An Awesome 2009 STF Conclusion and Commencement!
The STF (Special Task Force; a character and leadership training program for our youth) concluded its yearlong program with a concluding workshop and Commencement Ceremony from June 24 – 28 in the beautiful natural setting of Unification Theological Seminary in upstate New York. 177 STF members and staff gathered for three days of reflection, celebration of victories and lessons learned, and preparation for moving forward to the next stage in their lives of service to their families, communities, and beyond.
God’s hand was upon every aspect of the workshop. STF graduates received profound guidance from First and Second Generation speakers on reflecting, offering, and claiming victories, as well as planning, preparing and setting goals for their next step in life. STF members were guided to write out their individual plan for a thriving and exciting life after STF. Graduates also met by their Districts to create their action steps for the future.
We felt God’s grace contributing to create a deeper and more reflective atmosphere, even through the timing of the heavy rains, drawing our spirits inward. Then, for eight hours straight, the ultimate and final volley ball tournament of the year was held in full sunshine. All the energy of 177 enthusiastic young spirits came out shouting and screaming with excitement, resonating for miles as the 22 teams challenged themselves and each other to give their best and be the best.
The Commencement Ceremony itself was an unforgettable experience for all present. Never have so many STF members graduated at one time. The chapel was jam-packed with 360 people, all cheering as the 124 graduating STF participants marched in to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
STF Director Roland Platt opened the program with congratulatory remarks. In a few minutes, he reminded us what an incredible transitional and transformational year it has been, thanking God for guiding each person every step of the way, and congratulating all the participants on their investment, growth of heart, and achievement, making this year so fulfilling.
The next speaker was Rev. Phillip Schanker, national FFWPU lecturer, who has helped to mentor and teach these STF participants on many occasions throughout their course on STF. He addressed the issue of self-mastery and the importance of maintaining a vertical connection once STF members move forward beyond the supportive environment and culture of the STF program.
It was a great privilege to welcome Dave Hunter, representing In Jin Nim and the Lovin’ Life Ministry, as our final speaker. He moved the hearts of the graduates as he thanked them for winning his heart. His remarks summarized the application of the three great blessings to life: On the foundation of mind–body unity centered on God, our dream is to establish an ideal (“I deal with…”) family and move on to pursue external excellence through applying oneself to one’s passion and calling, and becoming the best at it.
A beautiful original song (written by Mihwa Davidson) was presented by three STF sisters, Sung Davidson, Kaori Ogden and Christina Lange, titled “Hold On”; a brief slide show by Tim Forringer engaged the audience in a moving reminiscence of the wide range of experiences of the year.
A few testimonies were given by 5 representative graduates who demonstrated through their words and experiences how their lives have been deeply impacted and transformed. Finally, one by one, the graduates walked up to stage to receive their certificates, over 70 completing one year, over 40 completing two years, and 7 completing three years of education and training.
By far the highlight of the entire experience and culminating point was the following day, when STF graduates and their families had the opportunity to participate in the Lovin’ Life Ministry worship service at the Manhattan Center, followed by a delicious lunch and an unforgettable afternoon spent with In Jin Nim and her family.
The music was highly uplifting and energizing. In Jin Nim’s sermon that morning was profoundly uplifting, as she addressed the importance of discovering our true identity and described fully the confidence and clarity that comes from “knowing who we are.” After the service the room cleared, and lunch was served for the 360 STF graduates, staff, family, and friends.
Following lunch, Rev. Kevin Thompson, assistant pastor to Lovin’ Life Ministry, explained the background of In Jin Nim’s vision and work in America, especially her new, life-giving Lovin’ Life Ministry. He presented several videos—the promo video for the Manhattan Center, the extremely innovative and exciting video clips of Lovin’ Life Ministry announcements, and a piece on the artistic talents of In Jin Nim’s children. Then who could be better to introduce In Jin Nim but her husband and best supporter, Jin Sung Nim? After speaking about the True Children and his family experiences, he shared in more detail about In Jin Nim’s work and vision, especially through her accomplishments at the Manhattan Center.
In Jin Nim returned to the podium to give a special message to the STF participants, guiding them to pursue excellence in the career of their dreams, keeping God and True Parents at the center of their lives.
What happened that Sunday at the Manhattan Center is beyond words. The family bonding experience that took place between the True Family, the Second Generation and the First Generation was like a dream of dreams, far beyond our expectation and leaving all who were present filled with love, hope, and aspiration. Our dream is to share and expand this Kingdom of Heaven experience in support of In Jin Nim’s life-giving work here in America. Thank you, Heavenly Father, True Parents, and all of True Family!
By Roland Platt, STF USA Director