More Than a Workshop

Written by Miyoung Eaton

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The past three weeks have felt like both a flash and an eternity in time. Now that the Global Top Gun workshop is over, it’s amazing that it went by so quickly; but at the same time each day was so full that it feels like we’ve changed so much.

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In review, many of those days were marked by lectures and testimonies. Some of those days were marked by exciting adventures, like the pilgrimage to Yeosu and Pusan or the DMZ Peace Road event. Every day was filled with incredible opportunities to build relationships that will serve as the foundation for collaboration, support and service in our future endeavors.

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As one participant, Earnest, shared, “At first, I didn’t understand what this workshop is all about, but at Heaven G Burger, one sentence that True Mother shared really struck me. She said, ‘When I look at you, I’m amazed by how, in such a little time, you have grown so much in heart.’ In the gratitude activity we did at the end of the workshop, I saw this to be true and I was amazed by how much love and appreciation I felt for people I didn’t even know three weeks ago. I think that, and am so grateful that, Global Top Gun is really about learning more about the culture of heart, that the lectures were more about getting us to feel the truth. I have a feeling that this is not the end, that we are not closing but beginning something.”

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Now that Global Top Gun is over, I’m also starting to see how, in a lot of ways, it’s just the beginning. Yes, we just spent three lovely weeks at a workshop in Korea with inspired men and women from 26 nations around the world—but if we fall into the trap of thinking that our journey as Global Top Gun begins and ends with that workshop, we’re missing the point. Global Top Gun, for those of us who have participated and will participate in it, is a calling. God and True Parents are calling us to inherit their vision for the world and to discover how we as individuals and a united community can contribute to that vision, starting now and continuing forever.

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One participant, the Pastor of the Atlanta Family Church, Cliff Gaines, shared, “We all have a calling—and despite all the obstacles that may be out there, we must never forget our higher calling. That vertical, God-centered oneness that True Parents have is what we’re all connected to; all the craziness that happens between people—don’t worry about it. The bigger picture is between you and Heavenly Parent and True Parents, and what we offer to them and to each other is what matters most. We have to do our best in everything we do. We’re all incredible leaders. I’ll never forget this experience.”

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We can’t know what the future holds, but I believe that if we step forward together in the confidence that God and True Parents imparted to us throughout Global Top Gun 2016, we’ll accomplish things that extend beyond even our biggest dreams. God is constantly working in our lives—and now we Global Top Gun alumni have the education and the impetus to act on that investment together, for the sake of the world.

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I highly encourage you to come to the next Global Top Gun workshop. We won’t know when it’s coming, so it’s best to be prepared. As one alum Kyosei Nagai said it best, “I don’t think this could be called a workshop; it’s much more than that. It’s life changing.”

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Day 20: It’s Just the Beginning

It’s the last day of our adventures here at Global Top Gun 2016, and the atmosphere here is one of inspiration, friendship and gratitude.

We began our day with group meetings to plan our next steps after Top Gun. We split up into continental and then regional groups to identify who in the workshop will comprise our support team after going back home, and to determine what we hope to accomplish together when we get back. Each regional group was committed to sharing about our Global Top Gun experiences with our local communities, creating opportunities for more people to engage in Global Top Gun by hosting regional iterations of the workshop, and raising funds to support future participants’ travel fees to Korea.

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Following our morning meetings, Tasnah and Demian facilitated a unique appreciation activity. While one-third of us sat on the ground with our eyes closed, the other two-thirds of the group approached those sitting down in response to statements like, “I am happy that I got to know you” and “I love you more than you know.” We embraced one another, held hands, touched each other on the shoulder to express how these statements applied to our relationships, then switched out by thirds to have the experience of both giving and receiving these anonymous, heartfelt expressions of love and appreciation.

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It was a really moving, culminating experience for the workshop. Reflecting on this activity and the workshop as a whole, one participant, Boimah Massaley, shared, “I feel so much love and so much joy. I’ve always tried to love humankind, but there have been times when I have wondered why, when I’ve shown people so much love, I did not receive love in return. But right after this activity, I came to find that, yes indeed I can feel love—maybe I just needed to travel somewhere across the world to meet the people, from so many locations, who can show me love.

