A Challenge To Be Better
June 10, 2012
Good morning, America. Thank you. Please have a seat. You can see that I brought my fan club with me: I’ll have your money after service. Good morning to our communities all across America – to Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle, my wife’s hometown; to the Bay area, Bayou La Batre, Alabama, Louisiana, Miami, my home, Maryland-Washington, D.C., community; Boston, New Hampshire, and Maine.
It’s tremendously nerve-wracking to be up here. I’ve been coming out on this stage for three years, and I’ve never been this nervous in my entire life. I haven’t eaten or slept for two days. It’s a tremendously humbling experience to be behind this podium. You would think it wouldn’t be that way, that I have the spotlight so my head could get big. But when I think about the owner of this podium, our senior pastor, and who she is externally – as a graduate of the Divinity School of Harvard, the most prestigious school in this nation, as a mom who has raised five children, three of whom also went to, likewise, prestigious schools, and two on their way, and as an accomplished orator – it’s hard not to feel unqualified standing behind this podium.
But when I think about who In Jin Nim is internally, as a child of our precious True Parents, as someone who has True Parents’ blood flowing through her veins, I see divinity in that. To think that she is the first-ever reverend ordained by our True Parents. In 1995 she was named chooksajang, Reverend, the first ever, even though we have many reverends in our movement. Don’t call me that.
“Sold Out” on Lovin’ Life Ministries
When I think about who she is, it’s hard to feel worthy to be behind this podium. I can imagine that everyone else who has shared this podium with her – the district pastors and various other national leaders – would likewise have felt unworthy and unqualified.
As I was looking for ways to deal with this feeling, I looked back on the district pastors’ sermons and I realized that they each developed a “gimmick,” some remarkable thing that you would remember them by. When you think about it, it’s true. Think about Reverend Cotter. Who is he? He sings his way through his sermons. And we eat it up. Sing it, Reverend Cotter, go ahead. Aunt Heather has her British accent that we Americans are just so mesmerized by. Reverend Schanker has lost so much weight and we stood there mesmerized: “Where did you go, Reverend Schanker? Where are you?”
Reverend Swearson, when he talked about forgiveness, was so well read and had all those beautiful quotes. Reverend Lamson showed spoken-word videos about the prodigal son. Reverend Cutts showed Academy Award-winning films. It left me thinking, “What can I possibly share? I have to come up with some sort of gimmick, something that you’ll remember me by.”
I realized there’s one thing I have that no one else who’s been behind this podium has – not even In Jin Nim – and that’s a two-year-old. [Toby Gullery brings out his son.] Look, say “Hi” to America. This is Baby Dave. He’s not so happy with me right now. He’s been spending two days with friends overnight so that Daddy could prepare. When I saw him this morning, he started hitting me: “Bad Daddy.”
A lot of people often ask me, “Why are you sold out? Why are you so sold out to Lovin’ Life Ministries? Why do you preach Lovin’ Life Ministries wherever you go? Why do you believe in this so much?” This is the reason. I believe with every ounce of my being, with every ounce of my soul, in the type of community and culture that Lovin’ Life Ministries is creating. I’m so excited to watch my son grow up in this church because I know it’s going to be so much better than the church that I grew up in. Ain’t that right? What do you guys think? Ain’t that right?
Every Sunday my wife, Mitsuru, and I get here at 7:00 a.m. He’s being good so I can talk while I hold him a little bit more. Mitsuru is rehearsing with the band, and I’m preparing what I’m going to say, and I just give him to someone. For three hours or four hours I don’t see him, but I’m so confident in the people here – that they’re taking good care of my son, that God is with him, and that because he’s growing up in Lovin’ Life Ministries he’s going to be an excellent, excellent young man.
Now there’s a problem with this gimmick, and that is that when I give him back to Toby, he’s probably going to scream. So, Toby, I want you to tuck him under your arm like a football and run like a New York Giant running from a Redskin.
One of the first things I told In Jin Nim about Lovin’ Life after Baby Dave was born was, “I’m so confident in the movement that he’s going to grow up in, the church that he’s going to grow up in, and the community that he’s going to grow up in, because it’s so full of life.” Aren’t you guys full of life?
Building a Better Church
About five years ago, in 2007, I was working for the church headquarters down in Washington, D.C., and I got involved in a grassroots movement of church members commonly known as the Witnessing Summit. You guys remember those? We had one in New Jersey. It started in Los Angeles and included Chicago, Maryland, New Jersey, and San Francisco. We went all over.
The purpose of those witnessing summits (and there were eight of them) was to ask, “How can we become a relevant movement? One that has an impact on society and the culture at large, and one that knows how to educate and raise up the next generation? How can we become a movement that can witness and be attractive, and be a church that people would be inspired by and want to join?”
We didn’t talk a lot, but we asked a lot of questions. By the process of something called the “World Café,” we accumulated a lot of data. We asked members, “What are the barriers to joining the Unification movement? What are the key success factors internally and externally, to witnessing and getting people to join? How can we reach out to our disaffected youth, our young people who have no place in our movement right now?”
