GTG 2016

Day 19: Foundation Day

It’s been another busy day here at Top Gun. We’ve been active since 5:30 this morning, when we began preparing for the Foundation Day and the Foundation Day Holy Marriage Blessing celebrations at the Cheongshim World Peace Center. Thousands of other people have been active this morning, too, making up a sea of black suits, white dresses, and winter coats big enough to fill every seat of the stadium. Some of us could only find spaces to sit on the stairwells that ran up each section of seats.

True Mother presided over the day’s events and it was wonderful to see her again, this time from afar. She seemed both somber and happy as she made new announcements about the policies of Cheon Il Guk and officiated over the Marriage Blessing.

Once the Foundation Day events concluded, we made our way back to Cheong Pyeong for lunch and a few final presentations. Dr. Tyler Hendricks spoke first and had created a presentation especially for us on the basis of questions we had submitted to him the night before. Most of his comments were responses clarifying the current situation of relations between the Unification movement and Sanctuary Church. His insights as an experienced and heartistic Unificationist theologian were very welcome.

Dr. Hendricks was followed by my father, David Eaton, who shared his testimony about his work as a Unificationist musician and artist for the past 40 years. His testimony was particularly inspiring because it reinforced the presentations given by Demian earlier this week about the foundations of Tribal Messiahship. My dad testified that through his willingness to give up his passion for music in service to God after he first met the Unification movement, God was able to bless his passion, return it to him, and extend it further than it would likely have done otherwise.

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Our final presentation was given by Naokimi Ushiroda, President of the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP) USA, who shared about the current vision and activities of CARP, as well as opportunities available to Top Gunners to get more involved with CARP after they return home to their communities. Mr. Ushiroda also reported that the CARP USA mission and vision statement was recently updated to focus on the theme of empowerment through the application of Unification principles.

Finally, since it’s our last night altogether as a tribe, we’ve been sharing testimonies, songs, and dance together for a few hours now. It’s hard to believe that Top Gun ends tomorrow, but with the ending now imminent, everyone is that much more inspired to get up on stage and share their hearts however they can: through reflections, hip-hop, Albanian dance, soul music, original songs, pop, solos, duets, jokes, tears, laughter—I think we’ve seen just about everything tonight. And it’s been truly beautiful.

A big shout-out to my fellow Global Top Gunners for your incredible heart and courage.

One more day to go.

Day 18: Tying Loose Ends

Though we still have two full days ahead of us, today was a day of tying loose ends here at Global Top Gun as we transition into the final stages of our workshop.

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We began our day with an address from Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, Continental Chairman of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) North America. Dr. Kim wanted to check in with us after our lunch with True Mother on Wednesday so he could share more of her vision with us and fill us in on True Mother’s response after our meeting at Heaven G Burger.

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Dr. Kim reported that True Mother was very happy to see us and felt revived by our energetic performances and attitudes, which was very rewarding to hear. He also built upon what True Mother had said in her address to us, saying, “More than just studying the Divine Principle or participating in educational lectures here at Cheong Pyeong, True Parents really want you to have the experience of developing the strength and sensitivity of your spirits and cultivating your hearts and daily lives so that they can become bigger, brighter, and wider in the service of God and humankind.”

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Following Dr. Kim’s remarks, Demian concluded the Tribal Messiahship education we began on Tuesday. We first covered the process of setting goals based on our passions and purposes we had discerned in reflection and conversation earlier in the week. Then, we took some time to network together with those of our fellow Top Gunners who shared similar passions in order to lay a foundation of support that we can build upon in the imminent future. Finally, we had a session on event-planning as a way to take practical first steps in creating the culture we would like to see in our own movement and our own communities.

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Later, Tasnah led us in a reflection activity, “Coming Full Circle,” to help us begin finding closure in our workshop experiences. Reminding us of the intentions we had first set at the very start of the workshop, Tasnah asked us to reflect today about what we learned, what was amazing, what was amazingly challenging, and how can we apply what we’ve learned from these new experiences to our daily lives. This process of reflection, she explained, allows us to offer what we experienced to God and substantiates the genuine growth and change we seek in our lives.

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For our final activity in the evening, we spent quality time with our clans—probably the last quality time we will have with each other before the workshop ends. It was a very precious time as we told each other what we appreciated about each other, played games, and sang songs.

