(Note: This essay will appear in the next UNews, with possible modifications, and color photos. Pick up a copy.)
"At the end of the 20th century, don't lament that there isn't a nation. With a national spirit which can lead the world, and with a thought which can lead the world, when that people begin to die in the place of hope, when they begin to establish that thought, the way to live eternally in the ideal Kingdom of Heaven will be opened to them. That's what will happen." (Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Unification Family Life, p. 50; from a speech given in the late 1950s).
In Brazil's southwest lies the province of Mato Grasso do Sul, the shape of which bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Brazil itself. And in Mato Grasso do Sul's southwest lies the town of Jardim. Local Unification lore has it that the Italian monk St. John Bosco (1815-1888) received the revelation that the Messiah would appear in this area, and that the Vatican is keeping it under wraps. Jardim is a town of some 12,000 in which the buildings are freshly painted, perhaps due in part to the economic boom triggered by its new neighbors to the north.
Drive out of Jardim for about five minutes and you pass through large properties owned by the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification of Brazil. It is pleasant, gently rolling ranchland with scattered trees, populated by white cattle. Occasionally one views a farmhouse in the distance. Continue north for another ten minutes and you will see the sign for the headquarters of the Federation. Take a left at the sign onto a wide dirt and gravel road, and you come to a checkpoint, at which moment the attendant comes out and lowers a chain. You cross a 30-meter long bridge under a banner announcing that this is the world headquarters for the education of ideal families for world peace. Now you can see, some quarter mile distant, a campus consisting of numerous one-story buildings with orange tile roofs, dominated by two large two-story buildings with the same roofs. You have entered New Hope East Garden (NHEG).
We pulled in at about 5 pm this April 28, having traveled some 24-hours from another world called New York. Our driver, Felix, encouraged us to first pay a call at True Parents house, which we did, offering bows and a prayer. This house is the same as it was when I visited in 1996, except that its kitchen is enclosed now -- originally it was open air. Of course there was nothing but wilderness surrounding the house at that time. But the house's new occupants, our True Parents, had a vision for that particular place. The house is situated just north of the confluence of two southward flowing rivers, the Miranda and the ---?---. One is muddy, the other clear. North of the house the land has a gradual uphill slope, and True Father envisioned schools, a hospital, tourist accommodations, gardens, research facilities, greenhouses, ostrich farms, horse stables, lakes, gardens, athletic fields, everything to build an international community of peace. That vision is being realized.
Leaving True Parents' house, we were greeted by President Kim, overseer of the entire project. He welcomed us warmly and simply, asking if we had received our room yet. We had not, and he asked Felix to attend to it. We registered at the "Japanese office" and the sister with the key to our room arrived. We put our belongings into the room and joined the line for the 6 pm dinner. Our room contained two bunk beds and one double bed, with a bathroom attached. All the comforts of home, but we were told to keep no food there, so that ants would not come. The room even featured an air-conditioner, which we put to good use the first three weeks but did not need after that. At times, in fact, we could have used a heater. As we entered South American winter, between late April and early June, the weather turned from hot days and cool nights, to temperate days and chilly nights, and night begins at 5:30 p.m. at the solstice.
On the way to dinner we encountered Mark Snell, a brother I knew at UTS and who is now responsible for the newspaper providence in Denmark. Mark was serving as the coordinator for the "western group," one of three groups, the other two being Korean and Japanese. The groups met separately for Hoon Dok Hae and organizational purposes. The Japanese group met for Hoon Dok Hae in the largest room, called the Temple. The Temple was also where True Father met with everyone, and where we met to view True Mother's speeches on the internet.
Mark introduced us to the basic pattern of NHEG life. He stressed the spiritual aspect first, mentioning the purity of the atmosphere and the need to police one's thoughts, words and actions because the consequences of negative thinking are felt immediately. He told us that two children had drowned in the rivers, and of the blessed youth had also drowned in his attempt to save them. Such are the dangerous undercurrents in the apparently peaceful rivers. "Oh darn," I thought, "I can't think negatively. Oh well, I guess Išll just force myself to be positive for a few weeks!"
