On August 7, 1990, President Bush Jr. ordered the organization of Desert Storm Shield in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2. American troops would join a United Nations- sanctioned coalition formed to force Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. The date set for Operation Desert Storm was January 17 midnight.)
True Father had sent numerous messages to President Bush via Washington Times reports and various contacts advising him against this military action. When it became clear that the attack was imminent, True Father asked all American members to mobilize and serve other countries for 40 days. It was called the International Exchange Program [IEP] and was intended to be a12 year indemnity condition.
At the DC church headquarters, members chose by lottery which country they would serve; Bruce picked Indonesia. We sincerely wanted to obey True Father’s direction, but at that moment we had very little income. Bruce made $300.00 a month as an assistant pastor, and I fundraised selling flowers in bars on the weekends (IF someone would drive me around with two babies in the back seat). It was just enough to pay the bills. We were both serious to find a way and offered our intention in prayer. True Father often said, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
In & out
We lived in a townhouse with a college student from CARP (Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles) in Maryland. Previously we had been living in the DC church basement during the summer, but the pastor insisted we move out; Sunday School staff needed the room we were using for classes. When a CARP student heard we needed a place to live, she cheerfully begged us to move in with her and split the rent and utilities. She knew Bruce from Boston and liked him very much. Bruce was very good at counseling, listening and talking with members and guests. Conversations would go on for hours; he had a talent for putting people at ease. She must have thought Bruce would be around for her to converse with; perhaps she thought I was like him in that respect. If so, she was badly mistaken; Bruce was rarely around and I NEVER chatted. I was focused on the providence and my babies who were an extension of my mission. [It would have been better if I had seen her as part of my mission too.] The young CARP student soon began to hate me.
After only a few months she informed us that she wanted us to leave asap. My husband asked if she couldn’t be reasonable and wait until after the IEP condition; she said, “NO! By the end of this month!” It was November.
All Things Work for Good…
Bruce was very angry, but I felt strangely calm..even uplifted. I sensed that God was going to do something good, very good. The expulsion was so unprovoked and unfair; The Divine Principle shows time and again that when Satan strikes first, God has a condition to claim something.
A month earlier, Bruce’s mother in Norfolk had moved from her small house into an assisted-living apartment; she had called Bruce to drive down and get all of the furniture that did not fit in her new place. He returned with beautiful wood dressers, bureaus, dining room cabinets and even a refrigerator. Now we had to move but had nowhere to go. We quickly decided to sell everything and raise the funds needed for the IEP condition. I am very proud of Bruce because this furniture was his family’s fortune. They had scrimped and saved to have a nice home. This furniture had been with them for years-even when he was a child. Without blinking an eye, he was willing to give it all up without regret. He even sold his favorite childhood toy- a red metal Lionel train.
I placed an ad in the local newspapers and people quickly came by the house. I sold everything; only a few boxes of personal items were left. We made exactly enough for a round trip airplane ticket to Indonesia. Nothing more. Although members were supposed to go with $1000, headquarters gave us permission to go. Bruce went to a foreign country with just $20.00 in his pocket (a last minute gift from a neighbor). Again I am very proud that he was so brave to do this.
Once he was safely on the plane, I set about completing our move. I stayed with another church sister whose husband had left a few weeks earlier for his IEP country in Africa. Her condition was that we leave before her husband returned (which would be a few weeks before Bruce came back). I promised, but as I called around, I was unable to find another place to stay. It was Christmas time and members had family and friends visiting them. I was not 100% honest about how desperate I was; it would have been extremely awkward if a family felt pressured from guilt into inviting us. My last resort was an emergency shelter. The thought was frightening, but it seemed the only possible option. I prayed a tearful prayer- “Dear God, if this be Your will…”.
The expansive emergency shelter on 2nd & D Streets NW (now Mitch Snyder St.) downtown DC had previously been an abandoned federal building. In 1984, after a much publicized 51-day fast by homeless advocate Mitch Snyder, the federal government donated the building to CCNV and also invested millions of dollars to renovate it. It became the Community for Creative Non-Violent Shelter which ‘houses’ 1,200 people and provides various services: counseling, drug rehabilitation and Alcohol and Narcotic Al-ANON meetings. During my intake interview, I was advised to go to one of the safer, smaller family shelters in the district, but these required proof of identification. My purse had been stolen shortly before moving to DC. Since I did not drive and was mostly at home taking care of the children or at church with my husband, I didn’t see the need for replacing my ID. Now that oversight limited my choices. The staff person assigned me a single bed and a bunk bed pushed together as well as a small wall locker for my belongings - sans lock. She seemed somewhat reluctant about my stay. Maybe she was wondering how a white woman, not on drugs, ended up there with two young children. Was I an undercover reporter looking for an expose? I was too stressed to figure out why she was unwelcoming; maybe she was just overworked.
