In The Shoes of a Servant — Memories of My Time with Father in Danbury

In The Shoes of a Servant — Memories of My Time with Father in Danbury

Takeru Kamiyama
March 25, 1985
World Mission Center, New York

As you know, Father and I were incarcerated on July 20. It was the first experience of prison for me. You could actually call it “camp,” rather than prison, in a real sense. In Danbury there are six different levels of incarceration; we were in the minimum security camp. I was given a six-month sentence. This was reduced according to a system of reward for good behavior to four months and 17 days. Father’s original sentence was a year and a half, which is being reduced to one year and one month.

At the prison camp, 11:00 p.m. is lights out. After that there is roll call at midnight, then at 2:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., then again at 4:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. This is the time when all the inmates have to be at their own cubes. That’s the rule. At the 9:30 p.m. roll call everybody must be standing up, not sitting on a chair or lying in bed, in order to be checked. At the other roll calls the inmates can relax, as long as they are in their cubes. If you don’t show yourself in the cube, you will be punished. You might be transferred into the higher security prison nearby.

Usually, the inmates get out before their full term. Those who are sentenced to two years in prison spend the last three or four months of their term in a halfway house, a place where they prepare themselves to be restored into society. There they receive job placement assistance. They go out every morning and come back there every night. If they get a job, they can work all day and don’t have to come back until 10:30 at night. However, if they don’t find a job they still have to come back for roll call, when all inmates are accounted for, usually at 10:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. They have to be at the halfway house at that time. They continue that kind of life for the three or four months.

The Danbury camp does not have a fence around it just an invisible fence. If you step over the boundary, you will be punished and transferred to the higher security prison. Therefore, when you arrive at the prison you have a few days of orientation about the rules there.

Visiting Days
Father’s prison number is 03835-54. The visiting days are decided by the last digit in the first sequence. Since Father’s is an odd number, the odd days are his visiting days. The last digit in the first sequence of my number was 6, so I was allowed to have visitors on even days. When you have a visitor from 8:30 in the morning straight through till 3:30 in the afternoon, you have to have your lunch in the visiting room. You can’t go back to the dining room for lunch. There is a coin-operated machine where you can get sandwiches for about $2.50. They are cold, but you can warm them up in the microwave oven. The food from the machines is not very tasty.

Each inmate is allowed to have ten visitors on his visiting list. The prison officers check each visitor before he or she is allowed into the visiting room. Inmates may also have spiritual advisors who can visit the inmate on both odd and even days. Father’s “spiritual advisors” are Col. Pak, Rev. Kwak, and Mr. Peter Kim.

Each inmate works on alternate days; if you work today, tomorrow you have off. When you have a day off, you can study the whole day, except for roll call, when you have to be back in your cube. You can also go outside and walk around; you can do many things. But there is that invisible fence that you cannot go beyond. Danbury camp is on top of a hill and the view from there is quite beautiful. You can see a very picturesque landscape and a man-made lake. I spent a lot of time with Father looking at this beautiful scenery. There he would talk to me and teach me many things. He said, “Many people will come to visit this place; it will become very famous.”

Prison Clothes
On the day we arrived at the prison and went through the orientation process, I thought we would be able to at least keep our own underwear. But we had to give up even that. After we were deprived of all our clothing, they handed us prison underwear. In my case, the underpants were baggy and completely out of shape, and the trousers were also very baggy. I had to hold the trousers up because they were always dropping down; I wasn’t given a belt. At the same time, the underpants were riding up and down beneath my trousers, so I had to hold on to them. Father received the same kind of clothes; they had been used by previous inmates and were unwashed and worn out. He had to use that clothing for three or four days until he was given new ones.

When we were told to change our clothes, the prison officers said I could change in a little room which had a window in it. I entered this room and began to change. Then I looked out at Father — I thought he was going to be given the same room. But instead he had to change his clothes in the public room. He was standing near the corner, but there were five officers present. Through the window, I could see that Father was starting to change his clothes — that means he had to take everything off, put his clothes in the basket, and then put on the ones given to him. I was very shocked, and I immediately ran out and asked him to use the little room where I had been. But since I was a prisoner an officer shouted at me, “Don’t move! Stay there!”

