Unification News for October 1996
Women's Federation for World Peace, Texas
by Laura Hornbeck-Van Alstyne, TX
Late at night on Thursday, August 15, a group of approximately 100 Japanese people arrived at the Wyndham Greenspoint Hotel in Houston, Texas, to attend a 2-day International Friendship Conference. Japanese women and a few men, from their early 20's to their 70's in age, came to Houston in hopes of being paired with Americans as international sisters and brothers.
Our gathering in Houston was the first such conference held in Texas. The timing was especially poignant because it coincided with the 51st anniversary of VJ Day (Victory Over Japan), which marked the end of World War II.
On Friday, August 16, the Japanese heard three American speakers lecture (in translation) on various topics. At lunch time, Dr. Roderick Paige, Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, spoke on the importance of improving family life, our schools, and the society at large if we want to raise young people with a brighter future. Later, Mrs. Helen McDonald spoke about her 12 years as curator of exhibits for the Admiral Chester Nimitz Museum, in which World War II is memorialized.
On Friday evening, Mr. A.C. Green, a well-known member of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, was the featured speaker. Mr. Green, who also has a ministry for youth, did not speak about basketball but rather about his commitment to helping young people develop self-discipline and self-esteem. He is an outspoken advocate of abstinence until marriage. After his talk, Mr. Green posed patiently for one photo after another, giving autographs, and generally enjoying the attention from the Japanese who were in awe of the 6'9" black man who towered above them.
I found out that basketball is at least as popular in Japan as America, and perhaps even more so. Mrs. Taeko White, of Houston, and I were able to spend some time with Mr. Green prior to his talk. Taeko explained to him that many Japanese get up in the middle of the night to watch American NBA playoffs. Mr. Green was very interested in the Healthy Love program developed by WFWP member, Teri Lester of Kansas. He read the materials I gave him and asked for more. He was also impressed with the WFWP Statement of Beliefs, and referred to them several times in his talk.
On Saturday, August 17, the deeply moving Sisters of Peace Ceremony was held. Houston participants included Alma Allen, member of the Houston Board of Education; Helen McDonald, curator of exhibits for the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas; Grace Saenz, assistant to Mayor Bob Lanier; and Teresa Doggett, congresswoman from the Houston area. Also, keynote speaker Mary Lou Retton crossed the bridge and greeted her Japanese sister. Congratulatory letters were read from Mayor Lanier and from Governor George W. Bush.
Mary Lou Retton, Olympic gold-medal gymnast in 1984, spoke about the importance of determination and self-discipline in achieving one's goals. She talked about how desperate she had been to recover from an emergency knee operation just six weeks prior to her gold-medal performance. She is a dynamic speaker with a captivating message and energetic style of delivery. I know that many young girls have been encouraged to pursue gymnastics and other athletics because of Mary Lou's bright, shining personality as well as her successful career.
The day ended with a gala banquet and entertainment. An authentic Kabuki dance was performed by Ms. Miyuki Saito from Houston. A perfect ending to the heart-warming day was provided by Sheila Vaughn's entertainment. For the final event, everyone in the hall was invited to circle the room and join hands to sing, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." What a sight to behold! Black, White, Oriental, Hispanic, women and men of all ages standing around a room singing a simple song about peace. "With God as our Father," we affirmed that we were all truly family and all yearning for the same peace. There weren't many dry eyes in the room at the end of that song.
Most people felt reluctant to leave the ballroom. They clustered together, holding hands and talking with their new friends. Long lines of people waited by the stage to have the opportunity to cross the Bridge of Peace themselves. As I walked through the room, I passed a woman who was holding the arm of her Japanese sister and weeping openly. She said to me, "Thank you so much for inviting me today. All my life I have felt a desire to go to Japan, but I never knew why. Now I know. It's because I have a sister there."
Deep in the heart of Texas, the spirit of God was almost tangible that day. It could only manifest itself, however, on the foundation of untold hours of hard work, prayer, and tears by our wonderful women of the WFWP. The true mother's heart of service and sacrifice, as exemplified by our founder, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, will be the key to bringing this world into new life.
Laura Hornbeck is the WFWP Region 8 Coordinator.
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