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Inauguration of the New Center in Houston: Diversity Makes Us Strong
On November 22, 2009, the inauguration of our new center was held in Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States. The center opened in 1988, the first to open in the south-central part of the US, in an old house in North Houston. We made a big leap in 1991 and moved into leased space. We were there for 18 years. During those years, our membership expanded beyond Houston, and now half of us are from outside the Houston metroplex, with members in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
Three years ago we learned that our leased space was going to be sold and that we had to move. Our building committee did extensive surveys, studies, and flood plain reviews. We looked at several properties, but "out of left field" came an old church in Houston Heights. We fell in love with it, and, thanks to our building fund, which we had started in 1989, we were able to pay outright for about half the cost of the new facility.
What transpired for the next three years until our inauguration was an unbelievable roller coaster ride. To name some of the major challenges: mold, termites, asbestos remediation, a change of architects, Hurricane Ike taking most of our roof off, insurance problems, midstream changes in the American Disabilities Act (ADA) rules that increased a tight budget, a foundation crack repair, and the Great Recession arriving in the middle of our financing!

We were eventually allowed to overcome all obstacles and open the new center. Only by the grace of Su God, and the commitment, determination, compromise, sacrifice, and sincere prayers of all members, were we allowed to arrive at this day! We are so happy to be joining a great, historic community like Houston Heights, a culturally diverse, primarily residential community with open green spaces in the heart of Houston.
On the day of the inauguration, we were allowed to welcome the director of the North American region and many guests, who came from as far as California, New York and Canada. We also received a warm letter of congratulations from one of the US Senators from Texas, John Cornyn, which acknowledged our efforts in the state.(Click here to view it. Click twice to enlarge.) It was truly a great day for us, and we are all very excited about this new beginning.

Our theme for the inauguration was acknowledging and respecting the grand diversity that is the Houston center. Sukyo Mahikari is a worldwide organization of people of all faiths and cultures. This diversity and inclusiveness, we believe, are key ingredients that make us strong. What we have observed is that each and every one of the various cultures, countries, races, and individuals has contributed positive aspects, or gifts, to the whole. It is truly a diverse group of people that
comes together—all united in one purpose—with a singular dream. That is the dream of creating a heavenly civilization on earth—a world free of conflict, poverty, suffering, and disease. It is the dream of many religions—the dream of a heaven on earth.
Texas itself is a land of immigrants, mixed together in one melting pot. Six flags have flown over her: the Kingdoms of France and Spain, the Mexican Federal Republic, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States. This history actually lives today, and forms the foundation of our center.

Texas did not just begin with six flags. Somewhere around 30,000 years ago, the original Native Americans migrated to Texas from Asia and northern Europe. Seventeen major tribes existed in what is now Texas in the early 19th century. They were the real Native Texans. Many of us today have some Native American heritage in our blood line. One of the many gifts that they gave us was a deep respect for nature and desire to live in harmony with the natural world of God.
Many Europeans endorsed Indian ways. With the arrival of the Spanish and Anglos, many of the real Native Texans were pushed to move to Oklahoma, yet some were integrated into "Texian" culture. The Hispanic culture brought a great sense of family and a true passion for life. Northern Europeans arrived to spread the frontier spirit across the land, and brought an incredible idea—the idea of "liberty and justice for all."

Fast forward to 1988, when the first Sukyo Mahikari center in this part of the country was established in Houston. God chose a great cultural crossroads for us.
Today our membership very much mirrors the history and the migration to this place. The Houston centers area now includes the great states of Oklahoma and Louisiana, and where our membership lives stretches from the Rio Grande Valley, to Austin and San Antonio, to Dallas and Tyler, to Oklahoma City and Tulsa, then down to Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Well represented among our center's family are people from Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Japan, and Africa.
Oshienushisama mentioned in his Tour of Light the special ability of our country to continue to blend our diverse people into a united whole. Even though we are from everywhere, we all share the same dream here. We all come together. And we make a united effort to realize that dream—of Heaven on Earth. Our history is us, and our future is us!
We held a combined inauguration and monthly thanksgiving ceremony on November 22. Ceremony activities began with a welcome by the chairman of the support staff. This was followed by two youth group members showing a slide presentation that told the story of Texas and the Houston center. Next, we witnessed a very special event, the "Presentation of the Flags," which honored our diverse backgrounds yet united dream. Each of the flags represented a "country of origin" among our membership, and was carried by a member native to that country. The amazing list of 22 countries whose flags were presented was: Australia, Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Ivory Coast, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, Venezuela, and the United States.
Members representing the countries were in native dress—some quite elaborate and colorful. The masters of the ceremony introduced each country, and the respective flags were carried by the representatives down the center aisle of the Main Hall to the area in front of the altar. Their walk was accompanied by a variety of native music and projection of slides showcasing their country. When the flags arrived at the altar, the flag bearers bowed toward God, then turned to the audience and bowed, each time to loud and enthusiastic cheers. Each representative deposited his or her flag in a long flag stand next to the altar. The sight of all the flags lined up was truly inspiring! It is truly so inspiring and amazing to realize the great diversity of our center.
We then held the combined ceremony. After the ceremony, our center director extended congratulations and gave an uplifting message to all participants. Our regional director then recounted important elements of the 50th Anniversary teaching. This meant so much to all of us who participated.
We concluded the inauguration activities by singing together the lyrics to the moving song, "We Need Each Other / Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand" (from the album Dream On, by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound). The activities of the day ended with food—pizza—which everyone from any country appreciates and loves!
We have been granted all that we need to accomplish God's will. It is up to us to make it happen. We have the Light of God and the divine principles and this beautiful new building. In the historic year of 2009, when we celebrated both the 50th anniversary of our organization and the 35th anniversary of Sukyo Mahikari North America, we took this inauguration as a true new beginning for our center. There can be no greater honor.

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Sukyo Mahikari is an Affiliate with the United Religions Initiative (URI) of North America