Unification Church Foreign Mission Providence 1975 – 1985
Pioneering the World
by Nancy Barton Mrs. Nancy Barton (née Neiland) worked with the American foreign missionaries from the time they were in training at Barrytown in 1975. She was the American representative in the World Mission Department and served in several different capacities there. Nancy compiled the following article in 1985 to honor and remember the work of the early pioneer missionaries who devoted (and in many cases risked) their lives to sow the seeds of our movement throughout the world. Nancy herself was one who, from the offices in New York, served and loved the missionaries with a deep heart as they met with challenges related to a lonely spiritual life, transcending cultural and language barriers, plus the practical difficulties of staying in their mission country, earning a living and maintaining their health. Although this piece was written more than 30 years ago, it still catches and showcases the bright and brave heart and spirit of the early pioneer efforts to grow our movement in nations that had yet to meet True Parents. First published in Today’s World magazine, we are re-publishing it today.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My son, my precious child. I love you and would never leave you. During your rimes of trial and suffering, when you see only one set off footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
And you, foreign missionary, have you had such a dream? Have memorable scenes of your life in the mission field flashed across the sky of your mind? You, too, decided to follow God and our True Parents and had the encouragement that they would be there with you at all times. Recalling these last ten years of your life, did you notice that during your most troubled times you, too, were lifted by your God, your True Parents, held in their arms, and carried?
You had many dreams, before you left for your nation. You dreamed of restoring your mission country, offering it to Heaven through True Parents. Armed with the truth of the Principle, and the love of God and True Parents, you were so full of life and enthusiasm when you went out. It seems your dreams have remained strong within your mind and heart during these years, for many of you are still walking the path of the pioneer missionary, which appears to have now widened into a road….
Ten years is a long time. Countless stories and incidents retold from your lives could evoke laughter or tears. Yet what has it meant to wear that glorious title, “foreign missionary”? It is easy to conjure up the rather idealized version of what a missionary does: shouting God’s message across the plains and mountains of your country, longing to embrace each man, woman and child and breathe life into their waiting souls. But it wasn’t that easy, was it? And there was often no glory attached to your title. Many members have prayed for you, not realizing the hardships, the indemnity that came across your path, not realizing the depth of suffering you endured to offer the progress made in your nations. Not every story can be told, but in this tribute to the investment made by Heavenly Father, True Parents and each of you, some of the typical and some of the not-so-typical events which comprised your daily lives during these first ten years of worldwide activity will be shared.
Spring, 1975. In three different corners of the world, the young men and women of the Unification movement of Japan, Germany, and the United States chosen left from the warmth and security of their spiritual homelands, and the love and comfort of their national leaders, in the largest wave of missionaries sent out by the Unification Church at one time. God was about to take them on a journey. (Previously, the European nations, Canada, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, India, several Middle East nations, and several South American nations had been pioneered.)
Most of them did not turn back. And no matter what happened on the other side of their rainbows — even if for some reason they had to leave the mission field, and are now serving in a different assignment at this time — they will never be the same.
Digesting a Different Culture and Surviving
Father’s vision is so broad. He looked forward to the time when each missionary trinity would make an economic foundation, contact professors and theologians, engage in media work, help develop natural resources, found or manage schools—the list of his plans goes on and on. By sending his representatives to every country possible, he was planting seeds which would eventually help in the building and creation of the Kingdom of God on earth. But initially he kept almost silent. In his wisdom, he did not outline all these plans before they left. He knew that before he could direct them in such activities, they needed to first contend with daily survival. He knew that they needed time to digest the language, the culture, the problems with unity, the hardship of overcoming themselves. And in a sense, he kept all of us guessing about why they were sent.
However, when Father gathered all the foreign missionaries and national and state leaders to hold the first World Conference on the occasion of his 60th birthday, he no longer kept silent about why he sent out the foreign missionaries.
Father said then that if he had not sent out foreign missionaries, he would have been accused by the people in spirit world that their nations on earth never had the chance to hear the Principle.
