On December 12, 2021, a special service for Iwate District was held at Hanamaki Family Church where Regional Group President of Heavenly Japan for the Heavenly Parent’s Holy Community, Bang Sang-il, and his wife were received. During his sermon, he testified about the grace from the blessing given by True Parents based on his own experiences, including the change of heart in his father, who had resentment towards the Japanese people.
It’s a pleasure to meet all the respected members of Iwate District.
Even as I have taken stage, I’m wondering what I should talk about today. I could’ve chosen a number of topics from the providence promoted by True Parents, or the mission we are entrusted with, or the five major policies of the Family Federation, but as I listened to my wife’s testimony (Kazuyo Fujinohara), I am convinced about what I should talk about. As a matter of fact, during her speech, my left chest began to hurt, and I felt as if my father, who had a connection with Iwate, (his spirit) had come here. So I would like to share a testimony, which includes my father.
A proud filial son joins the Unification Church
I have five siblings: two older brothers, two older sisters and a younger brother. I deeply respected my parents and older brothers and sisters from an early age. People in the village even said, I was the model of a filial son. When I would walk down the street and see someone older than me, I would greet them cheerfully with a warm, “Hello.” I was an expert at greeting others. I was probably better at this than Jacob, who stooped to the ground seven times when reuniting with Esau. My mother would laugh and say, “You would even greet dogs.” (laughter)
I attended a Christian church before being led to the Unification Church (the Family Federation). My older sister was also a Christian, but when she found out that I had joined the Unification Church, she hurled insults about me to my father. She said, “Sang-il joined an evil religious cult called the Unification Church. He’s crazy. They call its founder, Sun Myung Moon, ‘True Father’ and call the fathers, who gave birth to and raised them, as ‘false fathers’.”
My father was so shocked that he told me to leave the group.
One day, my father poured pesticides into a glass cup and said, “If you go to the Unification Church, I will drink this. What will you do?” My faith never wavered, but I couldn’t do that to my precious father. I had no choice but to say that I would quit and have him let go of that glass.
I went to a university in Gwangju, a main city in southern Korea. My parents’ house is about one hundred kilometers away from Gwangju. My parents rarely visited me, so after being witnessed to in my freshman year, I lived in the CARP dorms for four years. However, whenever I went back to my hometown every month, my father would ask me, “Did you quit the Unification Church?”
After graduating from university, I became a (CARP) dorm leader in Mokpo. We were just getting under way, so we didn’t have any students. Around that time, I remember a conversation with my father that went something like this.
Father: “So, you’ve graduated. Where are you going to work?”
Me: “I’m going to work at a company in Mokpo.”
F: “What’s the name of the company?”
M: “It’s called, CARP.”
It seemed my father didn’t know about CARP.
The dreams I had before the matching
I’m going to jump a bit, but let me talk about before and after I got blessed.
One day, I received a message that True Parents were going to match members for the blessing at Yongin (Ilhwa McCol Factory). I felt that I had to dedicate more cheonseong than ever in order to receive the blessing, so that day I prayed, offered bows, and read the words aloud. Then, I had a dream that night.
True Father came to the place where many people had gathered. He said, “I’m going to match you now. However, there is one condition.”
Everyone listened to him intently. He pointed to a distant landmark and said, “Can you see that? Run there and come back. I’ll begin matching those who come back first.”
Since I was a student, I was very confident at sports, so I was happy and thought, “As expected, Father knows me well.”
However, when Father shouted, “Run,” everyone started running all at once. When I got back, I was last. I was at a loss for words; there were so many fast runners. Father matched the runners who came in first, second, and third place and said, “Come here again tomorrow.”
I woke up from my dream and spent the whole day with mixed feelings. Perhaps the blessing was not meant to be for me at that time. I felt depressed. Believing that a single candle was not sufficient for offering cheonseong, I prayed lighting two candles, and that night I slept with the Divine Principle on my chest. Then the same scene as the previous night appeared in my dream.
When True Father asked if everyone had gathered, everyone answered with a cheerful, “Yes!”