I couldn’t do anything. I was very hurt because Father had to expose his holy temple in front of those five fallen people, in that public place.

As you know, in the Hungnam prison camp, Father slept near the toilet, which was the dirtiest place imaginable. He chose to sleep there because in that way he could prevent people from stepping over him. He didn’t want his holy body, his temple, to be stepped over by fallen people. He used a little glass of water to wash his body every day. He knows the value of his body. So I suffered very much to see this similar situation in Danbury. But Father could see my heart and immediately said, “Kamiyama, it’s okay. This kind of thing happens all the time. When you go into the military, such things are normal.” In that way he comforted me. I wasn’t suffering because of my own situation; but Father was trying to comfort me, thinking maybe I was nervous about being in prison. Really I felt sorry to see him in a position that was even lower than mine. It was very shocking and painful to me. I will never forget that experience.

Our “Sympathy Cube”
We went to our dorm. There are three dorms — A, B, and C. Forty to fifty inmates stay in one dorm. In one corner of our dorm was the closet and next to it was our cube, number A-7. Army bunk beds are in each cube. When we went to our cube, we found nothing but two bare mattresses, no sheets, blankets, or pillows. We had to try to find some used, dirty sheets from the laundry basket, ones the others had already discarded, and wash them.

The cubes are made out of dividers, with the top and bottom areas open. There is no real privacy inside. The cubes have no doors. In the dorm closet near our cube was a sink; they kept the mops and buckets there. The telephone is also in that corner. Everybody feels sorry for whoever has cube A-7. You could call it the “sympathy cube.” It is the worst cube because it’s so inconvenient. People are always passing it because of its proximity to the telephone and the cleaning equipment. Also the closet door was difficult to open and close and made a lot of noise. All the inmates used that phone to make collect calls because nobody could call in. So from early morning to late at night, inmates were making calls, talking all the time. They were always standing in line right outside our cube, waiting to use the phone. Sometimes inmates had to wait one hour to make a call.

According to the rules each person has a ten-minute time limit on the phone, but in reality nobody kept that rule. There was a chart where you could write down when you wanted to make your call, say, “10:30 to 10:40 — Kamiyama,” but nobody actually kept that schedule. The inmates waiting in line always talked loudly, using many dirty words, and they would peer inside our cube, since there is no door. They were like a bunch of guys in a barbershop, you know, very rough. They would just come close to our cube, and look inside; then after their call, too, they might take a look. It was like a showroom. Emotionally it was very difficult to remain stable in that cube.

The conversations I overheard from the men were not pleasant, even though I didn’t understand everything they said. I learned a lot of new terms there — lots of curse words! One time a guy was making a phone call and I counted how many times in five minutes he used one particular dirty word. I learned later what this curse word meant; I didn’t know at first. The men would use this word throughout their conversations between sentences, after a statement, before a statement. Many people say, “you know,” or “well,” or “uh,” but these guys would use this four-letter word to decorate their sentences, strengthen the meaning, and so forth. I became very curious about this particular word they were using literally hundreds of times. So I asked them, “What does this word mean?” They said, “You don’t have to know that. You’re religious, so you just need to read the Bible and say prayers. Ha-ha-ha!”

A Prison of the Mind
During my whole experience at Danbury, I didn’t feel that the camp itself was the prison. Rather the mentality of the inmates was the prison; they are imprisoned in the world of Satan. They are captured by Satan’s dirty language and foul “values.” In our movement we try to find the goodness in each other, lift each other up, and cover each other’s weaknesses. That’s the world of love and care. But, in Satan’s world of hell you see the exact opposite. People try to find the other’s weaknesses and degrade him even more. They are filled with complaints, resentment, hatred, and vengeance. They constantly curse each other and try to bring each other down. They actually enjoy it. That is the hell I found — the hell of the mind. I’m not saying that everybody in Danbury is a hundred percent terrible. I asked one inmate, “Do you use that word in front of your wife or children?” He said, “No! Never!” But he throws those words all over the place at the other inmates.