Because I was on the committee, I got to read through thousands and thousands of comments. Along with Sheri Reuter, Noah Ross, Heather Thalheimer, Reverend Schanker, Henri Schauffler, and many others, I scoured through those comments. We categorized them and looked at what the majority of people said. What it boiled down to is – and I was looking through the notes last night – that there were a couple of things that people said we needed externally. Remember, this was five years ago, prior to In Jin Nim’s leadership, prior to Lovin’ Life Ministries. I’d like to share some of those things with you.
Externally people said, “We need to have something that we are proud of, a place to which we can be confident to bring our guests, our friends, and our brothers and sisters who haven’t been to church in a while.” The Number One response in terms of witnessing was, “We need a system and structure, an educational track to educate people.” You remember that, John Williams?
I think it’s interesting that through the work of Lovin’ Life Ministries and our ministry team – Heather Thalheimer, Camia Gavin, Tammy Gavin, a lot of Gavins – we’ve now developed this series called “The Journey.” It’s a series of four classes – 101, 201, 301, 401 – modeled after Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Church, but it’s there to educate people how to integrate themselves into our community.
It’s based on the four realms of heart. Class 101 is a heart for God, learning how to become a child: a child of faith, a child of our Heavenly Parent and of our True Parents. Class 201 is developing a heart for people, learning how to interact and build our relationships. It’s called “Wired,” connecting with others. Class 301, I believe, is about having the heart of a spouse. It’s about learning how to become a good spouse, a good husband or a good wife, and learning about the Blessing of our True Parents, the gift that God gave us to be Blessed in marriage. Class 401 is the heart of a parent, and it’s learning how to take care of our community and contribute back.
So in one sense Lovin’ Life Ministries has addressed that need for an education track. Check.
The second priority they mentioned so often was Sunday service. I know that some of you over the years have had great Sunday services, but for me growing up, and for me prior to Lovin’ Life, I have to admit I thought our Sunday services were a little bit lame. I don’t know about you, and I hate to sound judgmental, but in their comments people said, “We need better speakers. We need better music. We need professionalism in our Sunday services. We need to have a great Sunday service that we’re happy to bring our friends to because Sunday service is the most regular ministry that we do.” I know I was afraid to bring my friends to Sunday service. And I know my friends, young people who grew up in our movement, were afraid to bring their friends. They weren’t happy to do so.
But today I have professional friends out in the world, people who work in hedge funds, people who have published books and are in the process of making TV shows, and I invite them as much as I can to this Sunday service because I am proud of this Sunday service.
Members said, “We have to fix our public image. Our image on the Internet, our image out there, is not so great.” When In Jin Nim first came in, she started working on our familyfed website and updated it to the 21st century. Look at the transformation in which we went from UC News to our new magazine. Doesn’t it look awesome? In so many different ways she’s addressed our public image.
Putting Resources Where They Belong
Our members at those witnessing summits also talked about our resource allocation, “How can we allocate our resources better?” I’ll have to admit that there was a meeting in 2006 or 2007 in the headquarters building in Washington, D.C., in which all the presidents and vice presidents got together. I wasn’t in the meeting, but I was in the building. They developed 12 goals that they wanted to achieve in 2006 and 2007, and then they prioritized them. Do you know what the Number One priority was? It was the education of our young people, the education of the next generation. That was Number One. Number Two was reaching out, outreach and witnessing. They went on down the list.
Then they looked at how their financial resources were allocated. You know what was at the bottom? It was the education of our youth, and reaching out and witnessing. But I know right now where our financial resources are allocated: It’s toward motivating, inspiring, and educating our young people. And it’s becoming not just going out and doing outreach and witnessing the way we’ve done before – beating the streets with our Divine Principle’s –but it’s about becoming a natural witness, living lives that people are attracted to. So we have totally shifted the allocation of our financial resources.
There’s also been a shift in our human resources. The old model was, “Got a job to fill; hire someone for that job.” But that is not In Jin Nim’s way, and I can speak from my personal experience. When In Jin Nim came in, there were a lot of people around looking for what is going to be their place. And she didn’t say, “Dave, I have a need; please fill it.” She said, “What are you passionate about? What do you want to do most?”
I said, “I love being around young people. I’m a former public school teacher. I didn’t get into it because I loved conveying content. I loved it because I love being around youth and I believe that they are the future.” She said, “Go and do. You can be our youth pastor in the New Jersey community.” She puts people where they belong, not where she needs them. So there was a whole shift in how we allocate our resources.
When we look at all the externals that you guys, that all of us, were craving for – the update to our image, the education track, the Sunday service, all of those things – when we look at what Lovin’ Life Ministries and our senior pastor have created, we have a big check mark. Can I get a “Hallelujah?”
Introducing Dave Hunter
Internally, however, they said something else. I looked through the comments last night, reread them, and the thing that jumped off the page to me many times was people were saying, “We need to be who we say we are. We need to practice what we preach. We need to live the ideals that we talk about. We need to be who we say we are.” And I say, “It’s time we do it.” How about you?
