Monday, June 24, 2013

Coming to America

Contrary to the movie “Coming to America” my arrival in America was not a comedy.  Rather, I came as part of a group of missionaries who were to participate in public crusades to introduce the American Public to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon from Korea.

It was on June 21st 1973 that our PanAm flight arrived at JFT airport in New York.  We were greeted by an enormous thunderstorm which delayed our arrival for over an hour.  When our plane finally dived through the clouds cover and New York City appeared, we were certainly glad to get off the plane.  We were welcomed by a group of members who loaded us and our luggage into several station wagons to drive us to a church property north of New York.  The rain came still pouring down and in that way New York didn’t make its best impression.  When we finally arrived at our destination, a place called “Belvedere” the rain had stopped, and we could move easily into our quarters.

How did I come to value Christianity?

I was raised in the Lutheran Church that is I went through a period of training that ended with my confirmation.  I chose the following passage from the Bible as my guide:
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
~ Proverbs 16:9
After my confirmation I didn’t have a deep faith but I always felt that I was guided by an invisible hand.  That’s why when I met a member of the Unification Church I discovered a whole new view of life, faith and values.  I truly came to value my Christian heritage and expanded in my knowledge that my life was not just my own but rather belonged to God.
True Christian values give us:

·       Personal responsibility

·       Equality of man and woman, fairness between races, and tolerance of other religions

·       Spiritual freedom to pursue technological advancement, innovations, discovery, exploration, which lead to prosperity.

·       Forgiveness – Jesus taught how to pardon trespasses

 You may say, what a minute, does Christianity implements these values?  Maybe—maybe not.  That’s why I got to appreciate Rev. Moon’s teaching.  In one section of the DivinePrinciple, we learn about the three great blessings:

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
~ Genesis 1:28

That is the essence of Jesus’ teachings, too.  We are to become mature individuals who partner between husband and wife to give birth to a family. With that spiritual discipline, we can then take care of the environment and can create a peaceful world.  Rev. Moon’s teaching makes so much more sense to me than any of the interpretations of the various denominations. 

What were my greatest obstacles coming to a new country?

When I arrived in America I couldn’t speak any English, even though I had participated in English language classes before my arrival.  I knew a few sentences like ‘how are you?’ ‘I am fine,’ ‘come,’ and just a few other words. 

I had made a determination despite my lack of English to only “converse” in this new tongue which to me sounded like people chewing gum while speaking.  My greatest advantage was that I participated in lecture presentations which I had heard before in German and could therefore understand its meaning and basic content.  On the other hand I learned the language just like any child learns new words and sentences; by repeating them over and over again.  I had several people make fun of my “speaking” because often I would translate words and they would make no sense in the new circumstances.

Why did I come to the USA?

When I left Germany in 1973 it was a divided country.  It was my youthful desire to contribute to world peace.  America was the super power with an enormous influence throughout the world.  I later on learned that Rev. Moon’s teachings contributed to the downfall of communism During the many speaking engagements, where we invited thousands of people throughout this country during the 70s, 80s and beyond, Rev. taught not only on the significance of Christianity but also on the invalidity of communism I am deeply grateful to the Rev. Moon for his contribution to the reunification of the two Germanys, and I just hope and pray that his home country of Korea can also be reunified shortly.  In his biography “As a Peace-loving Global Citizen”  he writes about his journey from the countryside of Korea to emerge on the world stage, being misunderstood, persecuted, and ridiculed.  He never wavered from his mission, a path which had been blessed by God.  Rev. Moon passed away last year at the age of 92 but his legacy and teachings will remain with us forever.

As I celebrate my 40th anniversary of coming to America, I have some regrets.  I am not sorry that I came to this country.  Every time I come back from visiting Germany I love to hear “Welcome Home” from the immigration officer.  I am just very unhappy with the ways this country is run right now.  I see that the basic Christian values are pushed aside and that the very foundation of this country is shaking.  People are asking, “Where is God in all this?”  We have been rejecting God, taking prayers out of our public schools, marriages and families are falling apart without God as the center, our country is run by politicians who are more interested in getting votes than leading this country in a constructive way, and the churches are infiltrated by immoral behavior. 
Above all, the media is totally bias to the liberal agenda that the average citizen cannot understand. What happened to those Christian Values?  Have we completely lost our love of God?  One Nation Under God?  Every time I say the Pledge of Allegiance (yes, in my Toastmasters club we recite it every meeting), I feel a tingle go down my spine and I feel proud to be a citizen of this country.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Remembering June 17th 1953

Since my family fled from East Germany in 1961, we celebrated June 17th as a National Holiday or the Day of German Unity in West Germany.  The day was marked with parades, concerts and peaceful demonstrations to commemorate the Uprising of 1953.  It was the only National Holiday in West Germany since all other holidays are determined by the Bundesländer (states).  After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989the Day of German Unity was moved to October 3rd in 1990.

