In order to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lovin’ Life Ministries (LLM) coordinated a number of service projects and events throughout New York City on January 17-18, 2010. The theme of this weekend of service was Livin’ the Dream, or actually practicing Dr. King’s dream through service. The main organizers of the three programs were:
[For the event on Sunday in Harlem] Victoria Roomet (LLM Volunteer), Mitshi Ishioka (LLM Volunteer), Elizabeth Kernan (LLM Volunteer), Rev. Dr. Luonne Rouse (American Clergy Leadership Conference [ACLC]/ Unification Theological Seminary [UTS]), Rev. Dyer (ACLC/ UTS), Rev. Hardaway (UTS)
[For the Sunday interfaith event in Queens] Rev. Yuji Mizaguchi (LLM), Rabbi Michael Weisser (Free Synagogue), Bishop Ebony Kirkland (Church of the Living God, ACLC), Imam Shamsi Ali (Jamaica Muslim Center), John Kung (International Chinese Association)
For the event on Monday in Queens] James Gomis (LLM Volunteer), Yuji Mizaguchi (LLM), Tony Devine (Service for Peace), John Kung (International Chinese Association), Rev. Days (Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal [AME] Church), Assemblywoman Grace Meng
Chris Stair (LLM Volunteer) designed Livin’ the Dream 2010 t-shirts for these events.
Review of Programs
Community Center Renovation
Volunteers painting the computer room.
First, on “Justice Sunday” (which is an officially-recognized holiday - the day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day) about 22 youth gathered in the heart of Harlem to kick-start the creation of the “Heian (Peaceful Mind) Interfaith Friendship Community Center” at the Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church. When complete, this new community center will offer a series of programs to Harlem, including sports and health education, theater arts, martial arts, computer classes, tutoring, and bible study. Right now, Rev. Dr. Rouse from the host church and Rev. Dyer, from First Church of Illumination in Harlem – who are both involved in the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) and the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) – and Rev. Hardaway from UTS are bringing their skills and resources together to create the programs for this center. Lovin’ Life Ministries contributes mainly in the capacity of providing enthusiastic volunteers, particularly through STF (Special Task Force) but also New York City youth.
Twenty Lovin’ Life volunteers and 2 teenagers from Rev. Dyer’s church in Harlem met at the Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church (MCUMC) at 2:30pm to participate in the projects. They assembled in the youth room and received opening remarks from David Gibbons, who is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the MCUMC. He expressed his gratitude for the volunteers’ presence and their support for the community center. He also briefly explained the significance of remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through service on this Justice Sunday. Victoria Roomet then briefed the group on the purpose of the project and what they would be doing that day. She explained that the inspiration to create the “Heian Center” came from Dr. King’s vision. It was to establish a center that would serve the community with a central focus on God. The project began on Justice Sunday so that we could use this center as a way to remember
Dr. King as a man of God, not just as a social activist, and to continue his dream of peace and brotherhood from that viewpoint.
The group began working at 3pm. About half of the youth volunteers moved to paint the computer room and the other half stayed in the youth room to make floor cushions. At around 5pm, Michelle, who is the youth leader for the Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church, ordered pizza for the volunteers. Everyone took a break together to enjoy the food and each other’s company. This was a great morale booster, as it seemed to give the volunteers (especially the painters) extra energy to complete their projects. Activities resumed at 5:45, and the volunteers stayed to complete the painting and cushions by 6:30pm. Before the volunteers left, they heard from Rev. Dr. Rouse who had just returned from a UTS Interfaith program. He shared his inspirations from the program he had attended and expressed his gratitude for the work the volunteers had done that day. He expressed that he was very moved by their willingness to honor Dr. King through service and through supporting the interfaith work that the community center will be endorsing.
Interfaith leaders leading the closing sons.