Over seventy percent of the inmates smoked — and cigarettes weren’t even big enough. Many of them smoked cigars, big ones. I was often coughing during my four months and seventeen days there. The smoke smells terrible and it even sticks to your skin. When I first came back, my children said, “Papa, you smell so bad!” Even the book of Father’s speeches absorbed that smell and became sticky. I could detect that after I had been out for about two days. Even now Father is living in that terrible environment of dirty smoke and foul language. When you meet the inmates in the visiting room, they are completely different. They act so gentlemanly in front of their wives, children, and guests; they seem to be very dignified and nice. But as soon as they turn around and go back to their cubes, they become quite vulgar. Men who have committed crimes and are gathered together form a very low world.

Father Was Constantly Cleaning
All the inmates clean up their own cubes every morning. After they have swept their cubes and gathered up all the dirt, they push it along the hall and leave it on the floor in the corner along with their cleaning supplies, just outside of cube A-7. There are no trash cans there. The trash cans are located outside, and the inmates never go that far. They just dump all their garbage and dirt on the floor and take off — they don’t care. When we first went to Danbury it was mid-summer. Large electric fans were standing along the corridor and all the trash and dust that got deposited near our cube was blown around. Of course, the dirt got blown right inside our cube. Unless we cleaned up all the time, the floor was constantly dirty and dusty.

I would clean often, so would Father. He preferred to use the shorter broom rather than the longer one. He swept everywhere, including beneath the lower bunk bed. He would reach down and practically lie on the floor to get at the dirt under there. He would also clean up the trash outside the cube. It was so painful for me to see that. When men talking on the phone would finish their cigars they would just crush them beneath their feet on the floor. Father would sweep them up.

Every Tuesday you could buy food such as apples, oranges, and canned juice at the commissary. While the inmates were on the phone, they would eat these things and drop the apple cores and juice cans on the floor. I couldn’t stand to see Father cleaning up all these things, so I would fight to take the broom away from him, but he said firmly, “No, it’s okay. I will do it.” Many inmates had told me that our cube was so bad that the officers would give us a better one if I requested it. I asked Father if I could request a different cube. He thought about it for a minute and said, “Hmm…the number is a good one — A-7.” So we kept it.

Restoring the Hell of Hells
Father’s course during this time was to restore the position of servant of servants by going into prison, which is the hell of hells. From that lowest position, he had to work his way up to the position of servant, to adopted son, step son, real son, and so on. That is the course of restoration. Father has previously said that when he lost the foundation in South Korea, he had to go into North Korea and start from the lowest position. He was also in prison there, which is the hell of hells, and he was in the servant of servant’s position. From there he went up to the higher levels.

On the outside of our cube was a nameplate, and my name was listed above Father’s name. After some time, the nameplate was changed and Father’s name was put on top. Then I heard Father murmuring to himself, “Well, the dominion has changed.” He said it in a very small voice, but I caught it. Thus, Father had started from the bottom, representing the servant of servant’s position, and then went up. On the fortieth day of our term, a prison open house took place. The people of the outside world could come into the prison and look inside the cubes, symbolizing that this hell of hells was being raised up to the level of hell. Thus, the dominion was moving up. I wasn’t so aware of that, but when I heard Father murmuring I realized again what a serious fight we were in.

One time an inmate took a brand new rag and used it to wipe up the oil from a car he was working on, and then he threw that oily rag into the bucket with all the other rags and they all got stained with oil. Father picked up that oily rag and started to clean it as well as the other rags. He worked with strong detergent on those rags for many hours. He would wash them and then smell them and say, “Not yet.” And then he would wash them again. This kind of hard work moved the inmates to sympathy. One inmate said, “Kami, come here. Tell Rev. Moon not to do that. If you just leave the rags dirty, they will soon get rotten and then they will have to throw them away and get new ones. Look, this is the United States — it’s a rich country! This isn’t Korea. There’s plenty of tax money to pay for that stuff. Tell the Reverend!”