That’s what I’d like to talk about this morning: becoming the people who we say we are and practicing what we preach. In order to do that I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself. In case you didn’t know, my name is Dave Hunter.
I’d like to start with my parents. My father joined this beautiful movement in 1969, one of the early members of our Unification Church here in America. My mother joined in 1971. They served our True Parents faithfully for decades. My father started as a bodyguard. He was willing to give up his life to protect our True Parents. Thank you. Thank you, Dad.
My mother sat at the right hand of Dr. Bo Hi Pak, served him faithfully, and served our True Parents faithfully. My mother has told me some amazing stories of her experiences with True Parents. She used to go on tour with them and be one of the first people that our True Father would see when he would come offstage. She’s got amazing stories.
My mother used to go to Pizza Hut with True Parents. Now I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind. “What are you doing today, Betsy?” “Well, I’m going to go to Pizza Hut with the King and Queen of Peace.” And she got to eat Big Macs and go to McDonald’s, or some would say, mack-a-donaldo, with the Lords of the Second Advent. What a tremendous role my parents played as early members of our church.
They were blessed in marriage in 1975 in the 1800 Couple Blessing, and I was born three years later in 1978, a child of the 1970s. I grew up in Washington, D.C., my hometown. I was born in Annandale, Virginia, and was raised mostly in Bowie, Maryland. By the way, I’d like to send a big shout-out to the Maryland, D.C., and Virginia community because the Marylanders are spending their first-ever service at Bladensburg High School in a new performing arts center. Let’s give it up for Washington, D.C. They’re upgrading their Sunday service. Thank you to all of you in D.C. who’ve made Lovin’ Life Ministries a reality in Washington, D.C.
Back then we didn’t have the Bladensburg Performing Arts Center. We didn’t have New Hope Academy or the NOVA church. We all came together at a church that we bought from the Mormons in Washington, D.C. That’s where my formative years were spent, running around the halls of that tomb. I was raised hearing about how important Blessed Children were, but when it came to Sunday school, they removed us from the chapel and took us down to the basement and then they took us down to the basement’s basement – and that’s where they taught us Sunday school. And I thought, “We really are special.”
The Pressure To Be Perfect
Going to that church, I thought of myself – I’m looking at Jin Sung Nim here, who’s one of the oldest Blessed Children in the world – as the oldest in our community. But by that time Jin Sung Nim was already Blessed to our senior pastor, In Jin Nim. So I was one of the oldest growing up in our community. What I remember from that time is pressure. My mom has admitted to me, and In Jin Nim has said over and over again, there was no manual for raising the True Children, and there was no manual for raising Blessed Children.
My mom admitted that we had no idea what to expect of these children who are born without Original Sin. Are they going to be perfect? Actually there was an expectation. Jin Sung Nim told us one time that someone came up to him and raised his pant leg to see if he was actually walking on the ground. But you know, that was the mind-set of many of the early church members, that we were going to be these little angels. I think I was the first to prove that wrong.
I didn’t like Sunday school. I preferred to run around the hallways, to find all the nooks and crannies of the church, to go up into the steeple where I wasn’t supposed to go, to go outside and play basketball. And I was constantly met with judgment. People would say, “Dave, why are you such a bad kid? Why are you always skipping Sunday school? Why are you constantly running around? And, for the love of God, why can’t you be a better example for your younger brothers and sisters?” And my response was usually simple. It was, “Because I’m seven.”
I grew up with that mentality, and I recognized very early on that there was a lot of pressure to be perfect. And when I wasn’t perfect – and I’m definitely not – a lot of judgment came with that. That was my experience growing up in the Washington, D.C., church. At least that’s what I remember, and there’s a lot more that I could tell.
As a teacher, we know that when you’re 13, 14, 15 years old, developmentally those are some of the most important years of your life when it comes to developing your sense of who you are and your life of faith. So what happened during that time is very important. What happens during kids’ time at that age is very important. As I grew older and into my youth ages, when I was getting into middle school and high school, Blessed Children from all over the country started getting invited to come to Camp Sunrise at Harriman State Park. Who’s ever been there?
The first time I visited Camp Sunrise I was 14 years old. It was 1992. That’s exactly 20 years ago. That was an awesome experience. Now I was one of the youngest because there were a lot of older Blessed Children living in the Tarrytown-Westchester area and in New Jersey. And workshops then were a little bit different than workshops now. I had some really good experiences.
I think the thing I took away the most from those experiences was that I was part of a national community of Blessed Children from all over the world and all over the country. And people that I went to Camp Sunrise with 20 years ago are my friends to this day. These are people like Jin Kwon Kim, Shin Young Chang, Jin Suh Park and many others. Many of them have gone long and difficult roads. Some of them still have some growing to do, like I do. So I recognized that I was part of this national community.
