For much of the past decade, Moon’s surviving children (he fathered 15 from two marriages) have been fighting for control of the empire. The bickering has extended to Paraguay, where the Unification Church has established several corporations or foundations that oversee agribusiness interests. In 2010, Moon’s eldest living son from his second marriage, Hyun Jin Moon, organized a Global Peace Festival in Asunción, but the Unification Church’s regional director refused to recognize the event. He claimed that Hyun Jin Moon had fallen out of favor with his father. Moon’s eldest daughter, Ye Jin, later backed the director. Now the church’s various offices in Paraguay were pledging allegiance to different sides.
Just days before Greaves and I arrived in Asunción, one of Moon’s local subsidiaries announced that it planned to sue the office I had contacted. My calls and messages went unanswered. By the time I boarded the Aquidaban, I’d begun to suspect that the National Messiahs in Puerto Leda might have no clue we were coming.
Around 5 a.m., the boat begins to veer to port. We inch along the west bank, and I see nothing resembling the gates of Eden. It’s dark. My mind drifts to the British missionary’s 2000 account of Puerto Leda, which described her arriving “in the blackness of night on the crocodile-ridden bank,” where she was accosted by an attack dog “with a jawful of long white teeth.”
“Think positive thoughts,” Greaves tells me.
Greaves believes that positive conceptualization makes good things happen. During our first two days on the boat, we kept joking about the “friendly little lizard” that ate her bananas and scattered droppings all over the crime scene. There are no lizards on this boat, just Carlos and Pepe.
I succumb to negative thinking. My imagination fills the darkness with visions: the curled lip of a snarling dog, the slow, patient blink of a crocodile’s eyelid.
NO CROCODILES, NO DOGS. Just one man, a portly Paraguayan navy guard in military fatigues, awaits us at the end of the gangplank. He smiles without joy. “This isn’t where you want to get off,” he says.
“This is Puerto Leda, and the people here are expecting us,” I say. I drop some names: the man I had been leaving messages with in Asunción, his secretary. The guard has never heard of them. But the fact that we know where the hell we are seems good enough for him. He abandons the role of brick wall and welcomes us into this humid kingdom. Beyond the small wooden cabin where he sleeps, I see a string of lights farther inland—the heart of Puerto Leda.