The Sound of His Voice
By Dr. Michael Balcomb
When I was a young member in the New York Unification Church in 1976, I remember that our pastor and center leader, Aidan Barry, had a very great fondness for the Christian hymn “In the Garden,” and we sang it so often at morning service that the words are still etched in my mind four decades later:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses
And He walks with me, and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share, as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
Yesterday, at the happy and victorious conclusion of the #GodsHopeforAmerica Holy Ground pilgrimage in Eugene, Oregon, we had exactly that kind of intimate experience of walking and talking with the Son of God, our risen and victorious True Father. The emotional power of the encounter was so overwhelming that many of us found ourselves on our knees, weeping tears of joy and sorrow.
The 55th and final Holy Ground established in 1965 is in the world-renowned Rhododendron Garden, a part of Eugene’s Hendricks Park. Although Father had already established Oregon’s Holy Ground on Mount Tabor in Portland, he was called to come to Eugene, the university city where the first Unificationist missionary to the United States, Miss Young-oon Kim, came to study and live in 1959. The Garden is a place of almost preternatural peace and stillness, so quiet that I fancied I could hear Father’s feet pacing on the soft grass, even though he trod there for the first and last time 50 years ago.
Though our Oregon pastors had acquired a permit for a group gathering, published park regulations made it very clear that amplified sound, music and loud noises of any kind were prohibited. This worried me at first, because at all the other 54 Holy Grounds we frankly had made as much noise as we could, offering up a “joyful sound unto the Lord” as we exhorted each other with vigorous singing, passionate prayer and heartfelt testimonies to the goodness of God.
But as soon as I stepped inside the peaceful enclave, I knew I had been worrying for no reason. The spirit of our Heavenly Parent was already strongly present, waiting for us all as we gathered in silence. No further songs, no more prayers and no more testimonies would be needed. It was time to just listen, to be still, and to know that He is indeed God. And so we stood and meditated in silence, reflecting back on all that had passed, not just in the last 43 days but throughout the 50 years of True Parents in America.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
Finally, I knew it was time to offer a simple prayer, to report to Heaven that we had indeed reached the end of the 14,111-mile pilgrimage that had taken us to 48 states. As we began to pray, I was suddenly and totally surrounded by the strong, loving presence of True Father. In every cell of my body I felt the same emotional closeness and connection to God that True Father himself felt when he completed establishing these Holy Grounds on that March evening back in 1965.
To be honest, the feeling was so strong and so overpowering, I wanted to stay in that garden for hours, days, lost in sublime bliss. But I knew that I could not. It was time to move on, and move forward. Again in the words of that song:
I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.
And suddenly there was True Father again, now speaking urgently in my ear. “OK, OK. Good job! Enough tears and prayers! So, what’s next? What are we going to do now?”
What are we going to do now? That is indeed the $64,000 question. I expected the answer might take a long time. Yet in the five-minute walk back down from the Holy Ground to our pilgrimage bus, True Parents’ answer became very clear.
More on that to come!