Father said, “You guys are going to run like you did yesterday. And I’m only going to match the first, second, and third place runners,” and he gave the command to start running.
Convinced that I would be able to get first place this time, I dashed as fast as I could. But I came in last again.
I couldn’t get any work done that day. I was at a loss as to how difficult it would be to get blessed. I thought how I could offer more cheonseong, and decided to sleep surrounded by Father’s words. I lined up more than a hundred volumes of the Selected Sermons of True Father around me and slept with the Divine Principle on my chest.
I had the same dream the next night. I was sitting at the very back of a hall, so I was worried that if I ran from where I was sitting, I wouldn’t be able to finish in first place. But then True Father said, “Turn right! Run!”
That was a great opportunity for me, and I ran with all my might, not wanting to lose this chance. I came in first place by a wide margin. Then, Father said, “I’m only going to bless this person today,” and he brought a woman with him. It was my wife! We stood behind True Parents and took commemorative photos. (applause)
Happenings at Yongin during the matching
What I’m about to share next is what happened at the venue for the matching. I sat in the third row from the front. True Father took time to give us his words and showered his love upon us.
However, some of the men that were there got bored with Father’s words and whispered to each other. They glanced at the female blessing candidates and said things like, “She’s cute,” or, “She has a nice figure.” Although no one said it, I’m sure there, must’ve been many people who had enough of Father’s words and wanted to get matched as soon as possible.
(Father’s speech carried on for a long time, so) I needed to go to the bathroom. However, the venue was packed with blessing candidates, so you wouldn’t have been able to come back if you had left. This became a dilemma, but I had no choice. I started walking through the crowd, moving to the back, trying to get out of the hall, when the matching started. It was too late! I couldn’t go back to the front. For each couple that was matched, there was a big round of applause. However, it was so different than what I had dreamt.
Then True Father came down from the platform, took a woman by the arm, and seemed to be walking back and forth. Wanting to take a better look, I asked the man in front of me if I could use his back. He consented, so I put my hands on his shoulders, jumped and lifted myself up. At that moment, Father pointed his finger to the crowd. About 20 or 30 men raised their hands wondering if they had been chosen. Father kept rebuffing them one at a time, and when I gently raised my hand, he said, “Come forward,” and I was matched just like that.
(The lady he matched me to) was exactly the one I had dreamed of.
True Father laughs loudly
For the 6,500-couple blessing, pictures were also used for the matching. Some people even faxed their pictures because they couldn’t send their pictures in on time. Fax is not really used today, but it was much worse than it is now. The machines would clang and rattle, and some of the candidates’ faces were stretched out or shrunk that they looked nothing like the actual person. Some were barely visible (due to the ink). Nevertheless, 6,500 couples were blessed because they absolutely believed in True Parents. (applause)
I even heard of this story. While Father was matching the candidates, some with their pictures, he apparently dropped one. Because several hours had already passed, I think he lost his ability to hold onto some of the pictures. Anyway, a sister sitting near where this picture had fallen couldn’t stop worrying about it. She kept hinting at Father with her eyes that he had dropped a picture, (but since he seemed not to notice) she found the courage to return the photo to him. Nevertheless, Father replied, “That’s your (match).”
However, this sister couldn’t help but think that he had dropped the photo accidentally. She tried to persuade Father several times, but he kept saying it was her match. Her heart was torn and she wasn’t able to look at the photo for about a week. The only thing she could think was that Father had dropped the photo. But she mustered the will to look at the picture, and when she did, the man in the photo was exactly as what she had envisioned her ideal spouse to be. She was so delighted. When this testimony reached Father, he laughed out loud.
Explaining my Unification faith and Japanese wife to my father
After the 6,500-couple blessing, True Parents gave four days to Japanese-Korean couples to introduce our spouses to our actual parents. (It was difficult, but) I thought if I didn’t tell my father about my faith in the Unification Church and how I had a Japanese wife, it would be difficult forever.