Allergic to the Divine Principle
But the overwhelming thing that I experienced there, as I expected to go to a summer camp, was a lot of work. Back then there was this mind-set that we have this great gift from God called the Divine Principle and True Parents’ teachings, and everybody needs it, so therefore we should jam it down their throats. And my mouth wasn’t that big.
In Jin Nim talked last week about developing that allergic reaction. I became allergic to the Divine Principle very quickly – not because it’s not valuable, but because I was too young to know what the heck we were being told. Back then we got up really early in the morning, 5:00 or 5:30, we did morning exercises for as long as it took, and then the schedule was something like this: Lecture for two hours, five minute break. Lecture for two hours, breakfast. Lecture, break, lecture, break, lecture, dinner, lecture, break, and then Evening service. 11:00 p.m. go to sleep, wake up at 5:00. There were two weeks of that – because we had to be taught the entire Divine Principle in that two-week period or else we’re a failure.
So I just started regurgitating it. I started coughing it up. And when you’re 14 or 15 years old, you can’t really get the intellectual side of the Divine Principle. As In Jin Nim said, it’s really college-level material. But what we’re developing at 14 and 15 is what we remember in our emotional experience. And I remember the lack of what I thought should have been a summer camp.
Sticks, Torture and Forest Fire
In addition, and probably one of the hardest things for me to deal with, was that the people at that time who were running the workshops didn’t run it with what I thought was love. If we were late to the lecture, we would get hit with a stick. If we sat on the wrong side of the room, we would get hit with a stick. If we fell asleep during a lecture, we would get hit with a stick. If we shot too many hoops, we would get hit with a stick.
I felt like I didn’t have a childhood. One of the things I hated most, and you can probably tell, was morning exercise. We used to have to do these things called unity jumping jacks. You guys know those things? One, two, three, one; one, two, three, two. And you’ve got to go up to 50, and everyone’s got to count, or you get hit with a stick. But you go up to 50 and along the way you’ve got to leave out 7 and 42, and if you say 7, “Sorry, you’re starting over.”
One morning we did jumping jacks from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. And because I’m not the most physically fit person in the world, I started to feel like my church was torturing me. It sounds funny, but actually that’s how I felt.
Several months ago one of our first district pastors to come behind this podium, Reverend Grodner, talked about Camp Sunrise because he was on the board that helped lease Camp Sunrise, and he was there in those early days. I didn’t have the heart to tell him when he was talking about Camp Sunrise that some of the things that he remembers as these awesome things that our Blessed Children did I remembered as those crazy things that we were forced to do.
He talked about those boat races and how everyone was enveloped by the spirit because all the kids were chanting. That wasn’t me. I was going, “Why is our boat sinking? Why are we so bad at this?” Also in 1992, there was a forest fire right outside of Camp Sunrise. And because the community around was a bunch of other Christian camps and we weren’t so well received in Harriman State Park, someone thought it would be a good idea to get in good with the other camps around us if we put out the forest fire at the camp.
So they took us out of our small group meetings and sent all of us up the mountain. We had no hoses, we had no buckets. All we had was our flip-flops and our sneakers. At the time we thought it was pretty cool, I have to admit. We went running up this smoke-filled mountain, stomping out brush fires with our feet. One of our dear sisters went to the hospital with smoke inhalation poisoning, and a lot of kids had burns on their feet. And even though my macho manly self at the time thought, “Wow, that’s awesome,” a couple of years later when I started questioning my faith, I started thinking, “This is how they treat their precious Blessed Children, that their image in the community is more important than my life?” That’s what I took with me after those years – and all the other experiences that kept adding up and adding up and adding up.
I was lucky because there were some good experiences. I mentioned the community. I also got my first taste of our Heavenly Parent during those two weeks. But overwhelmingly I saw a community that didn’t really live up to the ideals that we preach. In the lectures, all I heard was true love, ideal families, and living for the sake of others, but what I got was sacrificing me for the sake of others, getting hit with a stick, and feeling like I was being tortured.
Now I want you to know that looking back, I understand what I was going through. But I was an immature kid, and that was simply my perspective. What I know of the Divine Principle is that the first failure of Lucifer and Adam and Eve was failing to see from God’s perspective, in other words, failing to see from other people’s perspective. We have to understand that we have a bunch of young kids who may have a limited and immature perspective like I did, and we have to think about what they’re going through as we educate them and raise them up. Because if we don’t, if we sit there and say, “You’re the immature one; it’s your fault for feeling that way, Dave,” then we’re never going to grow as a community, and we’re never going to be able to educate our young people.
Becoming the Families We Want To Be
Probably the hardest experience was the experience of my family. Today I love and respect both of my parents. I believe that they are heroes. And definitely growing up in the 1980s in our church, there was such a lack of resources. We educated people. We trained the first-generation how to witness and how to fund-raise, but we really lacked in training them how to become married couples.
