by Robert Brown

In 1990 the church held a computer generated placement of where members should go for 40 days. These were larger cities all over the world. I was selected to go to Coimbatore, India, deep down in the southern part of India. I was excited to go and quickly made my preparations. At that time my wife, Penny, and I were co-commanders of the New York Church MFT under Rev. Sudo. Penny had given birth to our daughter, Mira, about a month before this on September 18, 1990. My family would be well taken care of in the MFT center surrounded by our young brothers and sisters.

The church was not paying for this mission, but rather it was a world level offering from brothers and sisters. I did not use the MFT money, but rather went out with puppets to make the money for the trip. Many brothers and sisters went to places where there was already a church center or missionaries working there. They would go and help them in their witnessing and activities. There was no church presence or missionaries anywhere near Coimbatore, which was fine. There was one other brother assigned to Coimbatore, Michael Collucio, who was working in the New Jersey fish business. I went to New Jersey to meet Mike before I left so we could arrange to meet each other in Coimbatore. I was going a week before Mike so it was crucial that we coordinated our plans. There would be no way to reach him by phone or any other way if he missed his flight or if I wasn’t there to greet him. I would only be going for 30 days as I had to be back by mid-November to plan the Thanksgiving campaign for the MFT so Mike would be there two weeks after I left.

This was during the first Iraq war and I had to fly through the Middle East to get to India. I flew from New York to Saudi Arabia, then to Arab Emeritus and then to Bombay, India (now called Mumbai). At each airport everyone had to get off the plane whether or not they were continuing on in the same plane to a new destination. I could have also taken a plane from Bombay to Coimbatore but chose instead to take a train so I could see the country.

One of the first persons I met in Bombay was a man who had no hands but was holding a bucket by his arms to beg for money. I gave him a dollar, but one man scolded me, saying his mom probably cut off his hands so he could beg better. I still would have given him the dollar, but he was the only beggar I gave to during the trip.

Our church travel agency that worked in the New Yorker had planned which hotels I would stay in, in both Bombay and Coimbatore. In India the taxis are small three wheeled vehicles called auto-rickshaws. So I took one to my hotel, a small place that had a sign on the outside that said air conditioning, which would be welcomed. I saw some restaurants on the way and decided to walk there. That could have been a problem as I passed many very poor people some sleeping under trucks even though it had recently rained. I walked fast in the darkening evening and didn’t talk to anyone. I felt many people watching me. When I got where the restaurants were I walked around looking at the choices. A small girl came and grabbed my hand and walked around with me. I felt that she was working for someone and that if I went with her I could end up mugged in some alley. So I said nothing to her and gave her nothing.

Later in the hotel I found the air conditioning was a very noisy fan so I had a choice, try to sleep with that racket or turn it off and swelter. I turned it off.

In the morning I walked to the Victoria train station and asked about the trip to Coimbatore. They asked if I was paying in American dollars or Indian Rupees. I said dollars and they said it would be $10 for the 35 hour trip in a third-class sleeper car. Wow! Only $10 dollars. I would travel with regular Indian citizens, which I much preferred rather than first class. I saw American tourists who treated the Indians like they were their servants making them carry their golf bags and being very rude. No wonder many people around the world have problems with Americans. They meet the rich and arrogant, or people working for multi-national corporations or they see our movies. They rarely meet the not-rich regular Americans.

I made friends with several families on the train trip down. They told me no Indians could just walk into the train station and buy a ticket to leave right away. They had to reserve a month in advance. In the bathroom you had a choice, use the hole in the ground like the Indians do or use the western style toilet, that didn’t happen to be bolted down so it kind of floated around the room while you were on it. The train stopped at many small towns along the way. At each stop villagers would come on to train to sell tea or Nescafé or fruit, or some women came on holding their baby while begging. They would take the train to the next stop and then come back on a train going the opposite way. They were not charged and this is how they made their living.

My friends woke me up about 4 in the morning and told me this was my stop, Coimbatore. I found an auto-rickshaw to go to my new hotel. He didn’t speak English but showed the name of the hotel I had on a paper to others until they told him which one it was.

Coimbatore is much safer than Bombay with a population of about a million and not at all a tourist destination. The hotel was not large but had marble floors and arched doorways. It cost $10 a night. Again, only $10! A Coke-cola plant was across the street and they supplied the bottled water to the hotel that I bought each day. You, of course, never drink the water or buy these “soft drinks” people sell on the street that they make in their homes.

