A Well-Rounded Child -and- The Ten Benefits of Fundraising
Published in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of the Unification News, and on Paul Carlson's Facebook page.
With a young new generation in charge (distinctly feminine in the USA), the Unification movement also began to shift its internal policies and practices. This included our long-time tradition of fundraising. As an MFT veteran, also joined by current and recent STF [now GPA] members, I spoke up on behalf of this practice, when the new leadership wished (with clear enough reasons) to wind it down, or even to end it entirely.
1) A WELL-ROUNDED CHILD
This first article was published in the Unification News, and to be candid it dances around my real point, never quite mentioning "that" disfavored practice. The one that follows comes from my Facebook page, and makes my points more directly.
[Some followup: In the event, mobile team fundraising-training has survived, and also expanded beyond GPA.)
2) TEN BENEFITS OF FUNDRAISING
A Well-Rounded Child
This article is about improvement. Humans are doing a lot better, in modern times, than we did in previous eras. That includes physically, spiritually, and more. Even so, humankind has a long way to go.
[Note, the title derives from the theme of that UNews issue, about passing along our special traditions, and good character, to our following generations.]
Humanity faces great challenges. The Unification movement, from its very beginning, has spoken of restoring individuals and families, overcoming evil in its various forms, and bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. By any measure, that is a tall order.
In order to really change the world, each person (and organization) needs to change too. Not simply learn a new religious concept, although that's a wonderful beginning, but experience a profound lifelong change in their own worldview and conduct.
The Divine Principle terms this a 'course of restoration,' and it's not a quick or easy process. Bad habits need to be eliminated, a stronger sense of whole purpose instilled, and specific conditions of indemnity and unity made.
As our movement becomes more popular, and countless new people join our ranks, we'll need a corps of reliable leaders to guide them. Tried-and-proven couples of strong faith and deep understanding, with a broad range of practical experiences. In order to be champions for God, we'll need plenty of heart and endurance.
The overall lifestyle of our movement is changing. In the past we've been rather controversial, and certain activities have been misunderstood, or even taken to unwise extremes. Now, to gain public acclaim, our orientation is becoming like that of a popular megachurch. Vast numbers of people can embrace such a ministry, and begin to learn the Principle, and thus enter a process of personal and larger-scale restoration.
Our own early converts went through a very tough course. Here in the United States, our 'center members' worked at specific activities for many hours a day, sometimes seven days a week. It was hard, yet we also gained numerous benefits. Some were clear at the time, while others will shine through as our lives continue.
Nowadays, our members have created programs such as GPA, the NGA, and the BCA school. Only a small fraction of our young members attend these, while many others chose an externally secular lifestyle. Meanwhile, those special programs have limited room, and it's difficult to fit in people who already have a family and career.
In studying with successful megachurch pastors, we've learned they have different levels of membership and dedication: from casual drop-ins, to small-group participants and leaders, to core ministry leaders, to church-planting missionaries. Each new visitor chooses their course, internally and externally; and they'll each have the opportunity to, so to speak, go all the way. (Assuming, of course, their health allows.)
Each believer's growing children, and each new adult convert, may or may not learn and embrace the full doctrines of their new megachurch, may or may not dramatically improve their lifestyle, and may or may not participate in service and ministry projects. It's up to them, and any hint of judgmentalism might send them running in the other direction.
Many people will regard a 'harsh' course as too challenging, and so they are welcome at whatever 'level' they might choose, without judgment. Those who choose the 'full' course, in each of these respects, will gain tremendous benefits. They will learn that certain efforts and sacrifices (involving time, money, self-denial, rigorous activities, etc.) will alter their lives for the better, both now and eternally.
In this modern era, forty years is more than enough time to build up institutions, and for a group to develop a distinctive lifestyle. It's also plenty of time to establish traditions. And then, in classic American style, to challenge those traditions, and change things all over again.
Religious traditions catch on because they have obvious benefits, for converts and members and leaders alike. Changing them, especially within a short time period, is likely to be controversial. It behooves us to examine those activities, and to discuss all their pros and cons. Are those familiar benefits to be abandoned, or can effective substitutes be instituted?
To provide some examples, your author will speak from personal experience, plus those of close friends.