My oldest brother answered when I called my parents (in Sooncheon, South Jeolla Province) from the venue in Yongin. When I told him my situation, he was furious. He said, “Are you really getting married to a Japanese? How could the wedding be over without our parents knowing!”
I tried calling again from Seoul Station. My oldest brother answered again, and when I told him I was at Seoul Station and on my way to Sooncheon he just said, “Whatever,” and hung up.
I got on the train and arrived at Sooncheon around 5:00 in the morning. When I called, my father answered this time. My brother must have told him the news since my father’s rage was so great that he shouted, “Never come home! You will be disowned. You are not my child anymore!”
(I was hanging around) the market near the bus terminal when my brother’s wife came to see how I was doing. She seemed a little relieved to see my newly wed wife wearing a hanbok. My sister-in-law said, “(Your wife) looks like a Korean and she is tall and well built. Perhaps our father would be okay with meeting her, but if he refuses, there’s nothing we can do. Anyway, let’s go,” and took us home.
When I arrived, my father, mother and brother were waiting in front of the gate. My father was furious, my mother was crying, and my oldest brother kicked me, and kept screaming, “You bastard!” As this played out, my neighbors started gathering around to see what the commotion was. My father became conscious of the eyes around him that he had no choice but to let us come inside.
Then, my father started shouting at my wife. “You’re Japanese, right? Japanese people are really bad people. Do you know how much I struggled in Iwate?”
My wife could do nothing but apologize. Then, my father asked me, “Are you sure you can marry this woman and make her truly happy?”
I replied with all my strength, “Yes! I will take responsibility and make her happy.”
My father and mother went out of the house and wept, “Aigo, Aigo.”
The Greatness of True Parents’ Blessing that relieves resentment accumulated in people’s hearts
During World War II, my father was a forced laborer and worked in a coal mine in Iwate Prefecture. He had many brushes with death, and ran away, fearing for his life. My father had told family and friends about his experiences many times.
When I was a child, I was asked to help around the house. (I didn’t like it and) when I would make a face (of disgust), my father would start talking about his hardships in the coal mines and running away, and he would tell me that chores and housework don’t even count as real work. Even though he said he had walked from Iwate to Shimonoseki, as a young child, it only registered to me as (a short distance like) from Shibuya to Shinjuku. It didn’t resonate with me at all. Every time my father talked about this, the whole family thought, “Here we go again,” and gradually turned a deaf ear.
However, when my father would tell this story to my wife, she would cry every time. She obviously knew how far it was from Iwate to Shimonoseki. No one would listen to him, but here was a person that not only lent an ear, but would have tears rolling down her face. The best person appeared for my father to talk to.
In South Korea, children gather at their parents’ homes during the New Year and Obon holidays. The daughters-in-law had to spend a whole day without rest to prepare meals on these occasions, but my father would tell my wife, “You don’t have to do that. Sit beside me and listen to my story,” and he would tell her the same stories.
One time he called me and asked me if I had any plans to visit home. When I said I didn’t, he told me to have my wife come visit him. So, I had my wife visit him, and when she returned, I asked what he wanted. As expected, she said it was about his “Iwate story.” (laughter) This continued for one, two, even three years.
My father has two daughters and four daughters-in-law, but the one that he could relate to the most was my wife. She received more of his love than I did. When my father would tell me his story about Iwate, it just went in one ear and out the other. I finally understood what he went through after my wife explained certain things.
I would like to share one of his stories when he ran away from Iwate.
It was either near Nagoya or Osaka, but my father was so hungry that he knocked on somebody’s house. An old woman in her seventies came out and took pity on my father and had him come inside. She told him that she had just gotten the bath ready and allowed him to take a bath. When he took off his clothes, she noticed it was similar in size to her husband’s. When my father got out of the bath, she had prepared a change of clothes as well as dinner. She told him to eat and rest well, and let him stay the night. The next day, as my father was leaving the house to thank her, the old woman gave him a suit and some pocket money.
As my father talked about his experiences to my wife, these good memories he had with Japanese people were revived in him.
He even told her, “Now that I think about it, there were many Japanese people who helped me. I miss that old woman. She must have gone to heaven. There were many good people in Japan.”
