Stories from my years with the True Family at Belvedere and East Garden
By Joe Kinney
Joe Kinney was the maintenance man at East Garden from June 1974 until February 1978. In this series of three (of which this is the third), Mr. Kinney shares his personal experiences with members of the True Family from 40 years ago. The first two parts are also posted in the section “Early Members Tell Their Stories.”
Watching a movie about the Holocaust with Father
Fathers tradition when seeing a movie at the movie theatre is to enter the auditorium at whatever time he arrived, watch the movie from that point and then leave at that same point at the next screening. He sees the movie exactly once. It’s just that he doesn’t necessarily begin and end his viewing when the movie begins and ends. I believe this has something to do with Heaven determining Father’s schedule, rather than a theatre manager.
One time several staff members attended a movie about the Holocaust with True Parents. It was a graphic, terribly sad and realistic portrayal of the suffering of the prisoners in Auschwitz. We arrived at the point where we entered and we all rose to go. Father did not move, but remained seated and watched the movie all the way through a second time. This is only time I ever saw Father watch a movie twice in a row.
For us, Father’s prison experiences are interesting and moving testimony. This showed me that, for Father, those experiences are in his bone marrow.
Between the 21-City Tour and the 32-City Tour, all the IOWC (International One-World Crusade) bus team and other members gathered in a large basement meeting room at a Hotel in Washington DC, I believe in early 1974. This meeting closed one tour and kicked off the next. Father was speaking to us from the stage in the middle of the room. Father was facing stage right and without warning there was a loud crack that sounded almost like a gunshot from the stage left side of the room. I never found out what caused the sound, but what impressed me so much was how Father responded. Like everyone else, Father was startled by the sound. Everyone else jumped and was ready to take flight, but Father stamped his foot loudly down on the stage assumed almost a fighting stance and turned boldly to confront the apparent threat. His posture was erect and his expression that of a man ready to confront death and win over it yet another time.
In Korea when news of Father’s indictment came from America
I happened to be in Korea near Father’s House, talking with some of my friends who were on Father’s security detail when the news came from America that Father was indicted on the tax charges that would eventually lead to his imprisonment at Danbury. The US government had deliberately waited for Father to leave the country. The government believed that Father would stay out of America to avoid prosecution. They realized that the case against Father was weak, but rather than win in court they could win by keeping him out of the country.
But when the news came, Father’s response was like a thunderclap! In an instant Father canceled all his plans and headed for the next plane to America. Father understood the situation precisely and responded with power that was beyond mere courage. This Korean minister was charging into battle with the powerful US Government!
The day Korean president Park Chung-Hee was assassinated
I was working at the Tong-Il company in Korea from Feb 2nd 1978 to Nov 1981.
On the morning of October 26, 1979 without the customary previous announcement Father suddenly arrived in Korea. All available members were called to hear Father’s speech at the New Headquarters Church in Cheongpa-Dong I believe that the speech started at 2:00 pm and went to about 4:30 pm.
This set of circumstances was very unusual and Father was so serious in his talk. An unusual and substantial percentage of Father’s speech concerned the current Korean President Park Chung-Hee. I remember clearly that he explained that Park-Chung-Hee had a 21-year course to serve as president and that he still had five more years to go. After concluding his speech Father rushed to Cheongpyeong Lake and prayed in tears all night long.
The next morning, I was the first to wake in the home of the Korean family I lived with at the time. I picked up the newspaper from the front door step and saw the huge headline of white letters on a black background. Even though the headline was in Chinese characters, which I couldn’t read, I knew that only one event would rate such a headline, the death of President Park Chung-Hee.
How could Father know? Considering the sudden unannounced manner of his arrival, the content of his speech, and his serious prayer at Cheongpyeong, I am certain that a premonition of President Park’s assassination was the reason for Father’s arrival.
I spoke to Peter Kim and he said that Father rushed to Korea to offer his spiritual protection during the emergency. During the turbulent years of martial law and two coup d’états, Father’s arrivals and departures clearly indicated to me that Father had the ability to know beforehand when Korea was in danger. He would stay in Korea or, while he was in America, set special conditions to protect the nation.
Editor’s Note: President Park Chung-hee was assassinated at 7:41pm on October 26, 1979
Grandmother Hong (whom Father later gave the name Daemo-nim)
These days we hear testimonies from members who attend the Cheongpyeong workshops. The central person in these workshops is known as Daemonim. The testimonies we hear focus on members’ experiences at Cheongpyeong. Perhaps it would be useful to learn a little about how this great spirit spent her life on earth. In her physical life Daemo-nim was known as Soon-Ae Hong, or Grandmother Hong. She is our True Mother’s mother. In the mid-seventies I had the good fortune to be the maintenance man in True Parents’ house at East Garden. This testimony is from my limited experience with Grandmother Hong from that time.
Grandmother Hong arrived at East Garden without any particular fanfare and was assigned a room in a corner of the top floor of the main house. Because it was practically an attic you couldn’t stand upright in parts of the room, and it had an irregular shape because of the dormer windows. Grandmother’s furniture was whatever was no longer good enough for the True Children. I didn’t know then that in Ho Ho Bin’s Inside-the-Womb church she had done three hundred and sometimes three thousand full bows a day.