Additionally on Justice Sunday, a number of religious leaders in Queens coordinated an interfaith program which brought together over 150 people from different faith communities, including, Unificationism, Judaism, Christianity, Sikhism, and Islam. The program was hosted by Rabbi Michael Weisser at Free Synagogue in Flushing, Queens and it opened with a group rendition of the song One Family Under God, which is quite popular among this particular group of religious leaders. Following the song, a representative from each faith present spoke about Dr. King, the relevance of his legacy in the present time, and the importance of interfaith cooperation, from their specific religious perspective. After some words from NYC Councilman Koo, Dr. Frank Kaufman spoke on the life and historical record of Dr. King. This was followed by an address from Imam Shamsi Ali, representing Islam, and Bishop Ebony Kirkland, representing Christianity, as well as representatives from Sikhism. Rabbi Weisser gave the keynote address and facilitated a collection for the victims of Haiti, and Pastor Anderson, a Hatian Minister, expressed his appreciation for this interreligious group’s work towards helping the situation in Haiti. After each talk, wonderful cultural performances were offered by the respective faiths. The event closed with another group song, this time We Shall Overcome.
The religious leaders present are in the process of forming an interreligious group in Queens to continue organizing these kinds of events.
MLK Commemoration and Food Drive for Haiti
Collecting and transporting the food for Haiti.
Finally, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, over 150 volunteers of all ages, races, ethnicities and faiths gathered at the Macedonia AME Church in Flushing for a commemorative program to honor and practice Dr. King’s vision of the “Beloved Community – A reality in the 21st Century.” The program included a series of performances and special presentations depicting the legacy of Dr. King, like praise dance and a speech reenactment. When the program concluded at 12pm, the volunteers were served lunch and played a few icebreaker games to prepare for the afternoon service work. At 2pm, the volunteers went out to the Flushing area to collect can and monetary donations for victims in Haiti. Over $400 and 300 pounds of food were raised. A group of volunteers also visited a senior center in the area to share songs and converse with the community’s grandparents.
The volunteers assembled at Free Synagogue at 6:30pm for some dinner to close the weekend together. Volunteers who participated in the various projects shared short testimonies of their day. This was followed by thank you’s from the organizers of the projects. To officially close the weekend, Rabbi Weisser gathered all the volunteers to sit with him in a cozy circle and he taught the group a beautiful Hebrew song about how wonderful it is when brothers and sisters live in harmony. He was moved by the volunteers. He said, "When you love each other, you make God smile, and today God smiled." He added, "You guys have it right. Religion is about loving each other as one family, not about building walls between each other. See those kids, they are growing up knowing this, and they will make the world even better."
"People donated even if they didn't speak our language. Love goes beyond the confines of language." - Nathan Yujiri, age 20
"My goal was to keep positive and keep sight of why I was there. I accomplished my goal because I was still smiling by the end of it and it felt good" - Sunhwa Reiner, age 15
"I feel very happy and accomplished because I was able to do something for others and I think God is happy, too." - Emi Tachinaka, age 16
"Finally, I did something for people who really need it." - Johana Tehoho, age 12
"I worked hard for others and had a lot of fun" - Yuuki So, age 12
“Thank you for the work in remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. I wanted to assure you that we, Michelle and I especially, appreciate your efforts and tireless work.” - Rev. Dr. Luonne Rouse
This Martin Luther King jr. Weekend went well, especially because of the diversity of programs offered. This weekend served as a true testament to the work Rev. In Jin Moon has been doing to unite our church and its various organizations, because many different aspects of our church were able to work together to honor a true patriot, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, not just by talking about his dream, but by living it through service. ACLC, UTS, STF, Youth Ministry, the Queens Church Community, as well as community partners, such as AME Macedonia Church, Free Synagogue, Church of the Living God, International, First Church of Illumination, Jamaica Muslim Center, Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church, Assemblywoman Grace Meng, NYC Councilman Peter Koo, and Service For Peace partnered to organize these projects and to serve the community in honor of Dr. King. The bulk of the funding for the service work came from a Service For Peace Grant. Each partner also chipped in with different things, like food and supplies. One of the challenges of this weekend was that it was so close to the winter holidays, making communication difficult on a number of occasions, and often the organizers of the programs were busy with other projects. However, everything seemed to go smoothly in the end and close to 300 people were able to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a meaningful way.