I first went to Qufu in October 1999 and helped to establish the sister city relationship between Boynton Beach, Florida and Qufu. Over the years there were many cultural exchanges and delegations traveling between the two cities. Below is a story I have never fully told until now.
Pictured to the right is our first visit to Qufu. From the left in picture is my mother, Ben, Marie, Katie who was three and myself. We were on our way to Urumqi to adopt our second daughter Emily.
Pictured to the left is the Reverend Kong and Dan (Kongdan). Kong is the Confucius family name… over half of the residents of Qufu claim Kong as their own family name as well. Picture was taken March 20, 2002. We became good friends. His counsel, advise, and support on how to proceed with Unity in western Shandong was critical. He became a champion of our efforts and loved reading about Charles and Myrtle Fillmore and Unity principles that he felt was a good match with Confucius for benevolence and compassion towards others. He thought I was very brave to do something “spiritual” as he called it in Qufu with such overwhelming devotion to Confucius in Confucius’ hometown. He thought the Chinese name Kongdan for me was very fitting.
One of the activities when the Chinese delegations came to Florida was a visit to Unity of Delray Beach where I was a member. Pictured to the right is a delegation from Qufu with me and family in Boynton Beach in 2003. Two important figures here are Glenn Mosley on the far left and Ben on the far right. Ben is Sally’s father. Sally later planned to come to Unity Village to perhaps become a Unity minister. Glenn was to send Sally correspondence course…
It was these visits from Qufu and reciprocal visits to their city over the years, that led to publishing of the monthly Christian magazine “Daily Word” for two years through my foundation known as The Kongdan Foundation for the Christian Church Association of western Shandong Province, followed later with my teaching in Qufu, and as a consultant to and member of the I Ching/Confucius Society of China that continues to evolve today.
As a member of Unity of Delray Beach, I led a delegation to Qufu in 2004 that included Reverend Nancy Norman of Unity of Delray Beach and her daughter Cathy Norman, who was then a Unity minister in California. A few months earlier Glenn Mosley from Unity Worldwide Ministries had met in Beijing with members of the Christian Church from Qufu – Reverend Kong, Ben and Pei (Sally’s parents), and others in Beijing. We all felt that Unity and the Fillmore spirit would resonate in China and were looking for a way to expand Unity’s efforts there. Having Glenn, Nancy, and Cathy there demonstrated a presence that could be built upon. It was decided that we would follow two tracts. First, we took numerous books and pamphlets describing Unity’s role and Unity Village to Qufu that led to publishing the Daily Word. Converting from English to Chinese proved difficult especially for older members of the church in Qufu. We began a translation service for the residents who wanted to know more about Unity. I was fortunate to find a high school English teacher (Jenny), who would do the translation of the Daily Word into Chinese and work with Unity Village to make it happen. In those early years, there was even discussions of building a Unity Church in Qufu. Financial limitations unfortunately made this dream not become reality.
My foundation, in concert with the Christian Church Association of Western Shandong Province, with guidance and assistance from Unity Village, began publishing 5,000 copies a month in January 2006 of the Daily Word that was distributed throughout western Shandong Province. Very few copies were actually distributed in Qufu itself. Over the years, I had been on local television a lot in Qufu for our sister city activities. I later learned while I was living next to the Confucius Mansion and Temple when I was teaching at the university and Qufu Normal School the name Kongdan was well known enough to get the security bureau’s interest…
Most copies of the China Daily Word went to villages and other cities where they were distributed to churches, hotels, and other locations and was printed monthly for two years (2006 and 2007) with five thousand copies a month totaling a hundred and twenty thousand copies. Earlier, in 2002-03, I was told by Reverend Kong who was the leader of the church, that there was about 35,000 members of the Christian Family Churches in western Shandong Province.
The small building to the left is what’s left of the Christian Church that was in Qufu prior to World War II. The Qufu Christian Family Church has a new location now.
The building on the right is over one hundred years old and is the Christian Church in the city of Jining about an hour away. Christian and Catholic Churches had a history of more than three hundred years prior to the 1949 revolution that formed the People’s Republic of China. Traditional religions in China (Taoism, Buddhism and Confucius) had accommodated the Christian faith. Unity’s acceptance as another spiritual path is what made our efforts to publish the China Daily Word… non-threatening to the status quo.
When I finished teaching at Jining University in Qufu in 2013 there were over 800,000 members and was reminded that even though Sally (who I’ll discuss in a little bit didn’t make it to Unity Village), I/Kongdan had made a lasting impression. The Unity/Fillmore message was greatly appreciated. Although, the Security Bureau (the police) responsible for monitoring my activities could never understand my continuing to return to Qufu over the years. They were concerned about my “influence”, especially after becoming an English teacher at the university and traveling to visit my students around the province…
Many times, when I would travel to various cities and stay at different hotels, when people learned my name was “Kongdan” and asked if I was responsible for the China Daily Word… they would thank me. On one occasion, when the proprietor learned who I was she pulled out a copy from 2007 (this was five years later in 2012) and put it next to her heart.
The next morning before I left there were six people in the lobby with copies who wanted me to sign.
2006-07 copies my China Daily Word
Later when I was teaching at Jining University in Qufu… several of my students came up and asked if I was the same “Kongdan” who did the Daily Word. One student in particular from a neighboring city… her mother was a Christian minister who had her own small church and used the China Daily Word in her ministry. This was in 2012 and her mother knew about me and my efforts over the past several years and wanted to meet me. That I was now teaching at the university and her daughter was one of my students was a little overwhelming. She invited me to come for a visit to her church and dinner which I did. What a great lady she was… I was most impressed with the very large Bible she had in her church that was in both Chinese and English she seemed to know chapter and verse.
