The Words of the des Lauries Family
The new church in Las Vegas is a rented movie theater. The visual and sound quality makes it an ideal venue for airing the Lovin' Life Ministries service, which is broadcast nationwide from a central location.
No matter which way one faces in Las Vegas, mountains are always on the horizon. Las Vegas sits nestled like a bowl in the midst of them. Distant hills and some snow-covered peaks surround the bright lights and outlandish architecture of the Strip' as if it were in God's embrace. From that point of view, it is not very difficult to believe that True Parents will transform the site of their official home in the United States (as of January 2011) from, as In Jin nim puts it, Sin City to Sun City, where you (u) are in the center instead of I (i).
One of the perquisites of being a local member in Las Vegas is being able to gather at Cheon Hwa Gung to welcome Father and Mother Moon when they fly in from Korea. One might see Lovin' Life Ministries' Las Vegas Pastor Demian Dunkley and his wife Yumiko walking with their three young children from their house just around the corner. What a privileged childhood memory for the children; when old and grey, they'll be able to recount how they greeted their neighbors, the True Parents of Heaven and Earth and Humankind.
Pastor Demian and Yumiko are doing an awesome job in building up the community and launching Lovin' Life Ministries (LLM) at the best location in the country -- we are renting, on a weekly basis, the Rave Theater, a movie house with a sixty-foot screen and surround sound. Demian studied film and multimedia at Platt College in San Diego. He put his keen design expertise into the making of witnessing Rave Theater "tickets," and upbeat infomercials -- short films that are a local version of the national announcements coming from New York. We brought 3,000 people to Caesar's Palace on February 18, for the Little Angels, so filling a theater with 470 seats each week should not be impossible.
A district leader gives the Sunday sermon from the pulpit in New York.
The doors of Rave Theater opened for the official premiere at 9:00 AM on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012. This broadcast of Lovin' Life Ministries marked the third anniversary of Senior Pastor In Jin Moon being entrusted the position of leading the Unification Church in America. A hundred and twenty-nine people -- including six guests -- attended the service in Las Vegas broadcast from the Manhattan Center in New York. Two of the guests were there as a direct result of one sister's determination.
On March 4, Joshua Cotter made a national announcement inviting members to go to Las Vegas to witness. Our sister Iwuk Aswamah responded to the call. She traveled 1,746 miles on a Greyhound Bus from Atlanta to pass out tickets at a supermarket for four or five days. Iwuk met a lady who came to the theater with her grandmother. They listened to the service with their Bibles on their laps.
Japanese missionaries, wearing LLM T-shirts, ushered in the guests including regional president Dr. Chang-shik Yang, Las Vegas Korean church leader Rev. Weon-geun Park, and various local members. One of the baristas in the foyer was Alvaro Orduna Dominguez, a new member and recent university graduate who attends Culture Nights quite often, in addition to almost every other event. He was there, behind the counter with missionary Ms. Aya Tiara from Okinawa, Japan, offering coffee, tea, glazed donuts and tasty cookies. Pastor Demian is always reminding us that people want to contribute. "Tell them to come, we need their help."
Rev. Staffan Berg, state leader of Nevada and Arizona, emphasizes that the ten Japanese missionaries rotating in and out of Las Vegas have made a huge contribution to the outreach campaign. The twelve regions of Japan are well represented. "The missionaries come from the mother country ostensibly to learn English and witness, yet they are doing so much more," Rev. Berg says, "They are the busy bees that keep every event humming. Their pleasant smiles and willing hands make light the work of reclaiming this city for God."
The writer, Stefan des Lauriers, plays the ukulele at the launch party for their first service at the Rave Theater on Easter Day (April 8)
On the wall of the Rave Theater is a series of windowpanes that fit standard size posters of current movies being shown. Backlit by the rising sun, the posters almost have the luminescence of stained glass windows. Sitting in the lounge area one can almost imagine being in a modern church.
"People do not have to be pushed to come; they are naturally attracted," Pastor Demian said. One man, Jesse Yang, took his son to the movies one Sunday morning; the boy saw the fun activities, children coloring and playing games, and asked to join in.
They have been coming back each week for a month now. Another guest, Mesha, who was invited by Lorna Todd, brought her two children along. After attending Sunday school, her young son said, "Mommy, we've found our home."
"It is so satisfying to worship with entire families, ones that walk hand in hand on the heavenly path," explained Pastor Demian. "We want to offer many activities for families in the ministry. We want to make it easy for families to come to church. Just over a year ago, there were no more than twenty or thirty active members in Las Vegas. Now over a hundred members help fill the Rave Theater each Sunday, and we have room for more!"
