Unificationists Bob and Maree Gauper, who have been hosting annual Parents’ Day events in Wheatland, California since 2006, are creating a stir with their calls for strong marriages and good parenting among families in the local community.
The Gauper’s joined the Unification Church in the late 1970s and were Blessed in marriage in 1982 at Madison Square Garden by Unification Church Founders Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. They are proud parents of four children: In Mee, 24, Una, 22, Orrin, 19, and Aidan, 13. An outdoors enthusiast, Mr. Gauper enjoys organizing boating-, camping-, and fishing activities for Unificationist families and young adults during the summer. Mrs. Gauper, who is the Sacramento representative for the Blessed Family Ministry, a marriage-counseling network for Lovin’ Life Ministries (LLM), is a trained Matching Advisor for Unificationists seeking to get married. In addition, she has founded a Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP) chapter in Wheatland and through the organization, hosted a kick-off event earlier this year in the form of a fundraiser for tsunami victims in Japan (see link).
Three Sundays a month, the Gauper’s attend Grace Episcopal Church in Wheatland, where Mrs. Gauper is the church organist. The remaining Sundays, they attend the Sacramento Valley Unification Church (SVUC) for the live broadcast of LLM Sunday Service. The LLM community in Sacramento consists of approximately 50 adults and 30 children.
The inspiration to organize their first Parents’ Day event in 2006 came from fellow Unificationist Bento Leal, who is a graduate of the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) and founded the Parents’ Day Council of Northern California.
“The impetus to do our own event came from the outstanding families we had come to know, here in our home town area,” said Mr. Gauper. “We chose four families and honored them with an ‘Excellence in Parenting’ award, and a local congressman, Wally Herger, agreed to be the keynote speaker.”
The first Parents’ Day event was held at the local middle school in Wheatland, and every year after that, at a local building called Pioneer Memorial Hall (PMH), which is owned by Grace Church.
“Since I am the organist at Grace Church, we can use the PMH in return for a free-will donation,” said Mrs. Gauper. “This helps keep our costs, which are usually $300-$500, down. The first few years, this money came out of our pockets and that of local families, but more recently, we have been getting sponsorship from the SVUC.”
The Wheatland Citizen and Marriage Minutes
Among the couples who were honored for the Gauper’s first Parents’ Day event were Cory Bartholomew, a Major in the U.S. Air Force, and his wife Johnna, neighbors of the Gaupers.
“We became their friends after I became their daughter’s piano teacher in 2001,” said Mrs. Gauper. “They used to be Mormons but have left the Mormon Church and are a little skeptical about organized religion. However, they are people who live by conscience, and they are also very passionate Libertarians. They believe in marriage, family, community and responsible citizenship.”
Together with their three children, the Bartholomew couple runs a community newspaper called The Wheatland Citizen, which prints 3,500 copies per month.
“They were so inspired by our Parents’ Day initiative that they invited us out to dinner to ask how they could support us in the future, to keep it going as a tradition,” said Mr. Gauper. “So from that dinner meeting, the Wheatland Parents’ Day Council was born, and together we have celebrated Parents’ day annually ever since, with some financial support from Grace Church, SVUC, and The Wheatland Citizen. We hope to expand it as time goes by, and we also hope that other towns, churches, and organizations will get inspired to have their own Parents' Day traditions.”
In 2007, the Gauper’s joined a marriage educators’ coalition, and after attending several trainings and facilitating a few local marriage-education events, Mr. Gauper found the inspiration to secure a monthly column on the topic in The Wheatland Citizen he called “Marriage Minutes.”
“We continually get excellent feedback about Marriage Minutes,” said Mrs. Gauper. “Some people say it’s the first thing they look for when they open the paper! Even the general’s wife at our local Air Force Base complimented Bob about Marriage Minutes and how much she enjoys it!”
Publicizing Parents’ Day Events
In terms of further publication of their events to support the outreach efforts of LLM, the Gauper’s are well aware that resistance is to be expected.
“We have yet to break through with bigger papers,” said Mrs. Gauper. “Sometimes it seems as if the major daily paper for our area, the Appeal Democrat, based in Marysville, may have some prejudice toward our church. I could never even get them to cover my piano recitals. Recently we did get a reporter from the Appeal Democrat to come to our house to talk about our wedding anniversary. She came, brought photographers, and stayed for three hours, but the paper hasn't run her story. It’s been almost two months now.
“We’re definitely building interest from the Wheatland community at a grassroots level, however. For example, some years, all the nominations come from the community, not the committee. Local pastors and the Lions’ Club, an international service organization, sent in nominations, and so did private citizens. Each year, award recipients ask if they can help out with the event in the future.”
The Gauper’s are confident that they will reap greater successes on behalf of the Unification Church if they continue to invest into local families and events.
“We love Lovin’ Life Ministries! It’s like opening the windows and letting in all the fresh air. Sonic Cult is great,” said Mrs. Gauper. “It reminds me of when the Catholic Church had their second Vatican Council and tried to bring their church into the 20th century. Now Rev. In Jin Moon is pulling our church into the 21st century. We appreciate Rev. In Jin Moon’s practical wisdom and inspirational leadership. We just hope and pray that the great revival being implemented by Rev. Moon will reach everyone, including our kids, like the rising tide that lifts all boats. In the meantime we will try to keep the faith and walk the walk!”
In an anecdote that displays the multi-generational aspect of their faith, Mr. Gauper shared: “My father, an 87-year-old World War II veteran, is one of our biggest supporters. For many years while he operated a fruit stand in Wheatland, he had our Blessing photo displayed. He has been living with us for about four years. He is always speaking highly of us, and of course our children. When we gave him Father's autobiography to read we were taken aback when he later proclaimed, ‘I’m going to throw that book away!’ When we asked why, he said, ‘Because it kept me up until 4:00 a.m.!’”