However, shortly after the missionaries departed, the Unification Church in many established nations — especially the United States during the Yankee Stadium and Washington Monument campaigns went through incredible persecution. True Father was grateful when news of our movement spread throughout the world and stories and warnings of the impending danger of “Moonies” appeared in the newspapers of all other continents. Father could say with confidence that the government and the people knew of our missionary activity; therefore, there was no way he could be accused of inaction.
He further commented:
“I was hoping that as soon as you reached the mission field you would be faced with enormous persecution and suffering. Then you would have had absolutely no time to worry about internal difficulties. You would simply have had to unite and face the situation.
I was hoping that you could all experience this, and many of you actually did. I knew that 1975 was a very severe year of persecution, and I knew that in 1976 we would hit the peak of persecution. I knew that was the pinnacle we had to pass over. That is why I sent you out in 1975.
You must have had to overcome many cultural barriers: there was one American, one Japanese, and one German, each thinking differently on the basis of his own upbringing and standard. That in itself is already history-making. No one can find at any time in human history that three people coming from such contrasting cultures as Japan, America, and Germany came together, trying to pursue a common purpose and goal. Why? To save the country and people. It is a virtually impossible task, yet backing you was an organization and a leader who believed it could be done.”
True Father knew well the silent suffering that each missionary had experienced. In fact, although all missionaries had dearly longed for some words from True Father, such communications had been few and far between. In 1980 he said,
“I left you practically all alone for the past five years. I wanted you to be able to come back and write your experiences. I wanted to create an enormous manual of instructive material for future history. You have that text within yourselves. This was one goal of sending you out five years ago.”
At that conference, True Father asked each of them to write their testimony of missionary life. He requested them to include how they achieved unity and adapted to the language, culture, and customs of their nations; also to describe all spiritual phenomena experienced by the missionaries themselves and their native spiritual children; and to record what and how much was devoted in prayer, concern, or care for the sake of one person’s salvation. He also asked them to ex press how they viewed the problems and future of their nation from the viewpoint of a spiritual parent. These testimonies, excerpts from which appear in this article, have been called by Father “The Acts of the Apostles ” of the Unification Church. When he commissioned these testimonies, he already had some idea of what they would contain.
“Even without hearing your report directly, I can understand it. I know each one of you suffered. Your report will be the record of suffering for the sake of God: You suffered; you may have been imprisoned; you were mistreated; you were persecuted; you shed tears; you may have even had to run away from the eyes of the authorities because you wanted to remain in that mission field. Every one of you has a record of suffering.”
The First Shock
Many foreign missionaries later said they were full of anxiety during the plane ride to their new homeland. Romantic adventures perhaps filled their mind, but at the same time, fear threaded itself around their hearts. What would it be like? What would they find? And even more importantly, what would find them? Many later confessed that they were sure someone would cut their throats, that they would be robbed as soon as they stepped out of their hotel, or that they would catch malaria or another dreaded disease simply by breathing the air!
Many countries were much hotter than the missionaries originally anticipated — the waves of heat hit them as soon they stepped off the plane, virtually drenching them. In some nations, the humidity level matched the temperature. Energy was immediately sapped, and reality began to set in.
Yet stepping off the plane for the first time was a historic moment that each of them, personally shared with Heavenly Father. One sister said that just before she left the plane and stepped on the soil of her country, she felt like Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon for the first time.
A new world. So many unusual sights and sounds. The waves of the ocean pounding the shores of an island dotted with thatched huts, tea plantations as far as the eye could see, the windy silence of the desert, luscious trees of fruits not found at home, the chords of loud Latin music filling the air, the tempting pungency of curry and saffron, the vivid colors of jacaranda trees…. These were some of the beautiful things that beckoned our missionaries to embrace the uniqueness of God’s nature in a new land. Yet the vast majority of missionaries claimed that they were neither spiritually nor practically prepared for the shock of seeing the terrible poverty in their countries.
