On June 10, Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters in Brazil conducted the service to commemorate its 50th anniversary, which was honored by the presence of the Shinbashira and his wife, Mrs. Harue Nakayama. Approximately 6,500 people assembled at the mission headquarters to attend this special event. They came not only from every part of Brazil but also from neighboring countries including Paraguay, Peru, and Argentina. Some of those traveling from distant parts of Brazil, such as the Amazon Delta located more than 3,000 kilometers north of the mission headquarters, had to make bus journeys that required as many as three days.
The Shinbashira and his wife, accompanied by Overseas Department Head Yoshiaki Mihama and Latin America Section Chief Naotaro Shimizu, departed Nagoya Airport on the night of June 6. This was the third overseas visit for the Shinbashira since his installation—the previous two trips being a visit to Australia three years ago and a visit to Europe last September.
Arriving at the Guarulhos International Airport in São Paulo on the morning of the 7th (night of the 7th in Japan), the Shinbashira and his wife were escorted to the square in front of the airport’s main entrance, where 40 Boys and Girls Association members greeted them with a fife-and-drum band performance and presented them with bouquets. The couple’s faces beamed with smiles, showing no trace of fatigue from the 24-hour flight. They were then driven to Mission Headquarters in Brazil, which is located in the city of Bauru. Having performed the June monthly service that morning, Bishop Yuji Murata and about 300 followers were on hand to welcome the couple when they arrived at the mission headquarters at about three o’clock that afternoon.
The 50th anniversary service was conducted on the morning of the 10th. Since the mission headquarters can accommodate only 1,000 overnight guests at a time, followers who live within a range of four or five hours from Bauru left their towns late on the previous night so they might reach Bauru in the early hours of the morning, some arriving as early as 3:00 a.m. From São Paulo alone, as many as 55 busses made the overnight journey. Arriving in Bauru, the busses assembled at Recanto Tenri, an outdoor activity center measuring ten thousand square meters, situated three kilometers from the mission headquarters. There, hinokishin volunteers served the passengers coffee. Around 6:30 a.m., 12 shuttle busses began transporting the followers to the mission headquarters. The skies in Bauru were clear, in contrast to the thunderstorms that many of them had left behind in São Paulo the night before.
At 9:00 a.m., the Shinbashira and his wife, dressed in their service kimono, entered the sanctuary to the accompaniment of gagaku music. The Shinbashira proceeded to the dais to offer worship, whereupon the congregation, amid an air of solemnity, clapped their hands in unison with him.
Bishop Murata then delivered the prayer, first in Japanese, then in Portuguese. After reflecting on the advancements made during the past 50 years, he said: “The followers in this diocese have spent the past ‘three years, one thousand days’ striving to make spiritual growth in anticipation of this 50th anniversary. During these three years, four new churches have been established, and we are well on our way to spreading the path throughout Brazil, thanks to Your blessings.” The bishop went on to express the followers’ commitment: “We shall all maintain faith that is single-hearted with the Jiba, follow Oyasama’s Divine Model both in spirit as well as outward practice, bring our minds together in a unity that encompasses both young and old, set our sights on the next milestone in our journey toward spiritual growth, and make new strides toward accomplishing world salvation.”
Next, the Shinbashira addressed the congregation. He began by saying: “Today you are commemorating your mission headquarters’ 50th anniversary. What will make this day truly meaningful is to give fresh thought to the ‘day of origin’ when this mission headquarters was established and to take this opportunity to commit yourselves to making further advancement and spiritual growth hereafter.” He went on to explain that a mission headquarters has two significant roles. First, he said, since a mission headquarters has been granted the truth of a church name, just like any church, it is to serve its community as a model of the Joyous Life and as a training center for single-hearted salvation. Second, he said, it is to serve as the core for providing care and guidance that is conducive to the spiritual growth of the followers living in that region. He asked those affiliated with the mission headquarters to fulfill these roles by exerting energetic efforts while constantly maintaining a stance of faith that is single-hearted with God.
While acknowledging that the care and guidance provided through our individual church affiliations is necessary, he also encouraged the listeners to recognize the fact that, if we wish to have God’s intention become known more widely and take root in a community, it is extremely important for all followers who live in that community, irrespective of their church affiliation, to bring their minds into unity and join hands in achieving that end. The Shinbashira closed his address by paying tribute to the early followers in Brazil, whose painstaking efforts, he said, had enabled the path in Brazil to be what it is today.
The service was then performed with the Shinbashira as the core. Following the service performance, Bishop Murata expressed gratitude to the Shinbashira and his wife on behalf of all the followers in Brazil. Then he addressed the congregation, both in Japanese and Portuguese, to offer his appreciation for the untiring efforts they had made to fulfill the objectives that had been set for the three-year drive leading up to the anniversary, which included “establishing a base in each state in Brazil” and “doubling the number of service performers at each church.” The bishop closed his remarks by saying: “Let us join together in a unity of mind and take firm steps to actualize the world of the Joyous Life so desired by God the Parent.”
Following the service, the 6,500 followers regrouped at Recanto Tenri to enjoy, in the company of the Shinbashira and his wife, a festive event called “Joyous Gathering,” which featured a wide variety of entertainment, including dancing and a fife-and-drum band performance.
From June 11 through 16, the Shinbashira and Mrs. Nakayama paid official visits to 11 churches in Brazil. In addition, on the day before the 50th anniversary service, June 9, the Shinbashira, who is the president of the Young Men’s Association, and Mrs. Nakayama, who is the vice president of the Women’s Association, attended a joint convention of the Brazil chapters of the Young Men’s Association and the Women’s Association, which boasted a turnout of 1,100 members.