The following is a translation of an excerpt from Ishizue: Kashihara Genjiro no shinko to shogai (Cornerstone: The Faith and Life of Genjiro Kashihara) by Teruo Nishiyama. Note: This translation is a provisional one and may need to undergo further revision.
The First American Student at Tenri Seminary
It was 1932, the year after Yoshinori came home from his trip around the world. Kakutaro Yoshioka, who was engaging in salvation work in Hawaii, returned with a woman named Bournehall.
Ms. Bournehall was about 50 years old. She had suffered from arthritis in her right leg for many years when Rev. Yoshioka’s administration of the Sazuke allowed her to walk. Greatly overjoyed, he encouraged her to return to Jiba from Hawaii with him.
“This is the greatest gift I can give you, Rev. Kashihara. Please enroll her in the Special Course (Bekka) at Tenri Seminary and make her a Yoboku.”
At Rev. Yoshioka’s words, Yoshinori immediately readied a specially-made bed and had Ms. Bournehall live at Myodo Followers Dormitory. While she knew simple Japanese words such as “arigato” and “Kami-sama,” Yoshinori and Shizue devoted their attention to comfort her during her stay in a country different from her own.
Ms. Bournehall was the first Caucasian to enroll in the Tenri Seminary Special Course. She completed the six-month program with perfect attendance. She was innocent to the bone and was attached to Yoshinori and Shizue like they were her parents.
Talk of how an American was training at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters spread and an article with her picture appeared in the prestigious magazine Shufu no tomo.
Japan-U.S. relations were poor at the time. Hostile literature on the “yellow peril” and anti-Japanese sentiment were on the rise. That an American joined a Japanese religious organization stirred much publicity.
Repercussions came from an unexpected place. A professor and a pastor from the School of Theology at Kyoto’s Doshisha University had seen the aforementioned article, came in a car to Tenri, and demanded Yoshinori a meeting with her.
When Ms. Bournehall came back from Tenri Seminary, the pair thundered: “The U.S. is a civilized nation. It is an absolute disgrace for a person from a civilized nation to join a perverse Japanese religion. There’s no need for you to be in Tenri. Come to Kyoto. We’ll provide you with a monthly salary and a home. You aren’t a civilized person unless you have faith in the teachings of Christ.”
Ms. Bournehall’s face turned red as she protested: “What are you saying? I was ill in Hawaii for many years. Did Christianity save me? No, Tenrikyo saved me. Don’t I have the freedom to have faith in Tenrikyo? The U.S. is a free country. On what grounds do you insist I cannot believe in another religion than yours?”
The pair was astonished and went back to Kyoto, never to return again.
Ms. Bournehall received the truth of the Sazuke during her six months in Tenri and returned to Hawaii. Whereas she may not have fully settled all the teachings in her heart, she always felt indebted for having been cured of her illness and it was a source of bliss for her. She followed Rev. Mikuni’s instruction and resolved to administer the Sazuke and spread the faith. She was able to spread the fragrance to a rich senior citizen who was a graduate of Germany’s Heidelberg University. Ms. Bournehall spoke to him about her experiences and administered the Sazuke. The lonely man became overjoyed and promised her to give his house to her when he died. It was said that the home was worth $30,000 at the time.
Ms. Bournehall then moved into this house according to the old man’s last will and testament and lived the rest of her life happily. This was all possible due to the power of the Sazuke.
Genjiro, hearing this news, was as happy as if this had happened to him. It convinced him that the divine name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto would really be spread to the corners of the world. He keenly felt that one was willing, that God would even use someone as close as his own son to make it a reality. His desire to carry this out remained with him until the last day of his life.
- Next installment in this series: Promoted to a Headquarters Executive Official