Grandmother dressed in the humblest of clothes, like any poor Korean Grandma you might see on the street. She worked as if she was part of the household staff, helping in the kitchen and around the house. She didn’t take her meals at the table with True Parents; rather she would help clear the dishes and eat together with the kitchen staff. I didn’t know then that she had helped to sew the garments to comfort Jesus’ heart and lay the foundation for the Messiah to return: three stitches and a prayer, three stitches and a prayer, three stitches and a prayer, for endless hours.
One of my main memories of Grandmother was of her garden. One springtime, grandmother summoned me to a plot of land out of sight of the main house and told me that this was where she would grow Korean vegetables for True Family’s table. This was a pretty good size garden about 100 feet X 35 feet. After I broke the soil with a rotary tiller, Grandmother did all the rest of the work, sometimes with help from whomever she could collar on any given day. That year and every year Grandmother would plant, cultivate and harvest this large garden. Muddy shoes, dirty hands, and soiled dresses, working hour after hour in the hot son like a humble farmer…. I didn’t know then that this woman offered her daughter to True Father, but was not allowed to remain in her daughter’s new home. I didn’t know that on the occasion of her rare visits she had to enter through the back door like a servant, unseen like a thief in the night.
I encountered Grandmother Hong around the house and grounds. I drove her occasionally, and sometimes went to her room to fix something. She always said I was too skinny and tried to shove some Korean snack into my mouth. If I did any little thing for her at all she was so grateful. I was so stupid and she was so humble. I felt like I was just helping out a fellow staff member. She was really at the bottom of the list when it came to special treatment. I didn’t know then that she was the only person in history to participate in all three churches that prepared the foundation for the Second Advent. The Holy Lord Church, Ho Ho Bin’s Inside-the-Womb group, and the Unification Church.
Grandmother Hong was always taking care of the needs of others, whether it be of True Family, the never ending stream of guests, or the staff. She didn’t take care of people by strutting around in fine clothes, giving speeches and reminding people of her position. She took care of people from the back of the room with a comforting smile or from the kitchen with a special snack, or from the prayer room with tears. Grandmother Hong never spoke publicly at all until one day, without warning, Father asked her give her testimony. She stood erect in the middle of the room in whatever humble clothes she happened to be wearing, and because it was Father’s order began to speak about herself for the first and only time. I don’t remember the words Grandmother spoke that day, but I’ll never forget the tears she shed. From the first sentence the tears streamed forth from her eyes. For the entire time she spoke in sobs and wails. It was impossible for the translator to translate because he too was sobbing uncontrollably.
The motto of our church is “Let us go forth in the shoes of a servant, with the heart of a Father, shedding sweat for earth, tears for man, and blood for heaven.” Soon-Ae Hong lived this motto quite literally.
I didn’t know then that this humble grandmother who worked in the garden and ate in the kitchen would become the designated mediator between heaven and earth, giving rebirth and liberation to our members. Do you think Soon-Ae Hong knew?
Heung Jin Nim
Most of the True Children rightly felt that church members wanted to take from True Parents rather than give. Members want True Parents to solve their problems, rather help True Parents solve God’s problem. Out of their love for and their desire to protect True Parents, True Children were sometimes cold or aloof to members. Heung-jin nim had a heart big enough to go beyond this. He was a warm and consistent person, who always had time to say a kind word and the heart to remember someone’s name.
I’ll never forget two encounters with Heung-jin Nim:
I’d been away for four years and was attending Father’s speech at Belvedere. Heung-jin nim walked by and took to time to greet me by name, shake my hand, and ask me how I was doing. I was so impressed that he showed this much consideration for a guy who was only a servant in his house.
Later I met Heung-jin nim in Jacob House in Tarrytown. Several of us were standing around in the foyer near the front door. Someone dropped a coin on the floor and Heung-jin picked it up. No one was sure who dropped it and Heung-Jin wouldn’t keep it for himself. He gave it to me even though I told him it wasn’t mine. I keep it as a treasure to this day. Three days later, he was fatally injured in the accident.
After Heung-jin nim’s tragic death, there was so much talk about how special he was. I am a skeptical person and I dislike the deification of people. I know a coin or a handshake are small things, but it is these small things that made Heung-jin nim so special to me.
Walking in True Parents’ footprints
One time perhaps summer of 1976, some of the staff and a few guests went to Jones Beach with True Parents. It was one of the few times I saw both Father and Mother in bathing suits. The group was gathered on the beach well away from the ocean and Father and Mother were walking together along the edge of the beach unaccompanied by security or anyone else. I decided to follow them about 50 feet behind. It was just them and me. Father and Mother were walking in the wet sand, and they left footprints in the sand to be washed away by the next wave. My delight was to step in these very footprints before the waves removed them, knowing I would be the only one ever to do so. It seemed like a metaphor for all of us who are so lucky to be Unification Church members while True Parents are alive and on this earth. No one will ever have the opportunity to walk in their footsteps again.