The HARP (High-School Association for the Research on the Principle) is becoming the spearhead of witnessing activities in France. In two campaigns (7 days in April, 10 days in June), the HARP witnessing team showed its ability to bring people to the center, teach them and gain spiritual children. The team consists of 14 to 18 year-olds. They can raise 100 to 200 dollars a day. They witness to people older than themselves.
University students, association leaders, clergy are impressed by their maturity, sense of responsibility, joyfulness, unity. They sometimes wonder about the secret power of this team: How can people who are so young do all these things?
The initial motivation of the HARP was probably just to get some exciting experience. Also the parents saw it as a way for their children to ´keep faith´ and experience the pioneering age of our movement. Now, the motivation is more mature. Don't talk to them about ´having an experience´. What they really want is to find spiritual children. They know that the guests are sent by God to be saved and that nobody else but the HARP will guide these people to eternal life, since no one else is seriously trying to witness right now in France. Many of them are able to pray with tears for their guests, to long for them, and develop a parental heart.
When they don't find these capacities in themselves, they become very serious to change their personality.
The importance of HARP for the witnessing is not a fleeting phenomenon. It is the natural fruit of a consistent process of spiritual education. Four years ago, Florent Chailli, the elder son of the France National Messiah to Estonia, had a strong experience. He realized that all Blessed children should absolutely know the Principle and live it. He felt this simple truth to be self-evident. When he came back to France, he visited all his friends and challenged them to be more vertical. Those who were mature and spiritually thirsty had already started programs, and they united with his vision. Florent Chailli had brought a match from Estonia, but the powder had already accumulated for years. Now, Florent is just completing two years of STF in the USA, and HARP-France is quickly rising. Many have pledged to join STF or ETF and are preparing to go.
France has many Blessed children. About 100 belong to junior HARP and senior HARP. Weekly activities (Friday gathering and Sunday service) are now well organized in the areas where many Blessed couples are living. Principle education is provided in these sessions. The HARP also organized many workshops in a training center. By organizing workshops for the younger Blessed children, HARP staff learned commitment. The HARP also managed to have a good internal organization with elections of the President every year and a plan of activities.
In other words, everything started with a central figure and a prophetic understanding of the role of HARP. Then, a process of education was maintained regularly for a few years. Finally, the year 2001 is the year of a dream becoming true.
In January 2001, 35 HARP members attended a 4-day program to study the Exposition of the Divine Principle. Their reflections and testimonies showed a strong desire to live with God. In the concluding prayer of this workshop, Edgar Vieira, 17 and former president of HARP, burst into tears and pledged to God that, from now on, HARP would start to witness. The era of keeping to ourselves without caring for the salvation of others was over.
In February 19 HARP members attended a 3-day program. Each participant offered a full-day of fund-raising and two days of learning how to give lectures. The winners of both competitions received awards. During the fund-raising, some showed their ability to witness, and talk to people about God and the Principle.
In March, a major step was decided: HARP would send volunteers to pioneer in the newly opened center of Lyon, the second city in France. The task would be witnessing and gaining spiritual children. This decision was not easy at all to implement. Finally, only six HARP members volunteered to go, and two adults were with them.
The HARP set the goal of giving 40 Divine Principle lectures in one week and to find three spiritual children. Only 20 lectures could be given, and one spiritual child joined. The 7-day campaign ended on Easter day, coinciding with the end of Father's speaking-tour in the USA. Due to other coincidences, the HARP developed its awareness of being used by God to attend True Parents. The major coincidence was their impact on clergy.
During the very first hour of witnessing in Lyon, Yves Akouh was witnessed to near the center by Christophe Vieira, 15, HARP president, and Jordane Nguyen, 18. Yves comes from Togo, is 34, and was then in his fourth year at the seminary to become a priest; after hearing the Principle of Creation, Yves came back every day during one week. He studied 11 lectures. After the departure of HARP from Lyon, the local community, which consists of only five Blessed couples, offered many sacrifices to set up a 7-day workshop for Yves. Around the same time, Reverend Pierre Kasongo, a Calvinist pastor from Congo, arrived in Lyon. Having the rank of a government minister in the government of Laurent Kabila (recently assassinated), Rev. Kasongo was suddenly arrested, put in jail and tortured. He came to Switzerland to apply for the status of political refugee (he once preached in Saint-Peter Cathedral of Geneva, the Vatican of World Calvinism). He was about to join the 7-day workshop when he had a severe malaria attack. Yet he attended the last three days.
As a conclusion of this first campaign of French HARP, we had two members of the clergy (a Catholic seminarian and a Protestant minister) starting to work together. We felt deeply connected to the victory of True Parents in the USA.
In June, a 10-day campaign in Lyon gathered eight HARP participants with two adults. Yves Akouh, the spiritual child of the first campaign, started to witness together with us. This time, the number of 40 lectures was reached and even beyond, since we could give 44 lectures altogether.
On the third day of the witnessing activity, a certain Nelly Lafond came to the center and received Chapter 1 and chapter 2. Aged 20, she comes from a rather rationalist and humanist background. But a few months ago, as she visited a Dominican convent, she had a strong spiritual experience during the mass and converted. We were very amazed by the grace and joy emanating from her ; as she visited us, she spoke about her desire to stay in the Carmel for a few days and possibly become a nun. We taught the Principle straight and she understood very well. The next two days, she did not come back, but the two sisters who had witnessed to her, met her again every day and talked with her. On the fourth day, she came back and studied more. It was obvious that God started to work more and more deeply in her life. We also had the visit of Benedicte, aged 20. Her father, from Sierra Leone, died in the violence which has plagued that country for years. She was brought up with her five brothers and sisters, by her mother alone, a French nurse. She explained that the whole family, despite financial difficulties, is involved in humanitarian activities.
One day, we had a very fresh experience: four guests came in, aged 12 to 13. At first, we were very surprised, because they look so young. But they listened to the Principle of Creation very attentively. The next day, they came back with more friends to listen to the Fall of Man. Such phenomena are quite common in third world countries, but are extremely rare in affluent societies. When we expressed our amazement that they are so united, they said "Yes, we also cannot believe it. It is like a dream. We really love each other and respect each other."
Another guest came the eighth day, called Yussef. Coming from Lebanon and being a Catholic Maronite, he was brought up in a rich family. His grandfather was the founder of the biggest chain of supermarkets in Lebanon. Yussef does not feel any taste for business yet. He came to Lyon to study theology and psychology. After hearing the Principle of Creation, he came back the next day, attended Sunday service and spent the whole day with us until quite late. We brought him to the zoo and we went boating together. In the evening, he listened to the Fall of Man, and then studied the Principle of Restoration.
The last day, we gave our 44th and last lecture to a young lady aged 21. The elder of a family with eight children (which is very rare in France), she has been a devout and joyful Catholic since childhood. She will enter the fourth year of medical studies. As we progressed in the Principle of Creation, she expressed her profound satisfaction to hear such a noble truth.
Finally, we should mention another good friend : Reverend Bob, a Catholic priest from Ghana, has become a very close friend and is very happy with HARP.
Some guests were amazed to see a group of young people like HARP : they are very young, but what they do really makes sense. ´If everybody was doing what you do ...´ is a sentence heard ten times a day, when they do fund-raising or witnessing. Yet French HARP knows that the path is rough. The effort to gain spiritual children is not small. We hope that, worldwide, the Pentecost will move the second generation above 12. This is the right time to become a prophet and start to witness to one's nation.