Learning from Our Challenges
Written by Nina Urbonya
Naokimi Ushiroda, CARP America President, and myself recently attended a portion of the National Ocean Challenge Program (NOCP) in Kodiak, Alaska. NOCP teaches young adults deeply-rooted principles through fishing and ocean education. This year, the program hosted 36 participants from America, Russia, Japan, and Korea (the biggest and most diverse group so far!) for 21 days starting July 10.
Having grown up on an island (St. Lucia), the ocean holds a very special place in my heart. So, it was a great opportunity for me when CARP and Ocean Challenge decided to collaborate together to uphold Father Moon’s vision of training young people in a culture of heart.
Fishing was a Team Sport for Us
During the day, we joined the participants on the ‘Good Go’ boats. Heading out to the ocean in the cool morning breeze, we felt hopeful and excited, anticipating a good day’s catch of fish. By spending the whole day together on the boat, we got to connect and bond with our team members. There is a lot of time to get to know each other when you are placed on a small boat with 8 other people all day.
Each time someone shouted, “Fish on!” we cheered with excitement as they eagerly reeled in their lines. It was very uplifting to see everyone encouraging each other and giving each other a pat on the back, no matter how small the fish was. We caught halibut, salmon, cod, flounder, and rockfish of all sizes. During lulls when the fish were slow to bite and people were feeling a bit down, Captain Greg Odlin would read us some of Father Moon’s words about the ocean to renew our spirits. We gained newfound encouragement from these words as we tried to imagine how Father Moon must have felt to be out on the same water.
There were a few challenges on the water as boats would malfunction or have engine troubles. However, the captains were well-trained to fix all kinds of engine problems. True Father would be so proud; he used to say that captains should not only be able to fish effectively but also to fix any mechanical problems with the boats.
Naokimi and I had a chance to share our testimonies about the ocean, CARP, and True Parents to the NOCP participants. We encouraged participants to see each challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn. We also shared 2 sessions from CARP’s ‘STEP UP’ seminar. The first session included interactive application of the principle, “we mature through pursuing truth, beauty, and goodness.” Participants said they had never heard the Unification Principles broken down into such easy, practical action steps that they could put into use right away. Tamae shared, “I liked that it was very simple and easy to understand. I know exactly how I can get vitality elements through doing good deeds throughout my time here.”
The second talk was on the principle, “we can make a contribution to society through mastery of our unique creativity” where participants created personal mission statements. The participants really enjoyed sharing their mission statements in front of their peers and hearing from others. One of the participants proudly shared, “My mission is to use my gift of being detail-oriented and my love for animals to end species endangerment.“
See Challenges As Opportunities
This year, NOCP had the largest and most diverse group. Kang Soo from Korea shared his experience: “There is a nice family atmosphere here and people feel comfortable to share their hearts with each other. I was surprised at how open people are here and it makes it easy to connect on a deeper level with each other.”
One of the other great perks of this program is that you get to eat fresh fish every day! The cooks really took the time to prepare healthy and tasty meals. Imagine enjoying fresh Alaskan fish sashimi to your heart’s content!
Aleksei Ponosov, the first Russian participant, shared, “I feel good to be representing Russia. I decided to come to Ocean Challenge to get a new experience and because I thought it would be a good way to make friendships and relationships with the American youth. It is an opportunity to see how we can work together in the future.
I really like fishing. I have been catching one salmon each day. I think it’s God giving me that one salmon every day. He loves me for sure. He gives me a blessing every day. Continuously. I feel his unchanging love. If I keep an unchanging heart and keep doing my best, based on this kind of condition, God can give me blessings continuously.”
Principles of Fishing = Principles of Life
The principles taught in the context of fishing can be applied to our studies and to life. Through the program, participants learn to face and overcome challenges, accepting that difficulties will always be present. Aleksei summarized the experience very well: “We learn how to create unity within our team. Everyone is special and we can learn to see the good points in each other and ultimately learn from each other. Together, we can create synergy to move God’s work forward.”
As the participants finish their last week, we wish them a bountiful harvest. Thank you for welcoming us so warmly and for making our oceanic experience a beautiful and transformative opportunity.