It has been eleven years since the Kyodan’s new Hymnal 21 was compiled and
published by the Kyodan’s Hymnal Committee. Included in this hymnal are a
number of hymns by Japanese composers. We would like to share with you how
the words of one of the hymns, “In Old Galilee when Sweet Breezes Blew” (No.
57 in Hymnal 21), were written by Befu Nobuo (1913-2003).
Befu Nobuo was born in 1913 in Kochi Prefecture. In 1934 he attended an
evangelistic service at Yokohama Shiro Church. He was soon baptized and
began working with the church school teachers. In addition, he became a
member of the newly-formed Christian Association for Children’s Stories,
giving time and effort to writing Christian stories and sermons for
children, and composing hymns.
The father of four children, Befu was a middle school science teacher, a
Sunday School teacher, and as an author of children’s literature he found
meaning in writing children’s hymns as a way of conveying truth to the
younger generation. Befu said: “In the future I want to continue to write
children’s hymns that can be understood, enjoyed, and from which children
can grasp God’s grace and love. However, it is only through God’s power and
grace that I can hope and trust that my poor, unskilled poetry can be used
to nurture the faith of children.” It was out of this earnest desire on the
part of Befu-his earnest desire to convey God’s word to children-that “In
Old Galilee when Sweet Breezes Blew” was born.
Every summer at the St. Mary’s Campsite in Ichinomiya-machi, a summer
retreat was held for middle and senior high school students in Chiba
Prefecture, in which Befu participated as a leader. The theme of the 1973
summer retreat was “The Bible.” On the last day of the retreat, each of the
participants wrote their impressions of what they had experienced. Befu sat
down at a slightly elevated area beside a lake where there was a pleasant
breeze. He thought of the middle and senior high school students, and prayed
that he might be able to convey the blessings of the Bible to the students.
There was a cool breeze, and on the highest point of the campsite was a
replica of the crucifixion.
1. In old Galilee, when sweet breezes blew o’er the lake,
? ? Where he spoke to crowds when they came to hear,
? ? Those words of grace that gave them promise;
? ? Oh speak to me now, and let me hear those words of grace.
2. On that stormy day, when waves billowed high on the lake,
?? ? His disciples feared till he spoke to them,
?? ? Those words of power that gave them courage;
? ? Oh speak to me now, and let me hear those words of power.
?3. On that cross he hung, to die for the sins of the world,
?? ? From Golgotha’s shame he called out in pain,
?? ? Those saving words of hope to sinners;
?? ? Oh speak to me now, and let me hear those saving words.
?4. On that eventide two friends for Emmaus were bound,
?? ? Recognized him not till he spoke again,
?? ? Those words of life to his disciples;
?? ? Oh speak to me now, and let me hear those words of life.
(Translation taken from Sound the Bamboo, the Christian Conference of Asia
Hymnal published in 2000)
This earnest prayer, which 60-year-old Befu was striving to convey to
teenagers, is now loved and sung by many people as “my own prayer,”
transcending generations, denominations, and nationalities. (Tr. WK)
? ? ? ? ? ? * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Befu Nobuo, ‘ In Old Galilee When Sweet Breezes Blew’”
From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)
Summarized by Nishio? Misao, member
KNL Editorial Committee
by Tim Boyle, missionary
? ? ? Buraku Liberation Center, Osaka
Japanese Hymns in English is the title of a book I ran across that was
written by Pauline Smith McAlpine in 1975.? It contains her translations of
50 hymns written by Japanese Christians, along with short biographies of the
composers of the hymns.?Few of these hymns have been known in the West, but
in recent hymnals of several mainline denominations, some now
appear.?Likewise, two specialized hymnals focusing on Asian hymns contain
numerous translated Japanese hymns.?The following website gives a complete
listing of the hymnals that contain particular hymns:
I want to highlight a hymn that is often confused with the hymn described in
another article on Japanese hymns in this KNL issue, since both begin with
the words “Gariraya no Kaze” (Winds of Galilee).?The other “Gariraya no
Kaze” hymn was composed by Yuki Ko, the “Charles Wesley” of Japanese hymn
writers.?In fact, Yuki’s 10 hymns in the new Hymnal 21 is second only to
Wesley’s 15, unless the 24 hymns attributed to the Kyodan’s Hymnal Revision
Committee are counted.
