On November 30th, sixty five people gathered at the Dallas Fort Worth Family Church for a Project Phoenix experience. Most of the participants were from the local area with a few exceptions. They were greeted and welcomed by the local church leadership team of Rev. John Jackson and Rev. Mark Hernandez. The MCs were Rev. Catherine Ono and Jonathan Golden.
After the introductions, the evening began with a presentation by David Young. David engaged the audience in a number of exercises designed to help them understand the different ways of listening and how important it is in creating relationships that are meaningful. He also shared his experiences relating to the “games we play” and provided thought-provoking examples and opportunities to practice communication and self-exploration. The participants were assigned groups for the weekend and this allowed for time to share and listen in a safe, and confidential environment.
The evening closed with some volunteers sharing for the room what they got out of the evening and everyone was encouraged to come back in time for the hot breakfast in the morning.
Testimony: What did you get out of this event?
“I believe Project Phoenix is a divinely inspired project where Unificationist families can review generational experiences with each other to open the way to understanding, acceptance, and valuing each other in families where Heaven wants love to reside.” -Participant
“I learned that the first generation actually admire some qualities of the second generation, which was nice because I feel that a lot of the good in our generation comes from the way we were raised. I feel like I was able to get to know and talk with people from the older generation and really begin to see them as people I could develop positive relationships with, instead of just seeing them as ‘first gen’. I also learned ways to be a better listener and how to have more meaningful conversations.” -Participant
“I received so much more than I had expected. The experiential aspect of PP and the opportunities for genuine heart to heart communicating made it rich. It revived a deep sense of hope for the future of our families and the possibility of leaving behind a lasting, sustainable legacy of intergenerational and transgenerational love, honor and vision. Personally I want to utilize the going deeper cards with both of my sons who were present here, and soon with my other children.” -Participant
Saturday turned out to be a full day of activity beginning with breakfast and a session called “Honoring the Generations”. This session separates the group into the elders and the youngers. Each group then answers questions which reveal perceptions of the other group and how each group is perceived by the other. Reconvening together and sharing what each group came up with engenders insight and emotion in participants both young and old. This exercise serves to open the door to the conversation about the generation gap and how it is being experienced in the community.
Following this, testimonies are offered in a session called “Through Our Lens”. This is a special opportunity for honest and vulnerable sharing on the part of elders and youngers, male and female. In this case, the speakers included: Matt Rogers, Laura Hornbeck, and Mark Boitano. The testimonies were heartfelt and revealed the challenges of both parenting and growing up in the Unification movement.
Through the testimonies, the atmosphere is created for deep sharing in the family groups and people are often comfortable sharing experiences that perhaps they have never revealed before. It is often a time of reflection and healing.
This is the final session of the morning leading up to lunch followed by everyone playing a game called Fishbowl which involves teams in charades-like competition.
After the fun, everyone gathered for a session called Community Weaving. This is a time for members of the community to mingle together to both fill a need they may have and to be a resource for someone else with a particular need.
The last session of the afternoon is called Going Deeper and it involves a younger person and an elder answering questions in front of the entire room designed to bring out feelings and create opportunities for connection not found in routine conversation. In this case, Jonathan Golden and his mother were the example. They asked and answered the guided questions and in doing so, were able to understand each other on a deeper level. People discussed insights gained from this exercise in their family groups.
After dinner, the evening concluded with a time of group appreciations where each member of the family group offered a comment of appreciation to the other members of the group. For many, this is a rare experience of hearing how others appreciate who they are and what they bring to the group.
Finally, a survey was done to obtain feedback from participants and everyone was invited to the event on Sunday after the church service called Continuing the Conversation. People expressed what they gained and how the weekend impacted them. Everyone received a gift of a book by Bento Leal about how to develop communication skills to improve relationships.
There were many expressions from those attending reflected in the surveys which conveyed a sincere feeling of gratitude for the experience and of new hopeful attitudes towards each other and the future of the Dallas community.
Massive thanks to the staff who took their time to fly or drive in and be totally focused on the program and bringing their full heart into it: David Y, Sam, Sancha, Jessica, Sunder, Matt, Jonathan, Benito, Kieran, Catherine, David B, Mark B. and Mark A.