On October 25, the Post-Disaster Recovery Committee held a “Gathering in the Home of the Parent,” which was attended by 258 participants, who were mostly church head ministers and their spouses who were affected by the March 11 disaster. Honored by the presence of the Shinbashira and his wife, the gathering was organized to encourage affected church leaders in their efforts toward recovery.
In the gathering, held in Dining Hall 3, the Shinbashira took the podium to address the participants. He started by saying, “I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to you all and pray with all my heart that we will see the affected regions be reconstructed and the affected people get back on their feet physically and emotionally as soon as possible.”
He went on to explain what the earthquake and tsunami might have meant by saying: “Given that natural disasters are referred to as Tsukihiʼs ʻregretʼ and ʻangerʼ in the Ofudesaki, we followers ought to think of this catastrophe as Godʼs stern instruction to us. . . . Whether directly affected or not, each of us should take it as our own concern, ponder over it deeply, critically reflect on ourselves, and correct what needs to be corrected, as well as strive each day to keep ourselves in accord with Godʼs intention.”
The Shinbashira then touched on his visits to affected areas in which Tenrikyo Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps was working. “Some followers, despite the fact that they were victims themselves, acted in ways that befitted the children of the path by providing other survivors with shelter and taking care of them,” he said. “I was deeply impressed by them.”
Noting that a larger number of pilgrims than usual returned to Jiba from quake-affected dioceses on the Childrenʼs Pilgrimage this summer, the Shinbashira said: “I was thinking that, being in an early stage of recovery, you might not have enough time or energy to put into going around neighborhoods to recruit participants in the Childrenʼs Pilgrimage. However, your steady efforts bore much fruit, which—even if we consider the support provided—was surprising and delightful as well as exciting. . . . I hope the children who have suffered emotional trauma as a result of the disaster felt comforted and healed in the atmosphere of Jiba and went home in high spirits.”
Regarding the recovery efforts in the affected regions, the Shinbashira stated, “Even if physical reconstruction seems in progress, peopleʼs emotional pain must be deep and wonʼt be healed easily.” He then expressed his expectations for the participants by saying, “Since you know yourselves what it was like to experience the disaster, I believe you can be instrumental in standing side-by-side with other affected people, listening closely to what is on their mind, and providing them with emotional support to help them get back on their feet.”
Lastly, after quoting a Divine Direction that says, “No parents intend to make their children suffer or go through hardships” (Osashizu, February 25, 1897), the Shinbashira said: “Although this disaster is really a difficult knot, I want all of you here—who play leading roles in your church, which should serve as a training center for single-hearted salvation—to think of this knot as Godʼs guidance given out of the parental love to help you attain further spiritual growth in accord with Godʼs intention. I would also like you to continue working on your tasks and duties so that you will be blessed to see strong and solid buds grow from this great knot.”
Representing the participants, Oka Branch Church Head Minister Hikomi Nirasawa then proceeded to express his determination in response to the Shinbashiraʼs address. He stated: “To restore buildings, or to rebuild what was there, is one aspect of recovery. At the same time, we now need to have the spirit of ʻrestoration,ʼ which describes the effort to return to the origin of the teachings. We want to be able to respond to the sincere help and parental love given to us while returning our thoughts to the day of origin of our church—the day it was established with a firm commitment to be single-hearted in performing the service and engaging in salvation work. . . . Let us now reexamine if our church has served as a spiritual and emotional haven for followers and sufferers. Through our further dedication to performing the service, sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings, helping others be saved, doing hinokishin, and making our repayment to Jiba, as well as carrying out other activities suited to the churchʼs role, I hope we will be able to have God accept our sincerity and give us blessings that allow us to see buds sprout from the knot on the way to full recovery.”
The participants then moved to Dining Hall 2 for a dinner reception with the Shinbashira and his wife.