Good Morning everyone, thank you for attending our monthly service for August, 2018. I hope you are all in good health & excellent spirits.
Today we celebrate this service & pray for students to improve themselves in all aspects of their academic education. Our founder prayed for young people to have good health & education. He said, "Young people should work hard to become smart & able to remember what they learn very well."
Young people are the treasures of the world. It is vitally important for an upcoming generation to perfect themselves physically, mentally & spiritually in order to be of great service to the world.
I now really feel young American people want to know the Konko Faith once they are introduced to it. There are many religions in the world. Among them, they sense some important message in our faith. We should be open-minded to them whenever they want to contact us through email or some other way, like phone-calls & visits. I want to do anything I can to show them what I know about our faith is most genuinely seen in faithful practice of it.
The KCNA Conference was held in Chicago for the first time from Friday, July 20 to Sunday, July 22 at the Loyola University. Youth Camp (YC) started from Tuesday the 17th, Young Adult Seminar (YAS) Wednesday the 18th and Family Camp (FC) & Spirituality Bridge (SB) Thursday the 19th.
Through the divine virtue of Rev. Kiyoji Konko & thanks to all the prayers & tireless efforts of KCNA staffs & conference committee members, it turned out to be a gratifying success.
Through it, my life's dream has finally come true. I had a long-cherished dream when we came to Chicago, that one day Rev. Kiyoji Konko would come as a keynote speaker, when we had our KCNA conference in Chicago.
I have really wished that especially the young members of KCNA would have a chance to see Kiyoji Sensei & feel his divine virtue that would reveal itself from within himself. He not only came to Chicago, but he brought his third son, 11-year-old Keishi-kun too. He greeted and talked with anyone with his smile from within & power of positive talking during his stay in Chicago. Keishi-kun also was so sincere & thoughtful that all kids enjoyed accompanying him.
Kiyoji Sensei studied for a year & a half as an international student at the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago from May 1992 to December 1993. He thinks of Chicago as his American "hometown". Whenever I have seen him at our headquarters in Japan, Kiyoji Sensei welcomes me by saying that I was bringing the fragrance of Chicago to Konko Town.
I prayed that this conference would be filled with peaceful & joyful hearts of all participants & that all who attended could feel Kami's workings around them.
The conference started with the greetings of Rev. Amy Uzunoe-Chin, Chief Administrative Minister of KCNA at 4:00 pm on Friday, July 20. In our first presentation, she asked us to have silent prayers for the Mitama spirit of Ms. Stephanie Tashiro who passed away on July 4 at age 33. She was an active member who helped KCNA & KC San Diego.
The KCNA staff conducted the opening ceremony. Rev. Todd Takahashi brought two leis from Hawaii & presented one to Kiyoji Sensei. Angelyn, our granddaughter, presented one to Keishi-kun.
Mr. Tim Ogawa, president of the believers' association of KC Chicago was the conference chairperson & the conference MC. He introduced the conference committee members by having them come up front.
With deep gratitude for their hard work in my mind, I gave my greetings to the attendees & shared that my dream had come true! My heart was full of joy & happiness to welcome all here, to Chicago.
Tim-san introduced Kiyoji Sensei's bio with a PowerPoint presentation at 7:30 pm. He did it so nicely that it made the participants feel at home & triggered their laughter when he showed the photo of a younger Kiyoji Sensei when he had visited his house, because at that time he had a beard & mustache.
Rev. Kiyoji Konko delivered his presentation, titled, "Is the light on?" & subtitled, "Switch the light on, and Keep it on."
The Kami-centered mindset is the light of inner happiness that shines from within. In order to create the Kami-centered mindset, he emphasized the importance of "Three Sources & Four Pillars."
The Three Sources are the Central Mediation Hall, each church & each home. The Central Mediation Hall serves as a spiritual spring, sustaining all Konko churches. Konko-sama is always praying for us as we are connected with his prayers & mediation at any place & time. So through daily prayer & mediation, we can reset our spiritual focus, keeping the heart of Kami & divine guidance accessible.
The Four Pillars are daily prayer, mediation, service to Kami & gratitude. When we keep our spiritual lives balanced with the Four Pillars, we can continuously reignite our relationship with Kami. This is the way to keep the light of faith shining brightly that the love of Kami can spread throughout our communities & beyond.