Mark said that we enjoy a great deal of freedom of schedule, that we should not drink the water in the rooms, that we should expect a bit of diarrhea, where the infirmary is, what kind of fish bait to use, and other sundry details. This as we ate a typical NHEG meal of chicken goulash, rice, beef, soup, kimchi and lettuce. The food was substantial and better than I had expected. There was a fruit stand on the porch outside the dining room, featuring local bananas, apples, melons, pineapples and ice cream. In addition there is a shop on the property selling everything from snacks to sunglasses and sandals.
Over dinner we met our fellow western families, the McKewens from Boston, the Nielsons from Denmark, the Sensinis from New York and John and his wife, from Japan. Soon to join us were the Merthas from Italy. I mention each name because we became such a close knit group over the workshop. Much of the value of the experience has to do with the closeness one develops with other families, both adults and children, whom one would never otherwise meet. Jardim is a crossroads of the movement. Everyone who is there has sacrificed to be there, pursuing and believing the same dream of the Kingdom of God on the earth, of God's sovereign nation. This brings on an instantaneous sense of oneness among heretofore strangers. We speak the same language, we live in the same culture. We realize that God in True Parents is created a global culture of heart. There was a smooth harmony on the horizontal plane with blessed families each following their conscience and the schedule. It occurred to me, occasionally, that this very enjoyable place was the preparation for our registration into True Parents' lineage and a foundation for the "national-level blessing." And I realized that these benefits are quite substantial, that the realm of heart is substantial. In light of this, the financial offering, a challenging one, recedes to the background. And one is left feeling quite unworthy of such love. The glory of God, the glory of True Parents, this refrain rang in my heart for several days.
God's Family Culture
At New Hope East Garden we were drenched by God's heart, True Father's words, and the glorious beauty of nature, in a place of quiet. Imagine! No phones, no faxes, no computers, no e-mail, no radios, televisions, commercials, pictures on buses, billboards, no secular culture at all, only God's family culture. It is a environment of parents, children, dogs, cats, fish, parrots and God. Above everything stood two beautiful symbols, set on the roof of the Temple: the tongil symbol and the Family Federation symbol. I've never been a devotee of flags or symbols, but I quickly grew to love, to LOVE, those symbols. They brightly represent God's dominion, God's true actual real substantial living loving dominion. We had to travel by plane and bus to the ends of the earth to find it, but where else would you expect to find God's dominion?
The first three weeks, those consisting of straight Hoon Dok Hae, were a time of total resurrection for my family. True Father's words just get to you after a while. Liberation, judgement, exaltation, wildness, rapture, analysis, dreaminess, joking, cajoling, educating, all the dimensions of True Father's mind and heart caress you and smack you from 360 degrees. Even the words that one could criticize or refute, well, one just doesn't want to do that, because why break down the kingdom of God? When you can really touch the kingdom, feel it, taste it together as an international community, that which criticizes it is truly revealed as Satan. I mean, what's the benefit of rejecting true love? And here we get to the essence of NHEG: the liberation of true love to manifest in marriage, family and community.
We are here as husband, wife and children. My wife is Korean. Korean-western or Japanese-western couples have the option of doing Hoon Dok Hae in their respective groups, separately. But we stayed together in the western Hoon Dok Hae and I am glad we did. Reading Father's words together is a real blessing. We could feel each other's reactions. We could just plain be together, hour after hour. Our lives as Unificationist couples are marked by separation. Work, children, school, the chores of daily life and often mission locations separate man and wife. We meet late in the evening most days, with hardly a base for deep communication. Each has more than enough stress stored up and is relying on the other to relieve it. In theory we should be able to instantly touch each other's heart, but usually it takes quite a bit of time and effort to get our minds onto the same wavelength. At NHEG, however, the stresses and separations dissolve, as we are together day after day. The effect for us was gradual. Here is a bit of what happened.
