The Words of the Hanna Family
In this special testimony of her inner victories as a foreign missionary, Nancy Hanna transcends the particular character of her Spanish-speaking mission country and taps the universalism of the foreign mission experience.
These five years as a foreign missionary have been a time of tremendous internal re-evaluation, struggle and growth. Even though I had been in our church four years before going out to the foreign mission, I feel like it was only in the foreign mission that my internal spiritual life began to take root. Perhaps this is just the natural course of one's first seven years in our church; maybe only in the latter years does one really begin to grow internally. But I still feel that my internal growth was hastened and more profound due to the special challenges of a foreign mission.
In my first years in our church I worked hard externally, but internally I was not changing much -- partly, perhaps, because I was not mature enough to take control over my internal life and partly because our movement in general did not emphasize internal guidance. As one grows older in Principle, it becomes more and more difficult to work hard without making major internal changes. The foundation of the Barrytown lectures, however, set my life in a more internal direction.
When you are in a country where our movement is large, you can often avoid challenging yourself to grow internally; Father or some other leader comes and stimulates you, and the hard work of your brothers and sisters on all sides spurs you on. But in the foreign mission, nobody will come to push you, nobody will see you slacking off. Whenever you do something, it is because you inspired yourself to do it.
In the beginning of a foreign mission, I think it is especially easy to fall apart spiritually. You probably do not feel so close to the Japanese and German missionaries, and there is nothing to cheer you up in the outside environment. In fact, in many of our countries, everywhere you look you see misery, corruption, poverty, ignorance, oppression. One missionary wrote me that he found so much misery in his country that he sometimes felt he was living in an "open wound."
The United States has such an abundance of comforting sights in its physical surroundings. I grew up in California, surrounded by physical beauty. It required a big adjustment for me to live here in depressing dirt and ugliness of the city. I had absolutely nowhere to go to receive the comfort of natural beauty. With no escape at hand, I was forced to grow internally as never before.
There are certain things I thought about constantly and certain internal questions I struggled to understand or resolve. I want to share some of my internal realizations:
I knew that the spiritual drought I felt inside meant I had to make a number of internal changes. But in order to change yourself, you have to see exactly what is wrong with you, something that can cause extreme internal pain; still, each of us resists seeing what needs to improve. It took a lot of strength for me to look inside myself and find what needed to be changed. I realized that in the beginning of my Principle life I, like many others perhaps, continued to think and act in accordance to my own ideas. But as a missionary I found that old pattern breaking down. I had to begin, in a sense, on the ground level, organizing my life according to the Principle standards and building a whole new self.
Because I began to remake myself according to Principle standards, I felt my course paralleled True Father's individual course, as he strove to find the truth and become the embodiment of it. Maybe many of the things I learned during this time are similar to things that Father first learned.
I found changing myself to be very difficult; in effect, it requires training myself. I had not known that, for I thought that you just worked hard in the church and then your wrinkles would automatically be ironed out. I was looking toward the church structure to change me, not to myself as the agent of change.
But now I realize that each one of us is responsible for ourselves. We have to take control of our spiritual lives, and we cannot depend forever on others to bring about our spiritual transformation.
Once I began to see the things that needed to be altered, their quantity nearly overwhelmed me. I made efforts to change, but as I did, I felt frustrated and discouraged by the difficulties in remolding old habits of thinking and acting. Father's speeches sent by headquarters always inspired me. One thing Father said several times that comforted me very much was that he also had to struggle terribly to master and train himself. This consoled me, because I think we have the tendency to think that because Father is the Messiah, he does not have to struggle so much to overcome himself. We often expect results to come easily, but the fact that Father himself underwent a terrible struggle to overcome his physical desires and master his nature gave me great comfort. I understood that my difficulties were only natural.
We had a wonderful experience with the visit of Mr. Sang Ik Choi. He was very good to our family and gave us so much. He set a high example. I wondered how he could be that way. Studying him, I realized that his secret lay in his personal discipline. He had trained himself until he became able to give naturally. Seeing him taught me again a lesson that nothing comes automatically. If I wanted to become a good person, it was not going to happen by magic or chance: I had to take the personal responsibility for controlling and training myself according to the Principle. I had to analyze, investigate and direct my life according to that standard; otherwise, I would be just marking time in our church and never really growing.
