The Words of the Ellanson Family
From March 25th to April 22nd, the Blessing and College Preparation (BCP) program participated in an internship at New Hope Farms in Port Jervis, New York. Throughout the year on BCP the primary activity for internal education has been fund raising. However, it was clear that most of the members were struggling to catch internal points from their fund raising experience and some simply dreaded going out each day. When the idea to go to New Hope Farms was first pitched, I initially dismissed it, feeling that the members would just space out most of the time and was not confident that we, in the leadership role would be able to help them internalize the experience. However, as I thought more about it, I felt maybe this is from God and it’s another way for the members to be able to experience and learn about God’s heart as a parent and the Principle.
After discussing between the leadership of BCP, Mr. Mito, and Lesa Ellanson, whose family lives on and operates the farm, we decided to try a 21-day period. The duties consisted primarily of caring for the horses, the barns and stables and equipment. The members received riding lessons, learned about horses, and received Principled guidance about how to connect to God through the creation and their activities.
What is amazing is that nearly all of the opportunities they had on the farm revealed something that people needed to work on individually and that we needed to work on collectively as a team.
In learning to ride, people’s weak points and fallen natures were revealed. If a person lacked confidence or self-discipline, or was arrogant, impatient, inconsistent, it would always come out in their riding and the way each individual dealt with the horse and the challenge presented. Through Aunt Lesa’s guidance people began to see things they needed to work in themselves very clearly. What was great was that the way to overcome it was very clear and tangible -- and they couldn’t give up, or rather Aunt Lesa wouldn’t let them, and they would keep trying till they accomplished whatever she asked them to do on the horse, so in the end there was a sense of victory. It sounds smooth on paper, but in watching the lessons I know that it wasn’t. Some people would be almost in tears, some people couldn’t initially take the harshness of the instructor, but when they were put in that situation, it was clear what they needed to do. And when they did it, they could see the result quickly through the horse responding to their commands. The lessons of thinking of God, practicing inside-out, of not giving up, and having belief in yourself were all strengthened through the process of learning to ride.
After the first week passed, a more fundamental problem was revealed. As a team, they were totally disunited, everyone was thinking of their own situation and not of God. After discussing with Aunt Lesa and Uncle Lowell about members’ situations, it was decided that they would take a more active role as parental figures and in giving internal guidance to the team. I feel that this is one the greatest strengths of New Hope Farms: it is a mission that is being done as a couple and a family. The unity I saw between husband and wife and parents and children was amazing. Because both parents were united centering on God, True Parents and the Principle, I could really see God work to touch the members’ hearts, and the spirit of the team began to change.
The team lived together and needed to work together every day. They couldn’t escape each other. When they realized that many of the problems that occurred between members of the team were a reflection of a problem within themselves, they began trying to change themselves first. The environment helped to bring out their fallen natures but also provided a way for them to deal with them centering on God.
First was the guidance and example of the Ellanson family. Both Aunt Lesa and Uncle Lowell have had a lot of frontline experience, and the beauty of their couple is that they carry the same frontline spirit in everything they do and are united upon the goal of supporting True Family, protecting God’s lineage, and helping establish Cheon Il Guk. What struck me most was that always their advice is rooted in the Principle -- kind of bringing the Principle into practical application whenever difficult situations arose for the members. They also showed an example of heartistic investment in each member of the team including myself.
Second was the space and time to be able to pray and reflect. Both of these were emphasized -- the importance of reporting to God all that is going on within you and not taking these feelings in a horizontal direction, but first to Heavenly Father and then a central figure.
Third was the creation, the beauty of the area around the farm, the animals -- all this helped members to connect more easily to Heavenly Father. It is very beautiful up at the farm, and everyone said that being in nature helped them connect more easily to Heavenly Father’s heart.
In reflection, I feel the opportunity was truly given by God, at a time when the education, experiences and guidance given by the Ellanson family and the environment were desperately needed for our team to unite and center upon God. As the leader for the BCP program, for me it was bittersweet medicine. Bitter in that I could see where I was in my own relationship with God and my central figure, and where I needed to improve as a leader, but sweet in that I could see God’s heart for the members and how He is desperate for them to grow, as well as His heart for me, to help raise me to be someone whom He can use to help others.
The following are some excerpts from people’s experience at the farm:
“In the beginning of the condition I feel like I faced a
whole new set of challenges, which surprised me because my
expectation was that this would be kind of like a bonding
time/vacation for our team. Anyway, I was really unclear on what I
needed to do, but with working with the horses and sharing with Aunt
Lesa I found that it starts with me, how I look at the situation and
how I handle the problem. “The most profound inspiration I had
was just to pray, and my time at New Hope helped me develop my prayer
life, which also contributed to my investment in others, myself, in
any daily activity. I recognized the value of prayer and that without
it, I wouldn't be able to face my struggles.”
“The biggest things that I learned at New Hope came from
sharing with Aunt Lesa and having group discussions with her. I felt
such a parental heart from her and can see that she’s making
Divine Principle a real part of her life. That’s what she
always told us, ‘The principle is real life, it’s not
just a book.’ She also pretty much gave each of us a slap in
face on how we related to each other. Once she said what she did,
everything just clicked. The problem is always you, not those around
you. So if you are having troubles with someone else, it is most
definitely a reflection of yourself. The only thing you can do is
change yourself and pray for those who you are struggling
“Honestly, it was incredibly difficult many times to see
from God’s perspective whether it was with the team or
horseback riding. One instance I can share was when I went horseback
riding, basically during the whole time I was so consumed with myself
and comparing I undoubtedly failed in seeing from Heavenly Father’s
eyes. Each of us also had a personal sharing with Aunt Lesa two times
within the month and this helped us in guiding us personally with our
goals or difficulties. With the sharing with Aunt Lesa and by my own
reflection, I gradually became better and whenever a challenge arose,
I tended to look within myself and not judge others as I did before.
Among the many things we did at New Hope I enjoyed the beginning of
the day. Spending tine with the horses, taking them out, preparing
the stalls all of it was really relaxing and rewarding as well. Also,
simply being around the horses allowed me to gain more confidence in
myself and learn more about God’s creation. Besides being
around the horses, we received valuable information on the basics of
horses and understanding their importance as God’s creation. In
conclusion, I’d love to recommend anyone going to New Hope
Farms, whether it’s to spend time with creation or reflect on
your spiritual growth. Go and experience for yourself New Hope Farms
and with an open mind and heart I know you can definitely gain so