Stories from my years with the True Family at Belvedere and East Garden
By Joe Kinney
I was the maintenance man at East Garden from June 74 until Feb 78, 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. I’m also sure that True Parents scolded me more any other staff member at the time I was at East Garden. This made our relationship real and personal, as it remains to this day.
I was the second Western brother assigned to East Garden. When I started there were only three men there. Daikon, Mike Trulson, and myself. When Father brought in the security brothers prior to the Madison Square Garden Campaign, I felt that, since I was senior to them, I was in the subject position.
In the beginning, the True Family and the new security brothers didn’t feel so comfortable with each other and the close contact jobs, such as driving True Family members, were done by us old timers. Gradually, however, the security team was traveling with True Family and Mike and I remained behind. Mike left for Japan, Daikon was driving, the security traveled with True Family and I was left behind cutting grass, fixing cars and plumbing. It wasn’t easy to take, but still, out of old habit, I led the staff pledge service.
With all the campaigns and traveling going on at the time, Mike McDevitt the security leader was much more central to what was going on than I was as the maintenance guy. We developed the classic Cain-Abel conflict and didn’t acknowledge each other’s existence for about six months! It wasn’t the right way for any members to be acting, much less those surrounding True Family.
Mike and I walked into the living room for a staff meeting one day and Father looked at me and said “Mike is Abel, you are Cain’s position! You have to understand that.” I was blown away. To this day I’ve never heard of Father spelling out a Cain-Abel relationship like that. I knew I had only two choices: get with the program or get out.
The next Sunday Pledge service I told Mike that he should be leading it from then, and we have been close friends since.
Mother always feeding me at celebrations
One of the blessings of being part of East Garden staff was that I was allowed to attend all the celebrations held there, such as birthdays. It seemed that at nearly every celebration, after Father began talking and I was kind of hanging out in the back, Mother would appear and grill me to make sure that I had eaten enough food and she would usually try to stuff a piece of Korean rice cake in my mouth. True Parents really took care of the staff like they were their own children. I loved it.
Father’s absolute objectivity
We are all used to True Father being a strong leader in subject position to us. On the occasions that I had to explain or report something to Father that was really new information to Him, I was amazed at how objective Father was to me. Usually in conversation there is a tension of egos between the participants. The one receiving the report struggles to be truly objective to the one reporting. I have never felt the way I felt when I reported to Father. He was so totally objective, totally humble, so completely without ego. Father had such an indescribable, unexplainable quality of absolute humility and objectivity, more than you feel even from a little child.
Showing Mother pictures that I took
Towards the latter part of my time at East Garden, I became the unofficial photographer. You might never guess it, but even though our official photographers took dozens or hundreds of pictures of True Parents at occasions both large and small, True Parents rarely got to see any of the photos. When I had a new set of photos I would look for an opportunity to show them to Mother. Mother was always so happy to see them and used to order prints. By the time I left East Garden Staff there were six or eight of my photographs blown up to poster size hanging in the various rooms in East Garden’s 2nd floor. For me the best part was sitting next to True Mother, usually on the steps of the stairs, shoulder to shoulder and listening to Her comments about the pictures.
Joking with Mother and being scolded
I occasionally drove True Mother to Macy’s Clearance Center in White Plains to shop for household items. In-Jin nim was along on one of these trips, and one of the items we were shopping for was a piece of carpet for the staff prayer room. Mother selected a carpet remnant and considered the sale complete. I said “Mother you should buy padding for the carpet.”
Mother did not agree with my opinion, and several times she said that padding wasn’t needed. Each time I came back and said it was. In-Jin nim did not appreciate me arguing with her mother. Mother was getting exasperated with this stubborn brother and had had about enough of my opinions. Finally at the end of her patience Mother asked “Just give me one good reason why we should buy padding for the carpet!”
I knew Father’s standard of praying on a hard wood floor, or on a rock, or in the snow covered frozen earth. My motivation was to make the floor softer for our staff. From Heaven’s standard my idea was ludicrous, and I realized how ridiculous it would sound to Mother. But I just had to try one last time.
