The Words of the Acevedo Family

A Blessed Couple's Ministry

Marina Acevedo
August 2010

My husband, John Jairo Acevedo, was born in Medellin, Colombia in 1960, the fifth of six children. His parents separated when he was only two years old. His mother suffered many financial difficulties, and John was eventually taken in by a Salesian Brothers' orphanage, which is a Catholic institution for poor children. He was able to visit his family only on weekends. He prepared to become a priest but was rejected because of his broken family.

I was born in 1962, the sixth of seven children. My father died when I was four years old. My mother worked hard, day and night, to send us to college. I graduated college when I was twenty years old and had my MBA four years later. I was a devout Catholic and president of the Legion of Mary for many years.

The Salesians sent John to Canada as an exchange student; there he met an Unificationist brother giving lectures on a busy street in Toronto. He received an answer to a fundamental question he had: If I have received a call from God, why can't I marry?

Through hearing the presentation on the three great blessings, he felt hope, but his stay in Canada came to an end and he returned to Colombia. There, while cleaning his front yard four years later, a man approached John, offered to help him and then invited John and his partner to a Divine Principle workshop. They went through the workshop together and he accepted True Parents, but she did not. Thus, he joined the church as a single father while working as the academic director of a learning institute.

His family was shocked when he left his job and become a full-time church member. He was the CARP leader in Bogota while his son, John Christian, stayed with his grandmother. That was 1987.

Three years earlier, I had met the church in the Philippines while I was a college professor at the Technological Institute of the Philippines. I was invited to become a CARP advisor. I joined PWPA and PARP. I gained many spiritual children without witnessing because my students liked me and joined CARP.

In 1992 True Parents matched John and me by picture. We have so much in common. I went to Korea and John took part in the Blessing Ceremony by satellite in Brazil. We first met when John came to the Philippines in 1994, and we felt as if we had known each other for years. We had a civil and Catholic wedding and John won the heart of everyone in my family.

I gave up my job and my country and left behind an unfinished dissertation for a PhD I'd been pursuing, and I followed John back to Colombia.

Our early mission life

In October 1994, we started our family in Colombia. Our mission was to revive three inactive members in Medellin, John's hometown, and to start a church there.

It was my first public mission and it was tough. I never imagined myself a missionary nor a church leader. The first three years we faced persecution and financial difficulties, while I faced cultural shock. Our love for each other and our faith in God and True Parents was our strength. We succeeded in our hometown.

My sister Rhia Nkulu sent items from Chicago that we needed for a store we had started. Once business picked up, it supported us, and the mission. We were always financially independent of the church, and we were able to buy our own house.

By serving John's family members, who had been skeptical about the church, we were able to win their hearts. Our first spiritual daughter in Colombia was John's mother. Winning my mother-in-law's heart was the best witnessing testimony because John's brothers and sisters followed her into the church.

After three years, John found his father, grandmother and aunt for the first time since his parents' separation thirty-four years earlier. We worked very hard to reunite the family and for them to forgive each other. Thanks to John's elder brother Dario, who was always on our side, we succeeded in restoring and blessing the whole Acevedo -- Suarez clan. Dario was a Jehovah's Witness for twenty years. Now he is blessed and an active member of the Unification Church in Bogota. Our tribal messiahship was established.

Japanese missionaries came and stayed with us for more than two years. We worked day and night with them, reaching prominent people in the government and private sector. Those missionaries and local members giving holy wine on the street to preserve marriages and families got the media's attention; we were interviewed on TV and appeared on the news. We made a positive impression on the city with lectures about HIV avoidance, a True Love Campaign and Divine Principle and Family Values conferences.

After the Japanese missionaries left, with the help of other members, we rented a farm that we used for weekend workshops. We also developed the fishing hobby industry. With the dedication they'd seen in our Japanese missionaries and local members alike, a new breed of member appeared. We raised thirty spiritual children. The societal foundations of faith and substance were established.