Sitting with her in her small church she told me – Kongdan you have no idea the amount of positive influence you have had. Everyone already thought you were great – but when you began teaching our kids English at the university it gave us hope for the future.
She knew all about Sally and Sally’s mother being denied a VISA (which I will get to in a little bit). Many people in what is now referred to as the Family Christian Church who had followed my activities for many years who might be afraid to speak up wanted me to know how appreciated I was. She had been on the provincial Board of Directors of the Shandong Christian Church Association for many years and told me I was always in their prayers.
For many of my college students, reading the Daily Word in high school helped them to learn English. Of the more than 400 students I had teaching English… almost all girls – more than ninety percent planned to become English teachers. Several other students invited me to visit their cities and villages where they lived and people were aware of Kongdan (me) and the China Daily Word.
Most everywhere I went turned into a celebration. Not only for a foreign teacher to visit, but I learned that some cities and villages had a library where copies of the China Daily Word could be checked out. I was told that if not returned someone would come looking for it. Several villages showed me where they kept copies of the Daily Word and asked me to sign copies for them. When I completed teaching in Qufu in June 2013… a minister in the Christian Family Church told me they estimated at that time more the 2.5 million people had seen the China Daily Word. Today, I’m certain that number would exceed three million.
The second avenue the Shandong Christian Association and the foundation were to follow – was trying to establish the first Unity minister in China. I had been to Unity Village several times leading up to this and we had the perfect young lady who was to come for training. Her English name was Sally. Her father was a tour guide and had led two sister city delegations to Boynton Beach and while there both the delegations were visitors to Unity of Delray Beach. Her mother had been the Christian Church secretary in Qufu for more than ten years and was the glue that kept their church together. Their daughter Sally was the perfect choice to come to Unity Village to become a Unity minister… or at a minimum learn the principles of Unity and return to share them with the church association in Qufu.
Picture to the left is of Sally, her mother Pei, and father Zhu Bensheng (Ben)
Sally began a correspondence course guided by Glenn Mosley sent to me and Sally for her to begin studying Unity principles and the history of Unity. I was in China at the time (this would have been (2011-2012) and I would sit with Sally and review the course material. Sally’s English was still so – so and several words she would read needed explanation. I learned more about Unity teachings with Sally at this time than really before or sense.
One of the strengths of Unity, Unity ministers have reminded me, is that Unity ministers are free to carve out their own path this would have been especially true for China. For Sally, learning the principles of Unity, then returning to China with the groundwork we had laid over the preceding years would be a good beginning after going to Unity Village. Glenn was to help with expenses and we thought all was set as Sally continued studying the correspondence course material. Best laid plans…
So, we scheduled the VISA Hearing in Beijing for Sally and Jenny (Jenny was/is a high school English teacher) and had interpreted the China Daily Word into Chinese.
This is one of my favorite pictures. It is of me, Kevin (Jenny’s husband), and Jenny in my apartment in Qufu sorting through Young Artist entries prior to forwarding to Boynton Beach for the Sister City Young Artist competition. Jenny is holding my dog Milo.
Sally’s mother decided she wanted to come as well with Jenny and Sally, but when they appeared in Beijing Jenny and Sally’s VISA were approved, but Sally’s mother’s VISA was denied. This changed everything. Even though her VISA was approved, the fact her mother’s VISA was denied… Sally decided not to go to Unity Village after all. With this it all came to a stop. Sally later moved to Beijing and became a kindergarten teacher. Conversely, I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Sally would have gone to Unity Village…
Five years after we did the China Daily Word in 2012, with her own VISA being approved, Jenny did go to Unity Village with me and my family on a visit to USA.
It is the essence of Confucius teachings – every person is given an opportunity to change the world through benevolence and virtue.
These activities, plus many others, in addition to teaching and living in Qufu have allowed me to get to know many people in Qufu and the surrounding communities very well and to establish many lasting, warm friendships. What we called “forever friends”.
Buses in Qufu that ran between train station and airport have printed on the side “Qufu – the religious center of China for over a thousand years”, it could have easily said two thousand…
It was my role as the liaison for many of the activities above, that I have been able to observe and be the recipient of the Confucian tradition of “welcoming friends from afar”. Unity and the China Daily Word would always now play a small role as a unifying source for good. I feel I did all that I could. I remember and think about Reverend Kong in those early days in Qufu often and his saying “Do what you are here to do and know that will be enough”.
People sometimes ask me why I’m not there now. I say Qufu will always be in my heart and home. Perhaps it is as the financial support given me by Unity of Delray Beach in that the purpose of doing the Daily Word in the hometown of Confucius was to plant a seed and give a gift of love in the tradition of benevolence as expressed by Confucius himself.
Well, I can honestly say the seed sprouted and given voices to many and served to take the word of God and Unity and transcendence to places they may not have otherwise gone.
My old friends in Qufu would laugh and say “You’ve written many books, why not write a book about Confucius? You’ve been to Qufu now dozens of times over the years.”
I would say to them “some history remains to be lived before it is ready to be told or written about as the spirit of Kongdan has always been universal and lived in Qufu… and that there is much more to the story to tell.” My forever friends would then say “don’t forget us” and I would laugh and tell them “With unity all our stories are told. Just as over the centuries yours have always been.”