Wilson kills the engine in front of a structure that looks nothing like the humble river-side casitas found throughout this region, a district the size of South Carolina in which about 80 percent of the 11,000 residents lack running water. The building in front of us has a peaked terra-cotta roof, brick-and-stucco walls, expansive glass windows, and no fewer than five remote-controlled Carrier air-conditioning units. At the front door, a dozen pairs of leather slippers wait for us. “Very Japanese,” Greaves observes. We remove our dirty shoes and take our first steps into Reverend Moon’s Victorious Holy Place.
All is silent. Wilson flips a switch, throwing light on what appears to be a dining hall. The large wooden tables, each covered with a plastic tablecloth, could accommodate about 100 people. They are vacant.
“There aren’t many people around right now,” Wilson explains. “But sometimes we have 100 working here at once.”
I spot just one, a Paraguayan cook who emerges from a kitchen. With disconcerting efficiency, a buffet breakfast materializes on a table: fresh coffee, tea, miso soup, fried eggs, cereal, cheese, ham, fruit, bread, and marmalade.
“Wow,” I say, the word bubbling up from some primitive part of my brain as I attempt to take in everything at once: the kingly buffet, the decorative carvings on the high-back chairs, the FISH OF THE PANTANAL poster, the Ping-Pong table in a far corner, the neatly stacked Spanish-language copies of Reverend Moon’s autobiography, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen, near the wall. An ascetically thin Japanese man in a polo shirt and jeans walks toward us, smiling behind wire-rimmed glasses.
“Good morning,” he says in English.
He pads across the glazed tiles with a hurried shuffle, as if he’s been waiting for us for years. He’s 62, and his name is Katsumi Date (pronounced dah-tay), or just Mister Date, as Wilson addresses him. He’s a National Messiah.
“Please enjoy your breakfast,” he tells us. “Would you like a hot shower?”