“A very big thanks to the workshop director, Demian, and to my workshop family and everyone else here. This has been an event that will stay with me all of my life and will be something that I can use to empower my attitude to love humankind even more.”

In the afternoon, we concluded the workshop with a graduation ceremony. The event began with a representative testimony by Sholina Pearson about the growth of her relationship with and her appreciation for True Mother at Global Top Gun. “I really believe that this February Top Gun workshop was a gift—something that God and True Mother both knew I needed.”

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President Lee of the Cheong Pyeong Training Center and Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, Continental Chairman of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) North America, followed with congratulatory remarks.

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With that, we received our certificates of completion and graduated from Global Top Gun 2016! And then started taking pictures left and right in our newly minted Top Gun aviators. Though we were sad to start saying our goodbyes right after the ceremony, we were also never more ready to take on the world—united together centered on God and True Parents.

Stay tuned for our final reflections and takeaways, coming soon!

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Day 19: Foundation Day

Written by Miyoung Eaton

It’s been another busy day here at Top Gun. We’ve been active since 5:30 this morning, when we began preparing for the Foundation Day and the Foundation Day Holy Marriage Blessing celebrations at the Cheongshim World Peace Center. Thousands of other people have been active this morning, too, making up a sea of black suits, white dresses, and winter coats big enough to fill every seat of the stadium. Some of us could only find spaces to sit on the stairwells that ran up each section of seats.

True Mother presided over the day’s events and it was wonderful to see her again, this time from afar. She seemed both somber and happy as she made new announcements about the policies of Cheon Il Guk and officiated over the Marriage Blessing.

Once the Foundation Day events concluded, we made our way back to Cheong Pyeong for lunch and a few final presentations. Dr. Tyler Hendricks spoke first and had created a presentation especially for us on the basis of questions we had submitted to him the night before. Most of his comments were responses clarifying the current situation of relations between the Unification movement and Sanctuary Church. His insights as an experienced and heartistic Unificationist theologian were very welcome.

Dr. Hendricks was followed by my father, David Eaton, who shared his testimony about his work as a Unificationist musician and artist for the past 40 years. His testimony was particularly inspiring because it reinforced the presentations given by Demian earlier this week about the foundations of Tribal Messiahship. My dad testified that through his willingness to give up his passion for music in service to God after he first met the Unification movement, God was able to bless his passion, return it to him, and extend it further than it would likely have done otherwise.

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Our final presentation was given by Naokimi Ushiroda, President of the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP) USA, who shared about the current vision and activities of CARP, as well as opportunities available to Top Gunners to get more involved with CARP after they return home to their communities. Mr. Ushiroda also reported that the CARP USA mission and vision statement was recently updated to focus on the theme of empowerment through the application of Unification principles.

Finally, since it’s our last night altogether as a tribe, we’ve been sharing testimonies, songs, and dance together for a few hours now. It’s hard to believe that Top Gun ends tomorrow, but with the ending now imminent, everyone is that much more inspired to get up on stage and share their hearts however they can: through reflections, hip-hop, Albanian dance, soul music, original songs, pop, solos, duets, jokes, tears, laughter—I think we’ve seen just about everything tonight. And it’s been truly beautiful.

A big shout-out to my fellow Global Top Gunners for your incredible heart and courage.

One more day to go.

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Day 18: Tying Loose Ends

Though we still have two full days ahead of us, today was a day of tying loose ends here at Global Top Gun as we transition into the final stages of our workshop.

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We began our day with an address from Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, Continental Chairman of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) North America. Dr. Kim wanted to check in with us after our lunch with True Mother on Wednesday so he could share more of her vision with us and fill us in on True Mother’s response after our meeting at Heaven G Burger.

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Dr. Kim reported that True Mother was very happy to see us and felt revived by our energetic performances and attitudes, which was very rewarding to hear. He also built upon what True Mother had said in her address to us, saying, “More than just studying the Divine Principle or participating in educational lectures here at Cheong Pyeong, True Parents really want you to have the experience of developing the strength and sensitivity of your spirits and cultivating your hearts and daily lives so that they can become bigger, brighter, and wider in the service of God and humankind.”