My wife had freed my father’s heart, which had been buried in bitterness and pain. (applause)
No matter how deeply I formed a parent-child relationship with my father, I would not have been able to get rid of the resentment that had built up in his heart toward Japan. There are still many Koreans like my father. Their wives, sons, and daughters will not be able to relieve their resentment.
No matter how many times presidents and prime ministers of Korea and Japan hold talks, resolving historical issues is not easy. However, True Parents have achieved this through the cross-cultural blessings of Korea and Japan. And they have tried to eliminate world borders through international blessings (marriages). How awesome is that? I sometimes join in on talks between Korean Assembly members and Japanese Diet members here in Japan. I always share my father’s story, and everyone is always impressed with Presidents Sun Myung Moon and Han Hakja.
Hardships that cannot be understood without living abroad
In October 2018, True Mother invited about 4,000 Japanese women, who had married into Korean families, to a special gathering at Cheon Seong Wang Lim Palace in Cheonpyeong. When they met Mother, she said, “You must have had a hard time getting married to Koreans. You have been enduring to build the ideal world desired by the Heavenly Parent (God) and True Parents,” and the Japanese women were moved to tears.
For eight of the Japanese women, that day was their birthday so they were invited to the stage and Mother asked them if their husbands celebrated their birthdays and if they had received presents. Some of the women seemed nervous, so Mother shared that Father probably never congratulated her since they shared the same birthday and made the women feel relaxed.
All Japanese living in Korea have a hard time. The same is true for Koreans living in Japan. Only people who have experienced international marriages know how difficult it is. It’s been 23 years since I came to Japan, but I still can’t eat rice without kimchi. I love kimchi that much. Habits are a frightening thing.
I was once the leader of Katsushika Family Church (District of North Tokyo). One night, I was stopped by a police officer when I was riding a bicycle home from church at around midnight. He asked me, “Is this your bicycle?”
After he checked the crime prevention registration number, he asked me if I was Chinese. I told him that I was Korean and showed him my ID. But then, something happened.
The bicycle I had borrowed from the church was not registered in my name, so the policeman shouted at me in a loud voice saying, “This is not yours!”
I told them that I borrowed it from the church and listed the names of the staff whom I thought it could be registered to, starting with the women representatives. But it wasn’t registered to any of them.
More police officers started to gather around me. They clamped my arms behind my back and told me to come to the police station with them. I told them I’d go to the police station willfully, so I asked them to tell me whose name it was registered to. Then, they asked me if I knew Fujinohara-san. Apparently, the church had registered the bike under my wife’s name. (laughter)
I was allowed to call her and she made things right, but since then, every time I walk down a street and see a police officer, I’m worried that they may come up to me and start questioning me. It doesn’t matter how many years pass by, living in a foreign country gets to your senses.
In a land overflowing with the water of life that gives life to the people
Finally, let us consider the Chinese characters for “Iwate.” (Iwa (岩) means “rock” and te (手) means “hand”.) In the Bible, the “rock” symbolizes Jesus, the Christ. Moses struck the rock with his staff and gave water to the Israelites. The “hand” (te) of Iwate is the hand of Moses. It means that the water of life which brings life to the people comes out from this land. This is my interpretation of Iwate.
Iwate has produced many prime ministers; only Tokyo and Yamaguchi have more. Despite its smaller population, four prime ministers have come from Iwate, so there is no doubt that this is a land blessed by heaven. (applause)
At present, there are four churches in Iwate District, with two Korean pastors and two Japanese pastors, as well as two Korean and two Japanese women representatives. I can only think that there is a deeper meaning here for Korea and Japan to become one.
The Hanamaki Family Church, the venue for today’s gathering, is a big building. I hope the services here are packed every week. Don’t put away the chairs you used today for this gathering. If there are any empty seats that stand out during the services, put a stuffed animal, bear or rabbit on them. (laughter)
If you write down the names of the witnessing candidates and keep thinking that you are worshipping with them, it will become a reality. I pray for the growth of the Iwate District.