Since my family always believed in German unification we were very gladly celebrating that holiday after we arrived in the GFR (German Federal Republic).  The first year was the most dramatic since we had just arrived as refugees and still lived in a camp in Űlzen with many other emigrants.  I never will forget the exhilaration we all felt when we sang for the first time the German National Anthem or the Song of Germany.  It was composed by Joseph Hayden with words by August Heinrich Hoffman: Unity and right and freedom for the German Fatherland….  Those words alone brought some kind of elation even for a 12-year-old.  My parents also were moved by the occasion, especially as they had coordinated our escape under tremendous stress.

They had planned a family vacation in the north of Berlin with the scheme of staying in Rheinsberg for a few days and then leaving to Berlin instead of returning to our hometown of Nordhausen.  During those last few weeks before the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, thousands of refugees went through the camps in Marienfelde (West-Berlin) and we ended up there, too.


The uprising in 1953 started with a strike on June 16th by a few hundred construction workers in Berlin who were told to take a pay-cut but still do the same or even more work.  That strike spread like a wild fire throughout other cities.  Suddenly, there were demonstrations everywhere since the citizens did not want the ‘systematic implementation of Socialism.’  It alarmed the government of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) and they brought in Russian Troops with tanks and police to suppress the protests and some hundreds of Germans lost their lives during the uprisings and the following incarcerations.  It was a troubled time for the young country which was under the suppressing rule of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had never allowed East Germany to form an independent or democratic government (GDR was only a fake name). The protesters chanted: ‘Down with communism’ and ‘down with the government.’  The only way to silence the crowds was with force which is always the case in totalitarian countries. 


Today we celebrate June 17th as the birthday of our son Jason who was born here in the USA in 1987.  In my heart I remember the brave men and women who risked their lives for freedom and the rights for the greater good.  It does not matter which country we live in, all men want to be free and enjoy the liberty to make their choices for their families, work and their social standings.  In the end, that liberty can only be granted when we reconnect ourselves with our creator and live our lives with our God-given purpose.  Anytime that autonomy is threatened our original nature feels uneasy and wants to protest.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Looking in the Rear-View Mirror Again

On my recent trip to Germany I was part of a class reunion with men and women from my Elementary School.  Since I was the one who came the furthest way, they ask me to give a short account of what happened to me since I had left my hometown.

Here I was enjoying my homecoming and suddenly, I felt like looking into the rear-view mirror again.  In my younger years I had pretty much lived looking in the rear-view mirror (fortunately, I was not driving then). Have you ever wished you could have been born in another century?  I always desired I had been born in the 19th century remembering my grandmother telling me about the ‘good old days’ before WWI.  She painted her younger days in such a serene and peaceful way.

I was born in Nordhausen/Thüringen after WWII as the second of four children.  My parents
had been ‘matched’ by their mothers since my dad was a soldier and didn’t really know many girls.  He was 10 years older than my mother.  The mothers were part of a women’s group who used to meet regularly at the popular local Café Dietze.  My parents were married during the war on one of my father’s furloughs.  While my dad was away, our 1,000 year old home-town was almost completely destroyed.  Within two days of allied raids, the proud “Freie Reichstadt” was 85% destroyed, leaving homes, businesses and factories leveled to the ground.  When my dad returned after the German surrender, he found his parents business in rubbles.  To the credit of their undying spirit, he set up his tools and started repairing watches and jewelry in an old garage. 

Soon after that, the Russian troops moved in and my home town came under their occupation.  I grew up in East Germany until I was 12 years-old.  Even at that young age I understood that I was dealing with different ideological opinions: I was going to religious classes at the church, at school we were indoctrinated with the socialistic ideology, and at home my parents would express their opinion in a hushed voice.  By that time they had moved out of the garage and build up a pretty nice retail store with watches, jewelry and porcelain.  At one point my parents traveled to Prague for a brief holiday, and learned that in Czechoslovakia many private businesses were already socialized and taken over by the government.  Based on that experience and some other tell-tale-signs, they decided shortly after that, to flee from East Germany.  That was in 1961 when thousands of refugees escaped every day.  My parents had laid out a cleaver plan.  They had booked a vacation north of Berlin, where we stayed for a few days, and then instead of returning to our hometown, we went to register at the refugee camp in West Berlin.  For a few months we went from one camp to another, finally ending up in Southern Germany.  My father was to work there in a factory using his watch maker’s skills.  It was a strange environment for us, mainly because in that area people spoke a different dialect and the kids made fun of me in school.  They wondered if I was ‘a spy’ from the other side.  From then on I pretty much kept to myself, mainly reading books.

