Centered On God

“The second week of GTGY is a very important week, because this is where the education and content will happen,” said Naokimi Ushiroda, President of the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP) USA, who spent the week sharing lectures with the Global Top Gun Youth participants. “I was reflecting on the purpose of this workshop, and what I see as the main purpose is for everyone in this age group, the future leaders, to align their goals centered on God, True Parents, and the Divine Principle. True Mother wants to make sure the next generation of leadership is centered on the right thing.”

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The five-day lecture series concluded on August 11, and according to one participant from Washington State, USA, Esther Pisano, “the lectures were amazing. It was definitely a new and creative expression of the Divine Principle.”

A typical day this past week opened with morning lectures, and then participants spent the afternoon engaged in various activities, appropriate for each age group and stage of life. Middle school participants took part in activities designed to promote bonding between them, and to instill a sense of self-value and self-love within each participant. The middle school youth emerged feeling more confident and more connected.

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For university-aged participants, activities included several ice-breakers, introspective assignments, and team-building exercises. Though many of the participants do not speak English, translators, singing and fun activities helped everyone to bond and create international friendships. In one activity, participants wrote down a list of walls that they tend to put up, which block their original selves and contribute to their personal vulnerabilities. They then wore a sign with their number one personal wall, and walked around the room talking to each other about it.

Justin Okamoto of CARP USA also led a vision statement exercise, encouraging everyone to envision the future that they want to see, and the future that True Mother wants to see in this world. “It was a very powerful session,” said Jinil Fleishman from Las Vegas, USA.

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In the evenings, participants had exciting clan-wide open mics and testimony sharing.

“In each group, we shared our testimonies,” explained Jinil Fleishman, “then we joined all together as one clan to share all these experiences that we’ve had. I think each participant is taking away a clear vision and a hope for the future that we can create.”

“Participants have been exploring the Divine Principle, taking part in leadership training and creating a global family,” said Kenji Sugawara and Tamami Sugawara from Worcester, Massachusetts, co-directors of the Global Top Gun Youth middle and high school group. “The energy has been growing every single day; the participants have been getting louder in their singing, louder in activities and cheering, and feeling very free. They feel empowered in the commitment they are making for True Parents and for the live they want to live.”

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Logic Of Love

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August 7 was our first day of lectures at the Global Top Gun Youth workshop. After a long pilgrimage journey throughout Korea, participants are ready to engage in thought-provoking discussions and internal growth activities. The interactive reflection periods here are anything but quiet introspection; they are high in energy and loud with love, giving youth a sense of identity as young Unificationists and allowing them a chance to connect in heart with more of their brothers and sisters around the world. They’re getting a daily dose of self value, confidence, fun and laughter.

“I just love my brothers and sisters so much!” Said Kengo, a GPA participant at GTGY. The love generated here across borders with other young Unificationists around the world is priceless.

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To open the Divine Principle lecture series, Naokimi Ushiroda, President of the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP) USA, gave a presentation on the Original Mind to middle and high school participants. Justin Okamoto of CARP USA also spoke to participants, including the university students, who also began introductory lectures this week. Middle high school participants are encouraged every evening through intentional games and activities to realize themselves as children of God, being pushed ever inward to connect with their original selves. 

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Educators are striving to instill True Mother’s words from the first day at GTGY into the hearts of the young adults here: “You are the first in history. True Parents are happy because of you. I am proud of all of you. Please do not forget that; there will always be the blessing and love of True Parents in all of your hard work in order for all of you to reach your dreams.” 

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August 10 was Justin Okamoto’s last day lecturing with the university students. He was met with enthusiasm and encouragement. His lecture series was received by attentive ears and hearts eager to take away habits and practices to propel participants forward in their dreams. The day was spent leading participants toward creating their own vision statements to move their lives towards creating and fulfilling their dreams. The lecture series ended with everyone singing and praying in unison. In the evening, participants shared short testimonies within their clans and then later as a tribe.

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Lecture Testimonies:

My favorite experience so far has been listening to lectures from Naokimi and Justin. I thought commitment is what brings my mind and body to unite. Naokimi said, “If you love someone, you will do anything.” I immediately realized how right he was. Love is what unites our minds and bodies. I saw this truth in coming to this GTGY workshop. When I heard that True Mother was holding this workshop, I knew right away that I had to be here. I felt my heart pulling me here to help True Mother to accomplish her goal. So my mind directed my body and here I am.