A first glimpse of a tiny country in Africa:
I looked along the streets, observing the people. Most vividly I remember a fat, bare-breasted woman who had huge pots of beans and other foods that she was dishing out to some children. There were hundreds of people on their way to work. The unpaved and uneven roads, the ruddy soil—everything was plunged into the red light of the rising sun. For me, it was a special atmosphere, as it was the dawn of our mission, too. With a certain anxiety, I made my approach into the city. I envisioned a big city center with at least some skyscrapers. (My search for skyscrapers was in vain!)
I’ll never forget my first walk across the big market of the city. At first I didn’t know what was going on—such a swarm of people, a loud babel of voices, and a smell that made me feel sick. But something inside told me that I should be able to handle it since I was assigned to work in this country.
And from the Middle East:
Toward the evening I wandered out on the streets for the first time and a completely new world opened in front of my eyes. The brown mud and stone houses looked as if they had no roofs. The people who passed by seemed very wild-looking to me. They wore turbans, and around their hips were girded big crooked daggers which gave a rather militant impression. Women, on the other hand, were dressed all in black and wordlessly flitted through the streets. I was in a different century! I felt Abraham could have walked here or maybe Moses, but then I saw that empty tin cans were scattered all around and I knew I had not traveled back in time. Nobody seemed to care about picking them up.
I dared to make my way deeper into the city. Barefoot children wearing little caps roamed through the lanes; the intense aroma of baked bread permeated the air. The sun could not be seen anymore. The clouds had faded into numerous hues of red. Never before had I experienced a sunset of such intensity. The whole city was suddenly plunged into a symphony; from over forty minarets throughout the city, muezzins summoned the people lo prayer. The people quickly hastened to the mosque and soon the melodious recitation of the Koran could be heard from the loudspeaker.
Once the initial shock or even repulsion had gone, what was it that bridged the chasm in the hearts of our brothers and sisters to want to stay, to want to restore that nation?
Oh, what a pressure in my heart! I wanted to burst or run away, but where could I go? There was nobody I knew. On the contrary, all the people looked at me with the same hostile eyes. lonely, I walked through hot roads to the lake just outside the city. During earthquakes this lake had swallowed many people. As a consequence, the atmosphere was dark and sinister.
Behind me a vast field of ruins looked devastated and ghostly. God’s grievous heart. How could He live here all the time, with the dead people, the dead city, the dead country? I thought, ‘I have to do something for You, since You are more miserable than me. I have to hold out, at least.
Father expressed the heart of a pioneer in the following way:
You will want to endure this pain for the sake of your mission, and for the sake of the people whom you need to save. Then cheerfully, you kneel down and pray to God, comforting Him, and God will approach you and embrace you. He will call you His child. He will be able to feel that you understand Him. At that particular moment you can truly experience the heart of God.
Fritz Piepenburg, missionary from Germany to Yemen (1975)
As foreign missionaries they had to adapt to their new cultures and abandon some things which they felt were “right” from their own. In some areas of the world it is proper to kiss a person on both cheeks as a greeting. In other cultures, a person is insulted if a guest doesn’t have something to eat at his home, no matter how humble the food is. No matter what kind of upbringing the missionaries had, learning to embrace new customs sometimes brought about embarrassment, and feelings of repentance if by some chance they had offended their hosts:
At dinnertime I had one of my first experiences with a different culture. In this cement-floored home — more like a hut with an open patio — our host spread a cloth on the ground and then placed the meal on it. But when this elderly lady sat down to eat the meal, I noticed that she forgot to bring the eating utensils. Since I was her guest I didn’t want to say anything and just waited. To my surprise, she began eating with her hands after her short prayer, and I was even more astonished when she looked at me and expected the same thing.
She looked at me and asked if I had ever eaten with my hands. I replied that I had not. She told us that she eats this way because ‘it is the way Mohammed (Peace be upon him) ate.’ She asked, ‘Did you know that this is the way Jesus used to eat?’ Her question was almost like a challenge to me; I tried to be gracious about thrusting my hands into the bowl of rice curry placed before me.