After realizing that I had to take responsibility for my perfection, I found that in order to be able to make the great effort necessary to achieve the goal, I had to want perfection very much. It occurred to me that many people leave our church at the point of finding out just how difficult our road to personal perfection and the ideal world actually is. When you know how difficult it is going to be, the temptation comes to turn back. At the time of temptation, it is fortunate to be in a miserable country. Here, the evil of Satan's world is much more naked and exposed than in a place like the United States, where abundant material wealth decorates the spiritual emptiness and things do not look so bad externally. But here, people do not have pretty houses, lovely cars, fine clothes or elegant make-up to cover up the spiritual reality In a poor country you meet evil face to face. I saw it and I hated it; I had no intention of returning to that world.
Then I realized I had to take personal responsibility for myself, and I began to strongly desire to. Seeing evil so clearly made goodness very precious and desirable. Previously, if I had a difficulty, I would rationalize it or blame my leader or external circumstances. But now I knew I could not do that -- I alone was responsible. To put the blame anywhere else would mean running away from my personal responsibility and preventing my growth.
Previously, I had the misconception that through my efforts, I was being a big help to God. If I went through some anguish, I thought I was suffering for God. If I brought some good result, I thought I had done it for God. But now I think quite differently. Looking back, I realize that while I was certainly trying to help God out, the reverse was actually true -- He was aiding me. God was training me, serving me and raising me, and all the while I was being quite a burden to Him. It seems as if all my experiences have been just to educate me, and I have not yet reached point zero, where I can begin to give God more help than what He is giving me. So far I have suffered for myself alone, for my training and growth. Also, I realize that much of the suffering I had experienced in our church was brought upon me by my own fallen nature.
I sincerely hope that I can get to the point where I can help God. In the meantime, I feel greatly indebted to Him. God is working so hard, trying to help me become a purified and mature person who can fulfill her portion of responsibility.
I had been following the way of our church, but I was a little bit like the donkey who walked forward because someone tied a carrot to the stick in front of him. I needed either someone in front to encourage me -- even if it was a false hope -- or somebody behind me, pushing me forward. But now, because of my own strong desires, I myself want to go this way.
I love goodness for goodness sake. I want goodness so much that I find it worth all the suffering. Before, I did not appreciate suffering, but now I can even welcome it, because I know that it is for my own good and that God sends it to make me a better person. Now I want to live a challenging life, because I know that even greater good will result. This is very different from feeling a passive acceptance of difficulties in our church. It means appreciating them and aggressively looking for the arduous path. At least now, when a difficult time of suffering appears, I try to cultivate a grateful heart, rather than complaining or feeling bitter and resentful.
Without reflecting internally on my motivation, I used to be satisfied when I was doing the right thing externally. As I began to try changing internally, I soon noticed that while I was often doing the right thing externally, my internal motivation was wrong or selfish. My motivation, for example, was to get praise or approval from others. How then, I wondered, could I learn to do things from a pure, unselfish desire?
Many times, for instance, I offered something in order to receive something in return later. Realizing this, I have had to try hard to be careful and analyze my motivations, checking for selfishness.
Closely connected with the problem of pure motivation is that of unconditional love. In my foreign mission country, I had to seriously confront the problem of how to love without reservation. In the United States, if you give just a little love to one of the members, he can usually feel its effect and respond fully. Here, however, it often seemed that I just gave and gave, and little or nothing came back; people's hearts are not so fertile. It was so easy to get depressed and discouraged, and I had to struggle very much with how to feel good when there are no results, and how to keep giving when I received nothing in return.
Over these five years I continually felt frustrated and depressed over the lack of results. God was trying to teach me something. I knew that it was not right to become depressed over the frustrations and lack of results, but I did not see my way out of such a predicament. Finally, I realized that my giving -- both to God and to other people -- had been very conditional. I would give, but keep some strings attached; I had some expectations for a certain response or return, when it did not come, I felt depressed or discouraged.
I realized that the spiritually mature person just gives without any conditions or expectations. A spiritually mature person gives because giving is good; he does goodness for goodness sake. I know it will take me a long time to develop into that kind of person, but I understand that such is my goal, and that I can never be happy in giving love until it is an unselfish, undemanding love.
The key to giving unconditionally and enduring disappointments is to connect my heart to God and True Parents. They have given far more than I, yet have received so little in return. The knowledge that I share in their heart and experience has given me the best comfort and encouragement.
