The following is a translation of Part 59 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the November 2007 (No. 467) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.
Part 59: A Church Construction Lays the Basis for Salvation
In 1908, the year after Fujinosuke Tanabe became the second head minister of Konohana Shikyokai, the criteria of organizing churches was renewed in accordance with Tenrikyo’s attainment of sectarian independence. As a result, Yuasa, a subsidiary church of Konohana, now met the criteria to be promoted to a shikyokai.1 Konohana, which had been a shikyokai itself until then, now found itself being required to become a “bunkyokai“2 that befitted its position of being the supervising church of Yuasa by increasing its membership and going from leasing its building and property to owning it outright. Since Konohana had just recently relocated and there were a number of Konohana church officials (yaku-in) who were not happy with the fact that Fujinosuke, their new head minister, came from Yuasa (in Wakayama), the prospect of a relocation and construction appeared impossible. However, despite the fact that he was disowned by his family, Fujinosuke worked to persuade his mother to sell the home in Yuasa where she was born and raised and borrowed money from his in-laws (his younger sister’s family).
As this was going on, Nui Uchikawa, someone who Fujinosuke had been concerned about for some time, fell ill. He immediately headed for Yuasa and told the members of Yuasa Shikyokai that her illness was God’s way of hastening them to make a resolution to contribute to Konohana’s construction.
Several days later, Nui’s husband Kumataro came rushing to the church with a menacing look on his face. Kumataro had long been opposed to Nui’s faith in Tenrikyo; it was a level of opposition that went over the edge. The Uchikawa family ran a restaurant. Kumataro regularly stripped Nui to her undergarments, tied to her a post in front of the restaurant, beat her, and doused her with buckets of water even in the middle of winter.
When Nui asked Kumataro to buy a new cooking pot because the one she was using had a hole in it, he would sarcastically say to her, “There’s no need to buy a new one, just go pray to your Tenri god to fix the hole.” Another time, when Nui went to put a straw mat over some small fish she was drying in the sun because it suddenly started to rain, Kumataro beat her and said, “Pray to your Tenri god to stop the rain.” Nui continued her devout faith despite such treatment from her husband.
Kumataro had come straight to Yuasa Shikyokai to express his discontent after Nui had stopped breathing. He said: “Despite all her devotion, she died. Give Nui back to me.”
While Kumataro unloaded his complaints to Rev. Tanaka, the head minister of Yuasa Shikyokai, Fujinosuke headed to the Uchikawa home. Nui had stopped breathing the night before and her family was her preparing for her funeral. When Fujinosuke went to her bedside and administered the Sazuke, Nui was miraculously brought back to life. Her family was flabbergasted. Fujinosuke went back to Yuasa Shikyokai and told Kumataro to return home.
Fujinosuke then wrote a letter to Kumataro before going back to Osaka for good. The gist of the letter was: “The Nui who was the wife of Kumataro Uchikawa is no more. The Nui before us is now a servant of God. Be forewarned that she is no longer yours to order about anymore.”
When Nui came to Konohana to offer her prayers, Fujinosuke urged her to leave for Miyazaki for a missionary expedition (tandoku fukyo). Then, when Nui resolved to leave home and devote herself to propagating the teachings in this way, her daughter Otoku, who had been blind since birth, gained vision in her eyes. Nui took Otoku — three years old according to the traditional count — along with her when she departed for Miyazaki.
A church construction lays the basis for instances of miraculous salvation to occur. God the Parent discerns our sincerity in difficult situations and blesses us in various ways. Following the construction of Konohana’s worship hall, the number of live-in followers and dispatched missionaries increased, which allowed it to a take a further step forward toward enriching its membership.
Reference: Tenrikyo Konohana Daikyokai. Nidai kaicho Tanabe Fujinosuke ryakuden.
- Next installment in this series: 60. A Bridge Between Countries (Yamamoto, Risaburo 2)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
About Konohana: Now known as Tenrikyo Konohana Daikyokai [天理教此花大教会], it currently oversees 73 bunkyokai and 115 fukyosho, including Vancouver Church in Canada.