Our Small Town, Our Great Mission
How a shift in my heart and prayer led to the transformation of my home, district and community.
by Kris Mascarenas
Eight years ago, my life was stuck in the world of anger, which put tremendous strain on my family. My temper got so bad that the police were called to the house once.
At the time, I worked at a diner, and one of our regular customers, an SGI-
USA pioneer member, was always smiling. I asked her what she was doing to be so happy. That’s when I learned about Nichiren Buddhism. Three months later, on May 1, 2011, I received the Gohonzon.
Buddhism taught me to shift my perspective from expecting my children and husband to make changes to realizing that happiness begins with me—with my human revolution. Seeing my transformation, my husband and sister became members, and my children began attending activities as well.
Today, our family has so much harmony and open communication. My son, Isaac, 15, attended the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival last year and brought a friend. He introduced Buddhism to another friend, who lives across the street, and his family joined the SGI. My daughter, Lydia, 9, is also active in our district.
Sharing Buddhism is my favorite part of the practice, because when I see people overcome their suffering, my faith comes to life.
Through our efforts as a family, as well as uniting with the local members to joyfully introduce others to the practice, Platte Valley District was formed in 2017, in and around our small town of 7,000 residents.
Not long after, my husband, Travis, was appointed the Platte Valley District men’s leader, and I became the chapter women’s leader. The district is composed mostly of families who joined the SGI within the last several years.
It appeared that our district was starting off like a well-oiled machine; everyone was happily attending activities, establishing strong personal practices and working in unity. But after a few months, our meeting attendance started dwindling, our district team struggled to unite, and meetings were planned just through group texts.
We did our best to connect regularly with the members and worked tirelessly to support the 50K Festival, sending six of our youth to Phoenix. But afterward, our seeking spirit as a district continued to wane. I found myself for the first time afraid to talk about Buddhism, as I didn’t want to seem “pushy” to the members who were my neighbors and, therefore, good friends. I became discouraged and even fearful for the future of our district.
As I agonized about this while chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in front of the Gohonzon, I realized that our district had been built on genuine trust; we had all taken a leap of faith when we became Platte Valley District.
Somewhere between my impatience and ego, I had forgotten to have gratitude for the members and their courage to pioneer kosen-rufu in an unchartered area.
A senior in faith also reminded me that a leader’s main responsibility isn’t “managing” the members, but rather leading them to happiness. After all, happiness is the whole point of our practice.
With this guidance as my compass, my prayer changed to a sincere wish for everyone’s happiness and victory in realizing their dreams. By bringing my prayer back down to my heart and out of my head, I allowed the workings of the Mystic Law to take their natural course.
Within a couple days of this internal shift, one of our youth re-emerged after a year and a half. Other members started answering the phone immediately when I would call to say hi and see how they were doing.
Then, monthly planning meetings started taking place again, and they were joyful. We are now encouraging one another, based on faith, practice and study!
“Cherishing Our Communities and Societies” is one of SGI President Ikeda’s “Five Eternal Guidelines for the Women’s Division.” Before practicing Buddhism, I was like a hermit, scared to even answer the door. But by deciding that Milliken was the place of my mission, I made efforts to break out of my shell and even joined the Parent-Teacher Organization, allowing me to connect with other parents in the community.
Today, on my street alone, there are four households that joined the SGI. Sharing Buddhism is my favorite part of the practice, because when I see people overcome their suffering, my faith comes to life.
In April, our district held an elementary school division gathering where we welcomed 17 people (five were guests). This was a true testament to our district becoming valued members of my community!
My home, which was once a place of tension, is now an oasis of friendship and happiness for our neighbors, friends and my children’s friends.
In The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, President Ikeda writes: “You are all Bodhisattvas of the Earth, possessing wondrous karmic bonds, who have emerged in your respective places of mission at this significant time. Having such a great mission means that the challenges you face will also be great. But that is why you will be able to savor a truly rare and irreplaceable sense of fulfillment in your lives and accumulate indelible good fortune” (part 2, p. 179).
There is no doubt my fellow district members and I are together at this time, in our small town of Milliken, for the great purpose of igniting kosen-rufu here. Platte Valley has made the strong determination to become a Soka Victory District this year, and with our hearts guiding us, we will win, together with Sensei! WT