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Member Care and Friendship Are Key

Members of Fayetteville District in northwestern Arkansas rejoice at their Soka Victory District achievement, September. Photo by BRIAN WALKER.

This year, the SGI-USA is focused on developing the district as the oasis of open-hearted discussion and encouragement. In this series, the World Tribune speaks to recently announced Soka Victory Districts to learn the keys to their advancement.

Fayetteville District
Fayetteville, Ark.

Q: What’s unique about your district?

Fayetteville District meets in northwest Arkansas and covers four large cities and several small towns. The district was established in the 1970s by a group of determined students at the University of Arkansas. Some of our pioneer members belong to the Happiness Group, which SGI President Ikeda created during his visit to New Orleans in 1974 (which is part of the same zone organization).

We are so fortunate to have the amazing example of these members. Their stand-alone spirit to realize kosen-rufu serves as an inspiration for all of us, and we are determined to continue building on this legacy!

Q: What were some practical points of action that led to Fayetteville becoming a Soka Victory District?

Leading up to the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival (in September 2018), we came up with a list of 70 people we hadn’t seen in months or years. Our conclusion was: If we don’t care for these people, the rest of our efforts don’t matter. So we made member care our priority.

To foster a spirit of member care and raising capable people, we appointed unit leaders. We have 13 leaders, including four district leaders, three vices and six unit leaders. We assigned every member to a unit, so they all have a leader who supports them in their practice.

We’ve also become good friends in faith by organizing informal gatherings for members to get to know one another, including “Tosos and Tacos Night!” On the first night, three people showed up, and at the most recent gathering, 15 members attended. The basis of everything in our district is strong friendships based on faith.

Through such efforts, we’ve seen a huge shift! These days, we have at least 20 people who consistently come to our district meetings, doubling our average.

Q: Can you share about a recent victory?

There are so many! In The New Human Revolution, volume 24, President Ikeda says, “Concretely speaking, an ideal example of a really strong greater block [district] is one in which, when you ask its members in a discussion meeting, ‘Can someone share an experience of receiving benefits?’ everyone eagerly raises their hand, excited to tell others” (p. 188). Our focus is ensuring that members receive benefit so they know and can show others that the practice works.

Earlier this year, a new member found out he had cancer for the fourth time. As a district, we rallied around him to help him develop his practice, and his leaders consistently visited him. He is doing much better now and on his way to a full recovery!

When members are struggling, we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together and make sure their spirits are high. Because of such efforts, 18 youth attended the chapter July Youth Discussion Meeting from Fayetteville District, including eight guests!

Q: What is the district’s determination moving forward?

Right now, the state of Arkansas is its own chapter, so our determination is for Fayetteville District to expand to the point where we can create two districts in the area. Through this, we hope that northwest Arkansas can become its own chapter. As a start, in October, we began holding our study meetings on the group level.

Q: What advice do you have for districts across the SGI-USA?

1) Remember our purpose. President Ikeda says: “What is the purpose of the Soka Gakkai organization? It is for kosen-rufu, and for all its members to receive benefit and become truly happy. That’s the aim of our Soka Gakkai activities. We must never forget this most basic point” (NHR-24, 187). We should always ask ourselves: Are people breaking through? If they’re not eagerly wanting to share experiences, why not? What can we do to change that?

2) Hold planning meetings, and have a seeking spirit. We have weekly meetings with all unit and district leaders. We plan meetings and discuss our vision and progress of the district, as well as review the condition of the members. We also seek encouragement from our seniors in faith and stay in rhythm with the SGI-USA direction.

3) Utilize membership lists. In preparation for the July Youth Discussion Meeting, we reached out to every person on the Fayetteville District membership list. It can feel overwhelming at first, but this kind of care and effort to communicate with all the members is a core part of who we are as the SGI—a community that leaves no one behind and ensures the victory of each precious member.

District young women’s leader Bethany Davis contributed to this interview.

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