The High School Division of the Students Training Course was held at the Home of the Parent from August 9 through 15 with a total of 1,737 students participating. This annual one-week course is designed to provide students who do not attend schools in the Home of the Parent with an opportunity to study the teachings together in Church Headquarters facilities, come into touch with the parental love of Oyasama, share their experiences in faith with fellow students, and cultivate friendships.
The students were divided into groups according to their grades and the number of times they had participated. In addition to attending the morning and evening services daily, they listened to lectures led by their homeroom instructors, practiced the dance and musical instruments for the service, and dedicated themselves in efforts of hinokishin, or selfless and thankful action. After the evening service, such activities as “Faith Discussion Groups” and “Indoor Olympics” were held in their dormitories, where under the care and guidance of their counselors, the students deepened their friendships with one another through those activities. During the program, 505 students (216 first-timers) attended the Besseki lectures.
First-time sophomores took part in the Oyasato Walk Rally. For half of the day, they visited the Main Sanctuary and the Historical Sites. For the other half of the day, they were divided into small groups to make rounds of checkpoints in the Home of the Parent, where quizzes and games awaited them. First-time juniors attended an event called “Look around Oyasato.” They visited the Foundress’ Birthplace and the Dining Service Center. First-time seniors participated in an event called “Talk in Doyusha.” They learned how to broadcast the news and had a chance to appear on a TV program in which they talked about their motives for attending the course as well as their dreams for the future, based on the result of the questionnaires handed out to the senior participants prior to the program.
Second-time participants crossed the Jusan Pass, which was significant inasmuch as the students were the same age as Kokan, Oyasama’s youngest daughter, when she crossed the Jusan Pass to do missionary work in Osaka. The activity was designed to provide the participants with an opportunity to experience what Kokan had gone through. In the severe heat, all participants left Takayasu Grand Church in Osaka around three o’clock in the afternoon and helped one another to reach the Kokan Memorial, which is located at the top of the mountain. The female participants returned to Jiba by bus after reaching the journey’s halfway point, while the male participants continued the 30-kilometer trek on foot to the Main Sanctuary.
Third-time participants visited Sansai-no-sato, the youth center for outdoor activities, located on the outskirts of Nara City, in order to enjoy an exchange program in which they took part in games that required knowledge, athletic skills, and teamwork. Also, after the evening service on the 13th, they danced the Teodori, the Dance with Hand Movements, in real earnest at the East Assembly Hall to express their gratitude for the blessings that had enabled them to participate in the course three times.
On the 15th, all the students assembled for the closing ceremony, in which Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi delivered an address, encouraging the students to continue to live out the faith they had nurtured during the past week, even after returning home. Through these various activities, students were able to share their joy of faith with people of their own age. Many students who participated in the speech rally voiced their joy at making new friends and following the path. Included among those speakers was Shinsuke Hirota, a 17-year-old student who spoke about a life-changing experience that occurred to him during the course.
Having had asthma attacks since the age of four, Mr. Hirota had avoided returning to Jiba out of fear that the illness would strike again, for every time he returned to Jiba in the past, he had suffered sudden attacks. Then, last year, he returned to Jiba in order to attend the course for the first time after being strongly encouraged by his parents and those around him. Though he was worried in the beginning, no asthma attack occurred throughout the course, and he was able to enjoy a fulfilling week at Jiba. This year, he applied for the course on his own volition.
Finding himself in good physical condition, Mr. Hirota decided to walk the Jusan Pass on the 11th together with his friends despite the stifling heat. While resting at the top of the mountain, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his right eye. The growing pain prevented him from continuing to walk, thus forcing him to get in the car. Feeling that this had happened to him in the midst of the most enjoyable event among all the activities of the course, the past unpleasant memories crossed his mind for a moment. His homeroom instructor, who was accompanying him, administered the Sazuke to him and gave him a few words, which touched his heart deeply. He said: “You were shown the pain in your eye while walking the path which Kokan also walked. You are 17 years old, the same age as Kokan when she crossed the pass. There must be some meaning behind it. I also had an illness shown in my eyes before the course started, and the fact that both of us had the same ailment is surely no accident. Let’s both accept this situation as it is, and try to find joy in it.” Mr. Hirota was really shocked to hear him say that, for he had never thought of it that way before. He realized that until then he had always tried to run away from the reality. Greatly encouraged by those words, he went back to the trek, and started walking with the group again, while enduring the pain. And he was able to walk back to the Main Sanctuary in high spirits. In his speech, Mr. Hirota told the audience: “Looking back on it, I realize that everything that happened to me during the course was due to the guidance of God the Parent. I wish to spread this joy to my friends as much as possible, and I hope that this will be my first step for sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings.”