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But for all this loose end-tying, it’s not the end yet! Stay tuned for updates about our experiences at the Foundation Day Holy Marriage Blessing and more in the days to come.

Day 17: Praying For The World

It’s 8:30pm. We’ve just returned to Cheong Pyeong after a 5-1/2 hour bus ride over vast stretches of highway and up long, winding mountain roads. We had a great, late dinner, and we’re just now about to head into one of our final lectures. You might imagine that we’re disheveled, exhausted, grumpy, and disheartened that we have more work to do after a long day of travelling—but you’d be wrong (mostly—I think we are a tad disheveled).

Amazingly, not only is Rev. Yong Cheong Song’s presentation about recent reformations in the Japanese FFWPU organization and leadership fascinating, but it’s inspiring to be here, listening to him speak. We are alert, energized, and fulfilled, having just come home from an uplifting day exploring our heritage as Unificationists in both Yeosu and Pusan.

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Right after we had lunch with True Mother yesterday, we departed from Cheong Pyeong en route to Yeosu. Yeosu is a small city at the southernmost tip of South Korea, where True Parents have spent a lot of time and invested a lot of their energy and resources to strengthen the fishing and other domestic oceanic industries.

After a very spicy, traditional Korean dinner there, the local pastor spoke to us about the significant events in True Parents’ lives that had taken place in Yeosu, such as True Father’s fishing expeditions, record-breaking speeches, and revolutionary pronouncements.

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We woke up early the next morning to head down to the beach and offer prayers to start our day. It was still quite dark and a bit cold, but the stars shone beautifully overhead as the ocean lapped at our feet. By the time the light began to shine in the east, we were heading out on our way to Pusan, the first site of True Father’s public ministry in the south after the conclusion of the Korean War.

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The local pastor there took us on a small tour of three important sites: the Beomnaegol Museum, where True Father and one of his earliest disciples, Won Pil Kim, had built a hut out of cardboard and mud, nestled against a huge outcropping; the Rock of Tears, where True Parents have offered many desperate prayers for the sake of God and a peaceful world over the years; and to the summit of the Beomnaegol mountain, where True Father would come to meditate and pray after a hard day’s work, and to look out over all of the bay of Pusan. Our last stop was at the first church in Pusan, where we had lunch and from where we began to make our way back to Cheong Pyeong.

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We prayed at each site along the way, but our prayers at the Rock of Tears were particularly moving. It almost felt as if True Father was there with us, still crying and praying for the salvation of the world. Our Global Top Gun coordinator, Tasnah Moyer, shared, “Sitting there praying, what struck me most was that I found it difficult to pray just for myself. Automatically, I think the spirit of the place demands that you pray for something bigger, because the very foundation of what that place was created for was praying for something much bigger than just True Father and his life.”

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These experiences of True Parents’ presence and heart throughout the pilgrimage were reinforced by reading from the Cham Bumo Gyeong during each leg of our journey. In the second week of the workshop, the International Headquarters staff presented each of us with the gift of a small book containing several chapters of the recently translated Cham Bumo Gyeong. We were so grateful for this gift that we determined to read the whole of the book before the end of the workshop and happily took large strides toward achieving that goal by reading together during our many hours of travel yesterday and today.

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After a day like that, it was only natural that we came back to Cheong Pyeong refreshed and revived. It was such an incredible experience of bonding and growth that there was a deeper and more colorful timbre to our laughter when we got back, a stronger sense of solidarity and community—though we were also sad to say early goodbyes to some of our fellow Top Gunners who are participating in the Foundation Day Marriage Blessing on Saturday.

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Of course, we wish them all well and look forward to seeing them again once they’ve received the Blessing. We’ve all certainly been blessed in many ways to be here together for as long as we have, and we’re excited to make the most of the very last days of the workshop together.

Day 15: Full Circle

Everything we’ve learned and hoped for seemed to come full circle today.

We’re in our last week of Global Top Gun. Since last night, Demian Dunkley, Director of Evangelism at FFWPU USA, has been facilitating presentations and reflections on True Parents’ vision for Tribal Messiahship. It took me a while to make the connection, but at some point today, I finally saw how this theme is the culmination of what we’ve been learning at Global Top Gun. We began with presentations about God, then shifted to presentations about True Parents, and we’ve finally arrived at presentations detailing how we can live our lives and build our relationships more intentionally, both according to their vision and through their promise and hope.