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Following Dr. Kim’s remarks, Demian concluded the Tribal Messiahship education we began on Tuesday. We first covered the process of setting goals based on our passions and purposes we had discerned in reflection and conversation earlier in the week. Then, we took some time to network together with those of our fellow Top Gunners who shared similar passions in order to lay a foundation of support that we can build upon in the imminent future. Finally, we had a session on event-planning as a way to take practical first steps in creating the culture we would like to see in our own movement and our own communities.

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Later, Tasnah led us in a reflection activity, “Coming Full Circle,” to help us begin finding closure in our workshop experiences. Reminding us of the intentions we had first set at the very start of the workshop, Tasnah asked us to reflect today about what we learned, what was amazing, what was amazingly challenging, and how can we apply what we’ve learned from these new experiences to our daily lives. This process of reflection, she explained, allows us to offer what we experienced to God and substantiates the genuine growth and change we seek in our lives.

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For our final activity in the evening, we spent quality time with our clans—probably the last quality time we will have with each other before the workshop ends. It was a very precious time as we told each other what we appreciated about each other, played games, and sang songs.

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But for all this loose end-tying, it’s not the end yet! Stay tuned for updates about our experiences at the Foundation Day Holy Marriage Blessing and more in the days to come.

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Day 17: Praying for the World

It’s 8:30pm. We’ve just returned to Cheong Pyeong after a 5-1/2 hour bus ride over vast stretches of highway and up long, winding mountain roads. We had a great, late dinner, and we’re just now about to head into one of our final lectures. You might imagine that we’re disheveled, exhausted, grumpy, and disheartened that we have more work to do after a long day of travelling—but you’d be wrong (mostly—I think we are a tad disheveled).

Amazingly, not only is Rev. Yong Cheong Song’s presentation about recent reformations in the Japanese FFWPU organization and leadership fascinating, but it’s inspiring to be here, listening to him speak. We are alert, energized, and fulfilled, having just come home from an uplifting day exploring our heritage as Unificationists in both Yeosu and Pusan.

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Right after we had lunch with True Mother yesterday, we departed from Cheong Pyeong en route to Yeosu. Yeosu is a small city at the southernmost tip of South Korea, where True Parents have spent a lot of time and invested a lot of their energy and resources to strengthen the fishing and other domestic oceanic industries.

After a very spicy, traditional Korean dinner there, the local pastor spoke to us about the significant events in True Parents’ lives that had taken place in Yeosu, such as True Father’s fishing expeditions, record-breaking speeches, and revolutionary pronouncements.

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We woke up early the next morning to head down to the beach and offer prayers to start our day. It was still quite dark and a bit cold, but the stars shone beautifully overhead as the ocean lapped at our feet. By the time the light began to shine in the east, we were heading out on our way to Pusan, the first site of True Father’s public ministry in the south after the conclusion of the Korean War.

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The local pastor there took us on a small tour of three important sites: the Beomnaegol Museum, where True Father and one of his earliest disciples, Won Pil Kim, had built a hut out of cardboard and mud, nestled against a huge outcropping; the Rock of Tears, where True Parents have offered many desperate prayers for the sake of God and a peaceful world over the years; and to the summit of the Beomnaegol mountain, where True Father would come to meditate and pray after a hard day’s work, and to look out over all of the bay of Pusan. Our last stop was at the first church in Pusan, where we had lunch and from where we began to make our way back to Cheong Pyeong.

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We prayed at each site along the way, but our prayers at the Rock of Tears were particularly moving. It almost felt as if True Father was there with us, still crying and praying for the salvation of the world. Our Global Top Gun coordinator, Tasnah Moyer, shared, “Sitting there praying, what struck me most was that I found it difficult to pray just for myself. Automatically, I think the spirit of the place demands that you pray for something bigger, because the very foundation of what that place was created for was praying for something much bigger than just True Father and his life.”

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These experiences of True Parents’ presence and heart throughout the pilgrimage were reinforced by reading from the Cham Bumo Gyeong during each leg of our journey. In the second week of the workshop, the International Headquarters staff presented each of us with the gift of a small book containing several chapters of the recently translated Cham Bumo Gyeong. We were so grateful for this gift that we determined to read the whole of the book before the end of the workshop and happily took large strides toward achieving that goal by reading together during our many hours of travel yesterday and today.