I saw very quickly in my family growing up in my formative years a gap between what our community preached as ideal families and what I experienced in my own family. It was hard for my parents to get along. I also understand that there’s a certain restorative element to the Blessing, that True Parents gave my parents the responsibility for that. But I couldn’t understand that at 14 and 15. I don’t want to go into the details, but I learned very quickly that my family was anything but the perfect family. It was anything but the ideal family.
I was constantly comparing my family to the families of my friends around me in school, and I realized quickly that they did a lot better than my family did. So at 15 years old I made a conscious decision to leave this church, to walk away because of this great gap between what we preached and how we lived, this dichotomy of who we said we were and who we actually were.
Now many years later when I had my spiritual transformation and I started working with the church, I started working with the Getting Back on Track ministry. Reverend Lamson talked several weeks ago about the prodigals. I was one of those prodigals, and I’ve worked with hundreds of Blessed Children who’ve likewise become prodigals in a sense. And my analysis of their situation is that many of them leave for the same reasons: because they can’t wrestle with this gap. They can’t wrestle with the idea that we’re not who we say we are. Many of them have different stories, but when it comes down to it, a lot of them feel the same way. Therefore, I believe we have to become the community that practices what we preach. We have to be the community that is who we say we are.
I know it’s not easy, but the people in this room, the first-generation in this room, should go down in history as the greatest saints that history has ever seen because you recognized who our True Parents are, you recognized that the messiah was living on this earth. You protected them during the most difficult time; you followed them for the past nine decades, and there’s a lot of credit to that. You followed them your entire life. But as In Jin Nim has said over and over again, “We don’t need just followers.” And this isn’t just for the first-generation. True Parents need unity. That’s why we’re called the Unification Church.
What do I mean by that? I mean when it comes to unity we have to start living up to the expectations that our True Parents have put on us: to become mature, faithful people of good character. We have to become the families that our True Parents desire us to have: those happy, loving, beautiful, harmonious, unified families. We have to become that community that True Parents have asked us to become: because if we can’t model it ourselves, if we can’t become those people, then who will? True Parents and our Heavenly Parent entrusted us with that responsibility. If we don’t do it, if I don’t do it, then we could go down in history as the greatest hypocrites that have ever walked this Earth.
Now I know that sounds harsh. Usually my responsibility, over there [on the side of the stage], is to uplift and inspire you. I hope you’ll forgive me because I believe my responsibility today is to challenge you to be better. So it’s our responsibility to live up to those ideals, to go forward, and to become the people that we long to be, to become the families that we want to be.
I did want to say something about those prodigals because I was one of them. Reverend Lamson gave a beautiful sermon about it. The key point to his sermon was that the barrier blocking them from coming back was not the parent, but it was the other person in the community, in this case the elder brother, who was constantly judging that person. So we have to be a community that can embrace the prodigals. We have to be a community that can reach out and forgive, that gives love and uplifts people.
But even if they’re not there yet, please don’t give up on them. And also, don’t worry so much. What I’ve experienced in my own life is that God blesses even the broken paths. God will work in their lives, no matter what. He’s going to do his job. She’s going to do her job. Do you believe me? I was gone. I was out of this movement for close to 15 years. Today, looking back, I can see God’s hand in my life every step of the way. From the moment that I left in high school, when I was just desperate to seek attention, God was blessing my life and preparing me for the man that I am today.
Cheerleading and Beautiful Women
In high school – I don’t know if many of you know this – both Jaga and I were cheerleaders. But, you know, looking back, God used that in my life. Let me explain. Admittedly I joined the cheerleading squad because I craved attention. I needed attention, and I got it. I got it from all of the cheerleaders. I got attention from all of the guys who were judging me for being a male cheerleader, for all the people who were jealous of the amount of time that I got to spend with beautiful young ladies.
Now wait a second. Can I say that? Can I say “Beautiful young ladies?” Because I grew up in a church that said you can’t say that? If you admit to their beauty, then you may not end up in the right place in spirit world. But I believe, men, that if we’re going to become true brothers then we have to tell our sisters how beautiful they are. We have to let them know how divine and inspiring they are, how wonderful they are, how gorgeous they are.
We should be able to say with confidence, “Dr. Ann, you’re my aunt and I love you and you are beautiful.” We should be able to say with confidence, “Cynthia, you’re my sister, and I love you with all of my heart, and you are gorgeous.” HyoJeong, Cienna – there are so many beautiful ladies up here; I could go on for days – “You are beautiful. I love you and I want you to know how gorgeous you are, how beautiful you are, both internally and externally.”
Now some might think, “Well, Dave’s a youth pastor. What’s he teaching our young men?” So I want to be clear about this, brothers. You don’t say that to draw attention to yourself. You don’t say that because you’re going to get something out of it. You say it for the sole reason of uplifting our sisters because they are our sisters and they deserve to be uplifted. They deserve to know they’re beautiful – because if we don’t tell them, someone else will. That’s a fact.
Back to my point, cheerleading. I was also on the football team in high school, just in case anyone’s questioning my masculinity. But I do have to admit that our football team, Bowie High School, was horrible. I played for three years, and every year we went two and eight. That’s two wins and eight losses per season. That means in the course of my high school career we won six games and lost 24.