Pastor Demian Dunkley of Lovin' Life Ministries in Las Vegas
Pastor Demian emceed the theater event. He stepped into the spotlight near the stage, where Sholina Pearson and Kenisha McDaniel were leading a dance to the music of Sonic Cult. The young family man, who has the charisma of a Las Vegas entertainer coupled with the warmth and sincerity of a mega-church preacher, wore a portable headset with a microphone. At the close of the service, he offered a prayer, after which we all reconvened for the Launch Party at Chinhwa Church, a home in a residential area. One-hundred fifty-seven people, including twenty-one guests, attended.
At Chinhwa Church, cars were lined up the whole length of the block -- there was only one spot open -- and that had a sign on it, "Reserved for the Children's Magician." Inside the gates, there were three white canvas canopies over dining tables, a long potluck buffet featuring a roast pig, a table with desserts, and a beverage stand manned by Ted Igarashi in a white dress shirt and bow tie. Off to the side was a croquet course set up on the lawn.
After the last person had been through the buffet line, an announcement was made, "The magicians show will begin in five minutes, behind the house." Georgette Dante, a newly appointed ambassador for peace, volunteered her magic show and delighted the children by blowing balloons into assorted animals. There were children's activities too, organized by Hope Igarashi and her team -- an Easter Egg Hunt, a Bounce House, Easter Egg coloring, a Bunny Piñata and a relay race.
Pastor Demian summed up the success of the theater premiere, "It is amazing that we pulled this all together in just over a month. We first went to LA and checked out how they were doing it and then bought all the equipment we needed and tested it out for three weeks. Las Vegas is so important because this is True Parents town. If we can be successful witnessing here, I think the idea for theater churches can take off in other cities and the world. In the meantime, members from all over America can feel confident to come here to witness."
Children from the Las Vegas church say Hi and send their love to you.
"There is unprecedented unity in Las Vegas. Rev. Weon-geun Park, who leads the Korean language church here, is very supportive of Lovin' Life Ministries," Rev. Berg said. "In the future, we will have many different language ministries united under the same banner. The Korean program is the first unique language program for us here in Las Vegas. Koreans that recently joined have faithfully been coming to the Lovin' Life Sunday service at the Rave Theater and other events."
A year ago, many members had come through the doors of the "Peace Palace" on Bermuda Road to pick up boxes of the book, As A Peace-Loving Global Citizen to distribute throughout Las Vegas. Members have given out a total of 120,000 of them in this city alone. The successful distribution of Father's autobiography is the foundation for witnessing victory. Las Vegas is where the Won Mo boat was unveiled, and where Hyung Jin nim and Yeon-ah nim blessed James Moon and Yoko Yamasaki in a special wedding celebration. It is where Jack Young picked up 4,000 books to distribute and just happened to meet International President Hyung Jin Moon and his wife Yeon-ah nim in a K-Mart Parking lot.
Hope Igarashi speaks with Las Vegas church guests at the Rave Theater in Las Vegas.
Joseph Kesrawani, fifty, who taught at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas for seventeen years, is one of the first members to join as a result of the book campaign. He explained, "Two weeks after receiving a copy of Father's autobiography at a Mexican supermarket, I met Sue Burghardt in Chinatown. Sue gave me my first lectures on Divine Principle in her home. Then I attended three Original Substance of Divine Principle workshops in New Jersey, Chicago and at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. There, Rev. Berg greeted me, saying 'welcome home.'"
Pastor Demian and Rev. Berg are constantly thinking about witnessing results and are laying the groundwork to fulfill the goal of each person finding twelve spiritual children by Foundation Day. Las Vegas is the place to do it. Preparations are underway for each of the twelve districts in the United States to send a witnessing team for a week. They will be staying eight days, so that they can attend our Rave Theater Sunday broadcast twice. The focus in witnessing now is to "bring a friend to church."
The second push to fill Rave Theater, on Mother's Day, May 13, brought in eighty guests and eighty members as the audience. Hope Igarashi and Takako Brown organized most of the post-service entertainment next door at a theme restaurant called Ranch House Kitchen. Mothers received fresh flowers, and many door prizes were given -- including one for the grandma with the greatest number of children, which was seventeen. The Angels Chinese Choir performed and received Ambassador for Peace Certificates. Four war veterans in attendance received gifts, and one Vietnam War veteran, Rev. Rand Marshall of Yours Truly Ministries, received a medal from UPF and was appointed an ambassador for peace.
Sitting in the Ranch House Kitchen after a very successful event, Pastor Demian summed it all up, "It's not about bringing someone to a perfect church, it's about bringing someone to build a perfect world."