CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Leadership Conference in Alaska - My First Trip to Heaven
Written by Jonathan F. Pratt, Director of Communications and Technology, Human Relief Org.
Monday, September 3, 2007
As a new Ambassador for Peace I was honored and excited to be invited to my first International Leadership Conference. My journey began on Tuesday, August 28 departing from Norfolk, Virginia. After a layover in Atlanta I boarded my plane for Anchorage, Alaska. During the seven-hour flight, I was lucky to be treated to a spectacular view of some of Alaska’s glaciers along the coastline. I was impressed by the sheer size of the mountains surrounding Anchorage. It is part of Rev. Moon’s intention for us to experience the magnificence of God’s creation through nature. He was succeeding so far! On the flight to Kodiak, I was lucky to see some more beautiful views of the Bay of Alaska and some of the islands.
August 29: I shared a room with Hillman Frazer at the Shelikov Lodge. Hillman was so tired from travel he had fallen asleep with the lights on. I tried to be careful not to startle him, being a stranger coming into the room at 1:30 in the morning. The conference has a policy of double occupancy in order to lower expenses and encourage new friendships.
After breakfast, we went over several presentations and discussions on A Vision of Peace: One World Family Under God; Religion, Spirituality and Leadership; UN Renewal: The Significance of Civil Society and Religion; Understanding the Root Cause of Conflict; and The Significance of Marriage, Family and the Blessing. Presentations were made by Dr. Michael Jenkins, Dr. Thomas Walsh, Michael Lamson and Mark Hernandez.
Also making special appearances at the conference on Wednesday were the Mayor of Kodiak, Carolyn L. Floyd, and Dr. Hyun Jin Moon. The mayor gave us a warm welcome to Kodiak, continuing her ten-year support of the Unification movement and affiliated organizations in Kodiak. Dr. Hyun Jin Moon gave an impassioned talk about the peace movement and his father, Rev. Sun Myung Moon's leadership. The twenty-minute address left us all very excited. Dr. Moon's oratorical skills greatly impressed me.
August 30: In the morning's spiritual service with the elder Rev. and Mrs. Moon, I was able to gain a fuller understanding and appreciation for the Unification movement. I got a better sense of Rev. Moon as a great spiritual leader and benefactor of humanity. Because of the outstanding weather, it was decided that we would go fishing. Half would go sea fishing and the other half of the group would go river fishing. This day I went sea fishing. The tournament was for three categories of fish. silver salmon, halibut, and another I can’t recall.
August 31: We resumed conference presentations and discussions about UPF’s peace initiatives. The Middle East and Northeast Asia discussions were very enlightening about what has and is being accomplished in those areas to move them toward peace and reconciliation. Also enlightening was the proposed Bering Strait Project to link the Americas with Asia, Europe and Africa. I found Dr. Chang Shik Yang’s talk about UPF’s accomplishments in engaging with North Korea to be very interesting and engrossing. We enjoyed some moments of joyous song and dance as well.
September 1: This was the second day of fishing; this time I got to go river fishing. After morning service and breakfast, my group left Angel Garden on two buses and enjoyed a scenic forty-minute drive through winding roads and gorgeous views of Kodiak Island to our first fishing spot. We spent about four hours at the first spot; a few people caught some salmon, one of which we cooked fresh right out of the river, which made for a delicious lunch. The mountain backdrop and scenery were breathtaking.
Later in the afternoon we drove to a shallow river chock full of pink salmon. There were so many fish and the water was so shallow that most of the poor salmon were hooked by the fins and released; but just about everybody got a chance to catch something here.
The bus ride back to Angel Garden for dinner provided for some amazing sightseeing, and our bus stopped at least three times to give people the opportunity to take pictures.
September 2: During the morning service Rev. Moon discussed a proposal for an "Abel UN" and the need for an interreligious council at the UN. After breakfast, we continued addressing the topic and watched a video about the life of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of UPF. Toward the end of the morning we had discussions. Various delegates from Japan, Korea and selected Ambassadors for Peace made closing comments. I was very honored to be asked to speak about the week's events on behalf of the attending Ambassadors for Peace.
Fortunately, I kept the notes for my brief speech: “Who in here thinks being here was one of the most incredible experiences of their life? I am one of you. We have all been salmon fishing in Alaska! We have all been sea fishing in the Bay of Alaska! And most significantly, we have shared our hearts and minds with each other.”
I have never been in the same room with so many people with enormous hearts and minds focused on achieving peace, making the world a better place, and moving the earth in alignment with the Divine. I thank Rev. Moon and UPF for such a highlight in my life.
During the course of the conference, at mealtimes and during break times, I enjoyed conversations with many fellow Ambassadors for Peace. I got to know them and their backgrounds and shared with them some of my work with the Human Relief Organization, particularly my involvement with a program called “Billion Stoves” an ultra-clean burning and efficient cook stove that will burn a wide variety of locally available fuels and small quantities of wood.
After lunch we had the opportunity to do some sightseeing on Kodiak Island. We went to a seafood processing plant and to the Baranov Museum, the oldest standing Russian-built structure in Alaska (built in 1808). We then toured the Kodiak Military History Museum. Afterwards, the bus drove us part way up the nearby mountain, and for those of us who wanted to go to the top, it was about a forty-five-minute hike.
To cap the day, we had a banquet at an affiliated seafood restaurant in Kodiak. There was an incredible assortment of seafood and fresh fruit. I couldn’t believe how fresh and sweet the watermelon, grapes and cantaloupe were. At the end of our meal we had a very delightful session of song and dance presented by different groups and individual participants in the conference. It was very energetic and uplifting.
Then prizes were announced—about forty-five boxes of fresh fish were given us to take home. Because there were only enough boxes for a bit less than half of us, winners were picked by lottery. Mark Hernandez gave me a winning ticket which had been given to him by Richard Fletcher of Australia. Neither Mark nor Richard would be home for at least a few days, so I got two frozen silver salmon, each at least thirty inches long, which I carried back home with me and shared with friends.
September 3: At 6:30 PM I left heaven (Kodiak), ironically by flying upward, fully aware that my soul had grown from the experience.
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