Loud and Proud
I can remember being in cheerleading practice one day, and some of the cheerleaders were complaining, “Why do we have to cheer for the football team? They’re so bad. It doesn’t make any sense. Let’s cheer for a good team.” And our cheer coach, who’s a friend of mine to this day, said something so profound. She said, “We don’t cheer for them because they win or lose. We cheer for them because we’re proud of who they are and where they come from – and they come from our school.”
I admit that I became ashamed and stopped cheering for our church – and it was going through a whole heck of an ordeal. But we have to become proud of who we are, and I take that with me to the grave. I am proud to be a Blessed Child. I am proud to be a member of the Unification Church.
And if you’re proud, the other thing I learned on the cheerleading squad is that you’ve got to be loud. I come out here every Sunday at the end of service and I scream into a microphone, “Are you loving life?” With my whole heart and desire, it’s my wish that you are owning that decision when you scream, “Yes,” that you are owning the decision to be a happy, healthy, loving, uplifting individual, that you are making that choice.
Can you imagine if I walked out on stage and said, “Um. Hey guys, do you like your life?” There’s no power in that. We have to be loud and proud Unificationists, and that’s what I learned on the cheerleading squad.
There are so many ways that God blessed me, even when I was so far from him, so far from her. There was the cheerleading squad, and then I chose a profession that I use to this day. I became an educator, and it helps me so much in what I do. Hopefully it’s helping this morning.
The Various Paths to Greatness
My wife was similar. She chose to be a professional musician, and her journey through this life of faith was not easy because she didn’t walk the pipeline. She didn’t walk the route that the Blessed Children were supposed to live. Instead of workshops during the summer, she was going to music festivals. Instead of STF she went to study viola under a world-renowned violist. And when she came back to our community, they looked down on her, or at least she felt that way. Then every time they needed a musical offering, they would parade her across the stage and say, “Look how great our Blessed Children are.” That’s how she felt.
But even during that time God was preparing her for what she’s doing today. She’s currently in Japan with our senior pastor at the Youth Concert for World Peace and Ideal Families. Sonic Cult is on tour in Japan, and God prepared her, even during that difficult time, to do what she does. She’s learned that she can make an offering and that her life of faith can be based on inspiring youth through music, as are the lives of all the musicians of Sonic Cult and the Lovin’ Life Band. Everyone has a different way that they contribute. It’s not just giving sermons or teaching lectures.
Jatoma Gavin cooks. Natalie Franklin bakes and runs our Life Lounge, and so many others have different ways to contribute. But for so long there was only one way that we could walk.
My point is, “Don’t worry so much if our children go a different path because God is going to be with them, preparing them for greatness.”
Unity through Worship and Ballroom Dance
I believe that Lovin’ Life Ministries is going to help us become the movement that we want to be, to become the individuals and families that we aspire to be. That is why we want to reinvigorate this movement. That’s why we’re going back to our spiritual roots.
In the witnessing summits, there was this big question about our identity: Are we a church or a movement. Clearly we are a movement, but all movements, all great movements, start on a religious foundation, on a spiritual foundation, and over time, as In Jin Nim has said, we started to lose that. Lovin’ Life is a family ministry. It’s about worshipping together as a family.
When I was growing up, we would walk up to the chapel and then right when the sermon was about to start, they would rip us out of the service and send us down to the basement’s basement. I learned very quickly that I didn’t have to attend Sunday service. If you think about the impact that that’s had on our young people, we’re pulling families apart and we’re teaching people that Sunday service is not that valuable. That’s why it’s important in this ministry that we worship together as families.
Lovin’ Life is about implementing the Divine Principle in our daily life. And we do that through so many different practices. This is why, even though I’m not a good dancer, I so love ballroom dance class and ballroom dance ministry – because if you think about what it is, it is putting the Divine Principle into action. We learned and heard about give and take action for so many years: that there is a subject and there’s an object and they’re to interact and revolve around each other in spherical motion and create unity and harmony.
For me growing up, when I saw a bunch of circles and arrows on the board, I thought, “What does that have to do with my life?” But it’s amazing when you see that taking place on a ballroom dance floor, where young men are learning how to approach and honor a young woman, and young women are learning how to respond to and react to their lead; and where they both are learning that they have to sacrifice a little bit, unite, live for the other person, for their partner, and work together in harmony. It’s putting Divine Principle into action.
I think it’s unfortunate that so many people have thought that it’s just for the young people because I would love to see my parents ballroom dancing. I would love to see the parents in this room ballroom dancing. It’s heart-breaking to me that on Tuesday nights, when we do our DP slam group, our DP study group in New Jersey, and Sakamoto-san is leading the ballroom dance class in New Jersey, that there are usually only two first-generation couples there. I want to challenge you: Start dancing today. Because you’re going to learn a lot about each other, you’re going to grow closer together, and you’re going to learn to love like you’ve never loved before. Please dance.