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Demian shared today that the heart of Tribal Messiahship is the process of building dynamic, vibrant and healthy relationships with the people we know and meet on a day-to-day basis. He stressed that True Parents are not interested in building a church so much as they are interested in building the Kingdom of God on Earth, or Cheon Il Guk, in Unification parlance; that to build Cheon Il Guk, God needs us to honor the passions and gifts He and She has bequeathed to us so that we may better know how to attend God, True Parents, and one another, and in so doing create the world God has always longed for.

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With this new light on Tribal Messiahship, my fellow Top Guns and I have all been internalizing this vision of building a culture of heart through Tribal Messiahship, reflecting on who our tribe consists of, and a few have already shared about their future plans and what’s next for them after Top Gun. You can read these reflections here

 

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We just learned, too, that we’ll be meeting True Mother for lunch tomorrow! She has invited us to join her at the newly opened Heaven G’Burger, a burger restaurant located a few minutes’ walk from the training center.

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In a spur-of-the-moment effort to better prepare our hearts and minds for this visit, Demian proposed that we all walk up to the summit of the sacred local mountain together to pray. We scurried up the slick steps and walkways; some of us even threw snowballs at our unsuspecting neighbors, courtesy of the decent snowfall that began last night.

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At the top, we gathered around the landmark pine tree that is located on the summit, called “the Tree of Blessing”, to pray.

It was such a beautiful moment. As we were walking up to the top of the mountain, I had to stop and look east out over the surrounding mountains and valleys because the view was so breathtaking. The snow made every crevice and wrinkle in the face of the mountains visible, and a burst of peach light from the sunset lit up all the surrounding area with a soft, promising glow of the adventures to come in our final week at Global Top Gun.

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There’s still a lot to learn, both at Top Gun and beyond, but as we walked, and talked, and prayed together, it felt as if our goals and hopes for the workshop were coming to fruition. Citizens of 28 nations who came together as strangers only two weeks ago are now laughing and smiling and joking together as a real family or tribe might.

It’s amazing what can happen when we let go of our preconceptions and just try.

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Dream Big

At Global Top Gun, we learn that our life, our skills and our heart are all meant for something greater. A few Top Gunners express what they look forward to in life after Top Gun:

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“Over the past few weeks at the Global Top Gun Workshop, I have had an incredible experience of deepening my faith. By connecting to the homeland of Korea for the first time, I’ve been able to understand the heart of True Parents in a way I never have before. Day after day, hour by hour, and minute by minute, I truly feel like everything that happens while I am on the Cheong Pyeong grounds is sanctified by God. That He is guiding me, caring for me, and taking great joy in my presence here. It is genuinely as if we are in the Kingdom of Heaven, and I can’t wait to spread it throughout the world.”

-Adam Gottlieb, USA

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“I work with the Ocean Church, started by True Parents, and today I realized that even though I have the support of the foundation of USA Ocean Providence, we will need to create the vision that we want to work toward. Together, this is the best way to connect everyone at heart. Rather than offer my own small-minded global vision, we all can work on this together, to create unity and truly include everyone from professionals to visionaries to Ocean Church families.

Fourteen countries around the world and 14 states of the U.S. are all reporting that they feel alone in the fight to keep True Father’s vision of Ocean Providence alive. We need to network everyone and make it clear that we are not alone!

There are so many passionate people around the world: families, businesses, companies, programs and churches. We need to understand God’s heart and desperate desire to inherit the Heavenly standard to the entire world, humanity and all nations.

Yesterday I realized that in order to directly connect to the heart of God, I must feel His sorrow, hope and joy for humanity, the joy that we can all feel as we work together to realize this dream.

Cheong Pyeong is truly a training center for the body and mind, spirit and heart. Every ounce of devotion and dedication that I have made here has been substantially appreciated and God has constantly replied to me in the form of inspiration, relationships, Hoon Dok Hwe (scripture) guidance and tears for humanity.

Thank you, True Mother. I will go forward with my brothers and sisters to understand God’s plan and hope for us. I cannot express my gratitude enough for what you have done for us!”

-Branch Gaarder, USA

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“Many times I heard from other people that we need to build a culture of heart with each other and how important this kind of culture is. Sincerely speaking, in my opinion Top Gun is doing this in reality. What I found here has been greater than I expected. I like so much the way this workshop is going and is developing. This training makes me think more deeply about what I can do to make our big family bigger and bigger.

