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Finding Inspiration in Every Turn

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Susan Blackwell

It is said that when you are ready to learn something, your teacher appears.

Little did I know that I grew up among a small Buddhist community in the Columbia Basin of eastern Washington, although my childhood years were spent in various Christian churches. Then in my 40s, while living in Taiwan and Korea, I learned a little about the religions there but was interested in learning more because I felt a kinship with, and affection and respect for, the many friends we made in Asia. 

After living around the world for about 30 years I returned to my home town of Moses Lake in 1994, and events led me to finally begin to study Buddhism. About 2005 Dr. Paul Vielle, a minister’s assistant in the Spokane Buddhist Temple, offered to hold monthly services in Moses Lake to teach Buddhism. The congregation were mostly Nisei (2nd generation Japanese-Americans), who were members of the Yakima Buddhist Church, about 120 miles away,  and who seldom came in contact with Buddhist clergy unless there was a funeral or special holiday. Few had studied the religion that had shaped their culture.  By 2015 most of them had moved away or passed away, and Dr. Vielle had retired, and my Buddhist education halted.

Then came COVID in 2020, and the Yakima Buddhist Church, along with many other churches, began holding services on ZOOM in 2020-2022. I have enjoyed getting acquainted with those who attend those services, studying Buddhism on a more regular basis, and getting acquainted with many ministers from around the Pacific Northwest, who pay virtual and in-person visits and share their knowledge with us. 

What I most appreciate about Buddhism is the emphasis on “mindfulness”, the constant search for wisdom and compassion, aiming to accept what is (situations, people, my own condition), and expressing gratitude whenever I feel it. 

By Susan Utsunomiya Blackwell, Moses Lake WA, May 2022


Sandy Mendes

I came to Buddhism through Gamblers Anonymous.  This is a twelve step program that centers around a “higher” power. I was raised in the Christian faith.  I lost faith in this and started looking for something different. Buddhism sounded very interesting. I started looking for a church in the area. I called Wapato church and talked to Katherine. She told me about the sukiyaki dinner. I went to this event and met with a Reverend from Seattle. He explained a lot about Buddhism a their beliefs. Buddhism is not a religion it is a way of life, a way of love and compassion. I was drawn to the idea of “interdependence” and true “reality”.  These ideas were really intriguing to me. I find the people very kind and compassionate. Interested developing community involvement. 

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Gaby Mondragon

I began attending services at the Yakima Buddhist Church as an assignment for one of my undergraduate courses.  When I attended, it seemed all too familiar with the Catholic Services I was raised with.  The biggest difference however was the feeling I had when I left.  I didn't feel burdened with guilt and discouraged about myself or the mistakes I've made in my past.  I felt welcomed and hopeful and at peace.  So I kept coming back and eventually my partner Jovan joined as well.  Next, we married with the assistance from Reverend Don Castro of the Seattle Betsuin and our 3 children are being raised in this church. We hope to see more families grow up in this church.  

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