The shelter’s main level (or was it a basement level?) was divided into two separate living quarters- one side for men and one side for women with numerous offices for administrators, storage, classes, a kitchen, clinic, etc. There were security guards at both entrances and a staff person stationed inside at a desk for intake. Three rows of beds filled a large room that I mistakenly thought had been a school cafeteria. About one-third to one-half of the beds were bunk beds. A single row of beds were arranged along each wall and a double row set in between. Dinner was prepared in an unseen kitchen in the facility and brought into our area in large metal containers to be served. During the week, some people left the shelter during the day to look for work. Actually people were encouraged (mandated?) to leave the shelter during daylight hours unless they had children to care for. Many who were there had problems with alcohol and/or drugs, and most of the women had children with them.
A sweet gift for caroling
I left a few times during the day light (together with my two children) to go to the DC church and take care of a group of young people Bruce and I had been teaching regularly-all bike couriers. We had decided to go Christmas caroling; most of the couriers were not living with or near their families and wanted to dispel the loneliness that holidays sometimes bring. One night we walked around to various well-lit spots, outside corner stores, and sang to passersby. A particular residential area near the DC Church (off of 16th Street NW) had experienced a stabbing fatality a year before. We decided to go down that dark street and sing for the neighborhood. It was dark. There were few if any street lights and no decorative colored lights. No one could be seen outside, but we sang anyway. While caroling, a van stopped nearby, parked and sat for a while. It made us all a bit nervous. After we stopped singing, a man came out of the van and sincerely thanked us; he had not heard caroling in a long time. He explained that he was a caterer and had extra sandwiches in his van; he wanted to know if we would like them. Because my children and I had left the shelter to come caroling we missed dinner. And the young couriers were also delighted! It was a sweet and welcome gift from Heaven.
Back at the shelter
In preparation for Christmas, each mother was called by staff to go into a separate room and pick out gifts and necessities for their family. I was especially grateful for the diapers and chose a few small things for my three-year old and almost one year old. Christmas morning all of the children received large garbage bags full of gifts, but later, when they left the toys lying around, another woman came sweeping them up with a large broom and throwing them out, all the while shouting and accusing the kids. It seemed unnecessary and cruel. The children had no toy box or drawers, not even a cardboard box to store their things. Even in a shelter- or wartime, or disaster- children can have happy memories. The adults can create a buffer to protect the children from harsh realities. Children can be happy with very little..even a kind attention.
On Christmas day, some young single Jewish women came by the shelter to serve the families. They brought treats and a clown show with balloons. I fervently witnessed to the women about the Divine Principle and True Parents and the Marriage Blessing! Did I realize then or later that they might blame the church for my homeless situation...or simply think I was mentally and/or emotionally unstable?
The week between Christmas and New Year’s was filled with tension. A lot of women had acquired alcohol even though it was officially forbidden. The one common television was blaring non- stop and the many kids were running around; it was too cold to hang around outside. I read books to my daughter and nursed my son. One night, around 2 AM, a woman returned late; another woman was angry because she had been left to care for the latecomer’s children under a false pretext. - perhaps looking for a job. I do not know the details. One of them picked up an iron to throw at the other woman. Screaming ensued, “She’s going to kill me!...She’s got an iron!” Someone flicked all the lights on. Many women woke up in a panic. People were running and scrambling to get out of reach of the weapon, frantically scooping their children up as well- dashing around the room. My two children and I shared one bed, snuggled together. We were two rows away from the altercation, but directly across from it. I heard other women say, “Let’s put our children there on her bed; no one will hurt us there.” And surely, it felt as though my bed was surrounded by peace, a sea of calm in the midst of a tumultuous hurricane. I sensed the presence of a powerful angel stationed at the right corner of our bed, posted there as a sentry between us and the chaos. I can see him now as I remember, but that night I merely sensed him.
Soon two male security guards were called in to stop the women and remove them; they were so uncontrollable and incensed. Afterwards, it took a while for everyone to calm down and return to their beds. My children slept soundly through the entire ordeal.
While preparing for DC church’s God's Day, I saw a very pretty white child’s dress in a store window near the church. The clothing label read: made in Indonesia!!! How perfect! I bought it for my daughter. After God's Day (then celebrated Jan 1st) an associate member invited me to come with the children to his home, a house he shared with another man. My son had a bad cold and cough and this young man kindly bought medicine for him and food for us. We stayed there until Bruce returned a week or two later. While there my son celebrated his first birthday (Jan 9). Our generous host gave him a beautiful silver medal- Archangel Michael defeating Satan. Such a beautiful and auspicious gift.