by Joe Kinney
Stories from my years with True Family
Belvedere 1973, East Garden 1974 to 1978, Korea 1978 to 1981
I was very fortunate to spend most of my first five years in the church close to True Parents. I saw Father for the first time at 10:00 am on March 1st, 1973, at the beginning of the 1st 100 day training session at Belvedere. Father spoke to us at least a dozen times during the first 40 days. After those 40 days I prepared the two buses for the Day of Hope Tours and then was a bus driver on the IOWC (International One World Crusade) from July 1973 to July 1974.
I was the maintenance man at East Garden from June 1974 until Feb 1978, and was the only male staff member to live in the same house with True Parents. Beyond just the physical proximity to True Parents, I had a determination to break through and be a real person around them, to joke with them and argue with True Parents when I thought I was right. I’m also sure that True Parents scolded me more than any other staff member during the time I was at East Garden. This made our relationship real and personal, as it remains till this day.
Much of our impression of people, both public and private, comes not from the big things they did, but rather from the small personal things. I hope that a different and personal aspect of True Parents’ character is revealed through these anecdotes, which are a great privilege to share with you.
There is another dimension to these stories. To truly know a person you have to see how they treat someone with no position, no special value. There are news articles about candidates for important positions being evaluated by how they treat their waiter. I had no degree, no certificates, no money, power or position. I wasn’t even qualified to be the maintenance man. I was replaceable, even disposable.
So how did True Parents treat me? They treated me as a parent would their child. My main motivation in writing these is to try to share a taste of this love from True Parents.
Some of the staff I worked with then are still at East Garden after more than 30 years. The stories they have must be much better than mine. I hope that someday, they too will share them with our members.
Some of these anecdotes are specific because I kept a journal at that time where I recorded these events as they happened. I referred to this journal when writing these stories.
My dreams and premonitions before I was called to East Garden
Between attending the first 100-day training session at Belvedere and joining East Garden Staff, I was on the IOWC for one year. The team was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in June of 1974. I started to have dreams of East Garden every night. I saw the Main House clearly and the green Jeep Wagoneer that I would be driving there. I knew with absolute certainty that I would soon be called to East Garden (which we had recently bought and that I had never seen except in my dreams). I would tell everyone I saw over and over again “I’m going to East Garden, I’m going to East Garden!” I might as well have said I was going to Mars. They thought I was crazy.
By an amazing coincidence, Mr. Cordill, the team leader had ordered me to bring the big green bus back to Belvedere because it was in such bad condition. It was backed up, fueled up, and ready to go the next morning when the call came that I should go to East Garden. I was already on my way!
First direct give and take with Father, cutting the grass in May 1973
The first direct give and take I ever had with True Father was after pledge service on Mother’s day, May 13th of 1973. After pledge, we sang songs for Mother and then we had a short question and answer session with Father. Bobby Wilson, who was responsible for maintaining Belvedere, had just bought a new riding lawnmower. I was asked to bring the machine up to the lawn near Holy Rock to begin cutting the grass. Father decided he wanted to try out this new-fangled contraption and since I was available, I spent the rest of the morning. Six times I had to help with some minor problem with the mower while Father waited patiently.
I was impressed that Father had a child-like curiosity and a desire to experience everything.
Daikon took the first picture I ever got with True Father that day.
Meeting True Parents on the way to leaders’ meeting and getting them to tour the buses
In 1973 at Belvedere I was responsible for preparing the two buses for the Day of Hope tours. On June 15th, 1973, when one of the buses was completed, I was so proud and wanted to show it to Father. At that time Father lived at Belvedere and there was no security. It so happened that on that day there was a conference of all the national and international leaders taking place at the training center. I saw Father and Mother heading down the hill from main house on the way to address the leaders’ conference. The members rose and were singing to welcome Them. I dashed up to True Parents in my greasy coveralls begging “Father please come see the bus!” Mother looked so young at the time, much less that her 30 years. I nearly mistook her for lady Doctor Kim’s daughter who was living in the area at that time. I reached out and almost grabbed her hand to pull her down to the buses. I caught myself just before I made that mistake. Father responded that all the leaders were waiting. I countered that it would only take a minute…. So with the entire senior leadership of the national and world movement singing, Father and Mother took time to look at the bus.
