【December 2016 No.390】A Half-Century of Working With Nihongo (Japanese Language)

by Timothy D. Boyle, retired missionary Penney Farms, Florida

As a newly retired missionary and ongoing translator and copyeditor for the Kyodan Newsletter, I have been asked to reflect back on my years in Japan. I first began studying Japanese as a junior in college as part of a program at the East-West Center in Hawaii in 1967. Becoming a missionary and spending most of my adult life in Japan was not yet on the radar screen, but that is where God was leading me behind the scenes. I was sent as a “J-3″ (3-year-term missionary to Japan) in 1971 to Sapporo in Hokkaido, and it was there that I sensed a call to the ministry. I returned to the US with my new wife, Yuko (Juji), in 1974 (Yuko is her given name, but she has gone by the nickname of Juji since her youth. Her maiden name was Kurosu, which sounds like the English word “cross,” which in Japanese is “juji.”), and then we returned as regular missionaries in 1982 first to Hokkaido, then to Tsukuba Science City, where we spent the bulk of our ministry, and finally to Kansai area, where I served two years at the Buraku Liberation Center and 6.5 years at Kwansei Gakuin University.

 

There are many highlights I could share (along with a few “lowlights” I would rather not), but since this has to be short, I will just briefly introduce two. Just about the time we went to Tsukuba in 1986, Juji began having trouble with her muscles and was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular condition called Isaacs’ Syndrome. (Well, actually, that would qualify as a “lowlight”!) This has resulted in regular stays in the hospital for treatment ever since, which has opened up numerous opportunities for her to minister to fellow patients. One was a young lady by the name of Yuki, who had a malignant brain tumor. Juji became good friends with her and her parents. Yuki loved Christmas lights, and Juji was able to get special permission for Yuki to be brought by ambulance to the church on Christmas Eve, first to see the lights and then for the choir to sing for her prior to the candlelight service. Before she died about five weeks later, she indicated that she would like to become a Christian. We were able to bend the rules Tsukuba University Hospital had about religious activities in the hospital, and so I was able to baptize her right there in her hospital bed. Her parents were so moved by the experience that they too wanted to receive baptism and follow Christ.

 

As Yuki’s father was a high-ranking prefectural government employee, there were many who came to Yuki’s memorial service, where I gave the message. It was held in a big funeral hall, which would normally have a Buddhist ceremony. But this was to be a Christian ceremony, and so the stage was set up with a large, floral cross. My goal in the message was to get the over 500 people in attendance to think about what “filial piety” towards their true “parent” is. Oyakoko is an integral part of Japanese culture, where duty towards one’s parents is emphasized. The English translation, “filial piety,” is not a phrase Westerners normally use, but it really flows right out of the fourth commandment: “Honor your father and mother.”

 

Yuki had been a daughter who demonstrated such “filial piety” towards her parents, and so I wanted to emphasize that while showing such respect and devotion to one’s earthly parents is very good, there is one thing that in the end is even more important—that of showing oyakoko to our true oya (parent), namely the God who created each of us in his own image. Funerals, along with weddings, are perhaps the points of contact with the general population who have no background of Christianity where we have the greatest opportunity to plant seeds that the Holy Spirit can use to draw people to Christ. I have no way of knowing whether God has used that particular event to play a role in drawing some of those people there to Christ, but I think it likely that he has or will, as I am aware of many anecdotal accounts of Japanese coming to faith through seeds planted by sensitive messages at Christian funerals.

 

Along this same line, I have always endeavored to find linguistic and cultural points of contact that can serve as vehicles for communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ to Japanese in as natural a way as possible. The other highlight I want to mention is the book I put out first in Japanese and later in English on how the makeup of so many of the Chinese characters that Japanese use in their language perfectly illustrates biblical truths. The publisher of the original 1994 Japanese version came up with the title that translates in English as Bible Stories Hidden In Chinese Characters, and 5,000 copies were printed in two editions. This is quite a large number for Japanese Christian books, but it is now out of print. I self-published the original English version several year later, and just last year put out an updated version under a new title, The Gospel Hidden In Chinese Characters. It includes the Chinese readings as well as the Japanese so as to have a broader appeal. I hope some day to be able to rewrite the Japanese version and make it available again.