John was appointed a vice-president of the Family Federation. He stayed in Bogota, while I was in Medellin by myself with the mission; we could only see each other every forty days.

Coming to America

In February 2002, we migrated to the United States with the hope of studying at the Unification Theological Seminary. Being students, we were not permitted to work. It was difficult with a family to care for. John enrolled in the UTS online program, and for more than three years we lived with my sister Rhia and her husband Noel Nkulu in Chicago.

We were broke. We were not authorized to work, and we had a mortgage to pay in Colombia and our son was in school. Once again, we just put our faith to God and True Parents. We had come as religious workers, so we did what we were supposed to do. We began by visiting churches within walking distance. We gave holy wine to all the pastors and people we met. Encouragement came from the Chicago Family Church under the leadership of Bishop Kim Ki-hoon. Bishop Kim's commitment to his community inspired us.

From March to June 2002, we lived and worked hard with four Japanese missionaries in my sister's small house. We worked with Chicago-area blessed families. Members would call us to their homes to help with their Hispanic guests. When we held the first Hispanic ACLC pastor's prayer breakfast that March, Rev. Reiner Vincenz invited Dr. Antonio Betancourt as a guest speaker. We were also giving Divine Principle classes at the Nkulu's residence.

How we started our small groups

In April 2002, we were introduced to Santiago and Antonia Torres. We started meeting them every Friday, and friends and families started joining us. For three years, we met at their house or business. The Torreses are great cooks and always made delicious food. For the past five years, we've been meeting at our house every Friday -- rain or shine, tornadoes or snowstorms. One woman, with five children, drives two hours each way to attend. We are teaching them God-centered values, so they have learned to love God and True Parents.

At some point, we introduced potluck dinners, singing holy songs, and sharing some spiritual experiences from the week, and we introduced the Divine Principle. That's how the Hispanic small group started.

Using the same formula, we started our Sunday group after being introduced to Mr. Rosendo Burciaga, a political leader from Mexico who later became a National Crown of Peace Award recipient.

The Saturday group formed where we met Adolfo and Karina Cos. They immediately called us their "pastors." They left their Christian church. Family and friends mocked and persecuted them but their love for God and True Parents prevailed. We call this the Guatemalan small group. The small groups got stronger when we started working with the Ambassadors for Peace of Illinois, with Rev. David Rendel.

We connected our Hispanic contacts with ambassadors for peace and were able to hold three events, each with more than three hundred guests.

Through the small-group members we met many great people who became ambassadors for peace, especially in Elgin. With all the ambassadors for peace and their children, we did two community service projects, cleaning a school and a church property.

A practical foundation

In October 2004, we received our U.S. permanent resident cards, authorizing us to work and in May of the following year we both began working in the field of behavioral health.

John started working at night, 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM, as a mental health counselor, I worked 6:00 AM-4:00 PM as a case manager. We only saw each other in the afternoons but that never stopped our mission. We continued visiting homes and meeting our group from 7:00-10:00 PM. In spite of a lack of sleep, my husband never complained. We attended church services and activities and did our mission daily. After three years with that schedule, our prayers were answered and he was changed to the morning shift.

Our daily activities started at 5:00 am prayer and Hoon Dok Hae; work including the commute took ten hours; we did eight hours of witnessing and listening to people's problem every day and had six hours for rest or sleep. In October 2005, we bought a house; it was our dream to have a permanent place to welcome guests and members.

Our outreach project

Generally, people who come to us have been referred by their friends or relatives. Some of them are looking for spiritual growth; some have financial or marital problems. We focus on saving marriages and preventing divorce. So far, we've reconciled over forty couples.

We give free counseling every day. We always follow our hearts and our leader with our own initiative. We are giving the blessing on all occasions and at every opportunity. We carry the holy wine every day.