-Sarah Takhar, USA

I’ve gained so much spiritually in these past couple of days that I have in this year. The lectures have given me a sense of clarity within myself and who I am as a person.

-JaYeon Mayele, USA

In the past I had not been interested in reading the Divine Principle from cover to cover. However, the lectures in this workshop made me want to study the Divine Principle more and read it in its entirety.

-Riki Egoshi, USA

Within the last two days of the GTG Youth workshop, I felt that I was really enlightened through the Divine Principle lectures. I was inspired and learned so many new things that I didn’t know about before.

-Wonja Kim, USA

During this workshop I’ve realized that I really didn’t understand the Divine Principle in such a practical way. I couldn’t imagine that the Divine Principle in itself, excluding True Parents’ words, could touch my heart so deeply. So many questions I prayed to receive the answer are now appearing in front of me just by looking things in a different way. It’s so amazing to think that the Divine Principle applies to all our situations and life. 

-Jens Fernandez Muhlke, Dominican Republic

Naokimi said one thing that really hit me like a realization. It was one of those things that are so obvious and logical but we don’t see it until someone tells us. That the secret to mind-body unity is LOVE! I always would think that mind and body unity is such a hard thing, and that you need to make so many conditions to achieve it. However if you love, then you no longer need to force yourself to do it. That really resonated with me and I almost cried.

-Yann Taupier-Letage, France

With regards to lectures, I just find them some of the best lectures I’ve ever had and that’s truly sincere. I’ve heard Divine Principle lectures a lot, but I feel I learned how practical and logical the Principle can be. And maybe also a way that I can explain the Principle to others.

-Yvonne Marsh, UK

I am amazed by the way the Divine Principle has been broken down and brought to everyday experiences. The methodology of teaching is very convenient as we come to understand how Divine Principle can help us and thus we can find easy experiences to share with the people that don’t know Divine Principle. I understand that I cannot convince anybody to understand or to study Divine Principle if I myself cannot understand it or see real examples of how it has helped me.

-Virgilio Leitao Muando, Mozambique

I really appreciated the lectures, especially the ones in the morning. It will really help me when I will be witnessing to someone, as it really teaches us how to outreach.

-Nadal Noel, France

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The Pilgrimage Continues

We continued into a second day of pilgrimage on August 4, stopping at Holy Ground sites in Busan and Mungyeong, respectively.

The group that visited Busan had the opportunity to visit the Beomnaegol Memorial Hall, which was built around the outcropping where True Father and one of his earliest disciples, Won Pil Kim, built a hut out of mud and cardboard in which True Father would complete the original manuscript for the Divine Principle.

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A few minutes walk from the memorial hall, we came to the Rock of Tears, where True Father as a young man and later True Parents together, have offered intense and tearful prayers of devotion to realize God’s will for humankind. Connecting to that same, deep spirit of prayer, many of the GTGY participants were similarly moved to tears as they placed their hands on the rock in prayer.

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Continuing up the mountain, christened “Mt. Cheonbu” by True Mother in 2001, we finally reached the summit, where you can look out over the whole of the Port of Busan and two, large pagodas stand, each representing True Father and True Mother. True Father was said to walk up to the summit, after a day’s work down in the port, to meditate and reflect on his mission and God’s heart.

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The Heart Of Our Holy Sites

Today we got up bright and early for our pilgrimage throughout Korea. Since there are so many of us, we split into two groups and charted separate courses.

Group 1 started with Cheongae or “Blue Sea” Garden in Yeosu. The site on which Blue Sea Garden is built was selected by True Parents to be the central location for the Ocean Providence in Korea in January 2003, after an extensive search for an appropriate site around the length of the Korean peninsula. During their stay there, the GTGY participants visited the local church and True Father’s Hoon Dok Hwe (scripture reading) room. Afterward, the group went to the Ocean Resort, where they enjoyed the sauna and swimming at the beach.

Group 2 went to Paju Wonjeon, then to Cheonbok Gung, and then Cheongpa Dong. Our guide knew so much of the history, and shared about when True Parents spent their days here.

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Paju Wonjeon is a Unificationist burial ground located in the city of Paju, Gyeonggi Province. The approximately 500,000 pyeong (roughly 408 acres) of land at Paju Wonjeon was donated by Shin Shil Lee, a Presbyterian who joined the Unification movement in the 1960s.