* It's wonderful to meet God. When I first learned the Principle, at Boonville in northern California, I used to walk along the hills at night, just me and the cows and God, praying deeply. That sort of 'workshop' experience can be transformative.
* We remain fallen individuals, from societies with long sinful histories. Happy thoughts alone are not enough to indemnify this. When I lived in a church center, I was able to fast and do other 'conditions,' with solid support and encouragement.
* Our movement has been controversial, and the mass media and Internet can give a bad impression to millions of people at a time. Fortunately, I've had thousands of opportunities to meet Americans (plus journey overseas), where I could talk to them about our founder and history and members. Now I'm also doing this online.
* The best way to learn, it is said, is to teach. I've visited many dozens of churches and other organizations, to share about the Principle, and to invite clergy and other VIPs to a smorgasbord of conferences and projects. This provided an opportunity to endure persecution, and to build friendships which continue to this day.
* I've enjoyed good health, and have taken many opportunities to test myself, and to grow stronger. For example, Ocean Church provides an opportunity to be cold and wet and achingly tired, and still continue. To persevere whether you have a full catch--or no visible results to show for your effort.
* We have learned to achieve some amazing results, on short notice, via intense mobile-team coordination. Back around 1987 we collected ten million signatures, complete with people's full name and address, in just a few weeks. These came from towns all across the USA. (This was on behalf of the American tradition of religious freedom.) So far as I know, such a feat has never been equaled, by any organization.
* I've visited all sorts of people and places, including a few that gave a hard lesson. Back in 1982 we handed out leaflets all over Washington DC, to advertise the opening of the movie Inchon. At the time I didn't know that area, and marched straight into a decrepit housing project. Let's just say I was lucky to avoid hospitalization, and the 'street smarts' I picked up have kept me safe ever since.
* On a more positive note, I've participated in service projects for urban kids who've grown up with limited opportunities. One helped put in a school garden, where students could be close to peaceful nature, and enjoy the results of their own loving care. I've also attended DARE and WAIT and other programs, which help young folks avoid personal tragedy, and get ready to raise a family of their own.
* I've done Home Church in several towns. This enabled me to meet a variety of people, and to serve them in a Godly way. Old and young, poor and better-off, various ethnicities, liberal and conservative and don't-even-care; this was a great way to grow beyond my own 'whitebread suburb' upbringing.
* When I started my family, and needed a steady income and health insurance coverage, church members hired me at a Unificationist-owned company. I began to make deliveries to many areas, urban and rural; and to pick up vegetables at remote farms, plus equipment from factories and warehouses.
I never missed an opportunity to chat with people, and to ask what they were doing. In that sense it became one big educational 'field trip,' and I learned many things one could never discover in a formal classroom.
* The world's economy is way down, and millions of people are out of a job. Others have seen pay cuts, and face an uncertain future. Families need continual support, and charities (plus government benefits) can only go so far. Fortunately, long-time Unificationists have learned certain economic skills which are now coming in very handy. These might not be the most snazzy methods of economic gain, but they are simple, legal, and reliable.
Our new converts are observant people, and they will always make comparisons. Most churchgoers want a pastor who is knowledgeable in doctrine and practice, who is familiar with their own social background, and who is well-rounded and trustworthy.
Our movement to winding down certain activities, and I've been asking around, as to how we might continue to provide all the benefits mentioned above. Our existing programs are small, and not always available.
As our movement evolves and grows, let us consider how to offer these wonderful opportunities to converts and members alike. What new and socially acceptible programs can we develop? Let's continue this discussion, and move ever closer to a personal and worldwide Heavenly Kingdom.
by Paul Carlson
© 2010 by Paul Carlson
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Ten Benefits of Fundraising
In a followup to some discussion threads around here [on my Facebook Notes page, early in 2010], and for the edification of my Unificationist and other friends, here's an excerpt from an unpublished essay of mine.
(Actually, I could list more than ten. These are the clearer basic ones.)
1) Meeting God
As thousands of UC members will attest, it's a sure way to experience God's suffering heart. In my hearing, and as practiced within some reasonable fraction of the human life span, no one has ever suggested a better individual-level path. (For that specific, crucial, growing-strong portion of a person's life.)