For the missionaries in one nation to find each other upon arrival was often quite a task, having been given only their names. Sometimes it was a matter of hours; sometimes it took a matter of months. They discovered each other in some very unusual ways. One Japanese brother found his American sister in a library because he recognized her 1800 Couple Blessing ring!
Jette Jensen overlooks the town of Julianehab, Greenland.
Efforts to Create Unity
It was God’s and True Parents’ dream that three sets of those footprints would meet within each nation and become one. But True Father also knew just how difficult this goal would be to achieve. He even said that ” brothers and sisters can drive nails into each other’s hearts, which makes the pain unbearable,” but he also said that this is the very point at which a person can realize the pain that God and Father have been sustaining all this time – not for their own sake, but for the sake of the world. One German missionary wrote:
American self-confidence encountered Japanese pride; openness versus taciturnity. And another seasoning, in addition to the already well-spiced dish, was German stubbornness. The whole encounter was framed by completely strange and, in every respect, unusual surroundings.
One is used to blowing his nose in a noisy way; for the other this shows terrible manners. Another one has to switch from chopsticks to a knife and fork. In some parts, people eat their soup noisily, while in the West people try to eat as noiselessly as possible.
In the West people express joy and suffering; in the East it is a mark of good breeding to mask one’s emotions. Something that sounds agreeable in the German language means something disrespectful and insulting in English. In the Oriental view of what a woman should look like, one of us may have definitely been too tall, and the other not thin enough.
Simply everything was confusing. The language difficulties did not allow us to express our hearts as we desired. And our personal characters, which were not rounded to begin with, had many sharp corners that seemed to jut out all too often.
We each were tested to such an extreme degree I had never imagined it possible. I had such pride in myself and my “old continent” — such typical arrogance; such obstinacy and lack of modesty. If I had realized these foibles at all before, they were but pins that pricked my heart. In the mission field, they became like stakes – the pain forcing me to break free from the old.
Yet another sister expressed how, when there was lack of trust, harmony was impossible to create.
Disharmony was in the air so many times and I could not speak my mind—my heart was full of spiritual junk, troubles, accusations, and self-accusations. I never could stand to live in friction with someone. Usually I tried to compensate, but now I could not do it — I was without words, without language. Only relentless attrition. Someone else was also there: God. But even with Him, I did not get along so well.
At first we maintained external kindness, but after a while we could no longer pretend in front of each other. Mistrust, the poison of the soul, sneaked into our hearts. ‘Why does my brother look so strange when he talks to me? Why doesn’t my sister say goodbye to me properly when she leaves the house? Why is he so long in the bathroom, and why do the two of them talk so much when I am not there?’ Mistrust is the greatest evil.
Father uncovered the key to unity in his conference speech, something many missionaries had learned only after many painful months or years: “There is only one secret, one way to become one. You must do it without words. Silently serve. Simply try to serve each other. That attitude alone can make people unite.”
The missionaries in one African country felt unity was vitally important and did everything in their power to unite. These three representatives felt “married” to one another, and each night after sending their new members to bed they stayed up until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, and sometimes later, to talk over their problems, and the work for the future.
They felt that until they all agreed on a decision or a goal, they simply could not, and would not, go to bed. Through arguments, tears, and especially prayers, they grew in love for each other, their mission, and their missionary life. When one of the three missionaries went through an especially difficult time and locked himself in his downtown office, the other missionary brother brought him a sleeping bag and sat outside the office until he unlocked the door, accepted the sleeping bag, and accepted his brother’s love.
Obviously language was a problem for many missionaries, and many of the Japanese brothers had an especially hard time with this. Many of the German missionaries already knew a little English or in some cases they knew Spanish or French. Among themselves, however, the missionaries had to be able to communicate, and many times they sat together with two or three dictionaries, trying in English or the local language.