Implementing the Divine Principle into Daily Life
Lovin’ Life is about challenging us. It’s not about making us feel comfortable. And of course our major emphasis is on young people. It’s on the growth and education of our young people. So I don’t want you to worry. In Jin Nim is going to take care of the youth, okay? We’re going to update the way that we educate. As an educator, I’m so inspired by the way In Jin Nim thinks.
She says, “It’s not enough to just lecture the Divine Principle. They have to know how to implement it and make it real in their daily life,” and that’s what I try to do in New Jersey’s youth ministry. We recently completed a two-day workshop at Camp Sunrise called the Faith Workshop for New Jersey and New York youth. We lectured very little, but all along the way we were doing activities that allowed them to experience what we were talking about.
We talked about the freedom and responsibility that you have in order to grow through the three stages of growth. Right now, I’m almost like regurgitating just because I’m hearing three stages of growth. But it wasn’t enough to just say, “Look: formation, Growth, and Completion.” We had to learn about how we can implement that in our own lives and how we can listen to God’s voice so that we can grow ourselves. So we took them out on the basketball court, we set up an obstacle course, and we had people blindfolded. We had some people play God, while others had to navigate just by listening to God’s voice. The lessons that are learned through an activity like that are tremendous. They have to learn to quiet all the other noise. They have to learn to focus on where God is leading them. They have to learn how to listen and respond to God’s voice.
Then we wanted to teach them about True Parents’ life. So we showed an hour-long video that Hyung Jin Nim just put out on YouTube. It’s a great video about True Parents’ course. I grew up hearing all the stories, and I couldn’t really understand who our True Parents were and the amount of sacrifice that they laid for us. So we said, “Let’s give them a taste,” and we walked them through True Parents’ course. We hiked them up to the mountain and asked them to dedicate their lives to something. They prayed on the mountain for 21 minutes, looking for something that they could dedicate their life to, just as our True Father did at the early age of 15.
Then we walked them down to the beach and said, “Congratulations. Your dedication to God’s providence just landed you in Hungnam prison.” So they had to fill 65-pound sandbags, walk them up a tremendous hill, and stack them while the staff acted as prison guards and mistreated them.
Now I know that sounds awful, but the point that we were trying to convey is to get a taste of True Parents’ heart along the way. If you read the testimonies that the kids shared, you find things like, “Never have I ever understood the sacrifice that our True Parents laid for us.” “Never have I understood how much they went through.”
There were tons of other activities that weren’t as harsh, about learning about the Divine Principle through nature, walking from North Korea to the South carrying someone on your back, and learning how to influence an apathetic society through public speaking. We have to teach our kids to implement the Divine Principle in their daily lives. So our youth ministries and our camps are serious about Divine Principle education and the teachings of our True Parents.
“The Shoulders We Stand On”
It’s so interesting to me that I grew up having all of these complaints about Camp Sunrise and how I was treated, and then last year In Jin Nim said, “Dave, why don’t you take that and run with Camp Lovin’ Life? Why don’t you run the show?” She trusted me with that.
She said, “Make sure you have fun. Make sure that they have a good time.” And, for me part of my philosophy is, “I’m serious about fun.” Anyone who knows me knows that I’m fun country all the way. I like to emphasize that, but please don’t misunderstand. We are not watering down the Divine Principle. Our theme last year was “The Shoulders that We Stand On” because In Jin Nim is serious about honoring our spiritual heritage. I’d like to take a few moments to explain what The Shoulders We Stand On is about.
It’s about recognizing that we come from our Heavenly Parent, that we stand on God’s shoulders, that we are divine sons and daughters of our Heavenly Parent and we are their eternal children. It’s about understanding that we stand on Jesus’ shoulders, that he laid a sacrifice for us. Because of that sacrifice, we could have True Parents and we stand on all the foundations laid and indemnity paid by our True Parents. We stand on the shoulders of our parents’ generation, the first-generation, and In Jin Nim is serious about honoring our parents’ generation.
We stand on the shoulders of the True Children, who are leading the way in the Settlement Age to become the community that we want to become. And finally, we stand on the shoulders of all of our older brothers and sisters who have gone before us, and that’s why our staff T-shirts said, “Stand Here.” “Stand on my shoulders.” And “We’re going to go together.”
“Rebels with a Cause”
Our Camp focus last year was about spiritual heritage. This year at Camp Lovin’ Life it’s about inheriting that spiritual heritage and becoming social activists, people who are going to have an impact on society. Are you ready for this year’s camp theme? I’d like to show you our T-shirt. Our camp theme this year is “Rebels With a Cause.” This is the back.
Now that may sound like an interesting title to some. Rebels – like, “You’re going to teach them to be rebels?” Absolutely. You know, we have a history of rebels. The unfortunate ones were Adam and Eve because God is the first cause. We know that from theology. God is the first cause of the universe, and Adam and Eve were rebels without a cause. They lost God as their center. But throughout history God has been longing for rebels who would take him up as a cause, who would advocate for our Heavenly Parent. Jesus was a rebel with a cause; Martin Luther King was a rebel with a cause. Gandhi was a rebel with a cause.
