Serving in Our Parents’ House
Stories from my years with the True Family at Belvedere and East Garden
By Joe Kinney
I was very fortunate to spend most of my first five years in the church close to True Parents. I saw Father for the first time at 10:00 a.m. on March 1, 1973 at the beginning of the first one-hundred-day training session at Belvedere. Father spoke to us at least a dozen during the first forty days. After that I prepared the two busses needed for the Day of Hope tours and then was a bus driver on the IOWC from July 1973 to July 1974.
I was the maintenance man at East Garden from June 1974 until February 1978, and was the only male staff member to live in the same house with True Parents. Beyond just the physical proximity to True Parents, I had a determination to break through and be a real person around them, to joke with them and argue with True Parents when I thought I was right. This made our relationship real and personal as it remains to this day.
Much of our impression of people, both public and private, comes not from the big things they do, but rather from the small, personal things. I hope that a different and personal aspect of True Parents character is revealed through these anecdotes, which are a great privilege for me to share with you.
Some of the staff I worked with then are still at East Garden after several decades. Their stories may be much better than mine. I hope that someday they will share them with our members.
I am able to give specific details because, I kept a journal at that time where I recorded these events as they happened. I referred to this
My first encounter with Father while cutting the grass
The first direct interaction I ever had with True Father was after pledge service on Mother’s day, May 13, 1973. After pledge we sang songs for Mother and then we had a short question and answer session with Father. Bobby Wilson, who was responsible for maintaining Belvedere had just bought a new riding lawnmower. I was asked to bring the machine up to the lawn near Holy Rock to begin cutting the grass. Father decided he wanted to try out this modern machine and since I was available, I spent the rest of the morning with him. Six times I had to help with some minor problem with the mower while Father waited patiently. I was impressed that Father had a child-like curiosity and a desire to experience everything.
True Parents look persuaded by enthusiasm
In 1973, while at Belvedere, I was responsible for preparing the two busses needed for the Day of Hope tours. In mid-June, when one of the busses was completed, I was so proud of it that I wanted to show it to Father. At that time Father lived at Belvedere. There weren’t any security guards. It so happened that on that day there was a conference of all the national and international leaders taking place at the training center. I saw Father and Mother heading down the hill from the main house on the way to address the leader’s meeting. The members rose and were singing to welcome them. I dashed up to True Parents in my greasy coveralls begging, “Father please come see the bus!”
Mother looked so young at the time, much less that her 30 years, I nearly mistook her for Lady Doctor Kim’s daughter who was living in the area at that time. I reached out and almost grabbed her hand to pull her down to the busses. I caught myself just before I made that mistake.
Father responded that all the leaders were waiting. I countered that it would only take a minute…. So with the entire senior leadership of the national and world movement singing Father and Mother took time to look at the bus.
Twenty-five years later, I met Father and Mother at the New Yorker Hotel and asked them to look at the boiler equipment we had installed. Father responded that there was no time. I countered that it wouldn’t take more than five minutes. True Parents took the elevator down to more than fifty feet below the sidewalk and enjoyed the tour of the boiler rooms.
From these and other encounters with True Father, I learned that enthusiasm and a sincere heart can persuade him. (Colonel Sang Kil Han once told me that the thing Father liked most about me was my enthusiasm.)
Father at dawn, one on one
It was around 6:00 a.m. on a beautiful spring morning at East Garden. I was passing by the (old) main house when I saw Father out for an early morning stroll. Father was by himself, no Peter Kim, no Mrs. Choi, no security, nobody but Father. At the time, I needed Father’s permission to use his bus to drive some group and needed an answer from him right away, but I had never encountered Father alone before.
It might be difficult for the reader to understand, but I just didn’t know how to relate to Father directly. I had always asked through a mediator, an interpreter. Would he please ask Father if I could change the oil on his car, or fix the light switch, or whatever. Father was about 100 yards away, and I approached not knowing what to do or say.
Approaching Father head on felt too awkward, so I walked a “J” shaped approach so I could approach him from behind. (Probably a terrible lapse of Heavenly protocol.) I arrived at a spot about three paces behind Father. Father stopped, deliberately waiting to see how I would address him. I could feel that he understood my uncertainty and awkward situation exactly, and it was my responsibility to speak to Father.
Finally the word “Father” left my lips. Father turned around and faced me with a beaming smile radiating absolute love. This was a direct spiritual experience with Father. It was a validation that beyond all differences of race, age or position; one-on-one, soul-to-soul, Father’s love for me was the absolute manifestation of God’s original love. That moment, for me, the very definition of the word “Father” changed forever.
Head first in the mud and Father’s laughter
I’m sure many readers have seen the pond at Belvedere, at least in a photo. This pond was man-made by Dr. Cole, who built Belvedere in the 1920’s as the ideal environment for his children. The pond was designed to be filled and drained by opening and closing valves concealed in a pit under a bush on the North East corner of the pond.