If God always would allow me to bring results, it would be easy to develop a pride in being somehow better than others. Then I would not have a humble and sympathetic heart towards those who struggle hard and bring very few results. I know that God was also trying to teach me humility. Now after the experience of laboring very hard and getting few results, I can feel much more compassion and unity with those who have had to struggle in order to accomplish. I see now that whether or not was accomplish a lot externally has a lot to do with our ancestors and is not necessarily something we can feel proud about as an individual.
From looking at the situation of the people in my country, I know that I have nothing to complain about in front of God. I am a doubly lucky person: not only was I born in externally favorable circumstances in the United States, but also am spiritually blessed in being able to follow the Principle and True Parents. After seeing the misery in a poor country and knowing that this is the way most of the people in the world live, I feel much less able to complain to God about anything in my life; from any global perspective, I am an extremely blessed person.
Also, I am grateful for the misery I encountered here and the opportunity to unite in heart with people in sad circumstances. You must know misery in order to understand misery. After being here, I feel I understand Father better, and I realize that he worries about the world. I see what sad situations agonize his heart and God's heart as well. I can feel why they are crying over the situation of the world. Staying in the United States, I could never have learned this. Now I worry much more about the world situation from a global perspective and with a global heart. This helps tremendously to unite with God's heart and Father's heart.
Furthermore, I deeply admire Father's greatness an. faith. I value the Unification Church more than ever, because now I know just what a great hope it offers to this world and how desperately it is needed. The True Parents, the Unification Church and the Principle are truly the hope of this world; I know this now as I never did before.
Before, if I made a mistake, I would rather not confront it; I would turn around and run past it as fast as possible. In this way, I repeated the same mistakes again and again. The shame of committing the mistake was too painful for me, and I wanted to avoid it by either rationalizing the mistake or not pausing to investigate the failure. Now I understand that the pain of shame actually aids our growth and indicates the working of our human conscience, setting us apart from the animals.
I was amazed to read in Father's speeches that he always feels shame because he has not done enough. If Father feels so much shame, with all that he does, then I certainly should not and can not avoid shame. The better the person, the more shame he feels. It sounds like a contradiction, but it is the saint, not the worldly person, who has a very sensitive conscience and therefore feels more shame. The more worldly person may not feel shame because his conscience is dead or cloudy.
Now I can more openly welcome the feeling of shame. It means that my original mind is working and guiding me on the way to perfection; if I can endure shame, I can grow faster. By responding to the direction of my shame, I can eventually develop a life of which I need not be ashamed.
I can never get rid of shame by pushing it away, but only by opening myself to it, repenting and purifying myself.
I have come closer to True Parents because of sharing so many similar experiences in the foreign mission. I understand that because Father was born in a country of suffering, he was forced to think more deeply about how to end human suffering and evil. I also had to consider how to end evil and suffering when I confronted it in my mission country. Since my country is a kind of microcosm of the problems of the world, I have also developed more of a worldwide consciousness of human problems.
I have had to raise up people spiritually from a standard far below my expectations; this helps me to understand Father's heart, as he has devoted himself to the same task. I have struggled more than ever before to discipline myself and live according to the standard of the Principle. Therefore, I can understand something of Father's struggles to train and perfect himself. After seeing the suffering of the people in poorer countries, I feel more responsibility and seriousness about helping them; knowing the pressure of the world situation helps me to unite with Father's urgent and responsible attitude.
Recently I read in Father's account of Mother's course how one of her major difficulties was to accept whatever suffering came her way without complaint. During my five years here I have also struggled to accept suffering and problems without complaint; I have even felt gratitude. Therefore, I feel I understand Mother's course much better now
Because of the lonely circumstances of the foreign mission, I have been able to develop a much deeper relationship with God. Surrounded by a big movement and many members, it is easier to be distracted from the task of developing a deep relationship with Heavenly Father. But in the foreign mission, not only is your external environment foreign to you, but your fellow missionaries as well. In addition to the loneliness, there are new difficulties. As a result, I have become much more dependent on my prayer life. I find it as necessary as daily food. Because prayer was often my only way to get help, I have learned the power of prayer and have seen countless times a direct cause and effect relationship between my prayer and the course of events.
Here I have witnessed human suffering as I never saw it in the United States. I also saw problems of a global scale. This opened my heart to God's heart, because I could cry and worry over the world situation as He does. Grateful and appreciative for His immense suffering, I yearn to end it. I understand better His frustrated heart, ever reaching out to people and trying to make them grasp the truth, even though they may be incapable of understanding it. I remain humbled by God's patience and long suffering.