Unification News for April 1997
by Michael Yakawich & Paul DiLorenzo-Billings, MT
The True Family Festival held in Billings, Montana on March 9, 1997 was a culmination of our work so far. Tears of joy were not held back as six couples received the Blessing. As each came to receive the Holy Wine and Holy Water, memories of our times spent together over the years rushed before us. How wonderful it was now to share this precious gift with them. They were indeed a diverse group of friends- Native American, Black, Hispanic and White. Indeed, the feeling of God's love overflowed into our church that day. Over 75 people including local clergy and friends were in attendance.
One guest couple had mentioned they would get Blessed if they could make it. They arrived just after the event started. They watched the entire program. Afterwards, I asked them if they came also to get Blessed. They enthusiastically said yes. I called my wife and Paul DiLorenzo, our emcee, and we all agreed to go back on stage and Bless them. It was a wonderful moment, feeling strongly that Jesus really loved this couple. They were elder evangelists. The wife was rushed to the hospital the past week for an asthma attack. We felt it was a good time to give them the Blessing even when the main event was over. She was so proud to give testimony to everyone that her vows were renewed and she also attended the Blessing Ceremony.
Through this event, we were given a chance to see that our investment, large or small, is never in vain. Here in Montana, the community is building a church. It is a body of neighbors and friends, family and other denominations working and striving to build something better for our community. We would just like to share with you what we have been doing in the vast outreaches of Montana, the Big Sky Country.
Our church is based in a very diverse community. We face many of life's real issues. It helps us stay alert and aware of our community's needs. The issues of drugs, gangs and racial prejudices are not uncommon to our community. We sometimes find the drug needles along our sidewalk or experience crimes close by the church. In fact, this summer while standing next to my car, the back window was shot out, only a foot away from my chest. It is a genuine excitement and seriousness which spurs us on. Also, the neighbors are grateful that our church is in the community and helping to address the issues.
The community showered us with gratitude this past summer by helping to paint our church. Time and money were donated for paint and the painting of the building. As other neighbors have come to our church services, they have joined in helping repair and maintain the church building. It is sincerely exciting to see the church developing as a credible and accepted part of the neighborhood.
This credibility was seen recently by the invitation of myself as pastor to the Art Mural Committee. It was a community board to establish a mural in a local park. Now completed, it remains not only as a beautiful piece of artwork (50 ft. x 10 ft.) but as a sign of acceptance of our church in the city. In fact, as one part of the mural, children of our church are painted standing in front of the church.
The families of our church and the church elders Chad Martin and Paul DiLorenzo have been participating in ecumenical services each fifth Sunday of a month. As pastor, I have been invited to participate, preach and pray along with the other clergy. It is so inspiring to see a stage with various clergy and an audience of all different congregations sharing in worship together. Our congregation has been welcomed, which is a praise to the Christian love of the neighboring churches.
In further outreach, we have taken local youth (including those not part of our church) out on river-rafting trips and hiking trips. Often, the parents join with us to strengthen the bonds between parent and child. On a recent hike, Paul DiLorenzo (ACC) shared over lunch with the young people deeper aspects of leadership and moral conduct. An article was printed in the local paper covering this event.
With our small staff, amazingly, programs develop. As with the Women's Federation for World Peace, Tamijo Ruether-Affor, Fusako Martin and Patty Halcomb worked hard to bring women to conferences in Seattle. Traveling over 1700 miles round-trip, they commuted twice with carloads of ladies to Seattle.
The members' creativity for outreach was again expressed in a local Motherhood Appreciation Program last year. It was a united effort of HSA, WFWP, ACC and tribal messiahs working together. Twenty-five mothers from the neighborhoods were honored. Local clergy attended and addressed the participants. A pastoral message was well received and over 100 people attended, with local TV coverage. The community expressed gratitude for our church doing this. One local clergyman said, "You are the peacemakers for our community."
Our regional leader, Rev. Geon Wee Kim, has been a real inspiration for us. Over the past year, he drove hundreds of miles to participate in our Montana events. His presentation of the speech "In Search of the Origin of the Universe" was well attended and appreciated. Even with harsh weather, 120 people attended. Participating in the recent Holy Wedding Ceremony and providing guidance in our ministry, his support has given us much strength.
Our outreach expands to various areas and levels of the state. With the Family Federation for World Peace's Parents Day National Award winners, Montana sent one of the eleven National Parents Day award winners. The Tribal Chairwoman and her husband, Clara and Carlton Nomee, visited Washington, DC to receive their award. Chairwoman Nomee expressed a desire to encourage this type of outreach locally amongst her tribe and the surrounding communities.
In conclusion, our building of our "community church" is slowly but surely taking shape. It is inspiring to see new guests, greater acceptance of our ministry, deepening respect for Rev. and Mrs. Moon and growing unity among the members. Although the road of our ministry is just beginning, it is inspiring to hear members of our community saying that our church "is a positive and contributing part of the neighborhood."
We have tried to be creative in our outreach, from potlucks to picnics, from church service to service projects. Now with the focus on the Holy Weddings, we can see this as a continuation of our ministry and another opportunity to connect, share and take care of our friends, family and community. Rather than being discouraged by the incredible goals, one step at a time we can reap the "great harvest." As with this past Blessing in Montana, our friends are grateful for our work and efforts. One couple mentioned to us after their Blessing Ceremony, "Through your love, we are coming closer to God; we are grateful for all your friendship." And I figure that is what Rev. Moon has taught us from the very beginning: love others.
As we work out here in the outbacks of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, our prayers are sent back to you. In good times and tough times, we are reassured of a great and special body of people who make up the Unification Community-from Alaska to Florida, to all countries in the world.
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