First, a brief biography of Yuki Ko: Born in 1896 in Tottori Prefecture, he
was educated at Kwansei Gakuin University in Nishinomiya. In 1921, he was
installed as the pastor of Tokyo Futaba Independent Church, the predecessor
of the Kyodan’s Higashi Nakano Church.?He also was a lecturer at Aoyama
Gakuin University and a member of the Board of the Christian School of
Music.?He passed away in 1985.
Yuki’s version of the “Galilean breezes” is set to “Missionary Hymn,” a
Lowell Mason tune that in English hymnals is usually associated with “From
Greenland’s Icy Mountains.” While McAlpine includes her translation of this
popular hymn, it does not appear in any standard English hymnal, most likely
because it is not associated with a Japanese melody.
Another of Yuki’s best-known hymns, however, now appears in several English
hymnals, including the New Century Hymnal published by United Church of
Christ (UCC). “In A Lowly Manger Born” (also known by the title “Behold the
Man”) is set to a tune known as “Mabune” (Japanese for “manger”), written by
Abe Seigi in 1930.?
1. In a lowly manger born,
Humble life begun in scorn;
Under Joseph’s watchful eye,
Jesus grew as you and I;
Knew the suff’ring of the weak.
Knew the patience of the meek,
Hungered as but poor folk can;
This is he. Behold the man!
2. Visiting the lone and lost,
Steadying the tempest tossed,
Giving of himself in love,
Calling minds to things above.
Sinners gladly hear his call;
Publicans before him fall,
For in him new life began;
This is he. Behold the man!
3. Then to rescue you and me,
Jesus died upon the tree.
See in him God’s love revealed;
By his Passion we are healed.
Now he lives in glory bright,
Lives again in Pow’r and might;
Come and take the path he trod,
Son of Mary, Son of God.
The UCC’s New Century Hymnal contains four other Japanese hymns, while the
United Methodist Hymnal and the Presbyterian Hymnal each contain three.
Interestingly, the Japanese hymn that appears most often in English language
hymnals is to a tune called “Tokyo.”?It appears in eight hymnals, with three
slightly different translations, but all close to “Here, O Lord, Your
Servants Gather.”?Yet, it must not be sung very often in Japanese churches
because to use a musical phrase, it does not “ring a bell” with me.
The next most common hymn appears in four hymnals and is one I am very
familiar with, as it is frequently sung in Japanese churches. “Mikotoba
Kudasai” appears in the United Methodist hymnal as “Send Your Word, O Lord,”
while in the UCC hymnal the first line is, “Make a Gift of Your Holy Word.”
These few Japanese hymns that are included in English language hymnals are a
good beginning. I can think of several other beautiful Japanese hymns that
would be excellent additions.?Hopefully, some of them will find their way
into our various hymnals, along with hymns from other cultures as well.
The event? “Under the Lord’s Blessing, Youth Mission 2008,” was successfully
held July 31-Aug. 8 by Kyodan’s Committee on Edudation. There was good
fellowship between the seven young people from the Presbyterian Church in
Taiwan and the Japanese youth who participated.
The program began with a reception on July 31, and the next day, on Aug. 1,
we had the opening service. Afterwards we strolled through Harajuku, the
youth district of Tokyo. It was fun making gyoza (Chinese dumplings) for
dinner with young people who are members of the Student Christian
Fellowship. An evening lecture was given on “Japan’s Christianity and
Yokohama” as preparation for the following day’s study trip to Yokohama.
After a meditation session, everyone enjoyed a dance party. SCF members
presented yukata (a kind of summer kimono) to the visitors. On Aug. 2, we
visited the Yokohama churches referred to in the lecture given the previous
night. That evening, the youth from Taiwan headed to the churches assigned
to be their hosts, where they observed Sunday morning worship on Aug. 3.
On Aug. 4, we traveled to Osaka via the Shinkansen (bullet train) in the
morning, and spent the day sightseeing in Osaka. We moved on to the Mt.
