Contributed by Ryota Naito
From December 17th to the 23rd, CARP Las Vegas held their annual winter seven-day retreat. Gerry Servito, a well-known Principle lecturer and one of the few Unification Thought (UT) teachers within the United States, flew in from New Jersey to share his unique and refreshing take on the Divine Principle. Over twenty participants took part in this Divine Principle workshop, including four first-timers and a participant who flew in all the way from Japan.
The first day started out with a bang - participants were sent off to complete several tasks in a scavenger hunt competition. Teams headed off to a local outdoor shopping center to get out of their comfort zones and compete. While it was tiresome and scary for a few, the scavenger hunt kicked off the workshop in an exciting way, ensuring a closeness and sense of familiarity with one another.
Following the scavenger hunt, the workshop was officially introduced and the theme of the workshop revealed. The theme was “Understand God's Heart and Find My True Self,” which the participants resonated with.
This year, we were given the special honor of not just receiving content on the Divine Principle itself, but as a Unification Thought lecturer, Uncle Gerry was also able to present incredible material on the Theory of Art and other concepts shared in its philosophy.
As he explained, UT presents an in-depth look at the Principle’s first chapter—the Principle of Creation—original ways of life and love. CARP members were blown away by the portrayal of the perspective the Principle takes on so many subjects.
It wasn't just that Uncle Gerry was knowledgeable, however, but also his unique expression of different points in the Principle. On occasion, he would burst into an original song talking about the subject at hand: sometimes the heart of God, or his love for his wife, or even his deep understanding of Jesus.
“It wasn’t intentional or accidental on how much I felt towards Jesus. I’ve never felt so emotional toward what he’s been through.” - Denzel
He didn't shy away from impromptu wrestling or jumping on the table or slamming a hand on the desk to prove his points. It was clear that Uncle Gerry was a man of heart and passion. One first-time guest mentioned that more than anything that was said or done in the lectures, they were touched by the conviction and heart that Uncle Gerry spoke with.
In addition to the exceptional lectures, we also did activities that gave participants an opportunity to experience God's deep, unconditional love. Each activity touched upon different aspects of God's love: through nature by looking at the sunrise in the morning, or music by the CARP band playing before every session, or the chance to voice their concerns through a prayer wall activity.
“Grace Night” in particular stood out to many of the participants. It was a moment in which participants got to reflect on a point that they had wanted to be forgiven for and to experience that forgiveness. The CARP band played music to set the mood and to express God’s love.
Afterward, members shared with one another what they wanted to be forgiven for and what they experienced through the activity. Many shared about the overflowing amount of love they felt for the first time in their life. Several participants shared that it was their first experience feeling unconditionally loved. One person admitted that feeling so much love for the first time in many ways terrified her, scared that what she feels will soon go away as many things in her life had.
“I am worth everything and I deserve the relationships I have made this semester.” - Michelle
In the final day of lectures, Rev. Andrew Compton gave the final talks on Father and Mother Moon’s life. He shared in detail of Father and Mother Moon’s journey in discovering the Divine Principle and their story in building up the Unification Movement.
The participants were blessed to hear some of Rev. Compton’s personal experiences of working with them and the early Unification Movement in America. Participants asked many questions. Rev. Compton answered all of them very transparently, yet gave clear answers to even the toughest questions.
We also received another special testimonial from Mrs. Mimi Morse, who directly met the movement through Father Moon only a few years before his passing. Though she felt she had everything - a successful job at a hotel, a loving husband, and a loving family - Mrs. Morse shared how profoundly Father Moon impacted her life when he told her, “When you can put God as your priority, then you can you say believe in God.” She shared how her life completely changed after that and conveyed to the young people to live with a higher purpose.
As the workshop came to a close with a talent and testimony night, it was assured that the experiences and bonds that were created were ones that would last a lifetime. Testimony after testimony shared of their life-changing realizations and experiences they had during the workshop.
Many were in direct credit to the amazing wisdom received through the Divine Principle lectures. There is no denying the experience of heart that was shared between all the brothers and sisters who joined this workshop. It was clear that the future of everyone remains as closely connected to CARP as possible, a place that has become home for all.
“My goal is to re-triple my efforts to redouble my effort in building the arts, media, and culture providence.” - Marcus
“Unification Thought’s point of view on the Divine Principle gave me insight about my pursuit on education… things make a lot more sense to put God in it.” - Denzel
“The Three Great Blessings are the most important to me because it is something that I want to strive for in my future family. At the beginning of this semester, I did not want to have children, but I realized that I should have one or two… I feel inspired to care more… I also want to create the ‘perfect’ family, where I can truly love a child of God. My kids will be the ones who also make the world a better place.” - Michelle
“I loved the realms of true love teaching. I really loved the differences of virtues, horizontal + vertical. I never thought about it that way. I hope to actually apply these to my day-to-day life. Retreats are crazy. It literally feels like I pressed pause on life and that’s amazing.” - Sydney