For the first few days of the workshop, I was my usual self, rather passive and quiet. Taciturn, you might say, reticent to speak or act. Finally, on the fifth night, my wife said, in desperation, "our relationship is so boring." Well, that might not sound like a major marital fight, but it hit my heart. So after my philosophical-theological explanation of why our relationship is boring, putting the blame everywhere but on my own fallen sour self, an explanation that had absolutely no effect, I meditated on what I might do for the sake of my wife. Now, I go into this in detail because it is as much a part of the NHEG experience as anything else, and perhaps it is the most essential. I talked to my original mind and came up with three or four action steps. I can't even remember exactly what they were, but the gist was that I would give first. Brilliant, eh? What an original idea! (I wonder if it had anything to do with my hearing it incessantly in Hoon Dok Hae?)
Giving first meant, for the most part, initiating conversations. It's amazing what can develop simply through initiating conversations. We met new people over meals, interesting people. We began to do afternoon activities together as a western group, taking walks, exploring the property, picking the oranges and tangerines that grow abundantly, fishing, taking care of kids. Suddenly, life wasn't so boring! I was, if not the ideal husband, at least an improving one. One morning, over breakfast, I remember saying to my wife, "I'm going to be the perfect husband!" What could have gotten into me -- not to desire such, of course, but to think it possible! She was visibly happy to hear my determination. Such is the atmosphere of NHEG.
We don't realize how much energy it takes to cope with the fallen world. The spiritual and physical distractions, the "downers," the demoralizers and so forth, are so pervasive and persuasive that we just absorb them all the time unconsciously. It requires that we totally separate from that world to realize how good is our original nature. Of course, we have much work to do in the fallen world, but it is uplifting to spend time in a world closer to God's kingdom.
We think, as Unificationists, that we are not special, that we haven't accomplished much, and so forth. It isn't true. When you get a bunch of us, a random sampling, together in a clean environment, the result is so beautiful. And then I realize that it is our True Parents who have made us what we are, with me much of the time virtually fighting against what they want to do. Not visibly fighting, usually, but, let us say, thinking about other things. Preoccupied with peripheral matters. Straining out gnats and swallowing camels. Missing the point. Allowing the hyung sang to dominate the sung sang, the body to dominate the mind, the reality to dominate the ideal. Part of that could be the necessities of restoration work, but at NHEG I had to reflect whether what I am doing day in and day out really is restoration. Am I travelling the straight line, the 90 degree angle, the path of true love? Whenever True Father asks us that question, who among us raises our hand?
True Parents' Presence
True Father was with us ten days out of the forty. He seems at home in South America. The Mormons have the belief that Jesus came to the Americas after his resurrection. True Parents have come to this opposite corner of the world while on the earth. His love is truly universal.
We participated in True Mother's speaking tour from the Temple, via internet connection. This allowed us to exercise one of the opportunities provided by the workshop: to gain the ability, as couples, to bring joy to True Parents by singing together. Thus, it came to pass that one day my wife and I learned a song together. We had been blessed for 17 years and had never learned a song together! It was a joy, a fine and close feeling, just to practice a simple song! We were engaged in a mutual task for God. This fulfilled what I heard first from Rev. Yoon about the purpose of the workshop: to develop the couple's vertical relationship with God.
Everyday, after True Mother's speech, we became one with the audiences in London, The Dominican Republic, Slovenia, Russia, Moldova, and so forth. Father would cut the cake, and we would come to the front and sing. True Parents' cosmic duet concluded each event, with the global village dance. True Parents' world-transcending, world-transforming love inspired those far-away audiences as it did us in NHEG. And the kitchen did a heroic job in baking a fantastic cake every day, which we consumed with delight.