25 years later I met Parents at the New Yorker and asked them to look at the boiler plant we installed. Father responded that there was no time. I countered that it wouldn’t take more than five minutes. True Parents took the elevator down to more than 50 feet below the sidewalk and enjoyed the tour of the boiler plant.
From these and other encounters with True Father, I learned that He can be persuaded by enthusiasm and sincere heart. San Kil (Col.) Han once told me that the thing Father liked most about me was my enthusiasm.
Looking like I was tarred and feathered
In May and June of 1973 I was working in a spot behind Belvedere training center to prepare the two green and white buses for the Day of Hope tours. I wore a dark blue one-piece coverall and was often working under the bus on the ground. Well, these coveralls were frequently covered with grease and the grass was dry and yellow like hay. The grass stuck to the grease and made me look like I had feathers. So True Parents walk by and I scamper out from under the bus looking like a chicken and give them a formal bow. It was so hilarious. I can’t believe that they didn’t fall down laughing.
Setting the first digital watch Father received: Asking what time it was the next day
In perhaps 1975, someone gave Father a gold Pulsar digital watch with a red LED display. As far as I know this was one of the first types of digital watches made. It wasn’t set, so it was brought to me to set the time. I had never seen a digital watch before. I thought I figured out how to set the time by pushing the little buttons with the tip of a ball point pen, but wasn’t 100% sure. I brought the watch up to Father in the dining room. Father put it on His wrist with hardly a word. I was worried that I had set the day and month for the hour and minute or something, but there was no chance to express my doubts to Father.
The following day I met father in the living room, just the two of us passing on the way to someplace else. I pointed at my wrist and mumbled “is the watch ok” in a voice too low to be heard. Father thought I was asking Him for the time; said “It’s two thirty” and continued walking.
I can never say that the messiah wouldn’t give me the time of day.
First time on the ocean, getting seasick, and Father’s Laughter
July 3rd, 1974. I’d only been at East Garden for a short while. Father’s fishing providence was beginning. He was taking leaders out fishing and often staff was invited. I was called to the limo just as Father was leaving and Father lowered his window and asked me in English “Are you strong for sea? Are you strong for sea?” Father wanted to know if I got seasick or not. I told Father I had never been seasick. I didn’t tell Him that I had never been on the ocean.
The Flying Phoenix, a 25 foot fiberglass boat with two Mercuiser inboard/outboards was berthed on Long Island. Father, Daikon, Allan Hokanson and I were on the small boat. It was an informal environment; there was no “head” on the boat. When it was restroom time we had a coffee can that was emptied over the side. The bait was a can of worms dug from leaf piles at East Garden.
As we skimmed over the waves on the way to our fishing spot, I was confident that I wouldn’t have a problem with seasickness. In fact if we had kept skimming along I probably wouldn’t have……, but then we stopped. And the waves rocked the boat, and the waves rocked the boat, and the waves rocked the boat. Fishing, the Messiah, God and the desire to live all slowly disappeared from my consciousness. My only thought became keeping my last several meals down.
Then Father turned and asked for the can with the bait. I was closest so I picked it up and almost gave the bait to Father when I lost it. I dropped the can to the deck, wheeled around and heaved everything I had eaten in the last week over the side. Of course since I had been in the process of trying to hand father the bait, He saw everything. Father laughed at me and said “Good training! good training!” The rest of the trip I was totally useless and resembled a puddle of green puke.
Next time I took Dramamine.
Mother spanking Father, and “forcing” Him to have midnight cocoa
July 28th, 1974
When I started at East Garden there was no security. I was the ‘night watchman’, staying up overnight in the main house kitchen. Father was going out fishing every day. He slept so little that He would return from fishing and go out again while I was still on duty. He would often be home for only two to four hours. Father’s health was suffering terribly from this schedule. Father looked like He had the flu, His face was puffy, His nose was running and He looked tired to the bone.
