Last year, 79 people entered missionary houses in 14 locations across Japan to spend a year sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings. Why did they choose to devote themselves to missionary work? What is on their minds now? This story covers a day in the life of a Hyogo Missionary House resident.
At 5:30 a.m.—this being January—Kobe is still enveloped in the silence of the night before dawn. Misae Tanaka, 25, shows up at the Hyogo Diocese Administration Office, saying, “Good morning. It’s cold, isn’t it?” She cleans both inside and outside the office at a brisk pace in freezing temperatures.
After the morning service, she performs the service dance with other residents, followed by breakfast. Around 9:00 a.m., Ms. Tanaka conducts a prayer service before going out. She then starts her morning routine, which consists of walking down the street spreading the name of God the Parent. She refers to this practice as “the starting point.”
Ms. Tanaka, who was born and raised in a church, has liked the path very much since she was a child. After graduating from a junior college in Tokyo, she attended Shuyoka (the Spiritual Development Course) and then decided to dedicate a year to sowing seeds of sincerity at her grand church. During that period, she began to use her free time to spread the name of God. She says, “I heard stories of people carrying out missionary work away from their church and home and was inspired to try to serve as a missionary.”
In March the year before last, Ms. Tanaka saw an accident—an old man on his bicycle suddenly fell over in front of her. She ran up to him and saw that the man was breathing hard and losing consciousness. She single-heartedly administered the Sazuke to him while telling her sister, who was also there, to call an ambulance. However, the man took his last breath before the ambulance arrived. “I felt so disappointed and helpless.”
What does Oyasama want me to realize from this incident? The question was burned into her mind.
On the day of the same year’s Autumn Grand Service of Church Headquarters—when Ms. Tanaka worshiped from her own church—she happened to find and pick up an entrance guide to missionary houses in the worship hall. She looked through it and knew by intuition, “This is what I have been looking for!”
There is not a single day that she does not engage in door-to-door missionary work. Even if there is nobody home, she cheerfully speaks toward the door, “My name is Tanaka, and I am a follower of Tenrikyo, which offers the teachings of the Joyous Life. I am here with Oyasama, our beloved Parent.”
Ms. Tanaka recalls, “Sometimes I had hard times and felt down.” Last May, she met a man in his 70s who had been laid off and was in the depths of despair. Wanting this man to return to Jiba, she asked him to join her pilgrimage group to the annual Sechi Festival. Although the man accepted her invitation willingly, he ended up changing his mind on the day before the pilgrimage. Shocked by his last-minute cancellation, Ms. Tanaka sought advice from her father, who is the head minister of her church. Her father encouraged her by referring to a Divine Direction that teaches, “If you look at the sky and delight in the truth of the sky, that is the truth of drawing nearer day by day” (Osashizu, February 2, 1899). After that, Ms. Tanaka occasionally looks up at the sky while walking. “The sky is empty—nothing fills the empty space. I decided to stop expecting anything from others and make my mind empty just like the sky.” In doing so, she came to sincerely find joy in such occasions as meeting people who listen to her and say kind words to her. She says, “I realize that I am the one who is always helped by those to whom I sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings.”
Last June, Ms. Tanaka met a woman in her 20s who had suffered from lymphatic malignancy. While continuing to visit and administer the Sazuke to her, Ms. Tanaka helped this woman’s mother attend the Besseki lecture. Then this woman received a miraculous blessing—a test conducted in October found that her cancer was almost gone. Ms. Tanaka says, “I did nothing but continue to visit her. That was the moment when I felt the blessings of Oyasama.” On the day this reporter accompanied Ms. Tanaka, the woman was not at home. Ms. Tanaka left a letter saying: “How are you? Please take care not to catch a cold.”
She says: “I haven’t yet become the kind of missionary that I aspired to be. So I would like to continue to walk for missionary work every day even after leaving the missionary house.”