The lectures that we received until now are filling my heart not just with great inspiration but also love toward our dear True Parents and also determination to work harder in building Cheon Il Guk, God’s Kingdom. What I feel is that here we are building more deeply our relationships with each other and most important with the root of our movement, True Parents. So, after this workshop, I am sure that all of us in our nations will cooperate more with each other like leaders of heart.

The media training that the staff are teaching us is really helpful to me, and now I understand more clearly how to use the Internet for witnessing and inspiring others.

Sincerely speaking, here I really feel like True Mother’s daughter, and I want to say to her, ‘Thank you for taking care of us.’ Here I can see that we have amazing brothers and sisters around the world, so, yes, I believe that we will build Cheon Il Guk. I will try to give my best in my mission country of Albania when I go back.

Thank you, Top Gun, for this amazing training! Thank you, True Parents, for saving me! I promise to you that I will do my best.”

-Majlinda Matraku, Albania

 

It's The Last Week!

Global Top Gun is in its final week! They are getting ready to embark on a pilgrimage throughout Korea for two days. As they get ready to go, participants reflect on their time so far, particularly the eventful past couple of days in which they celebrated True Parents’ Birthday, attended the Wonmo Pyeongae Scholarship Awards Ceremony, and launched the Peace Road 2016.

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“I met True Parents in 2012 many times, and at the Wonmo Pyeongae Scholarship ceremony yesterday True Mother presented me with an award and shook my hand. 

Since 2013, I have been working for the education of young Unificationists, and home church witnessing in Sydney and have been trying to fulfill my responsibility to move the providence forward in Australia. I have a deep faith and dedication to Heavenly Parent and True Parents, but I don’t always execute my actions with God. During the Top Gun Workshop, I realized very clearly the true ways to overcome the fallen nature that has been holding me back in my public life. I am extremely goal-focused and ambitious, and I struggled during the last few years to be loving, and I have mistreated people many times. I am very happy because now I can work on my limitations and become a better leader and better member of the community, working toward what I truly believe is right.”

– Kyomi Muraoka, Australia

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“Two weeks have passed since the beginning of this workshop, and it feels like a month, as I feel I have received so much education and love from Heavenly Parent and my brothers and sisters here with me. There were actually only a few lectures in which I haven’t shed tears. My heart has been moved so many times, learning the testimonies of those who shared their personal encounters with True Parents. Their life testimonies made the content of the lectures so real and tangible. It feels like a new door in my heart has opened. 

One of my highlights this past week was the event held at the Cheongshim Peace World Center for True Parents’ Birthday. Hearing heads of nations recognizing True Parents as their True Parents with all their heart was very moving. 

The musical show made me realize how much True Parents and our elders gave and sacrificed to break down the wall of this satanic world. Without them we wouldn’t be here today. I can never be grateful enough for all this foundation we’re standing on. I remember coming to this workshop for my own purpose, but I cannot leave and not share what I’ve experienced these days with my brothers and sisters back home.  True Mother can’t wait for us just to share the love. This is a new feeling of responsibility for me.”

– Diane Chaillie, France

Day 10: Evening Tea With Rev. Thompson

This evening, after a day of lecturing, Rev. Thompson got cozy on stage, sitting in a nice chair with a virtual fireplace on the screen behind him and a blanket on his lap. We gathered around him like children as he shared many stories about his experiences with True Parents.

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“I was really blown away by Kevin Thompson’s lecture and the amazing stories he told of his early days with True Father,” shared Global Top Gun participant Cliff Gaines. “Those stories are so powerful and moving that they just bring us all to tears. I can’t help but reflect on how incredibly hard it must have been for True Father to establish so much and to go through so much struggle.

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As Rev. Thompson was telling his personal story, I was amazed by how human we are and sometimes our focus is on the simple things like, “What time is lunch?” while True Father focused amazingly in one direction: towards God. It was so amazingly powerful. I think there should be a time where all Unificationists, especially of the early days of the movement, should get together and record those stories and archive them.

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I have never, ever heard so many stories from so many Unificationists until this workshop, and they’re all amazingly powerful. It just adds proof that True Father had God’s complete attention and that he had one focus throughout his whole life. I just wish I could be like that. Wow.”

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As we get ready to celebrate True Parents’ Birthday this weekend, stories like these remind us what the Holy Days are all about.