Rokko YMCA, where the conference was held, Aug. 5-7. Under the theme of
“Walking Together with Our Lord,” we talked about God and about ourselves.
At the end of the conference, we prepared a candlelight service using our
own forms of worship, including holding hands in a circle, sharing
testimonies, and engaging in a drama based on the Bible-all to the praise of
God. At the end of the conference on Aug. 7 we went to Nara, where we
enjoyed the sights of this traditional city. The closing worship of Youth
Mission 2008 was held at Nara Takabatake Church. We had a good time with the
youth from Osaka District. We all enjoyed Nara cuisine. Then, on Aug. 8, we
sent off the visitors to Taiwan from Kansai International Airport.
Although only five Japanese youth participated in the whole schedule of the
event, the group from Taiwan had many encounters with Japanese young people.
We also received a warm welcome from a great many others. The Japanese youth
were impressed by the faith of the youth from Taiwan, and the nine-day
program was a precious and memorable event for them. We experienced the fact
that we are brothers/sisters sharing a common faith in our Lord Jesus
Christ. I would like to report with much gratitude that our Lord was with
us, protecting our health and encouraging our fellowship throughout those
The next session of the Youth Mission of the Kyodan and the Presbyterian
Church in Taiwan is scheduled to taken place in Taiwan in 2010. May God
continue to bless our Youth Mission program in the future. (Tr. HL)
?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Sato Tomoko, member
?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Youth Mission 2008 Committee
Youth Mission 2008 with the Berlin-Brandenburg Evangelical Church-the 5th
Germany and Japan Youth Exchange-was held in Japan, Aug. 12-22. The Steering
Committee of the National Federation of Kyodan Women’s Societies (NFKWS)
planned and hosted the program. Pastor Ute Feuerstack headed the German
delegation. The three-day retreat convened at Ashino-ko Camping Village in
Hakone, Aug. 13-15., with14 German participants, including 9 youth, and 26
Japanese participants, including 12 young people. The theme of the retreat
was “Faithfully Administering God’s Grace (I Peter 4:10).” We discussed
environmental issues, something many people throughout the world have become
more concerned about today. Abe Rintaro and Hamda Makito, seminarians at
Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, led the event for the entire three days.
On the first day, Pastor Ute Feuerstack preached during the opening service
for the retreat. Following the service, we introduced ourselves to one
another and had tea together. Afterwards, Pastor Yatsuka Kiyoshi from Aki
Church led a Bible study, during which we read chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis
and meditated on this text. The members from Germany cooked German food for
dinner. After enjoying our meal, we had time for cultural exchange. Japanese
participants introduced Japanese culture, Japanese songs with sign language,
calligraphy, and origami (paper-folding), and explained the situation of the
church in Japan. The visitors from Germany actively participated in this
cultural exchange program and were especially interested in paper-folding.
On the second day, Abe Rintaro preached the sermon at the morning worship
service. We separated into three groups?\prayer, worship, and skit?\and each
group made preparations for the closing service on the third day. This time,
Japanese members made somen, a traditional kind of noodle in Japan, for
lunch. The group from Germany liked somen more than we expected. We had
outdoor activities in the afternoon. After dinner, the German participants
introduced German culture to us. They performed a skit of Snow White and the
Seven Dwarfs and also presented a special “circus” for us. The Japanese
participants were impressed by the German performers’ entertainment skills.
We also enjoyed games together.
On the final day, Nishinosono Michiko, pastor of Kambara Church, preached at
the closing worship service. Each of the three groups formed on the second
day played a special role in this service. The prayer group offered the
invocation after the first hymn and led a special prayer after the sermon;
the skit group performed a play based on Genesis and explained the
significance of the creation story; and the worship group sang Taize hymns.
Pastor Feuerstack closed the service with a blessing and expressed her
gratitude to those who had worked on the exchange program this year and to
those who had prayed for us. She also thanked the host families, the staff
members, and all the participants. After the retreat, each of the German
members stayed with a host family and had fellowship at the church, then
participated in a study tour of Hiroshima and Kyoto together. Hopefully,
they had an opportunity to think about the peace of God, especially while
they were visiting Hiroshima.