Then he talked about how easily we would turn the light of faith off. He shared three examples with us that included a story that inspired to keep the light of others on.
Finally he talked about the importance of sharing the light. Our Divine Parent wishes that we humans help others – just as our cells help each other in our bodies, which is scientifically proven. Helping others is our deepest purpose in life, and so Kami has designed us to thrive when we embrace this sacred calling.
Kiyoji Sensei concluded his presentation as follows: "Konko means 'Golden Light.' The present Konko-sama spoke at a KCNA Conference in Santa Barbara back to in 1972. He said, 'A light of faith should be handed down from generation to generation.' It is my prayer that you keep your light on and share it with others so that they, too, can experience the hope and joy that awaits all who embrace Kami in their hearts."
With swearing by Kami, let us all recite together, "Switch the light on, and keep it on."
What a brilliant presentation it was! His presentation was so inspiring that all participants were deeply impressed with it. I put his presentation on this KC Chicago's website.
We had 6 discussion groups, one for Japanese, one for Family Camp and four English groups. All facilitators & sub-facilitators were female and they did a great job. I joined each group one by one with Kiyoji Sensei. Each group was different and they all had fruitful discussions.
In the Japanese group, upon request, Kiyoji Sensei explained his presentation in Japanese. Furthermore he talked about the background of his presentation. I was very happy to know that Kiyoji Sensei would be the keynote speaker after the House of Delegates had accepted the proposal of our Chicago conference committee last December. I also found Kiyoji Sensei willingly accepted our request. However I was afraid that it might greatly burden him. In the Japanese group he said in order for questions & answers to go smoothly, he had taken private English lessons since March. How sincere he was! Through his divine virtue & his sincere heart, this conference became the best & the most impressive.
The forecast said that there would be rain throughout Saturday, July 21, & we had a plan to take some people downtown Chicago that afternoon. Family Camp would visit Maggie Daley Park downtown. And thanks to Kami's arrangement, it did NOT rain & everyone enjoyed themselves without precipitation.
Saturday Night Live was also MOST amazing. Max Segawa (Toronto) & Daichi Takeuchi (Chicago) were MC's for it.
Na Kupuna Ukulele Club of Chicago played their music with much entertainment. I had never heard such a harmony when the four girls sang the national anthem. Mr. Tim Ogawa was one of the members. The group was so friendly that all conference participants had a great time.
Kiyoji Sensei, Uzunoe Oyasensei, Amy Sensei, Igawa Sensei, Alan Sensei & I sang "Sukyaki" song together with the Ukulele Club.
Flamenco dance was also brilliant. With the sound of Flamenco Guitar, Ms. Rie Katayama danced Flamenco so energetic that it greatly attracted us. Ms. Katayama is president of the New Chicago Japanese American Association that Rev. Takeuchi is now volunteering as vice-president of it.
Family Camp did many dances. Youth Camp & Young Adult Seminar did skits related to our faith. Spirituality Bridge sang a song, titled, "Heal the World."
During the Sunday morning service we all paid our deepest respect to the Mitama spirit of Ms. Stephanie Tashiro. The memory of her precious life made our Chicago conference more memorable.
Through the divine virtue of Kiyoji Sensei and all the prayers & passion of all participants, this conference became one of the best. Kiyoji Sensei told me that he had not thought the conference would be so interesting, enjoyable & grateful.
On Monday, the next day, I invited Kiyoji Sensei & Keishi-kun to see the Cubs baseball game. On the way to it, I took them to the former facilities of the Meadville Lombard Theological School where Kiyoji Sensei studied 25 years ago. That school moved to downtown a few years ago. So some rooms have been changed, but some still remained the same. He told me that he had taken photos with his friends by sitting on these steps. He almost cried by his fond memories of those days.
We went to Wrigley Fields to see the Cubs game that evening. There, Keishi-kun was waiting so patiently before the game that he finally got an autograph of Kris Bryant, one of the best Cubs players. It is now his treasure & the best gift from Chicago.
For a week, I spent dreamlike days with Kiyoji Sensei & Keishi-kun. The Conference was really filled with Kami's awesome workings and gratitude always welled up in my mind. Even now joy & gratitude continue to well up in my mind like a fountain.
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