This is a translation of an article written by Rev. Michinori Hara, head minister of Yoshu Branch Church, for the Tenri Jiho newspaper’s column entitled “The Ofudesaki, My Companion along the Way.”
Nothing should be called illness. Should your body be afflicted, it is God’s call for your service.
In April seven years ago, when I was attending an explanation session prior to Tenrikyo Gateball Tournament (gateball is a sport similar to croquet)–for which I was to serve as chief umpire, as I had done in previous years–I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my abdomen. After a thorough examination in a hospital, I was told that I had cancer in three places.
I underwent radiotherapy as well as anticancer chemotherapy in a national hospital over several months, during which I had to endure unpleasant side effects. Since my condition steadily deteriorated, I asked my doctor how long I had to live. After a few seconds of silence, the doctor said, “You have several months.”
At that moment, a thought arose in my mind: “Is this how I’m going to let this body–a thing lent by God, a thing borrowed–come to an end?” Born to parents who were entrusted with a Tenrikyo church, I grew up hearing the teachings of God from my father, the church’s head minister.
I was full of remorse and felt sorry for having let things come to this.
I immediately set out to return to Jiba. Kneeling in the presence of the everliving Oyasama, I asked Her how I should spend the remainder of my life.
Then Her teachings about how one is saved by saving others spontaneously arose in my mind: “If you save others, you will yourselves be saved”; “Through saving others, you will be saved”; and so forth.
“I am not going to worry about what will happen to me anymore,” I decided. “From now on, I’ll focus my attention on doing whatever I can to help others be saved.” I started trying to convey the teachings to as many people as I could. I spoke to people on the street and visited people’s homes, door to door, without thinking about how others might perceive me. I lived each day in this manner, leaving everything up to God.
Then one day, I was asked to serve as the head minister of a church. I debated with myself whether it would be appropriate to undertake such a responsibility when I had only a short time to live. Eventually I came to the conclusion that this might be “God’s call for [my] service”–that is, God might have been trying to prepare me for the work of God while guiding me through my illness.
Despite the doctor’s verdict that I only had several months, I am still being allowed to serve. As the core of this church, I would like to serve, along with its Yoboku and other followers, in a way that brings joy to God and Oyasama.