A Memoir from the Early Period of the Unification Church of Japan – Part 6
by Rev. Ken Sudo
When I was called to come to the Unification Theological Seminary, I felt that God was allowing me to start anew. God was giving me a second chance to do His Will, as I felt that Rev. Won Pil Kim’s quote, “The longer I stayed in the Unification Church, the more burden I gave Father,” applied to my life also. I had nothing to be proud of and nothing to testify to as I gave Father much pain and disappointment. I felt, however, that it might be good to leave something written. Otherwise, the story of the beginning stages of the Japanese Church might be lost forever.
I have focused my writing around the educational dimension of the early movement. I do not mention here all the aspects that were present then, positive as well as negative—our successes and our failures. I simply want to convey the atmosphere and the founding spirit of the early movement.
Papa-san Choi is a Korean, but he was born and raised in Japan. His demeanor was like a Samurai: when his fortune was like the rising sun, he subdued himself; when it collapsed into disaster, he did not change his countenance—speaking as usual to encourage and inspire the members.
It was obvious that Mr. Kuboki was going through a period of agony, caught between Papa-san Choi and President Niwano. I heard that Mr. Niwano was afraid of our fanaticism and had been disturbed that those who attended the Unification Church training denied the traditional lifestyle of Rishokosekai—especially the worship of ancestors which was the core practice of their group.
Many talks and much effort was made between the two sides. A month or so went by. Papa-san Choi and Mr. Kuboki decided to send those from Rishokosekai back to their original spiritual home. The members cried, but obeying the direction from above, they left Rittai Cultural Center. This good faith gesture did not work so well, however; the members began to come back to the Unification Church of their own free will. They admitted to us they could no longer live in such a lukewarm atmosphere, after knowing the coming of a new era.
The break was permanent. I have no intention of blaming anyone, as everyone did his or her best. But I regret that we, as the younger brother, didn’t know how to serve the elder brother as Jacob had served Esau, on the path of a servant of servant. If we had, we could have had 1.5 million people with True Parents. The Rishokosekai was a high church like the Catholic Church; once the top decides, the rest follow. Now that the schism had occurred, we had to begin anew. Papa-san Choi must have gone through such pain and disappointment; I was surprised to see how he dealt with such a difficult time.
I don’t know if Papa-san had made a connection with Mr. Sasagawa (a powerful right-wing multi-millionaire businessman, head of the Motorboat Association of Japan) prior to that time. But by July 11, 1963, just one week after the convention, we began a training session in the motorboat race-camp building that could accommodate more than one hundred trainees. Actually, we watched the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games motorboat racing from the roof of the building. This was Toda Training Center, where I worked as a lecturer until the end of my mission in training. During this period, most of the present [1980s] Japanese church leaders and members came through these training sessions and decided to join full time. This extensive list includes Mr. Oyamada, Mr. Kamiyama, Mr. Furuta, Mr. Sakurai, Mr. Kajikuri, Mr. Ohta and, a little later, Dr. Shimmyo and Dr. Masuda.
Training sessions at Toda Center continued until July 1965. We finished the twenty-sixth training there, counting the forty-day session at Rittai Cultural Center as the first one. We had the twenty-seventh and the twenty-eighth training sessions at Maebashi Church and the twenty-ninth and thirtieth at Okurayama Training Center. I finished the first-stage of my education mission in March 1966.
During this period, I woke up at 5 a.m., before the trainees did, and rang the wake-up buzzer; then I began to mop the corridor. When the trainees awakened, we went outside to exercise with them. After breakfast together, I gave morning inspiration for ten or fifteen minutes. I gave a twenty-minute morning service almost every day, followed by the day’s lectures. After lunch together, I gave a talk based on the morning lecture.
Of course, I participated with the trainees in the sports, even though my coordinator organized them. We came back to the training center, cleaned up, and I gave a lecture from 3 to 6 p.m., with one break. We had dinner together, followed by a break. This time I did not talk.
The students were given study time for several hours, then we began to conclude the day: the students gave reports, followed by an uplifting talk from my inspiration notes. Then they wrote their reflections. No one slept before midnight. After letting the students go to bed, the team leaders and I came together to read the reflections of the students and discuss our own efforts as staff members. I collected the reflections and read through them, adding my own comments to those of the team leaders. This was my schedule for three years, with no break between training sessions.
During one training session of fourteen days, we organized street preaching several afternoons and evenings. Mr. Komiyama’s standard became my ideal. Once on the way home, a storm got us soaking wet. We were together, shoulder to shoulder, singing the holy songs proudly. It is one of my happy memories of the training sessions.
By the twenty-third session, the movement was revived once more in terms of the increase of the membership. We had one hundred twenty participants in the twenty-sixth session. Among them, one hundred members were sent out for pioneer witnessing directly from the session.
We had eighty participants in the twenty-ninth session and one hundred eighty participants in the thirtieth session which was to be my final session of that period. Also, in the summer season of 1966, we had the biggest session of about four hundred participants, where Dr. Theodore Shimmyo joined.
At the end of every training session, we built a bonfire where the trainees made their pledge of dedication to Heavenly Father. Raising their right hand, they pledged loudly, “Heavenly Father, I, so-and-so, pledge my life to you … in the name of True Parents.” It was the most serious and solemn moment of the training sessions. Sometimes, we followed the pledge with an all-night prayer vigil. Looking at the rising sun, we made a unison pledge to Heavenly Father. To do this, we usually went to Jogashima.
During this period, I also was on the verge of making a fatal mistake which might have destroyed my life and the lives of others. One day, a sister team leader came to me and said that she had a revelation: “President Kuboki did not come from the Christian tradition, but you did. God needs you for a special mission.” I felt great! A couple of weeks later, she returned saying, “You are a tree of life.” Later she claimed to be a “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” I was in the position of Jesus, while she was in the position of the Holy Spirit. I was amazed. Marry her? It was unthinkable, but I felt her revelation must mean this.
Then I had a dream in which a huge green snake was surrounding the entire training center. The meaning was obvious, but I did not understand the meaning of this heavenly warning. Fortunately, Mr. Tanaka, the spiritually open brother, dropped by and smelled something dangerous spiritually. He found out what was going on and reported to Papa-san and Mrs. Choi. I was called to headquarters and scolded severely by Mrs. Choi and consoled by Papa-san. Thanks to Heavenly Father, I was rescued from Satan’s trap.
To be continued.