One time when Father was at the front door preparing to get into the car to go out again, Mother gave him a spank on the butt, grabbed His arm, and drug Him into the kitchen. She ordered the kitchen sister to prepare hot cocoa, and then Mother stood brooding over Father like an angry but loving mother hen until He finished the last drop of cocoa. Father sat there sheepishly sipping the cocoa looking completely subjugated by His loving wife.
I learned from seeing this that the relationship between True Parents was so natural and healthy; normal in the true sense of the word. Mother wasn’t just doing full bows and proclaiming absolute obedience. She was a True creative stimulating object, who could take the Loving Subject position.
Father buys me a suit, never gives up, only the most expensive one fits
In 1974, shortly after I joined East Garden staff, Father decided to buy clothes for several members. We went to White Plains and quickly bought dresses for the sisters who then returned home in a separate car. Then it was just the two brothers, Michael Trulson and me. First of all, generally True Parents were very thrifty. Practically all the furnishings for East Garden and Belvedere were bought at clearance centers of the big department stores. Likewise, Father’s intent was to buy us nice suits at a bargain price.
However, Mike and I were both hard to fit. Mike was tall and skinny and I was short and skinny. We tried two major department stores and came up empty handed, but Father had set a goal and was not going to give up. We ended up at a classy men’s clothing store and Mike quickly found a suit to fit, but as luck would have it, the only suit in the store that fit me was also one of the most expensive.
It was a Hart Shaffner Marx Silver Trumpeter for $275.00 (probably worth $700.00 today). Father wasn’t happy about this, but he had determined. He swallowed hard and paid for the suit. In the car on the way home Daikon translated that Father said this was the most expensive suit he ever bought anyone. It’s still in my closet today, ready for the museum.
Even in the most mundane things Father maintains the absolute standard, so once he determined to buy us suits, He couldn’t give up until he accomplished the goal.
Father at dawn, one on one
It was around 6:00 am on a beautiful spring morning at East Garden. I was passing by the (old) main house when I saw Father out for an early morning stroll. Father was by himself, no Peter Kim, no Mrs. Choi, no security, nobody but Father. At the time, I needed Father’s permission to use His bus to drive some group and needed an answer from Him right away, but I had never encountered Father alone before.
It might be difficult for the reader to understand, but I just didn’t know how to relate to Father directly. I had always asked through a mediator / translator “Would you please ask Father if I can change the oil on his car, or fix the light switch, or whatever.” Father was about 100 yards away and I approached, not knowing what to do or say.
Should I massacre the pronunciation of the Korean language by trying “Abonim” or “Aboji?” How about Master… Christ… maybe “Your Majesty.” How the heck does a young, single, no-position, maintenance guy address the living Son of God?
It felt too awkward too approach Father head-on, so I walked a ‘J’ shaped approach so I could approach from behind (probably a terrible mistake of Heavenly protocol). I arrived to a spot about three paces behind Father and Father stopped deliberately, waiting to see how I would address Him. I could feel that he understood my uncertainty and awkward situation exactly, and it was my responsibility to address Him.
Finally the word “Father” left my lips. Father turned around and faced me with a beaming smile radiating absolute love. This was a direct spiritual experience with Father. It was a validation that beyond all differences of race, age position, one-on-one, soul-to-soul, Father’s love for me was the absolute manifestation of God’s original love.
That moment, for me, the very definition of the word “Father” changed forever.
Fixing windows and getting candy from Mother’s hand to my mouth twice
True Parents room at the old main house at East Garden had Anderson casement windows, the kind that crank open and closed with the little handle. The wood had swollen from humidity and I was in Parents’ room alone planeing the edges of the windows so that they would open and close smoothly. Mother appeared and I said I would go and come back later but Mother told me to stay and work.