We as a society honor and respect rebels. The greatest people in history were rebelling against something that was not right, something that was ungodly. Our True Parents are the greatest rebels of history. My parents are rebels. All the first-generation in this room and listening all across America, you guys were rebels who confronted an ungodly culture and said, “I am going to take a stand against this and I am going to create a better world.” And now it’s time for the second-generation, for the next generation, for the young people of our movement to take a stand and be rebels.
I’m so excited to have Seijin Tranberg on our team at Camp Lovin’ Life because he exemplifies a rebel with a cause. As you know, he did his “Tour de Cause,” as he bicycled across America to teach and educate people about the issue going on in Japan, where our members are being kidnapped, raped, and tortured. He’s a rebel. I’m so excited to have Karisa Morikawa, Danny Heller, and Toby Gullery on our team because they stand as rebels, too, because they are constantly trying to raise up the next generation.
What I mostly want to say this morning is that Lovin’ Life is going to take care of the young people, but for everyone else, don’t think that your time is over. You have to continue to be rebels. You were rebels once, you should be rebels again.
Reverend Cotter in one of the first sermons he gave talked about all these re- words. Re-member – it’s time to member up again. Don’t resign but re-sign. Don’t retire but re-tire. Put the treads back on and do some work. I think In Jin Nim would probably play on this word rebels. As you probably know, she speaks fluent French. It’s time to re-bel. And belle in French is “beautiful.” It’s time to reengage that culture of becoming that beautiful community that you guys joined. It’s time to rebel against the satanic culture of the world out there. It’s time to re-tire, re-sign, and get up and make a stand again. Are you with me?
Serious about Growth
The second-generation has a lot of programs in place. There are local youth ministries, weekend workshops, summer camps, winter camps, and winter workshops. We have a place to educate our young people to become those rebels. But for those of you who are a little bit older, where are you going to challenge yourselves? Where are you going to get some inspiration on how you can grow? Because you’re not done; a commitment to growth is a lifelong commitment. You’re not going to workshops any more. There are no more 2, 7, 21, and 40-day workshops. I believe Sunday service is the place where you have to be serious about your growth.
Remember, I’m here to challenge you. I want to tell you a story because to me it’s so important that we become the community that we say we are. A year or two ago In Jin Nim gave a sermon about entitlement. She talked about how people, leaders especially, can become so enveloped in their title, in their position, and who they are. After In Jin Nim gave that sermon, she took the time to greet people down here in the front. My wife and I took our place in line, in the back of the line, because we wanted to greet our senior pastor.
Standing there, I witnessed something that I thought was tragic – and this is how our young people see things. A leader, who had just heard an entire sermon on entitlement, decided that he was important enough to cut in front of all the people who had been waiting patiently to greet our senior pastor – because he was a reverend of our church, because he had that position, and he was so important that he could cut the line.
That may seem like a small thing, but to me it’s not – if we can’t embody what we’re hearing from this podium, especially when our senior pastor is talking, if we can’t even be serious about what we’re being challenged to do. She was challenging us to be a little bit more humble, to be willing to take the back seat. The Bible says, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Let’s be willing to take that position.
I want you to leave here today thinking, “What can I do differently today?” When Reverend Swearson gave his sermon, we should have left the room thinking, “Who do I need to forgive?” Or, “Who do I need to seek forgiveness from?” When Reverend Lamson left the stage, we should have been thinking, “Who are the prodigals in my community and how can I reach out to them?” And, “Am I the person who’s creating them? Am I being too judgmental, too harsh and unforgiving?” Do you understand what I’m saying? We have to become those people who are serious.
So I want to leave you with these three points. Be serious about what you’re hearing, whether it’s through the sermon, your reading of Hoon Dok Hae, a lecture, or your own personal growth. Please go out there and challenge yourself to become better people because you’re going to be judged. Please make a commitment to making a change today. Everyone of us when we walk out of this room today and walk out of our Sunday services, should be thinking, “What can I do differently?” I wake up every day thinking that way. It’s the one thing I have going for me. I wake up saying, “How am I going to be a better husband than I was yesterday,” “How am I going to be a better father,” and “How am I going to be a better youth pastor?” “What can I do differently?” And I want people to hold me accountable to that.
I want my youth ministry to be able to say, “Dave, you hurt my feelings. This is how I felt.” And I am going to apologize. I’m going to be accountable for my actions.
And lastly, we have to persevere when it’s tough. We have to keep going, even when it’s hard, because it’s no easy thing to live up to the great set of ideals that we have. We have to constantly be dealing with these things. Please leave here today thinking about what you can change – so you can become the person that you want to become, so your family can be the family that you want it to be, and so our community can become the community that is going to have a tremendous impact on this society because we are an ideal community, we are a loving, unselfish, and beautiful community. That’s the community I like. Thank you.