago. But shortly after leaving he returned, because when Father asked him directly, if he wanted to return to Korea, he told True Parents that he wanted to stay in America and take responsibility for American Christianity. And that is exactly what his mission is today. After over 40 years of serving our True Parents so faithfully, Rev. Hong has now taken on this new mission to serve and unite American Christianity.
My experience with Rev. Hong is that he has always been exact in following Father's directions. Five years ago, at a leaders meeting, father instructed the Korean leaders to make a "Committee" of leaders in each region to help to serve to lead their community. This is exactly what Rev. Hong has done in Chicago. And as a result, each of our campaigns have proven successful, much in part due to the unity of the department leaders with our Korean elder.
Now, as I reflect on the 8 years that I have worked with Rev. Hong I see clearly that he leads us by following Father's direction, through the example of his own lifestyle and prayer life and by studying, teaching and living the Divine Principle. I have seen him transform the lives of those members and ministers who were able to unite with him through the Divine Principle and I have seen him succeed in Father's mission by his absolute life of faith, love and incredible sacrifice.
I pray that the day will come when American members are able to pay back Rev. Hong and his brothers and sisters from our early church in Korea. Until then we can go forward together in faith and gratitude for all that he has taught us through his example and all the love that he has given us through so many years.
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