In Coimbatore I went to a local university and in the library researched Hinduism so I could write up an approach sheet. I found the sayings of one ancient Vedic saint and wrote down his words, then along with True Father’s words made up a pamphlet. As I was coming out of the University a young man of 16, Shanta Kumar, asked me if I had any foreign coins. So I gave him whatever I had and asked if I could meet his family. We went down a dirt road behind the University and came to a small village. His home was a one room home with a cement floor. Built into the floor were two looms that the parents made saris on. Although I am not a tall American when I am with the average Indians I stand above them all. His parents did not speak any English. His father had given away his oldest son, Rajendren, to his elder brother who did not have any sons. I met Rajendren and he had a group of boys he was teaching karate too in a park. I went with Rajendren and met his class.

Robert Brown and Michael Colucio in Coimbatore, India 1990

One evening while at my hotel I heard a procession outside and asked the hotel clerk what was happening. They said it was a wedding procession. So I joined the procession. The group went to a home where the groom was sitting under a banyan tree “contemplating whether to go the way of a Hindu monk or the way of the world and get married.” He decided to go with the group and they held an umbrella over his head as they made their way to a hall. In the hall the bride and her family were waiting. This is the first time the husband and wife met each other. The Hindu priest brought the couple together and burned some incense and performed the engagement ceremony. The next day would be the wedding which I also attended. People crowded around me because I was the only other person who had a camera, besides the official photographer. With this group I made my second group of contacts, young college educated, the new India as they called themselves.

This group of young men had a computer horoscope company where they gave a customer a detailed astrological printout of their horoscope based on the day and time they were born. They had a shop on the second floor of a small office building. Murali was my main contact, a Hindu young man plus there were two other Hindus. Sam was a Christian and there was a Muslim man also. These guys were all in their twenties. With their computers and printers they helped me make and print the pamphlet that talked about True Parents with the Hindu saints words to enhance the approach.

By the time Michael Colucio joined me there were 19 young men who were eager to hear the Principle. On the day he was to arrive, Murali and one of his friends drove two small motorcycles with me on the back of one to the airport. So Michael and I were given rides on the motorcycles to our hotel. We began giving lectures on Sundays, as that was the day the young men were off work or school. They had a white board in the Astro Computer shop so Mike and I began giving Divine Principle lectures to Murali, his friends, Shanta Kumar and Rajendren and some of his karate students over also.

Michael and I went to another University to witness and first met with the Vice President to get permission. He had seen Father at Yankee Stadium and so we were welcomed to meet students. One student we met, Kumar, came from a mountain village, Manjoor, and he invited us to come with him to the village. His father was the village chief. It took us four and a half hours on several buses to get to the village.  This village at an elevation over a mile high was isolated from the rest of India and had its own religion worshiping the sun, moon and the water buffalo. Word got around that these two Americans were visiting their village so in the evening the house was crowded with people coming to meet us. We were invited to come to two different schools the next day, one all girls elementary school and one mixed boys and girls. So when we arrived they had all the students sit on the grass and we talked about Father as a modern day saint who had a vision to unite all religions. After each talk the kids crowded around us pushing scrapes of paper at us to get our autographs. The teachers would push them back and whack them with rulers. In Manjoor we were both given a lungi (the loose pants that workers roll up to make shorts when working) in the mountain village.

Back in Coimbatore after teaching all the Divine Principle we made up membership forms for the church on Murali’s computers and 19 young men signed membership. So Michael and I went to a sign shop and had them make up a Unification Church sign, founded in 1990 and presented this sign to the group. They were uncomfortable with it being a church as they were wary of Hindu fanaticism so we changed the sign to Unification Center. After I left India, Michael went back to the mountain village and spoke in four more schools. He had another sign made up for one building in the village, as another Unification Center.

I saw a lot of extreme poverty in India, beggars who had leprosy or polio, some severely deformed. In Bombay I saw miles of black tarps where untouchable families lived under these tarps. But we met some very good people. The food in southern India is very spicy and that got to me after a while, so I went to a clinic and had the doctor write up a note that I could give to cooks at restaurants to limit the spices. But we never got sick the whole time. We went on the back of motorcycles and visited these thousand year old Hindu temples. Michael and I were blessed with the tikka (the dot made with cow dung) on our forehead by a Hindu priest.

On the way back to the U.S. I was flying through London so I changed my plans to allow one day in London. While there I went to the Lancaster Gate Church. It turned out to be Children’s Day so a lot of people were there and they asked me to give testimony about my experience in India. The IW for Asia happened to be in the audience and asked for all our contact information for our new friends in India. India had always been a most difficult place to witness so he was excited that we made such a break through. He later flew down to Coimbatore and met our young men. Murali and two others later were flown up to Delhi and they attended a 40 day workshop.

This experience is definite proof of spirit world and spiritual assistance. I wish the church had continued with giving us a new country to go to each year as they had originally announced would happen. Nothing makes you feel like a world citizen better than these experiences in other countries.