We have many testimonies about the power of the holy wine. One member asked us to give holy wine to their guest, who had come from St. Louis. We did bless the entire family and introduced our church to them. The wife cried and afterward asked if we could give her a small amount of the holy wine for her to give to her dying brother-in-law in Texas who was suffering from liver disease. We gave her the holy wine and she went to Texas and gave him the wine. He pulled through and he is still alive today, three years later. This motivated her aunt to join our Middle East Peace Initiative. They are all Christians but they respect True Parents. Educating people in the Divine Principle is always our priority. We do it every day because we are happy to save marriages and we want to make God and True Parents happy.

Our current after-work schedule

Monday is research day; we study about marriage, family and God. Tuesdays John gives guitar lessons to members and some young people in the area. Wednesday is an advanced Divine Principle class for our group leaders. Thursday, by appointment, is our financial or marital counseling day. Friday from 6:00 -- 7:00 we teach a beginning Divine Principle class; 7:00-10:00 we have fellowship for new guests and members.

John has only two weekends off per month, on one of which we hold a Spanish Sunday service at the church in Chicago.

He and I always preach and sing together. After the service, we have a potluck party and a monthly birthday celebration. On Saturdays, we hold a workshop for parents and their adolescent children.

Weekday evenings we visit members who've invited us to their homes. Every Friday I pre- pare dinner for thirty to forty people who come to our house regularly on weekends.

The whole day while waiting for my husband to come home, I'm answering e-mails and returning telephone calls. We also do telephone counseling of people from other states. We still find some time to play with our two grandchildren, JJ and Sandra.

How people have responded

Last summer we held three family workshops at Camp Kohoe for a total of a hundred and twenty families. This summer we have two family workshops scheduled.

Last year was very fruitful. We brought thirty-eight new members and three of our members participated in the Blessing Ceremony. We gave holy wine to almost five hundred families. We have some great members who come to all our events including some three-generation families, with all the grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews.

We had an excellent start in 2010; my eleven-year-old niece designed a web site for our group at We also registered our group, the Chicago Hispanic Community for Peace, as a nonprofit organization.

All of our group leaders have put a prayer room in their homes and True Parents pictures all over their houses. They imitate us and their prayer rooms are even bigger than ours. Everybody is sharing experiences of feeling closer to God and True Parents after dedicating a room in their homes for prayer.

At the beginning of the year, we did a forty-day condition to install True Parents' picture in the living room or family room of forty homes. We told people, "True Parents will bring you good luck if you believe it." Many of them had spiritual experiences. People that had never met nor heard of True Parents had dreams in which their ancestors told them an Oriental man was coming to their home and they should welcome him. Some had dreams of deceased relatives who told them, "I put the picture there to remind you of me."

For people who have known us for a while, we have a ceremony. Many people, whenever they have spiritual problems or financial problems, they call us. And we say, "Why don't we pray? We are representing Rev. Moon. Even if you don't believe in him, because he is sent by God, we are here to bless your home with holy salt. We bless their home and we say, "In order to welcome the good spirits, we have a special gift for you." We read to them the part of Cheon Seong Gyeong explaining the value of True Parents' picture and what happened in the time of Moses. We tell them, "This is True Parents' picture. It will protect your home forever."

It became easy when many of them asked for more pictures to give to their other relatives. Because of the nature of the response, we started another condition, this time aiming for a hundred and twenty homes. We have found eighty families so far.

In June the church instructed us to distribute four hundred and thirty copies of True Father's autobiography. One of our members, Sahara Torres, has purchased that number and has distributed more than a hundred books. We started in June and we are now at 113 books.

In all these years that we been working for God and True Parents, we have kept in mind that as a member we must not think of what we can get from our church. We think of how we can bring joy to God and True Parents and what can we do for our church.

We have also always been blessed with great, supportive leaders and great mentors. Our grateful hearts toward God and True Parents push us to work harder, and understanding our mission in the Pacific era, we feel blessed and happy as tribal messiahs and we want to share all this happiness with everyone. 

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