So holding back my own laughter I said “Mother, so the staff’s knees won’t hurt.” We looked in each other’s eyes and both knew how silly this was and both started laughing. Mother was laughing so hard that tears were coming down her cheeks.
In-Jin nim had had enough and stepped in between Mother and I and said with a pose and a voice straight out of a Shirley Temple movie “Joe, sometimes I think you are very naughty!” She was so cute and funny that tears of laughter started to come down my cheeks too.
A kidnapped sister returns
In 1976, one of the American sisters on the East Garden Staff, Louise Schmidt received a call that her father was gravely ill. True Parents said she could go tend to her family. At the time Ted Patrick and others were kidnapping and attempting to deprogram about one member per day, 700 members in two years. The illness in the family was a ruse to lure Louise away and deprogram her. Louse was held against her will and “deprogrammed.” However, Louise was as wise as a serpent and, with a little help from a MFT team in her area, was back at East garden after a couple of weeks.
True Children were very concerned about the hundreds of stories about members being kidnapped, but they didn’t have any way to express their concern to the members. Louise’s return was their chance. The three oldest girls, Ye-jin, In-jin, and Un-jin, used their own money and bought cake mix and ice cream. I watched as these young girls baked their first cake ever in East Garden kitchen. It was as funny as watching any little girls try to bake a cake, but their mood was so serious and sincere. With a little help from the sisters the cake turned out okay.
When the welcome back party was held, Louise was seated at the head of the table and the True Children on the sides. This was an honor I have seen only this once. I believe Louise began to cry first, but very soon all of the True Children and us staff were sobbing. I think the True Children appreciated members’ efforts more than we realized.
A direct connection of heart
After serving at East Garden for four years I lived in Korea for four years where I experienced a broken engagement with a Korean sister. Father was aware of this and knew my situation well, I returned to America and attended Father’s Belvedere speech for the first time in years. When Father went on the stage so many memories flooded back that I began to cry for several minutes and Father noticed this. Father apparently assumed that I was crying because of my broken matching and after He had been speaking for more than an hour he called my name right from the stage and said “Joe Kinney! Why are you crying for yourself? You should be shedding tears for Heaven!”
At that point Father looked right at me into my eyes and a spiritual channel opened for a brief moment between us where we could look into each other’s souls. (I think Father planned to check my spirit out and didn’t think I’d look into his at the same time.) Father saw the pain and sorrow in my heart and all my feelings and motivations. I felt he was “reading me like a book.” The unexpected part was that I was able to see in Father’s spirit that this brought back memories and feelings of the much greater suffering Father had endured with His first wife. Father quickly disconnected from this and returned to His speech, but not before I saw His face flush and tears well up in His eyes. Only the two of us understood why Father suddenly appeared to be almost crying in the middle of his speech.
True Mother is made of tears
To my knowledge True Mother has only publicly given her testimony once, at East Garden in 1976 or 77. I had the privilege to attend.
I had seen and spoken to True Mother nearly every day for three years. Without exception mother was like a fountain of pure true love. To be in her presence, was to be bathed in radiant light. Even when she was scolding me, I loved it. Mother would be putting more food on my plate and asking about my health and especially about what kind of wife I wanted. Always comforting others and giving love with child-like purity. It seemed that Mother was a person that was happy all the time and never had a care in the world.
One point I do remember was that the last words Mother said were (paraphrased) “If I can only leave you with one piece of advice it would be this one thing. Never react immediately to a direction from Heaven (or central figure). Your immediate reaction is almost always the negative or Cain-type reaction. Wait, count to 10 before you react.”
These words are so practical and realistic, yet I could feel that Mother had been asked to do so many impossible things and that Her single word of protest or complaint would be disastrous providentially. She had learned to follow the advice she had given us and knew that it was very crucial and practical for us too.
When Mother began to give her testimony, she revealed a side of herself I had never imagined. I had thought that Mother was literally made of laughter, but I discovered that she was made of tears. Mother wept and sobbed as she explained the torturous course she walked and the incredible trials and persecution she had had to overcome.
My understanding of True Mother was totally changed.