Each morning we shared Hoon Dok Hae in the Temple with Father. Often he would walk among us, looking at our notes, sensing our spirits. One morning he sat down in the first row and listened, the number one student. Some mornings were quite chilly, but Father was the most lightly dressed of all, and he refused the cushion brought him. Every moment, he wants to be the one to sacrifice most, to endure the greatest difficulty, to give first, even in the most simple and yet tangible ways. The parent should not be warm until all the children are warm.
I will share some of my notes from True Father's words given those days.
"Jardim is the fruit of True Parents' victory, the fulfillment stage. It is the precious fruit of True Parents' accomplishments. This training center is prepared to bring restoration to reach God's ideal. All Unification Church members should come here for True Parents' training, in order to be reborn as an original Adam and Eve. Your children should be of True Parents' direct lineage.
"Education here is a privilege. Here you receive True Parents' entire victorious foundation. Therefore, from now on, blessed couples should bless their own children so that they will avoid the fall, from age 16. Please promote the blessing of youth.
"I made the cosmic liberation ceremony and the 80-city speaking tour without opposition. True Father made the worldwide foundation and True Mother is following his path. If the 33 nations of South America unite, we will see the beginning of a new age." (May 15, 1999)
"If we love the mind, body and all creation, we will be happy. Even if we cure diseases, if we cannot solve the fall, hell will remain. Therefore, work hard to make good conditions in this world. Solve disease by proper mind/body harmony and proper living. The fall was a death sentence.
"If Adam and Eve had kept absolute faith, love and obedience, there would have been no fall. As God's son, I should turn around the fallen world. We should follow Divine Principle and True Parents' message to end God's suffering. When we go to spirit world, we will understand what is wrong. The fall started sin and disease. So we change fallen love to pure love.
"God's love means to love the enemy, to embrace even the evil one."
"We should know that our parents suffer more than we do."
"This training center is to educate blessed couples who couldnšt value the blessing, and to indemnify blessed couples' wrongdoings and shortcomings. You made many mistakes."
"In Heavenly Father's view, all men are Adam and all women are Eve in the Garden of Eden. We should deny everything. You are the body of True Parents, because your lineage is the same. You received True Parents' lineage, so you should defeat Satan's lineage and go to Heavenly Father's house. Create a loving world and Cain's world will follow automatically. Through the blessing you are a branch of God's lineage. You should love your neighbor. Your life should change, entering the realm of eternal love with God. You should inherit all that I have done, which means to fight Satan on the individual, family, society and national and world levels. Those who live for others become the central figure of the family and each level. To inherit everything, offer everything first, and live for others, especially for the world.
"Without love, husband and wife cannot unite. With love, they unite into one. Every blessed couple should inherit what True Parents have done. To inherit God's love and tradition, the most precious organ is the sexual organ. To return to God means to inherit God's love. Every creature sacrifices itself for human beings. We should sacrifice ourselves for God. Then we can inherit heavenly fortune.
"Our country starts from the will of God. The offering of $16,000 is conditionally equivalent to offering everything. It is the offering for our tribe and country.
"Heavenly Father really cares about each blessed family. To live in the proper way, we need to learn True Parents' words, the history of True Parents' fight against Satan, everyday. We don't need other kinds of study. This is the main task, to learn and to educate. Your external job is secondary. Do Hoon Dok Hae and work for God." (May 16, 1999)
"I don't live as I want to, but according to the ideal. I can see that men give a hard time to their wife. In this world, women divorce because they get no satisfaction from sexual intercourse. Why don't they? It is because men and women have different senses, and the man reaches the climax first, too rapidly. With this, the man will lose. In order for a man to love his wife properly, he should practice until his wife feels love. Treat your wife carefully. When women have a good feeling, they will be happy. Even animals can make love properly. But men cannot understand this point. The founder of the Unification Church teaches this, and it is an important part of human life. People fall because of the problem of love, including those who strive for the religious way of life. Each husband should practice the proper way to love. I do not live as I want to, but am following the way of life centering on the will." (May 22, 1999)
"I tried to do God's will for the sake of God. I reflect on my shortcomings and want to avoid them. But nonetheless I do everything for God and the world, to be a mediator, not for myself. God suffers to see us on the thorny path back to Him. When you fall short of your responsibility, you should feel shame because you are leaving the work to your children. Those who pour everything out can feel God's heart. There is still a ways for me to go. Many want to receive education." (May 23, 1999)
President Kim, Rev. Jeong Rho Yoon, and Rev. Hideo Oyamada also presented valuable teachings. Rev. Yoon in particular is responsible for workshop education. Among his many fine talks, he provided one excellent discourse on the primary expressions of true love in marriage: concern, responsibility, respect, understanding, and giving. He made it very practical, with concern, for example, relating to one's spouse's clothing, housing and health. He asked the husbands how often we buy a suit of clothes for our wife. Are we really concerned about our wife's health, how tired she might be? He said that where we are really saved, in the sense of really perfecting our character, through our concrete relationship with our spouse, more than through our relationship with God and True Parents.