The next big event in my life was that when I turned 21, I thought, now I am grown up, I
want to see the world.  After I finished my education at a local savings bank, I had a chance to become a staggiere (apprentice) at a bank in Zurich, Switzerland.  Switzerland has very strict immigration laws and the only way I could enter the country was that I became an apprentice again.  For 1 ½ years I traveled all over that beautiful country and spend the small salary they paid me on travel and fun.  When my time was up, I realized that I was on some kind of a quest, seeking out seminars and books to find a deeper meaning in my life.  After I had returned home, I secured an exchange program in France.  Because Germany and France had been at war for many Centuries, the government gave young people an opportunity to study and work abroad.  My destination was Avignon in Southern France where I worked at a bank to exchange foreign currencies into francs.  During that time, it was the early 1970s, I met many young people there who were hitchhiking around with just a back pack and no particular goal.  I guess they were the European hippies. Conversations with them only reinforced my own internal search.
When I look back today, I feel grateful, that I never lost my internal drive forward.  What I didn’t realize is that I felt a lot of guilt for my past, not so much for what I did but for what my country did.  I know we can say, I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also am pretty sure that we carry our ancestors offences and one way or the other, we are responsible for them. 

How can you tell about a life-time in a few minutes?  Therefore, I leave the rest of the story for another time.

I use the rear-view mirror as an analogy to driving a car.  We have to focus on where we are going, with our eyes looking forward on the road ahead.  Yet we have to look into the rear-view mirror to see what’s going on back there, for our own safety.  When we know where we are coming from, we can orient ourselves better to where we are and most of all where we want to go. 


Monday, June 3, 2013

A Woman Named Dinah

While I was traveling in Germany during the past month I was reading “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant.  I have been reading some other books about historical woman from the Bible.  That's why I read the Red Tent with great interest. 
Ms Diamant introduced me to Dinah, the daughter of Jacob or as she portraits her, the daughter of Leah, who was Jacob’s first wife.

I was moved by how she describes the lives of the women in those days.  Their roles as daughters, sisters, and wives were defined by their femininity, mainly to give birth to children and with that to continue on the lineage.  I found myself envying the women because they had a special place where they could gather and find sympathy during their difficult times when felt ill or just didn’t want to see any man.  The red tent refers to the place where they would gather and sleep during their monthly menstruation, and also where they would birth their babies and be taken care of by the mid-wives and other women.  That must have been very comforting for the women during the ages where luxury and cleanliness was not as easily to come by.

I had learned of all the sons Jacob had by the four different wives.  I was not aware that he had only one daughter.  In Genesis, Chapter 34, Dinah is mentioned as the one who was defiled by a young man from another tribe.    


Dinah must have had a special role among all the girls in Jacob’s tribe, since she is the only one mentioned by name (Gen 46:15).  In some accounts it is believed that she bore a daughter, Asneth, from her relationship with Shechem which was adopted by Potiphera, the priest of On, a priest in Egypt.  As by Divine Guidance, she was later given to Joseph as his wife when he became the prime minister in Egypt.  Aseneth became the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 41:50).  

As the story goes in the Red Tent, Dinah meets her brother Joseph (by the other wife of Jacob, Rachel) and his two sons after he became a high official under the Pharaoh.


The Old Testament is very clear about lineage.  God wanted to raise a pure family tree where the descendants would be obedient to God and his laws.  That’s why Ephraim and Manasseh are often mentioned as example of integrity and obedience; they were raised in Egypt, but with the values and traditions of their tribal father Jacob.


One thing I didn’t like about the book was how Ms. Diamant portrayed Jacob.  As Father Moon relates to us in his historical sermon on Jacob’s Course and Our Life in Faith from 5-27-1973, Jacob is the position to represent God.  With the help of his mother Rebekah, Jacob obtained the birthright from his brother Esau (Genesis 27)  and with the blessing of Isaac left for Haran to get married. 


Jacob agreed faithfully to serve Laban, his uncle for 21 years.  He was deceived by Laban who promised him to give him Rachel, the younger daughter, but as it turned out, Laban gave him Leah, the oldest daughter (Gen. 29:15-30).  He had to work another seven years to get Rachel, and finally another 7 years to qualify to inherit some of the herds he had tended and multiplied.  Because of Jacob’s endurance God could bless him with 12 sons and daughters, a total of 33 children (this included some grandchildren).  He also inherited animals and other goods before the whole tribe went back to Canaan. 

Jacob was in the position of Abel, restoring the position of the younger brother.  After he fulfilled his 21 years of service in Haran, he wrestled with an angel and was given the name Israel, the victor (Genesis 35:10).

It seemed that God was guiding Jacob’s family all the way.  When he returned to Canaan he met his brother Esau (Gen. 33:1-14) and they embraced and united.  Even after the tribe made the mistake regarding the revenge of Dinah (Gen. 34:18-31) God would blessed them again.


It seemed that many cruel things went on, when we think of the selling of Joseph into slavery by his own brothers.  But God has a longer vision for the lives of his children.  When Joseph arrived in Egypt (Gen. 39-41) he was able to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams which gave him favors, and soon he was elevated as the ruler of Egypt because he had proven himself as a man of integrity.  When the famines came to Canaan, Jacob brought his whole tribe to Egypt and they lived there for a while in plenty under the protection of Joseph.


Only when we see our lives from a higher (God’s) point of view, can we make some sense of our lives.  Even that may take a lifetime, or even go beyond one generation, since restoration takes a long time.