Local pastor off to Korea in Moon project

Billings Gazette, Jan. 23, 2003

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
—Psalm 133 KJV.

A Billings pastor, a follower of the Rev. Sung Myung Moon, has answered a call to witness for peace in Korea.

And an elder of The Family Church of Billings, formerly the Unification Church founded by Moon, will join him in a couple of weeks.

“We know prayer is very powerful,” the Rev. Michael Yakawich said in a recent interview. “When people from all over the world gather in the spirit of love as in Psalm 133, a great power of healing and peace can and will come.”

“There are different ways to resolve conflict,” Paul DiLorenzo said. “There is the power of prayer and of service.”

Yakawich, pastor of The Family Church, left for Seoul, South Korea, Monday. DiLorenzo, an elder in the church at 501 S. 29th St., embarks Wednesday for the Korean peninsula where international tensions and threats of nuclear war have mounted over recent weeks.

Both men emphasized the goal of service.

Moon, 81, was born in North Korea. He was a prisoner of the North Korean Communists for 2-1/2 years before being freed by the U.S. invasion at Inchon in September 1950 in the midst of the Korean War.

Yakawich said he would be landing at Inchon himself before going on to Seoul where up to 10,000 clergy, lay ministers and members of the church will gather before moving to Cheong Pyung Lake near the DMZ.

“We hope to relieve the tension, Yakawich said. “This is not geared toward any protest or to talk bad about anybody’s country.”

The group will disperse into the countryside to small towns and villages for community service projects.

“The delegates go not with policy or to protest but with prayer and do not do any official diplomacy, but rather encourage discussion and dialogue,” Yakawich said.

In the past month tensions in Korea, both North and South, have grown over revelations that North Korea had a secret nuclear weapons development program and its withdrawal from the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. After the United States suspended fuel oil shipments to North Korea, it announced the restart of a plutonium reactor that had been shut down under an 1994 agreement.

The current tensions do not concern DiLorenzo.

“I lived there for a couple years, it was during the Gulf War crisis,” he said. “I never felt threatened or at all intimidated.

“If there is an opportunity to go to North Korea, I’d go,” DiLorenzo said. “A friend of mine went.”

He noted there is a church cemetery only three or four miles from the border.

DiLorenzo’s father volunteered for the Korean War. “This trip gives me a connection with him,” he said.

“I’ve been involved in community outreach programs,” DiLorenzo said, “so this makes me a better Montana citizen. There are a number of Japanese going to Korea for this. They are former enemies of Korea.

“It presents an interesting dynamic,” he said. “We will be in the villages for seven days. We go to represent democracy and freedom.”

DiLorenzo said there might be some tensions in South Korea, especially with the local college students who now don’t particularly appreciate the American military presence.

Both men will leave behind wives and children: Yakawich with five; DiLorenzo with four. Both go with the support of their families, although DiLorenzo has not yet told his father.

“He’s been supportive of my lifestyle,” he said. “I’m the most religious of my family.”

Yakawich has been to the DMZ before and his father fought in the Pacific in WWII. He said the pilgrimage is “a calling to the whole church to witness for peace. This is serious. It is our hope that the last days of peace can be ushered in.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday January 23, 2003.
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