At the beginning, it sometimes took them hours to share just a few ideas, and even then, the missionaries were not sure whether they had been understood or not. Yet even if a missionary knew or had studied English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Swahili, or any major language of the country, he or she then had to train his or her ear to also deal with the variety of dialects and native languages of the country. Being misunderstood was a constant frustration.
Since language is a most effective means of expressing our will or heart, if we can’t use it proficiently we have no way to make others understand. There are also times when, even though we feel we have communicated, people misunderstand us. Language is the means by which we can convey our character to others. If we use it poorly, we may sometimes show ourselves to be men or women who have nothing that is attractive to others. Sometimes people entertained such a feeling about me.
And when I sensed people had such feelings about me, I was overwhelmed with sorrow. Sometimes I tried to break an oppressive atmosphere by using gestures or smiles. However, in most cases, this only made things worse. I could sense people thinking, ‘You fool!’ I felt so sad. I came to understand that Heavenly Father has never been able to express Himself, no matter how much He desired to do so and I came to empathize with His suffering so much.”
Studying the National Character
How did the foreign missionaries learn to unite with the heart of the people and learn how to love them? The missionaries had to study the national character of their nation’s people hard and long. They had to dig beneath the surface to discover the true nature of their spiritual children. Yet this often brought great resistance on the part of those they were studying. One brother who worked in Southeast Asia explains:
“When I first began witnessing, I saw that almost everyone was happy to talk to me. They were even willing to speak about whatever subject I wanted to talk about. It seemed almost too good to be true. Wherever I went, people sat and spoke to me. If I gave them my address, many times they would actually come to visit. Yet as the months passed, the picture became darker and darker, because it became clearer and clearer to me that the positivity and smiles were an elaborate, complex cover, masking fear and deep insecurity.
I finally could see that the smiles were not an expression of their joy, but were instead an expression of their fear and their inability to face reality and themselves.
The standard these people are trying to reach is so incredibly high. Of course, no one knows how to reach the ideal. They always want to be happy.
They never want to hurt anyone. They always fail, as have all people in history. Yet in this nation, the people accuse themselves again and again for their inability to reach the standard of their hearts.
As a result, the people criticize themselves and everyone else, too. When I first arrived, I thought there was no criticism, but now I can recognize that it is within every level. I also realize that it stems from a critical attitude toward themselves. All the customs—much of the culture, to a great extent the language, and particularly their expressions—are used as protection. There are many expressions and customs which mean, “Stay away. leave me alone. Don’t pry. I want to be alone. look at my outside, not my inside.”
The land of smiles and relaxed living? It is far from that. Internally, people experience almost excruciating turmoil because of their inability to meet the standards of their hearts. As they seek the ideal, they must protect them selves from the truth they learn about themselves. They think it is too terrible to face. When I could understand these few facts, I could begin to love this nation, for I could see its heart of suffering. When people smile, I know what they really mean. When they laugh, I know often it is simply to keep the tears away.”
Tatsuo Sasaki in Senegal in 1977.
For all the foreign missionaries who could stay in their nations, there were many missionaries who could not remain in their mission countries, and they began the life of a gypsy. Going from nation to nation, finding no home, and wondering how to pray and invest their hearts in a place that wasn’t really ” theirs,” these missionaries could not help but think of the people in their assigned countries. They prayed for a chance to meet at least one person, witness to him or her, and raise that person up in order to send him or her back to restore the country in their place.
Yet many of these foreign missionaries felt that by not staying in their countries they had failed. One point True Father had impressed upon them before they left for their nations was to anchor themselves there for three years, no matter what. But visas to many nations were not easy to obtain and sometimes after only one or two weeks, the government officials felt that a tourist had seen all he could or should see, or that a business man doing market research could certainly exhaust the territory within three months. Not only were visa extensions denied, but in some cases officials escorted our missionaries to the borders to make sure that they actually left the country.
It was impossible to obtain missionary visas in most countries; however, finding a reason to stay in a country was essential. Many missionaries were able to secure work permits and jobs; some became embassy workers, airline employees, or journalists. Their work or school environment then provided a natural place to meet people, and with a certain amount of caution in some cases, they became friends with their fellow workers or students, slowly introducing them to the Principle. Since Father had also suggested that missionaries teach their native tongue to people interested in learning German, Japanese, or English, many missionaries did this. In fact, quite a number of members joined through this connection.