Father chose Rev. Yoon after his church brought the best result in Korea for Blessing '97. He kept Rev. Yoon by his side for an entire year and then assigned him to be education director at NHEG. Rev. Yoon is a very kind and humble man, who, in my opinion, identifies with my reality, your reality, the reality of the "average blessed couple." After Father's long speech, he would give a very nice summary of its main points, and then an even more pointed rendition in his closing prayer, so I always made it a point to listen well to his prayers! He could truly catch the basic principle within Father's words.
We fished as often as we could. There are several nice spots between 10 to 30 minutes walk from the complex. We took bus trips to four locations, two farms near NHEG, Rio Perdido, Salobra and Porto Murtinho. Those were memorable days, as one could view firsthand the acquisitions the Family Federation is making and the vision for the future. The talks given on those occasions included also something of the practical side of living there, how much it costs to buy a cow, for instance. One could easily become a romantic "back-to-nature" advocate on those days. Ah, yes, living the natural life, picking oranges and papayas off the backyard trees, chewing on sugar cane, milking the cow, swatting the flies.
We visited one farmhouse, the occupants of which are a blessed family, and there was the teenage son in his bedroom, watching television. The satellite dish in the back yard. Not bad. Even the poorest of houses, shacks, to be more blunt, had their satellite dish!
And we did service projects that are assigned on an "as-needed" basis. We washed dozens of blankets in huge tubs, the old-fashioned way. We swept the dining room floor and scrubbed it on our hands and knees. In truth, the primary technical skill I acquired at NHEG was that of a janitor. Here one encountered so many insects. Father says there are millions of species, and most of them visited our dining room. Tiny, tiny things, usually. The dirt on the floor was half-spilled food and half insects eating it. When you swept it up into a pile, the pile would start moving. It was rather psychedelic. Everything is alive! The pile of dust is spreading across the floor in all directions, by itself. By the time you got back with the dustpan, half of your pile would be in the next county.
I have no time to write of the talking parrots, the children's group singing, the all-night security duty, the orange picking expeditions, the matte tea, the details of the bus trips, the countryside restaurants, explaining the phases of the moon, night after night, to my daughter, the soccer games, the culture nights, the refreshing air, clean and pure and vitalizing, the fishing meditation, the horse riding, the carpentry shop, the emus (South American ostriches that run wild on the property), the road-building and construction projects, and on and on, experienced with spouse and family. I learned new things: how to play piano, how to do art, fishing and carpentry skills, singing with my wife in front of True Parents, a "new start" at studying Korean, and many more, not to mention the janitorial skills! And it is really true: your spouse is your God-given best critic. Prepare for all the rough corners to jut out and hurt yourself and others, and get your heartistic hammer and chisel to work.
Suffice to say, "get thee to New Hope East Garden." It's more than a providential duty; it's an enriching pleasure.
For information and registration, please contact Mrs. Betty Lancaster at National Headquarters (212) 997-0050 ext 272.