Hello, everyone! I hope you are all enjoying good health and excellent spirits. Thank you very much for attending today's service.
I visited Japan this last month from Oct.7th to the 19th. My entire journey was filled with Kami's awesome workings beyond anything I could have expected. Today I'd like to share some of the highlights with you.
On Oct. 10th I attended the Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony at our headquarters in Konko town. The day before I was able to take connecting local trains from Atami and arrived in Konko town on the evening of the 9th.
It took twelve hours but I accepted this with gratitude because it seemed to be Kami's special training. Kami's workings were so precise. I perceived Kami's arrangement in each and every thing that happened during my stay in Hombu. For example, I happened to meet easily with those ministers I most wanted to see.
On 16th I also attended the Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony at my home church, the Konko Church of Airaku. Besides these inspiring Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremonies, there was one epoch-making event for me.
It happened the following day on Oct. 17, during the 30th Day Memorial Service for the late Mr. Tomoyoshi Akinaga. He had been an honorary president of the believers association of the Airaku Church. Without his leadership the Airaku Church will not be what it is today. He passed away at age 92 on Sept. 19. He had gone to foot hills where the church's Sakaki were planted that day gathering branches to place as offerings at his Kami & Mitama altars. Somehow accidentally he'd suffered a bad fall. Being old and frail, the accident proved fatal. But to everyone's amazement, when he died, he had a Sakaki branch offering in each hand.
Someone from the Airaku Church called about his accident. I received a phone call. I was awestruck with the details of his death when I learned of his heroism. The intensity with which he directed his heart toward Kami was inspiring. He died near the church and so his body was taken there. He was the first person other than Otsubo family members whose Mitama services had been conducted entirely at the church.
Mr. Akinaga had lived by himself in an apartment in Fukuoka city and the 30th Day Memorial Service was held there. I really wished to pay my sincerest respects to him and so Rev. Suenaga and I joined in this service together. His apartment contract was due to expire in the next few days. After the service the topic conversation turned to the subject of who would inherit his Kami and Mitama family shrines. It turned out that no one was interested, because his son and other surviving relatives already had their own shrines. So I said I would like to bring them back to Chicago.
His family Kami shrine especially has a long and honorable history. My parent minister, the late Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, dedicated this shrine some 60 years ago. It was his first service of dedication placing Kami's heart in this sacred object through prayer. Since then, of course, he had repeated this sacred service numerous times when his believers wanted to have their family shrines sanctified. These family shrines were brought to Mr. Akinaga to be in his home. They had been dedicated in Mr. Akinaga's home to establish it as a Home-Church in Fukuoka. This ceremony 60 years ago was the precedent model for these ceremonies for Airaku Church.
I brought these shrines back to Chicago and here they are! See how dignified they are! They are now officially a part of our worship place here in Chicago. Since bringing them home, I feel a great responsibility to treat them with single-hearted reverence when I offer prayers before them. I am moved to promise to do my best and manifest the Konko way of living here in Chicago whenever I kneel before them.
What I learned most about faith on this trip was that each person's character was created by Kami's complex and precise workings. Each person forms their character through unique experiences all their lives. Without Kami's permission no one can have any experience of being alive at all. So it can be honestly said that Kami gives everyone his or her own individual and distinct character. Therefore we don't need to blame ourselves, or others, for the nature of their character, no matter how bad they are. We should respect the divine spark in every human life, whatever their character, as sacred. When we really believe this and succeed in putting it into daily practice, our peaceful and joyful heart can grow to become unbreakable.
By respecting each person's character as sacred, I will devote myself to nurturing peace and joy in my heart through everything that happens in my life. In this Way I seek to become a good and trustworthy example for others.
Whatever happens and no matter how difficult it might be I will do my best to continue to deepen the peace and joy in my heart until it becomes an unbreakable one... just like that of Kami. Thank you!
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