Hello, everyone! I hope you are all enjoying good health and excellent spirits. Thank you very much for attending today's service, our first for August.
Last Sunday I attended the Konko Church of Whittier-Rose Hill, California. I had been invited to be one of the officiants of their ceremony celebrating the 10th Anniversary of its founding.
In addition head-minister, Rev. Kiyoshi Igawa and his wife, Rev. Wakiko Igawa were also celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I flew to Los Angeles on Friday morning July 23, to arrive early and help them prepare for this important celebration. I felt I had a debt of gratitude to repay to the Igawas.
Twenty years ago I stayed at their house for total six months while studying a special program of English at California State University. They had invited me when they learned I had a strong desire to do missionary work in the USA. Their kind offer to let me stay with them made it possible to attend the university ESL class. During my stay I was asked to lead the Morning Prayer every day. And we had many good, long talks about the essence of the Konko Faith and its future in the America.
I have warm and memorable memories of that time together. They had wanted me to establish the Konko Church of Whittier-Rose Hill. But it didn't work out and so they became the Konko ministers themselves and established a church in their big and beautiful house in Whittier city.
We set up the Kami altar for the service in the ballroom of the Luminarias Restaurant. Nine ministers, with Rev. Kiyoshi Igawa as a head officiant, conducted a solemn and beautiful ceremony. One hundred sixty people attended the inspiring service. The ceremony began with a Taiko Performance.
Rev. Kiyoji Konko, the second son of Principal Mediator, The Honorable Reverend Heiki Konko, was one of the guest speakers. He told of his father's great faith. The older his father has become, the more concerned he has become solely about Kami. Rev. Kiyoji said his father seemed to be doing his best to follow the following teaching of our Founder, which says, "If I leave this Mediation place, people may meet unfortunate injuries. When I pray for people to receive divine blessings and not meet misfortune, there is no time to go out."
At the conclusion of his speech Rev. Kiyoji quoted his father's own teaching, which was, "The joy of faith is the joy felt in our daily lives because faith is within our daily lives."
This speech inspired me so greatly that I decided that when I returned home I'd become a much more dedicated Mediator and sit at our Mediation place in our Chicago church as much as possible to serve Kami and people as far around the world as I could.
Another speaker was Rev. Todd Takahashi from the Konko Mission of Honolulu. He talked very powerfully about the energy of the Essence. He told how the Essence he received through Mediation has healed his heart and body. It has strengthened his soul and guided him to become the person he is today.
Rev. Kiyoji Konko's nine-year-old daughter, Michiyo Konko, performed the Sacred Dance (Kibimai). It was titled "Prospering year after year" and she danced it beautifully and with great elegance.
The Kiyoji Konko family stayed at the Konko Church of Whittier-Rose Hill. Since I also stayed there helping to prepare the ceremony, it was a great blessing to feel deep faith of Rev. Kiyoji Konko and his wife, Rev. Noriko Konko. It was amazing to see their humility and sincerity.
As they had with me 20 years before, the Igawas asked Rev. Kiyoji Konko to lead the morning prayers both on Sunday and Monday. I was nearly moved to tears when Rev. Konko started the Morning Prayer. I was overwhelmed with the realization that each church has a strong connection, flowing like a stream from the Central Mediation Hall which is it's fountainhead. Rev. Kiyoji included this vision in his speech at the celebration service as well. It was as though I had had a premonition of what he was going to say.
Before I left to return home, Rev. Konko gave me a most precious gift. He personally hand-wrote it on fancy paper. It was the lyric of the Kibimai dance composed by the late Rev. Norio Sato, one of the prominent disciples of our Founder. It says, "Progressing day by day, Prospering month after month, year after year opens the very way for a divine person." I was overwhelmed to receive it.
I have returned to Chicago filled with an abundance of awesome feelings. It is like the description our Founder told when he taught, "Receive Kami's words in gratitude, then your gift will be divine virtue so great that neither a boat nor cart can hold it."
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