Although the participants might have had various impressions, we have
expanded the horizon of our own views through this exchange program. With
the increasing globalization of our world recently, we share common
problems, such as environmental issues, on a global scale. By participating
in this program, we have come to realize that we have great possibilities
for our common future, despite the problems mentioned above. It is our wish
that hope and koinonia will be fostered by this program. We sincerely
express our gratitude to God, who made this program possible; to those who
worked on our behalf, to those who helped us through earnest prayers and
generous offerings; and to Jesus Christ, who makes us respect our
differences and unites us all into one Church.
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Abe Rintaro and Hamada Makito, seminarians
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Tokyo Union Theological Seminary
Kyodan Moderator Yamakita and Group A’s seven other members visited Holland,
Michigan, April 18-22. (Holland is the home place of the Dutch Reformed
Church, the present Reformed Church in America, which sent the first
missionaries to Japan 150 years ago.) The Hesselinks and the Magees guided
them to churches, schools, and social institutions. After a dinner on April
19, the visitors from Japan presented a wall hanging with the words kansha
(gratitude) to each of 20 retired missionaries. Then, Gordon Laman gave a
speech entitled “A sketch of the History of Mission in Japan.” On April 21
the group visited the office of the Reformed Church in America in nearby
Grand Rapids, where they were warmly welcomed by General Secretary Michelson
and other executives who discussed the Kyodan-RCA Partnership-in-Mission
Agreement that will be formalized at the Kyodan General Assembly in October.
Group B’s eight other members and I visited Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, April
17-19. Richard and Martha Lammers arranged for us to stay with host families
for two nights at Uplands Retirement Village, which is surrounded by a
beautiful forest and has a United Church of Christ local church in the
center. On April 18 we hosted a luncheon and time of acknowledgement for
about ten retired missionaries and exchanged information and opinions about
Japan, ourselves, and missionaries. In the evening we were invited to
World-wide Welcome Event where retired missionaries to various parts of the
world gathered in various ethnic costumes to enjoy buffet of ethnic foods,
conversations, speeches and performances. It was impressive that Janet (Jan)
Landis, “our” Japan missionary performed ventriloquism in mompe, a kind of
old Japanese kimono. Fukaya Matsuo, a president of Miyagi Gakuin, delivered
a speech about the Christian schools in Japan, and I gave greetings on
behalf of the Kyodan.
We left Pleasant Hill on April 19 in a chartered van driven by a cousin of
Sarah Oba, currently a missionary in Japan, who kindly arranged for this bus
tour. Without this driver, our visits to two other retirement communities
would have been very difficult. Later that day we arrived at Brooks-Howell
Home in Ashville, North Carolina, a retirement community for retirees of the
Women’s Division and the General Board of Global Ministries of the United
Methodist Church. To our delight, the eight retired missionaries waiting for
us all spoke fluent Japanese, so we interacted with them in Japanese for
over two hours, worshipping and enjoying the reunion as well as thanking
them for their life-long service in Japan. Fusako Krummel was the key
retired missionary who made this visit possible.
Our last visit was to Montreat, North Carolina, April 19-21, about a half
hour ride from Ashville. At a nearby restaurant, we ate dinner with 12
retired Presbyterian Church (USA) missionaries during where I acknowledged
the great work of these missionaries in Japan. That very day, April 19,
Clare Baldwin reached his 88th birthday, and we celebrated by singing ‘Happy
Birthday’. On April 20 we attended worship services at Montreat Presbyterian
Church and Black Mountain Presbyterian Church, during which I expressed
gratitude to these congregations on behalf of the Kyodan. After having a
buffet dinner, courtesy of the missionaries, we were guided by Annie Brady
to Highland Farms Retirement Community where she lives. Afterwards, we were
invited for tea at the home of Lardner and Molly Moore where we were blessed
by their warm Christian fellowship.
We were greatly blessed by this tour, rejoicing at personal reunions with
the missionaries we love and sensing their unexpected welcome, concern, and
joy as well. In addition, we were strengthened in our dedication to
evangelism by these experiences. We thank God and all of them for these
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Ito Mizuo, member
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Commission on Ecumenical Ministries
Note: Letters have been received from some of the retired missionaries,
expressing appreciation? for the visit of the Kyodan representatives.