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After a day like that, it was only natural that we came back to Cheong Pyeong refreshed and revived. It was such an incredible experience of bonding and growth that there was a deeper and more colorful timbre to our laughter when we got back, a stronger sense of solidarity and community—though we were also sad to say early goodbyes to some of our fellow Top Gunners who are participating in the Foundation Day Marriage Blessing on Saturday.

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Of course, we wish them all well and look forward to seeing them again once they’ve received the Blessing. We’ve all certainly been blessed in many ways to be here together for as long as we have, and we’re excited to make the most of the very last days of the workshop together.

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Faces of Top Gun

Kevin has joined us all the way from the Ivory Coast. We asked him about life at home, and what he expects to take back with him by the end of the workshop.

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Day 16: Heaven G Burger with True Mother

Global Top Gun participants were told late last night that True Mother invited us for lunch at Heaven G Burger just before we left for our pilgrimage Wednesday afternoon, February 17, 2016. 

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Together with Greater China Top Gun participants, we filled up the main floor of the newly opened restaurant and in a close-encounter cozy setting, True Mother greeted everyone with a big smile and shared a message reminding all of us of True Parents’ legacy in America and our role as young leaders in building Cheon Il Guk.

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After finishing her address, True Mother encouraged us all to eat as much as we wanted. (I hear that one Global Top Gunner ate a record three burgers in that sitting.) Waiters and waitress served us McCol, True Mother’s delicious Heaven G. Burgers, potato wedges, cakes, and Kona coffee.

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Once we’d eaten to our hearts’ content, the entertainment began. The Greater China Global Top Gunners started us off with two endearing, upbeat songs as a group. Then the Black and Red Clans each performed a song on behalf of Global Top Gun. The Black Clan sang a lovely arrangement of “Love the Lord Your God with All Your Heart,” led by Nicole. And the Red Clan sang, “C’est Par L’Amour,” an original song composed by Congolese Unificationists, under the leadership of Gee Doo Nguala, a Unificationist-born young adult of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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After us, the band Apple Heaven took to the stage to close out the entertainment with several excellent performances. And then True Mother led us all in two rounds of “Saranghae” in honor of True Father and God before saying goodbye.

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Later today, we’re heading to Yeosu as the first stop on a one-day pilgrimage of historic Unificationist sites on the southernmost shores of South Korea. Seeing these places with such strong and clear memories of True Mother in our minds and hearts promises to be quite exciting.

I’m not sure if you remember, but a week or so ago I wrote about our almost perfect day. I think we at Global Top Gun would all agree that today, spending time with True Mother, was a truly perfect day. 

To hear other Global Top Gun participants’ reflections about their experiences with True Mother, and to get in on our plans for the future, be sure to listen to our podcast here:

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Faces of Top Gun

“I feel very blessed to be here, even though there were tough days. By being here, I really feel like my spirit is being cleansed again. It’s actually similar to the feeling of being on Generation Peace Academy, where I grew a lot in my spiritual life with God. Because that feeling is reflected here at the Global Top Gun Workshop, it means that I am growing and thriving in my relationship with God and True Parents. And it feels great. I hope that when I go back home, I can live with God and True Parents at the center of my life and practice creating a heavenly culture wherever I go.

The one lecture that resonated with my heart the most was Rev. Kevin Thompson’s lecture on creating a heavenly culture. I like this topic because it is practical and substantial. I can practice this back in my community and in my life. I think this will really attract people, because it is a culture of heart in which genuine love is naturally flowing. This will inspire many others. I know that it all starts from the individual to the whole. I am my own leader in my life of faith. 

Thank you to all who are part of this Global Top Gun Workshop. 

Thank you, True Mother, True Father and Heavenly Parent.”

– Sawa Suina, USA

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“A few days ago I was talking with an elder Korean brother. I told him about a difficult situation I was having. He worried about me and asked, ‘Oh, what should we do if you are having a hard time?’