How so? Receiving a donation or not, with someone's spiritual merit on the line, is a direct connection to God's heart toward the whole of humanity, and toward numerous types of individual. Embodying God's love towards all sorts of people is directly reflected in one's ongoing experiences.
You cannot succeed without loving people, especially when often in the same area. Even struggling as a fundraiser has some personal benefit. God's efforts failed too, many times in history.
2) Restoration and Indemnity
We remain sinful individuals, and the providence is a long way from complete fulfillment. In a team environment we can make specific conditions, with time-limit and result-oriented goals. We can fast and still work hard, with solid personal support. Also, as MFT always understood, we're out there winning back fallen-world treasure in a very direct way.
3) Public Relations
By fundraising we can individually meet tens of thousands of people. We're showing them our dedication and competence. (Many times, secular and religious leaders expressed a wish that I was on 'their team' instead.)
Each fundraiser gains countless opportunities to discuss our lives and religion with interested, and also 'negative,' people.
It's not an especially unpopular activity. STF [now GPA] continues to break records for large donations, and for daily individual results.
4) Self Reliance
Fundraising is a great way to overcome one's physical and emotional limits. You might get cold and tired out there, and yet you persevere. If you're shy, you get over that real quick. You'll encounter some real jerks, and pick yourself up and continue. (I had externally similar days when I broke records, and others when did not make one penny in result. In the long run, both experiences helped.)
5) Team Building Skills
Everyone learns to work with all sorts of leaders and team-mates, including people from different backgrounds and cultures. There are team captains you love, and some who annoy the heck out of you, and still you learn to unite and to succeed. (Such team training will benefit a person all the rest of their life, including at jobs in a secular company.)
6) Good Health
Every fundraiser gets plenty of fresh air and moderate exercise, and spends time amid some great scenery.
Obesity plagues the United States, and Unificationists are not immune. But you rarely see a 'large' person on a fundraising team, and after several weeks of that activity, none at all.
(We used to have product heavy enough to cause back problems. GPA has avoided this with a healthy diet, and light-weight 'sun catchers,' etc.)
7) Personal Safety
This is a benefit we all hope we'll never need, but in certain situations, it's vitally important.
The young adults on fundraising teams learn fast about real dangers, and to recognize types of people to avoid, and places to leave quickly. Unfortunately, in America dozens of women are attacked every day, at home and school and work. The instincts and 'street smarts' honed on a fundraising team may save a woman's very life, later on!
(I make deliveries in some bad neighborhoods, and . . . knock on wood . . . have avoided crimes that commonly affect my fellow truckers.)
8) Broad Experience
Fundraising is utterly incomparable in breaking us out of our cultural shells. It makes us into better people, and in every sense.
You go into rich and poor neighborhoods. Places you'll learn Spanish real quick, and a slow Midwestern drawl, and fast New York bluster. You visit rural and suburban and downtown homes and businesses, and see who lives there. Meet selfish and generous types; and downtrodden and successful folks. Experience ugly and beautiful scenes, and see who occupies those.
You enter fancy offices and grimy workshops, and chat with those workers. You meet Black and Caucasian and Native American families. Visit countless bars and churches and everything in between.
The USA and world have tremendous variety and history and wonders, and fundraising gets you there.
9) Direct Education
This is a bonus, and in practice, an optional one.
Fundraising days can be like a school field trip. You will fundraise in factories, and see what they make there, and you can ask how. You'll go into specialized offices, and craftsman's homes. When encountering a historical place, read the signs and ask locals about it. A fundraiser can learn many valuable lessons, much better than from a textbook.
(I fundraised with people who did not know or even care what specific town they were in, only about each day's result. Hence, this aspect of the experience is optional.)
I've heard, from UC members and ex-members alike, that many of our families are now relying upon fundraising-style activities (flower stands, door-to-door, etc.) for supplementary funds, in this horrible economy. They learned how on MFT and other teams, and now it's helping their families in a very important way.
Fundraising is a rapid and flexible way to fund a large variety of Unificationist projects. (If there is a realistic proven alternative, I have yet to hear about it. [Crowdsourced funds can be helpful . . . sometimes.])
© 2015 by Paul Carlson
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