The 2002 Oyasato Seminar began on July 10 with 68 participants from eight countries. This program was initially launched in the summer of 1984 to provide instruction in English on the teachings of Oyasama for children of church head ministers and fellowship heads in the United States and Canada that were enrolled in high school. Later, in response to requests from other overseas dioceses, it was decided that the Oyasato Seminar should incorporate other languages into its program. It has since been conducted in Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese as well. This year, there were 29 students in the English Course (18 in Course I and 11 in Course III), 9 students in the Spanish Course, 17 students in the Portuguese Course, and 13 students in the Chinese Course. Classrooms of Tenrikyo Language Institute were used as accommodation facilities for participants, counselors, and staff members of all courses.
At the opening ceremony of the Oyasato Seminar, Rev. Yoshiaki Mihama, head of the Overseas Department, delivered an address that was simultaneously interpreted into four languages. He said: “Although you differ from one another in terms of your languages and cultures, one thing all of you have in common is that there is someone in your family who has faith in the teachings of God the Parent. I assume that many of you had help in deciding to come to the seminar. I am sure that someone in your family, such as your parents, recommended the seminar to you, so that you would come to better understand at a young age how marvelous the teachings are, while inheriting the faith from your parents.” He also encouraged the students by saying, “I am confident that the seminar will help you resolve your mind to follow the path of faith on your own. In addition, I hope that you will become familiar with the atmosphere of Jiba through the seminar.”
This year’s English Course I counselors were Scot Mikuni and Jaclyn Kokuryo and English Course III counselors were Andy Tomizawa and Cindy Iwata. All four counselors were once participants in the Oyasato Seminar English Course. This time they were in a position to share their own faith experiences with the students in order to provide them with useful insights on how to incorporate the teachings of Oyasama into their daily lives. The doctrine teacher this year for both English courses was Tad Iwata, an Oyasato Seminar alumnus himself. Utilizing his own teaching experience gained at high schools back home, he taught the classes in a plain and yet provocative manner, so that the students could better apprehend the important points of the teachings in an enjoyable environment.
The English Course I came to an end on July 27 along with the Spanish and Portuguese courses (the Chinese Course ended on July 25). The content of the English Course I included studying and discussing the teachings in a classroom setting; learning the dance and musical instruments for the service; crossing the Jusan Pass on foot; experiencing a mission caravan to the Hokuriku region; and performing the service with students of other courses.
By actively engaging in those various activities, the students came to familiarize themselves with the atmosphere and surroundings of Jiba, the Home of the Parent. Experiencing the Jusan Pass crossing and the mission caravan not only strengthened the bond of their friendship with one another, but also helped them become aware of how important it is to help one another in a unity of mind in their daily lives, thereby preparing themselves for Course II, which will be held at the mission headquarters in Los Angeles and in Honolulu during the following winter or spring, and for Course III, which will be held at Jiba next summer.
The English Course III, which continued until August 12, differed from its Course I counterpart in that the program was not limited to studying and discussing the teachings in a classroom setting or learning the dance and musical instruments for the service, but also included such activities as listening to the Besseki lectures; doing missionary work and community service in Kyoto; standing on guard at the Main Sanctuary with members of the Precincts Section of Church Headquarters; receiving the truth of Sazuke; and engaging in door-to-door missionary work with members of the Aichi Missionary House. The missionary work in Aichi became the climax of the program as a whole, where the students, despite such an intensive schedule, spent six full days engaging in door-to-door missionary work in high spirits so as to fulfill their mission as Yoboku.
The Oyasato Seminar provides high school students with an opportunity to learn the teachings at the Home of the Parent in languages familiar to them. The underlying objective of the program has always been to provide the students with practical means to experience the joy of faith so as to nurture their spiritual growth and assist them in discovering for themselves a way to apply the teachings once they have set out on their own.