A few minutes later Mother returned with a bag of Korean hard candies. Mother asked if I would like a piece of candy. I said yes and extended my hand to receive it. Mother ignored my hand and proceeded to unwrap the candy and pop the piece right into my mouth. I turned about a hundred different shades of red. Mother enjoyed my embarrassment so much that she unwrapped a second piece and proceeded to put that directly in my mouth as well just to see my reaction.
Punching father to get His attention when His hands were covered with fish slime
One Sunday morning after Father’s speech at Belvedere, a truck arrived from Barrytown with some carp that Father wanted to stock in Belvedere’s pond. As usual, Father wanted to be hands-on directly involved. Father was picking up the carp and putting them into the pond Himself. His hands were covered in the smelly carp slime. It was awful. As Parents headed back towards the training center, Father was holding His hands away from his body looking at them in disgust with no way to clean them.
I had learned to always carry two things when I was around Father: a Swiss Army Knife and a clean handkerchief, because Father needed the knife to tinker with things and the handkerchief to clean his hands afterwards. I called to Father and tried to offer the handkerchief but at this time Father’s security was very new and members were crowding around Him and Mother and jostling them. Dozens of members were shouting, “Father! Father!” I even tapped Father on the shoulder and pushed Him several times, but everyone was jostling Him so he didn’t respond.
It was really important for Father to clean the fish slime off His hands, so finally in desperation I punched Father pretty hard in His right arm. He turned around eyes wide wondering what in the world I was doing punching the messiah. I waved the handkerchief; Father understood, took it cleaned His hands, and returned it to me.
I suppose that if your motivation is right, it even OK to punch True Father.
Big Gerhard dunking me head first in the mud and Father’s laughter when he saw my black face
I’m sure many readers have seen the pond at Belvedere, at least in pictures. This pond was man-made by Dr. Cole, who built Belvedere in the 1920s as the ideal environment for his children. The pond was designed to be filled and drained by opening and closing valves concealed in a pit under a bush on the North East corner of the pond.
Father took an interest in the pond and its maintenance because He wanted to keep some fish in it. So one night after dark, with lights set up and several staff members gathered Father came to participate in this project. We opened the hatch to the pit and being the smallest, I was ‘elected’ to be the one to enter and open the drain valve.
The opening is only about two feet square and the bottom of the pit was gooey mud so I had the ‘brilliant’ idea that ‘Big’ Gerhard Peemoeller could hold me by the ankles and lower me upside-down into the pit. So here I was like a rag doll being lowered head first into this pit, calling “Down….down….more….more… a little bit more…“ and then Gerhard lowered me about two feet, putting my face right into the mud.
I started kicking and yelling “Up! up!” Big Gerhard lifted me out. I was hanging upside-down and my face looked like the old blackface vaudeville comic Al Jolsen. There was Father squatting down about six feet away having a hard belly laugh at this comedy act. It was good to see Father laugh so hard.
Mother calling the basement at 3:00 am asking permission to use the bathroom
We needed to make some plumbing repairs in the basement of East Garden main house that required shutting off the water to the entire building. We had actually consolidated two or three projects into this one shut down. We obtained True Parents’ Permission to do the work from late one night to early the next morning so that we would not disturb activities in the main house.
At about 3:00 am the basement phone rang. It was True Mother’s voice. “Joe, I am so sorry to bother you, but I need to use the toilet now. Can you turn the water on for a few minutes?” It happened that we had just completed one job and not yet broken the connections to start the next so I could turn on the water.
Perhaps ten minutes later the phone rang. It was Mother again “Joe, I’m finished using the toilet now. You can turn the water off again.”