In some cases, with the help of God’s guidance and the spirit world, missionaries were able to renew their tourist, business, or student visas far longer than was normal.
On the other hand, some missionaries who were legally in their countries were accused of being spies for the CIA or for their government, and out of fear, immigration officials in their mission countries deported them. Some brothers and sisters were discovered to be missionaries from the Unification Church, which caused them to be imprisoned and/or deported. In several cases, amazing victories were won and those who were deported were able to later re-enter their nations. But this was unfortunately the exception, not the rule.
In 1978 True Father called most of the foreign missionaries who could not stay in their original countries to London and asked them to help assume the home church responsibilities of the seminarians who, after some time mobilized to the UK, were returning to the United States. Each of them felt accepted again by True Parents, uplifted, carried, and very loved. They had the chance to invest their hearts in a small nation – the “nation” of their home church area in England. For many it was a turning point in their life of faith and a boost for their self-confidence.
After that, however, True Father brought them to America to participate in 40-day training, after which he reassigned them to new countries. Grateful to have this new chance, these foreign missionaries started their missionary life over again.
Our three missionaries in Tunisia in traditional Tunisian clothing
Overcoming Different Moral Codes
During the early years, it was impossible in some cases for the foreign missionaries to live together in a center because of finances, moral codes (men and women not married to each other living in the same apartment or house was often strictly forbidden), or danger. Witnessing, too, presented many risks, often being extremely dangerous.
“My first African spiritual child was born through countless tears cried by both of us. His rebirth took place in a humble hut of mud in the midst of the slums.
The political situation of my nation allowed us no freedom to witness. No freedom even for the missionaries to meet. Yet God did not stop. He ignored this fact and He brought about the spiritual rebirth of five native people.
Because of this, the three of us missionaries decided that one night in October of 1975, we would hold a meeting with our members. Each missionary and each native member knew the danger we all faced. We decided that we would make a Holy Ground and that would be the common base for our meeting. Yet even that was dangerous and Satan was always watching, always near. In our country we had to establish our holy ground three different times because it was destroyed twice- by bulldozers! Each time it was established, it was done at the risk of our lives.”
God pulled invisible strings in the hearts of many people. And He gently pushed our missionaries to sometimes unusual places and circumstances to meet these people and witness to them.
The missionaries, being of three different nationalities, had such different cultural backgrounds and different spiritual upbringings. It was hard enough to tackle trying to merge the three heritages into one; and in addition, they had to find out how to teach the people from their mission country as they embraced its own unique culture and environment.
For instance, how does one teach the Principle to someone who questions why only Judea-Christianity is discussed? Missionaries in the Middle East faced this challenge, and began to read and study the Koran in order to share with Muslims the many similarities their teaching has to the Principle.
One missionary wrote that when a girl in Central America becomes 14 or 15 years old, her friends and her parents start to urge her to have a child. The emphasis is on having a child, not necessarily on getting married. It was a frustration for missionaries to teach people who have a moral code that conflicts with such a key point of the Principle.
Yet back on the other side of the world, their fellow missionaries in the Middle East had quite a different set of circumstances to break through. How does a man witness to a woman when the Islamic society strictly forbids any type of male-female relationship outside of marriage, and virtually every foreigner is suspect?
And how should a missionary explain God’s dual nature to someone who looks blankly when his or her teacher talks about molecules and atoms? Some people in third world countries are not so well educated; therefore, the concepts and words used had to be adapted to the individual situation. The missionaries had to express their hearts in a different way in a different society so that it was not misperceived, was a challenge. The methods of witnessing were so different from what the missionaries were used to; the culture of the country had not only to be taken into account, but adopted as a way of life for the missionary.essay onlineessay writer for youhttps://essay-online.com/buy custom essays online