Father took an interest in the pond and its maintenance because He wanted to keep some fish in it. So one night after dark, with lights set up and several staff members gathered Father came to participate in this project. We opened the hatch to the pit and, being the smallest, I was “elected” to be the one to enter and open the drain valve.
The opening is only about two feet square and the bottom of the pit was gooey mud so I had the “brilliant” idea that big Gerhard Peemueller could hold me by the ankles and lower me upside-down into the pit. So here I was like a rag doll being lowered head first into this pit, calling “down….down….more….more… a little bit more…” and then Gerhard lowered me about two feet putting my face right into the mud.
I started kicking and yelling “Up! Up!” Big Gerhard lifted me out. I was hanging upside-down, and my face, covered with thick mud, looked like the old black-face vaudeville comic Al Jolsen. There was Father squatting down about six feet away laughing a hard belly laugh at this comedy act.
It was good to see Father laugh so hard.
First time on the ocean
I’d only been at East Garden for a short while when Father’s fishing providence began. It was July 3, 1974 and he was taking leaders out fishing. I was called to the limousine, just as Father was leaving. He lowered his window and asked me in English “Are you strong for sea? Are you strong for sea?” Father wanted to know if I got seasick or not. I told Father that I had never been seasick. I didn’t tell him that I had never been on the ocean.
The Flying Phoenix, a twenty-five-foot fiberglass boat with two Mercruiser inboard/outboard motors was berthed on Long Island. Father, Daikan, Alan Hokansen, and I were on that small boat. It was an informal environment; there was no “leader” on the boat. When it was time to urinate we had a coffee can that was emptied over the side. The bait was a can of worms dug from leaf piles at East Garden.
As we skimmed over the waves on the way to our fishing spot, I was confident that I wouldn’t have a problem with seasickness. In fact, if we had kept skimming along, I probably wouldn’t have had, but we stopped. Then the waves rocked the boat, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Fishing, the Messiah, God, the desire to live, all slowly disappeared from my consciousness. My only thought became keeping my last several meals down.
Father turned and asked for the can with the bait. I was closest, so I picked it up and had almost given it to Father, when I lost control. I dropped the can to the deck, wheeled around and vomited everything I had eaten over the side. Of course, since I had been in the process of trying to hand Father the bait, he saw everything.
Father laughed, and said “Good training! Good training!”
The next time we went, I took seasickness medicine.
Father teaches me how to sit down properly
Father’s boat, the New Hope, was new and it was my 1st time to go together with Father on this boat. We left the dock and were on the way to the fishing spot and were all gathered in the cabin. I sat with my legs outstretched straight in front of me with the bottom of my feet exposed directly to Father. I simply didn’t know what a terrible rudeness and bad manners this was from the Korean view point. Father kindly and patiently explained to me that this was very rude and explained that if Korean did this he would scold him severely. I understood that my mistake was not small and that I should never do this again.
The Lord of the Second Advent was kind enough to educate rather than scold this ignorant 23-year-old American.
One day True Parents sent the Children and most of the staff to the movies. True Mother was alone in the Main House. Mike Wyatt and I were carrying a heavy cast iron bathtub into the main house. True Mother actually held the front door open for us as we entered the house. We were straining and kicked off our dirty smelly work shoes outside the front door and carried the tub up the stairs and into the bathroom under repair.
When we returned to the front entrance Mother was gone, but our shoes were neatly arranged at the side of the doorway. The bride of the Messiah had organized our work shoes.
The job I liked best
My first job at East Garden was night watchman. There was no security staff yet. I would walk down the hill to lock the main gate after Father returned for the day. There was no road lighting and it was usually pitch black so I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I was so scared. Every time a raccoon moved in the woods I was sure it was a group of assassins preparing to take me out before attacking the main house.
After the gate was secured I would make sure the cars were washed and cleaned by a trainee from Belvedere, and then I would shine Father’s shoes. After the security brothers joined the staff I no longer had to take care of the gate or the car washing, but I continued to shine Father’s shoes.
Shining Father’s was so precious because I could remove the traces of where Father had been that day and think about what Father had done. I would think about the challenges Father faced the next day and literally try to make sure He could put his best foot forward.
I shined Father’s shoes before and after His speeches at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Washington Monument, and His appearances before congress during these years. This responsibility was more important to me than any big project. It was being in touch with Father on a daily basis.
True Parents’ longing for their homeland
In October of 1978, True Parents took a group of members from Japan and all the foreign members working in Korea for a six-day sightseeing tour of Korea prior to the large matching at the end of the month. The most unforgettable moment was when we went to see North Korean invasion tunnels discovered near the border. True Parents walked away from the main group and walked up a hill to a fence. I was carefully observing True Parents. They walked up to a fence where North Korea could be seen across the valley that was the demilitarized zone (DMZ). True Parents walked hand-in-hand solemnly up to the fence, touching the fence with their free hands. They were silent. No words were exchanged. The seriousness of the moment was so heavy. I could feel their life and death determination to return and liberate their homeland.
To be continued next week…..