I could feel his brotherly love through those words. Then we continued talking and he told me, ‘You know, when True Father was in prison, he wrote “Song of the Spring Breeze.”’ Although he was in the hardest situation of his life, he encouraged Heavenly Parent. True Father told Unificationists that at the times when he was suffering the most, those were the times when Heavenly Parent embraced and loved him the most. Then this Korean brother told me that Heavenly Parent doesn’t have to worry about people who are doing fine but those who are having a hard time. He embraces and loves them while saying, ‘Oh, my poor child, I am here with you.’ I really felt that Heavenly Parent is encouraging me, and I felt loved. Often we don’t feel that there is someone who understands our situation and stays by our side. But at the same time we forget about God. I somehow felt relieved by those words of my brother.

Afterward, I started to wonder what would have happened if everyone throughout history would have had at least one person by their side during their life who encouraged them? Would that have saved them from hatred and war?

I believe we can be really thankful for our families and friends in our community. Sometimes even such small words can help others out in their situation without us knowing about the fact that it helped them a lot. I hope we will be able to help and support each other.”

– Katharina Eder, Germany

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“I’ve come much closer to understanding True Parents. Not close, but closer. Learning that True Father follows God absolutely, even if God’s direction doesn’t make sense at the time. Reverend Kevin Thompson’s lecture helped me understand this point. 

Right now I’m struggling a lot with health issues that worsened after exerting myself too much playing Capture the Flag with the brothers. I feel constant pain, and it has made it difficult to focus but made me consider that True Parents have had to endure so much more pain yet still have to focus. 

Through talking to many people it’s clear that we all want to take action, instead of only talking about what is wrong. Personally I plan to take action when I get home.”

– Alan Becker, USA

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And a word from Manoj Jacob, Pastor of the Clifton Family Church and Global Top Gun alumni:

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Day 15: Full Circle

Written by Global Top Gun participant, Miyoung Eaton

Everything we’ve learned and hoped for seemed to come full circle today.

We’re in our last week of Global Top Gun. Since last night, Demian Dunkley, Director of Evangelism at FFWPU USA, has been facilitating presentations and reflections on True Parents’ vision for Tribal Messiahship. It took me a while to make the connection, but at some point today, I finally saw how this theme is the culmination of what we’ve been learning at Global Top Gun. We began with presentations about God, then shifted to presentations about True Parents, and we’ve finally arrived at presentations detailing how we can live our lives and build our relationships more intentionally, both according to their vision and through their promise and hope.

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Demian shared today that the heart of Tribal Messiahship is the process of building dynamic, vibrant and healthy relationships with the people we know and meet on a day-to-day basis. He stressed that True Parents are not interested in building a church so much as they are interested in building the Kingdom of God on Earth, or Cheon Il Guk, in Unification parlance; that to build Cheon Il Guk, God needs us to honor the passions and gifts He and She has bequeathed to us so that we may better know how to attend God, True Parents, and one another, and in so doing create the world God has always longed for.

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With this new light on Tribal Messiahship, my fellow Top Guns and I have all been internalizing this vision of building a culture of heart through Tribal Messiahship, reflecting on who our tribe consists of, and a few have already shared about their future plans and what’s next for them after Top Gun. You can read these reflections here

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We just learned, too, that we’ll be meeting True Mother for lunch tomorrow! She has invited us to join her at the newly opened Heaven G’Burger, a burger restaurant located a few minutes’ walk from the training center.

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In a spur-of-the-moment effort to better prepare our hearts and minds for this visit, Demian proposed that we all walk up to the summit of the sacred local mountain together to pray. We scurried up the slick steps and walkways; some of us even threw snowballs at our unsuspecting neighbors, courtesy of the decent snowfall that began last night.

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At the top, we gathered around the landmark pine tree that is located on the summit, called “the Tree of Blessing”, to pray.

It was such a beautiful moment. As we were walking up to the top of the mountain, I had to stop and look east out over the surrounding mountains and valleys because the view was so breathtaking. The snow made every crevice and wrinkle in the face of the mountains visible, and a burst of peach light from the sunset lit up all the surrounding area with a soft, promising glow of the adventures to come in our final week at Global Top Gun.

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There’s still a lot to learn, both at Top Gun and beyond, but as we walked, and talked, and prayed together, it felt as if our goals and hopes for the workshop were coming to fruition. Citizens of 28 nations who came together as strangers only two weeks ago are now laughing and smiling and joking together as a real family or tribe might.

It’s amazing what can happen when we let go of our preconceptions and just try.

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