The Words of the Marianov Family
To some, the internet is an alien environment. They can't move around in it, can't find what they're looking for and can't understand the language. Such a person, when online, feels like a 4NR.
Most of us are perfectly at home online. It's our library, our auditorium, our in-home entertainment center. We use it in our mission and in our work. After hours, we may use it to escape from the "real" world, losing ourselves in role-playing games or in the lives of our favorite celebrities. On the other hand, we may join the crowd on social networking sites, sharing photos and communicating with friends through cyberspace.
A rare few have been able to wrest control in their relationship to the online world. For them, the internet is not a means of passively engaging with or of escaping from the real world; it's a means of asserting influence over it. Mr. Yulian Marianov is one such person.
Mr. Marianov admits that our movement has not yet developed enough witnessing-oriented web sites, but he says, "I'm confident we can educate and change the world through the internet." At forty years old, Yulian Marianov lives with his Slovakian wife Lenka and four sons in the Bulgarian town of Burgas, on the Black Sea coast, 340 km from Sofia, the nation's capital. He's a 2001 UTS graduate who did his thesis on "Helping the New Tradition of Marriage Be Established: Unification Family Therapy."
Mr. Yanko Kirkov, a fellow Bulgarian and long-time missionary to Russia said of Yulian, "He is a capable brother both in terms of Divine Principle knowledge and internet communication."
Those capabilities made it possible for Yulian to fight back against those who vilify our faith online in the Bulgarian language. "For the last three years," Mr. Kirkov continued, "he always fought back any negativity with objective and clear arguments. As a result, negativity actually stopped and many people can still read both sides' ideas.'-"
Yulian felt a strong desire to do online outreach six years ago and asked someone to teach him how he could do this. At the time, Yulian decided it was all too complicated. Three years later, though, creating a web site, setting up and running a blog, posting photos and videos and holding online exchanges with visitors had become much easier. When Yanko Kirkov mentions Yulian's internet knowledge, he emphasized "communication." Any member who is motivated enough to study a bit should be able to understand the basic computer science, the technical knowledge, involved in what Yulian is doing. Yulian's gift appears to be his shrewd understanding of what moves people who search the internet.
He has achieved success using his deep knowledge of online reader behavior. He knows what they're searching for. "For example," he says, "family values and moral issues are not as popular as prophecies. People do not search about spiritual things, but once they come and see attractive topics, they do have inborn curiosity and interest in these areas." Half the people that come to his sites are reading articles about Father being the Messiah, but Yulian has written those articles in a way that first piques readers' interest. "Nostradamus Prophesied about Moon," "The Letters of Fatima Reveal Who the Messiah Is" and "What the Book of Enoch Says about the Last Days" are some of his most frequently read articles. He also writes about what Korean and Russian prophets have said and compares their predictions with True Father's life. He believes this helps readers "compare what prophets say about a messianic figure with what Rev. Moon is doing. It's the most interesting way to show his objectives for transforming the world and bringing world peace."
Yulian values each visitor and doesn't want to lose even one. He believes he has ten seconds in which to make a good initial impression. "If I haven't made obvious, attractive and easy to follow links," he says, "he's gone." If a reader comes through an internet search, they will arrive at an article perhaps deep inside the web site. Alongside the article, the reader will see links to articles Yulian has written most recently depicted by a small thumbnail-sized illustration and a provocative or tantalizing title. At the bottom of the article will be two or three links of that type to more articles on a similar topic. He hopes readers will be endlessly inspired. He boldly states that a visitor should be able to remain on his interlinked web sites reading until he or she "is educated with the same view as our members." Apparently, this has happened. On the iunificationist.net site, Yulian writes about a woman whose first e-mail contact with him includes, ""I want to join and support the Family Federation. I feel ashamed that previously I didn't know what great things Rev. Moon is doing."
He also thinks about the long-term effect of his work. "To achieve a witnessing effect, I make sure that whatever people read, they understand it is connected to us, and represents our views. Only in this way, will they start to understand who we are, what we think and what values we represent. Conscientious people will be inspired and develop a positive image about us."
Also on the iunificationist.net site Yulian describes the traffic for one day on only one of his thirty blogs. A hundred and forty people were visiting the blog at the moment he checked the statistics. The day was not finished, and he had had 1,417 unique visitors. (If a site is interesting, a person may visit the site four or five times in a day, but "unique visitors" counts that person only once.) On a social networking site (such as Facebook) people vote for what internet material they like and an article by Yulian had the most votes and was drawing people from all over Bulgaria, from 286 towns and villages, in fact. When he began blogging, people wouldn't vote for Yulian's article because prejudice toward our members was very strong. It is a sign of Yulian's effectiveness that his internet outreach has turned this situation around. On his own Facebook page, he says his unique visitors are reaching thirty thousand a month and peak readers at a given moment reaches two to three hundred at times.
He created a new web site and in three days had had 3,430 visits. Elsewhere he has said that 80 percent of the key words related to True Parents will turn up an article by him in the first two pages of results.
It's fair to say however, that Mr. Marianov has become such a big fish because he operates in a rather small pond. Bulgaria has a population of 7.6 million, the ninety-third most populous country in the world. Worldwide, 9,097,220 people speak the Bulgarian language. Mr. Marianov appreciates this. He realizes that changing the perception of our church among the 328,518,810 Spanish speakers, the 328,008,138 English speakers or even the 67,838,450 French speakers of the world will be neither easy nor simple. Many more bloggers who share Yulian Marianov's wisdom and dedication are needed. Toward that end, he is now teaching a five-week course through the iunificationist.net online school.
Another asset that Bulgaria has is its own prophetess, Vangelia Pandeva Gusterova, who unlike Nostradamus, did not die in 1566. She lived until August 1996 and Bulgarians and others are still remarkably curious about what she predicted. According to Pravda, the Russian newspapers, she is best remembered for a 1980 predication. "The Blind old woman said, 'At the turn of the century, in August of 1999 or 2000, Kursk will be covered with water, and the whole world will be weeping over it. -- Kursk, a city south-southwest of Moscow is far from any large body of water. It did not seem reasonable. Yet, twenty years later, the Russian submarine Kursk, which didn't even exist until 1994, sank on August 12, 2000. Ninety- five men died immediately and the world stood transfixed as Norwegian and British ship crews tried to rescue the twenty- three men still living, trapped in a vessel that lay a hundred and twenty meters beneath the surface of the Barents Sea. The attempts were unsuccessful; all aboard were lost. Baba Vanga, as she is sometimes called, is certainly one reason that "prophecy" is a major area of interest in the Bulgarian language.
Nevertheless, all nations have particular assets and require a particular approach. What's most important, and what God seems to be demonstrating for all of us through the Bulgarian model, is the tremendous synergy that results from the power of the internet in the hands of a dedicated members who understand how to utilize it to bring about a witnessing effect.