Good Morning, everyone! Happy New Day, Week & "Thank You" for attending this monthly service for December 14th, 2014. I hope each of you is enjoying good health in excellent spirits as we prepare to welcome in the New Year of 2015.
I visited Japan from Nov. 21st to Dec. 3rd. As you know, I have returned to Japan many times since we moved to the United States & this trip was filled with Kami's awesome workings more than I have ever experienced before.
First, I was overwhelmed to be asked to conduct the 20th year Memorial Service of our mentor, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo on Nov. 29th as head-officiant. It was the greatest possible honor for me. I did every possible thing I could to prepare & conduct this duty as sincerely as possible.
I've long felt I have a tendency to do things by halves. I sometimes enjoy divine blessings before pursuing Kami's heart to the proper level. In Japanese it is said, "We should make Japanese Sake by crushing rice before cooked rice," it's good to enjoy cooked rice, but we should crush that rice in order to make a higher quality Japanese Sake.
Mrs. Homare Kaida was one of the guests from Japan who attended our 5th Anniversary Celebration on Nov. 2nd. She said she enjoyed the food served here in Chicago, but she felt rice prepared in Japan was much better than that served in Chicago. She eagerly wished to donate high quality Japanese rice to KC Chicago the next time I visited Japan.
This time when I went to Japan I was asked to lead a faith meeting in Usuki where Mrs. Kaida lives on Nov. 27th. After the meeting, true to her word, she asked me to take one of Japan's delicious rice to Chicago as her gift for our hospitality. I didn't know how big it was, so I accepted her kind offer very graciously. When we reached KC Airaku that night, I found the weight of it was 30 kilograms, in the trunk of the church's car. What a weight it was! For those of you not used to the Metric System, 1 kg. = a little more than 2 pounds! That means Mrs. Kaida's gift was about 70 lb. of rice!!
Well, I was able to get it from the trunk of the car to KC Airaku's entrance with the help of another minister. But as we struggled to get the wonderful gift from car to church, I immediately decided to donate it for the 20th year Memorial Service of Rev. Otsubo. I had prepared monetary donations, but I couldn't have brought this kind of generous gift from Chicago on the airplane. So my heart was filled with gratitude to think I would be able to offer this rice as a much more appropriate gift for my mentor's memorial service.
This example of Kami's awesome working was like something that happened to Rev. Otsubo some 66 years before. It was a few years after the war; a time when poverty was at its peak. Otsubo, who was not a minster then, always attended the Grand Ceremony of KC Mii. His wife sent him a note asking him to bring anything he could for their family to eat.
As he was going to Kabame he managed to get some low grade dark flour in Fukuoka. While waiting at the bus stop for Kabame he thought he prepared money offerings, but not the customary tangible gifts. Then Kami pointed out the flour & he realized it could be the gift offering. Then through his spiritual eyes Kami showed Otsubo an important image. Roughly it could be translated as, "Is it O.K. for your children to die of hunger when you donate this flour?"
The obvious answer was, "We are allowed to live by You, Kami-sama. I would like to understand this fact more thoroughly. As I offer this as donations, I will leave the welfare of my children & wife up to Kami."
When he returned to Fukuoka after the grand ceremony, someone had brought better quality white flour than black one. He perceived it as Kami's awesome working which would profoundly affect his faith for the rest of his life.
On Nov. 28th I went to Imari in the church van to attend a faith meeting. Mrs. Kunko Kitao was with us. Kitao-san sat next to me in the van. We talked about our faith with each other. I told her about the gift of 30 kg rice I'd received for Chicago. She was surprised because she had sent a piece of luggage to KC Airaku from Tokyo that had included 5 kg bag of high quality of rice. That luggage had plenty of space & the cost of its delivery was the same. She included it to give to some appropriate person. That rice, she said, was so delicious that it required no side-dishes to eat with it. The quality of the rice sounded very great. She decided to give it to me as an offering to KC Chicago. I thought it was an appropriate weight to bring it back to Chicago & realized Kami's superb workings & accepted it with great joy.
I attended two meetings of the House of Delegates (HOD) & Ministry Board of Review (MBR) on Dec. 6th & 7th. All participants vigorously shared their opinions. There budgeted non-ministerial program that would send a believer per year to Hombu to further his/her understandings & experience of the Konko faith. There will be no subsidies from Hombu from 2017. The package of Minister Training Program becomes now available. The chairperson of HOD was changed from Mr. Kiyoshi Igawa Jr. to Ms. Susan Okazaki from 2015.
We are now approaching the end of 2014 which has been one of the most memorable years for our church. I now do my best to deepen my faith focusing on the following teaching of my mentor Rev.Soichiro Otsubo:
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