Father’s Loving Dominion
The inmates were moved by Father because he dedicated himself to the lowest position without complaint. Also Father’s work was impeccable. I really saw Father’s character in his arrangement of the dining hall. When he arranged the tables he would line them up exactly, almost as if it had been done with a ruler. On top of the table were salt and pepper shakers. Father had a very clear principle: salt goes on the right and pepper on the left. Sometimes I didn’t follow that principle and I would put the salt on the left, thinking, “Anyway, as long as both are on the table it’s all right.” But Father would say, “No, Kamiyama — put the salt on the right; pepper on the left! Then put them both in the very center of the table. You should be able to see the salt shakers and the pepper shakers in one line down the whole room.” He set a beautiful table! He always cleaned out the lids of the salt and pepper shakers, too. He was impeccable.

By the same token, the way Father makes a bed is absolutely perfect. You can’t find a wrinkle anywhere! As you know, the blanket is covered partly by the sheet as it is pulled back. Father’s bed was always exactly straight. The pillow had no wrinkles at all. Two plaid blankets are given to each inmate; one can remain folded. When Father folds a blanket the checks lie perfectly parallel to the fold. Everything is exact.

With my own eyes I saw that wherever Father is, he takes loving dominion over material things by the way he cares for them. Father would make his bed perfectly, using one blanket, and then he would sleep on top of that, covering himself with the other blanket. Then when he woke up, all he had to do was straighten up the well-made bed and fold up the other blanket. He could make his bed beautifully in thirty seconds or less.

In the beginning, I followed Father’s way and I could also make my bed quickly. But after a while, I would feel chilly at night so I started sleeping inside the rest of the coverings. Then when I got up, it took a lot more time to make my bed. Father would make his bed in thirty seconds and leave, so I would have to catch up with him.

All Your Weaknesses Are Exposed
Sometimes I would just roughly make my bed and follow Father to the kitchen, thinking, “I’ll come back later and make it better.” But after work, I would come back to my bed and it would be neatly made, just like the top bunk. Of course, Father had done it. I was supposed to be serving him, but he started serving me and I felt bad about it.

Every week an inspector came to check how clean people were keeping their cubes. He came around 10:30 every Monday morning to find who had the most beautiful cube. Father and I always got number one in cleanliness. Because of that, I focused my energy to clean really well early each Monday morning. But on the other days, I didn’t work so hard. Then Father said, “Let’s clean every day, not just Mondays.” If you stay with Father one week, perhaps you can show him just the best part of yourself. But after four months and seventeen days, twenty-four hours a day, you can’t hide anything from him. All your weaknesses and shortcomings will be exposed by him, through his own excellent example.

Father has a very clean, devoted nature, very principled. He really dedicated himself in the kitchen. Usually people would just wipe off the tabletops, but Father would carefully clean every part of the table, including the legs. You can read in Bill’s [Bill Sheppard] diary, “Even in the winter, Father was soaking wet with sweat.” That is how much he dedicated himself. I couldn’t watch Father working so hard at such lowly work. I thought, “I can’t stop Father from doing all that, so the only thing is to do it first.” So I would try to start cleaning before Father did, but then Father would already be there, and we would have a race. You can imagine what the other inmates thought. They are particularly lazy; that’s one reason they ended up in prison. Here were two mature Oriental gentlemen, competing with each other to wash the legs of the dinner tables! So the inmates said, “Take it easy! Don’t work so hard! All you’re earning is eighty-eight cents a day!”

Watching Father doing all these things, I was not only impressed and moved; I was also pained in my heart. Here he is, the True Parent of humankind, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, doing these most lowly things, lower than any of the other inmates. He must have sensed my pain, because one day he told me something. I guess he wanted to comfort me. He said, “Kamiyama, it’s okay. To be in a top leadership position, to be the True Parents of humankind, you have to go this way, from the lowest of the low, from the bottom. You must go down there and only then can you be qualified to assume a higher position.”