It always amazed me how humble True Parents would be when for some reason they were in the object position to me in regards to some technical work I was doing. Mother was so humble to ask this 20-something maintenance guy permission to use the toilet. I’ll never forget her humility
Mother dragging me by my ear down the 2nd floor hall because my repair to Ye Jin-nim’s tub failed 3 times
Ye Jin-nim’s bedroom was down the hall from Parent’s room in the second floor of the old main house. The grout between the tub and the tile in Ye Jin-nim’s bathroom had begun to crack and fall into the tub, making a mess. Mother showed me this and I scraped out the old grout and replaced it with new grout. I assumed it was fixed. About a week later Mother showed me that the grout had failed again. I bought a better quality grout and fixed it again. A week later, Mother showed me that that too had failed. I bought the super quality grout scraped it out deeper and longer than before and fixed it for the third time, sure that it was permanent.
Another week passed and I encountered Mother in the second floor hall. She was not a happy camper, in fact Mother was livid with anger at me and I didn’t know why. She grabbed my right earlobe between her thumb and forefinger and proceeded to tow me down the hall and into Ye-Jin’s bathroom where she put my nose near where the tub and tile met. The grout had failed again!
Though I felt bad that I had failed again, my joy at just being with Mother and the fact that She actually touched me was so much more powerful than my fear of Her anger. She looked at my face, goofy with joy and love for Her and knew that she had lost the psychological advantage. She just walked away.
This time I scraped even longer and deeper bought the 2-part epoxy grout and it didn’t fail again. It was a good thing; I don’t think my goofy grin could have saved me again.
Father teaches me how to sit down properly
Father’s boat, the New Hope, was new and it was my first time to go out with Father on this boat. We left the dock and were on the way to the fishing spot, all gathered in the cabin. I sat with my legs outstretched straight in front of me with the bottom of my feet exposed directly to Father. Father kindly and patiently explained to me that this was very rude and explained that if Korean did this he would scold him severely. I simply didn’t know what terrible rudeness and bad manners this was from the Korean view point. I understood that my mistake was not small and that I should never do this again.
The Lord of the 2nd Advent was kind enough to educate rather than scold this ignorant 23 year-old American.
Driving Father to See Sun Jin-nim for the first time
I was driving Father during the time when Sun Jin-nim was born in 1975.
It is Korean tradition that the father not go to the hospital until after the child is born. About 3:00 pm, we all waved as Mother went off to Phelps Memorial Hospital, about 2 miles north of East Garden in what is now called Sleepy Hollow.
The next day, Father called for the car and I expected we would head to the hospital but we went to Barrytown. At this time the seminarians were doing the catch-the-carp thing with Father. Col. Han, who rode in front with me, explained that Father would always put members first before his own Family.
While Father was at Barrytown, I knew that He must have wanted to see His new daughter, but you could never tell it from the way He focused on loving the members. He spent a lot of time with the students and gave them precious memories they will treasure forever.
After we left Barrytown and were headed home, I said that I knew a short cut from the Saw Mill Parkway over to the hospital that Father’s regular driver, Daikon, had never taken. It would save 20 minutes. Col. Han almost panicked when I took the exit and told me that if I got lost and delayed Father seeing his daughter for the first time I would not be a popular guy at all. I was 99% sure I knew the way, but not 100%. My heart was in my throat until I found Route117 which leads to the hospital.
Father made the deliberate decision to spend time with the members first and then see his newborn daughter.
Father showed me my poor attitude
I was attending one of Father’s regular Sunday morning speeches at Belvedere. Since I was staff and attended nearly every speech I felt like I’d heard nearly everything before. I usually stood in the back instead of sitting close to True Father. I guess my attitude was far from what it should have been.
I noticed Father slouching against the blackboard in a very casual and lazy manner. Usually Father always maintained a very proper and respectful stance when He spoke, no matter how informal he seemed to be. I was disappointed at Father and internally I started to judge him for being so lax.
It was then that I realized that Father was looking at me and that his stance simply imitated my own poor and disrespectful posture. The moment Father and I made eye contact and I understood. Father resumed his normal stance.
I was ready to judge True Father and to think ill of Him for such a minor behavior flaw as momentary poor posture. I had to reflect how difficult it is for Father to look at us and constantly see our lack of respect and shallowness of heart and lack of understanding.