For staff member, Shinyoung Chang, it was her first time going to Paju Wonjeon. “I had no idea it was so large,” she said, “and that there are already 10 members of True Parents’ family resting there. Having hundreds of us there at once made the experience more profound than it could have been otherwise. There are many paths and levels, very beautifully landscaped. The entire experience really felt like a true pilgrimage of faithful people paying their respects.

“Being an older second generation Unificationist, I cannot but cry when it comes to Hyo Jin Moon. This is was my first time greeting him at his resting place; Young Jin Moon as well. I said a little prayer at both graves, asking them to please watch over their younger brothers and sisters at this time and show them each how to connect to True Mother’s heart. What touched me most was individuals who took the initiative to go stop and pray alone.”

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At the Cheonbok Gung, the Unification Peace Temple in Yongsan, Seoul, participants again had an opportunity to pray on their own. True Parents officiated the dedication ceremony for the Cheonbok Gung in February 2010. The Cheonbok Gung currently serves as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) Korea Headquarters, replacing the original church building in Cheongpa Dong, Seoul in that capacity.

The “Cheongpa Dong Headquarters Church,” as the site was formerly known, saw many historic moments in the Unification movement, from some of the first educational workshops about the Divine Principle to the engagement and Holy Wedding ceremonies of True Parents, as well as the birth of several of their children.

The day grew hotter, and the holy sites we visited instilled a sense of seriousness and reflection. As we continue this pilgrimage, we sincerely hope to gain a deeper understanding of True Parents’ life and the history of the Unification movement, in order to better connect with True Parents and be able to share about their life with others.

Dancing With Our Sister

On August 2nd, Sun Jin Moon, International President of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) came with her husband In Sup Alexander Park, International Vice President of FFWPU, and sister-in-law Professor Yeon Ah Moon, International President of Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP), to spend time with the workshop participants.

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The Universal Peace Academy (UPA) band played a few songs to lift up our hearts and minds as we started our day together. Then the three guests walked up on stage, where they sat cross-legged on the stage floor wearing GTGY shirts! This set up made the participants particularly excited and open to hearing their remarks because it felt very familial and engaging.

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Sun Jin Moon guided the participants in a reading of True Father’s autobiography, A Peace Loving Global Citizen, then talked about her life and how the love of God and True Parents have helped her to address the obstacles she has faced.

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At the conclusion of her main remarks, there was an opportunity for question-and-answer, and a lot of the Japanese and international participants asked questions about True Mother and how to better understand her heart. They also asked how to serve True Parents well when they’re still so young. Sun Jin Moon answered the participants honestly and openly, sharing that True Parents, like our own parents, love us and want us to be happy and to excel in what we create.

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After the question-and-answer session ended, Sun Jin Moon then led a combined dance and exercise session featuring the famous “Bounce” song and also freestyle dancing. The international participants were particularly excited by the opportunity to dance together with Sun Jin Moon and the other GTGY participants.

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In the afternoon, all of the participants gathered together again to play icebreakers and get to know one another better. Because there are so many GTGYers here, it turned out to be a huge competition with games and prizes, and the winners were ultimately chosen by voting with rousing cheers.

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The participants then ended their day together as they will every day: practicing a song for one hour in the evening to be performed at the upcoming commemoration of True Father’s fourth Seonghwa anniversary.

Many are even preparing to continue practicing the songs once we go on pilgrimage tomorrow, August 3. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates about our adventures as we head out on the road!

Get Ready!

From August 1-21, one thousand youth will gather at Cheongpyeong for a special 21-day workshop hosted by True Parents. True Mother looks forward to speaking with everyone personally, and giving young people a unique chance to unite in heart with brothers and sisters from all over the world. Stay tuned to hear all about their experience. This blog will feature interviews, videos, testimonies and photos from GTG Youth.

More Than A Workshop

Listen to the Podcast:

The past three weeks have felt like both a flash and an eternity in time. Now that the Global Top Gun workshop is over, it’s amazing that it went by so quickly; but at the same time each day was so full that it feels like we’ve changed so much.

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In review, many of those days were marked by lectures and testimonies. Some of those days were marked by exciting adventures, like the pilgrimage to Yeosu and Pusan or the DMZ Peace Road event. Every day was filled with incredible opportunities to build relationships that will serve as the foundation for collaboration, support and service in our future endeavors.

