Monthly Service : July 22, 2012

Good Morning, everyone! Happy New Day, Week & Thank you especially for attending. Today's service is the second monthly service for July, 2012. I hope you are all enjoying good health & excellent spirits.

As you've probably heard our younger son Daichi, visited Japan for two weeks this month. He just returned yesterday. This was Daichi's second visit to Japan.

His first visit was at age 5 with his mother. They stayed at our home church of Airaku in Fukuoka prefecture for about a month. Daichi has a great time talking & playing with the Airaku children who were his same age.

His pre-school class had begun while he was away from Chicago. But he went to the class he'd been assigned to the next day after he came back to Chicago. That afternoon he came home crying bitterly. He said, "I couldn't understand English."

I was surprised to find out how smoothly & naturally he'd adjusted to using his second language when it surrounded him for a solid month.

This adventure was part of an initiative program run by the Japanese government called "The Kizuna Project". In Japanese "Kizuna" means "bond". Throughout this summer, some 1000 American high school students are traveling to Japan for a fully-funded, two-week visit.

The Kizuna Project has sponsored long-term cooperation & understanding between Japan's young people & the world. This year's project aims to promote a first-hand understanding about the recovery which is under way in Japan's NE provinces in the wake of the March 11, 2011 disaster.

Daichi now attends Chicago's Northside College Preparatory High School. Only students from his high school were selected to represent Illinois in this year's project. He & nineteen other students in his school studying Japanese were chosen to take part in the project.

They were to be housed in "home-stays" & would make side trips to Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka. Then they would stay three nights & four days near one of the areas affected by the earthquake & tsunami in NE Honshu as the focus part of the project. Daichi and other students visited Hitachi, Ibaragi prefecture. They would have the opportunity of volunteering with the recovery effort. In the process they have the opportunity for a first-hand chance to learn about the many ways the natural & man-made disasters changed the lives of so many Japanese citizens.

On July 8th, the day of departure, Kanako & I drove Daichi to O'hare airport. When we arrived we saw a good friend, Ms. Jeung-Hee Park, we affectionately call her "Joho Sensei" which is her Japanese surname. She teaches Japanese at Daichi's high school. She was just returning from Japan. We offered to drive her back home after the Kizuna Project students had cleared security.

All the students were excited about their forth-coming journey. They went to the ticket counter to check their baggage & receive their boarding passes. At last they stood in line for security inspection.

When we were about to leave the airport's departure floor Joho Sensei found another student & his mother standing at the ticket counter. The student's was not on the Northside College Preparatory High School list of students departing for Japan.

It seems the mother had refused to sign & return the school's agreement form. They had discussion about it with her several times. Finally, at this last possible moment, she understood that her son could not go to Japan without the signed, parental agreement on file. After refusing repeated requests, the school had removed him from the list & replaced him with another student. The mother, however was adamant. She insisted her son had the right to visit Japan, because he had first been on the list.

Joho Sensei explained to her gently & precisely that the ticket counter computer didn't show her son's name on the list as a matter of course. The mother insisted that not only should her son go today, but that the school should pay his airfare as well. Joho Sensei explained that even if her son had ticket for this flight, he'd be out of luck when he got to Tokyo, because there would be no place for him to stay. The mother told Joho Sensei to call the Kizuna Project & the school to fix it. Joho Sensei graciously tried but there were no answers. She was kind enough to leave her cell phone number where she could be reached at any time.

The mother's demands were beyond common sense, but the mother said she would risk of her life to get her son on that plane & to Tokyo anyway. So we stayed at the airport until the Kizuna Project's flight had left for Japan.

Joho Sensei even offered the mother & her son to take him to Japan in two years by her own expense when she would be organizing a two-week exchange visit to Japan. Still the mother never gave up until the airplane had actually left the ground. The mother bitterly told us that no one would help them & finally left.

Through this incident I saw some great lessons. First I was surprised to know that there would be such a die-hard person in this world. The next morning after the regular prayer service I opened the Wagakokoro Sacred book & prayed for the mother & her son. I asked Kami what we should do in an occasion like that. I received the following teaching of the late Rev. Socihiro Otsubo, founding minister of KC Airaku who Kanako & I had trained under:

"Where exquisite joys flourish,
Riches & honors thrive."
The spirit to give in is noble. A heart which can pray for the spirit of those opposite you is ever more grateful. At just such times the feeling one has is of exquisite joy. Exquisite joy is inevitably followed with success, riches, & honors."

I believe Daichi had experiences in Japan wonderful & memorable beyond measure. Through every person he encountered, everything he saw & everything he heard in Japan I hope Daichi deeply felt the heart of Kami develop within himself. If possible I would like to ask Daichi at some point in the future to tell something about his experiences in Japan. Right now he's still adjusting to jet-lag. But as part of his project he's assigned a written report about his adventure. I'm actually hoping that Daichi might ask one or two of the friends to share their impressions of this one-of-a-kind learning opportunity too.

I believe that in this increasingly fractured world we live in, this kind of cooperative understanding is Kami's Divine hope for the future. For the sake of human race in this world then, I pray unselfishly to do my best to respond to everything in this mortal life with a heart which reflects this teaching of Rev. Otsubo as perfectly as possible. This is the Divine Heart of the Universe. May I mold myself & inspire others with a Way that can transform this world into a more Kami-fulfilled world!... & I ask you most sincerely to please join me!

Thank you!

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