Desire to Teach Faith to Children Inspires Japanese Hymnist

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