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As one participant, Earnest, shared, “At first, I didn’t understand what this workshop is all about, but at Heaven G Burger, one sentence that True Mother shared really struck me. She said, ‘When I look at you, I’m amazed by how, in such a little time, you have grown so much in heart.’ In the gratitude activity we did at the end of the workshop, I saw this to be true and I was amazed by how much love and appreciation I felt for people I didn’t even know three weeks ago. I think that, and am so grateful that, Global Top Gun is really about learning more about the culture of heart, that the lectures were more about getting us to feel the truth. I have a feeling that this is not the end, that we are not closing but beginning something.”

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Now that Global Top Gun is over, I’m also starting to see how, in a lot of ways, it’s just the beginning. Yes, we just spent three lovely weeks at a workshop in Korea with inspired men and women from 26 nations around the world—but if we fall into the trap of thinking that our journey as Global Top Gun begins and ends with that workshop, we’re missing the point. Global Top Gun, for those of us who have participated and will participate in it, is a calling. God and True Parents are calling us to inherit their vision for the world and to discover how we as individuals and a united community can contribute to that vision, starting now and continuing forever.

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One participant, the Pastor of the Atlanta Family Church, Cliff Gaines, shared, “We all have a calling—and despite all the obstacles that may be out there, we must never forget our higher calling. That vertical, God-centered oneness that True Parents have is what we’re all connected to; all the craziness that happens between people—don’t worry about it. The bigger picture is between you and Heavenly Parent and True Parents, and what we offer to them and to each other is what matters most. We have to do our best in everything we do. We’re all incredible leaders. I’ll never forget this experience.”

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We can’t know what the future holds, but I believe that if we step forward together in the confidence that God and True Parents imparted to us throughout Global Top Gun 2016, we’ll accomplish things that extend beyond even our biggest dreams. God is constantly working in our lives—and now we Global Top Gun alumni have the education and the impetus to act on that investment together, for the sake of the world.

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I highly encourage you to come to the next Global Top Gun workshop. We won’t know when it’s coming, so it’s best to be prepared. As one alum Kyosei Nagai said it best, “I don’t think this could be called a workshop; it’s much more than that. It’s life changing.”

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Day 20: It's Just The Beginning

It’s the last day of our adventures here at Global Top Gun 2016, and the atmosphere here is one of inspiration, friendship and gratitude.

We began our day with group meetings to plan our next steps after Top Gun. We split up into continental and then regional groups to identify who in the workshop will comprise our support team after going back home, and to determine what we hope to accomplish together when we get back. Each regional group was committed to sharing about our Global Top Gun experiences with our local communities, creating opportunities for more people to engage in Global Top Gun by hosting regional iterations of the workshop, and raising funds to support future participants’ travel fees to Korea.

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Following our morning meetings, Tasnah and Demian facilitated a unique appreciation activity. While one-third of us sat on the ground with our eyes closed, the other two-thirds of the group approached those sitting down in response to statements like, “I am happy that I got to know you” and “I love you more than you know.” We embraced one another, held hands, touched each other on the shoulder to express how these statements applied to our relationships, then switched out by thirds to have the experience of both giving and receiving these anonymous, heartfelt expressions of love and appreciation.

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It was a really moving, culminating experience for the workshop. Reflecting on this activity and the workshop as a whole, one participant, Boimah Massaley, shared, “I feel so much love and so much joy. I’ve always tried to love humankind, but there have been times when I have wondered why, when I’ve shown people so much love, I did not receive love in return. But right after this activity, I came to find that, yes indeed I can feel love—maybe I just needed to travel somewhere across the world to meet the people, from so many locations, who can show me love.

“A very big thanks to the workshop director, Demian, and to my workshop family and everyone else here. This has been an event that will stay with me all of my life and will be something that I can use to empower my attitude to love humankind even more.”

In the afternoon, we concluded the workshop with a graduation ceremony. The event began with a representative testimony by Sholina Pearson about the growth of her relationship with and her appreciation for True Mother at Global Top Gun. “I really believe that this February Top Gun workshop was a gift—something that God and True Mother both knew I needed.”

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President Lee of the Cheong Pyeong Training Center and Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, Continental Chairman of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) North America, followed with congratulatory remarks.

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With that, we received our certificates of completion and graduated from Global Top Gun 2016! And then started taking pictures left and right in our newly minted Top Gun aviators. Though we were sad to start saying our goodbyes right after the ceremony, we were also never more ready to take on the world—united together centered on God and True Parents.

Stay tuned for our final reflections and takeaways, coming soon!

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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.