Faith Experience Speech – Setsumi Saltman

Tenrikyo Hawaii Women's Association

49th General Meeting

May 17, 2008

Faith Experience Speech

Setsumi Saltman 

Thank you for allowing me to share my faith experience with you.  I also would like to thank Mrs. Kazuko Fujiwara for translating this speech.

When I look back at my childhood, I feel so lucky that my biological parents were also my spiritual parents.  They were the most dedicated, sincere, generous and caring parents to us and to everyone they touched.   Most of all they were obedient to their parents and God the Parent. At the request of my grandfather, my father left medical school to become a missionary.  The reasoning was that becoming a missionary instead of a physician would allow him to better help people, bring more blessings and improve the causality of the family.  My father and mother got married at the request of their parents without ever having met each other until the wedding day.  They established their first church in Hiroshima and approximately  6 years later my father, before consulting my mother agreed to go abroad to spread the teachings in response to the Shimbashira's call for missionaries to go abroad to engage in world salvation work.  He left first, then two years later, my mother and the four of us, the youngest only two, joined him in California.  The Bishop asked him to establish a church in Fresno since there were no Tenrikyo churches there.   He was unable to speak English so he developed relationships with the Issei and Nisei families and through them developed friendships with non-Japanese residents, some of them prominent families in Fresno.  Even without the ability to speak English, he was able to be part of the Fresno local community.  One family allowed us to establish our church at their previous residence, a mansion on twenty acres of land for many years free of charge.  My father supported the church and family by working eight hours a day as a gardener for a prominent attorney who  asked for his help in maintaining his Japanese garden which was 5 acres in size.  He toiled in the hot sun during the summer (greater 100 F ) and cold winters (below 32 F) from Monday -Saturdays and did missionary work in the evenings and weekend.   Throughout my childhood we lived with students, families, elderly people and visitors.  He welcomed any and everyone.  We hosted many events and activities, one even having the attendance of the mayor of Fresno.   My mother supported him by nurturing the members, cooking, and maintaining the church.  She cooked for ten to fifteen people each meal and always cooked for large activities without ever stressing or complaining.  We also were expected to do a lot of hinokishin in the kitchen and yard-work to help them.

 

I always enjoyed listening to my father's sermon and remember believing in God early on.  Everything I heard seemed consistent and logical.  Most of all, I saw the benefits of believing because my family on both sides, starting with my grandparents and all of their children were very dedicated and had planted lots of seeds for us.  My parents followed and modeled the teachings and I was able to see the immediate benefits in my daily life.  We always had delicious food, we were surrounded by caring people, we were able to grow up without ever requiring a visit to the doctor, we never encountered accidents or trauma and we were all able to attend universities with minimal support from our parents.  We lived in a caring environment where people came to learn, practice and help each other grow through the faith.  After many years we were given the opportunity to establish our current church on the very residence , the one with the Japanese garden that he had helped to care and nurture.  Most of all, our siblings get along with one another, follow the faith and have married into other wonderful families.  I believe this is all due to the blessings from the work of my grandparents and parents.

When I look back at what I learned from my father,  I remember how clearly he explained these concepts:

  • We are all brothers and sisters
  • A person who does not do something after he is told is stubborn, a person who does things after he is told is sincere, but a person who does things before he is told has true sincerity
  • If you save others you will be saved
  • The blessings you receive through your faith will carry over to your next generation
  • Two as in one.  Everything has a positive and negative side, complementary parts which maintains the balance
  • Everything you see or happens is a reflection of your heart or mind
  • Be a person who can get along with different types of people
  • Enlarge your container by experiencing difficulties and overcoming them; From knots, buds will grow
  • You come to church for your own sake not for anyone else's
  • Your body is so remarkable; each organ functions even at rest
  • All you need to do is save one person during your lifetime
  • You can accomplish the same thing in short period of time or long period, it is up to each of you
  • Mind of joy, appreciation and tanno are the most important things
  • The service is one of the most important part of salvation work
  • Place God in the center of everything you do

 

I am thankful for this religion because it helps guide us to the joyous life and most of all it helps us get through difficulties.  At the age of 32 I lost both my mother and father within one year and remember how the members, my brothers and sister were able to lean on God, comfort each other and accept it peacefully.  My brother, the current minister must have felt a big loss, since he was suddenly left with a busy church without his spiritual parents.  A few years ago we lost a 45 year old brother to leukemia.    Through his faith he endured one year of medical treatments with a positive, grateful and peaceful attitude.  His wife, who is not of Japanese decent became the pillar by caring for him physically and by leaning on God and the teachings.  Even without my brother now, she places daily offerings onto the alter, performs the service, drives 3 hours with her little son to Fresno each month to attend the monthly service, is active in local church activities and is planning to take over one of our fellowships.  She tells us how the faith helped her through this difficulty.  I think about how my brother in his short life accomplished his goal of making a difference in another person's life. 

My goal is to continue to study the teachings, practice it well, and share this faith with my children and others so that they can have the opportunity to learn about the teachings and receive the wonderful blessings that I have.  Thank you for your kind attention.

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