 

As I close this brief article, I want to say that while I feel I have been able to make important contributions to the mission of Christ’s church in Japan, I can add my voice to that of many other missionaries I have heard who all testify that we have received so much more than we have been able to give during our years of working with the Japanese people. That no doubt will continue to be true in the future, as we plan to return to Japan every summer to spend time at our cabin at Lake Nojiri in Nagano.

日本語との半世紀の付き合い

ボイル・ティモシー、引退宣教師

 

引退した宣教師として、また、(英語の)教団ニュースレターの翻訳者と編集者の一人として、日本に於ける私の人生を振り返って、記事を書くことになりました。日本語を勉強し始めたのは大学3年生の時、ハワイ大学付属の東西文化センターのプログラムに参加したことです。当時は宣教師となって、それ以降の人生の大部分を日本で過ごすことは全く考えていませんでしたが、知らない内に神が私をその道に導いていました。1971年に「J-3」と呼ばれていた3年間の短期宣教師として、札幌に派遣され、そこで牧師と成る使命を感じました。1974年に結婚し、新しい連合いと一緒にアメリカに帰りました。雄子にとっては、初めてアメリカに渡ることになったが、8年後正式な宣教師として再び北海道に戻り、その次につくば学園都市に移り、21年間宣教活動をしました。そして、最後に、関西に引っ越し、部落解放センターで2年間と関西学院大学で6年半働きました。

数多くの思い出がありますが、スペースが限られているので、2つだけを紹介します。1986年につくばに移った頃、雄子は筋肉の病気にかかり始めたのです。後には、「アイザクス症候群」と診断されましたが、これは非常に珍しい難病で、筋肉が硬直する病気です。結果として、治療のため毎年入院する必要があります。こうして、いろいろの患者と接触し、キリストの愛を示しながら彼らを支える多くの機会が生まれて来ました。その中の一人は脳腫瘍を患っていた若い女性でした。有紀さん、そして彼女の両親と親しくなりました。有紀はクリスマスのイルミネーションが好きで、クリスマスイブに救急車で教会に来られるように働きかけ、特別な許可を得ました。燭火礼拝の前に、聖歌隊が集まり、彼女のために特別なコンサートをしました。5週間後、彼女が亡くなる前に、クリスチャンとなり洗礼を受けたいと私たちに伝えました。筑波大学病院では、宗教活動は一切禁じられていますが、特別に許可を得られ、病室で洗礼式を行ないました。両親もこれに感動し、自分たちも洗礼を受けて、キリストに従う事を決心しました。

宣教活動の中で、この同じ概念を適用しようと努めて来ました。それは、日本人がイエスキリストの福音をなるべく自然な形で受け入れられるように、その意味が伝わっていく言語的文化的接点を求めて来ました。これに関わるもう一つの宣教活動ハイライトは私が書いた本のことです。「漢字に秘められた聖書物語」と題したこの本は1994年に出版され、その後に英語版をも自己出版という形で出しました。数多くの漢字の部首の意味とその字の全体的な意味を考えると、聖書的な真理をうまく例証するということを解説する内容です。日本語版は5000部印刷され、随分前に売れ切れとなりました。キリスト教関係の本としては、かなり多い数だそうです。最初の英語版の在庫もなくなり、去年、それを書き直して、新しい形で出版しました。題をも変更し、「漢字に秘められた福音」にしました。そして、英語を読める中国人も使いやすいように、解説する感じの中国語の読みをも付けました。今度は、新しい日本語版をも作りたいと思っています。

この短い記事の締めくくりとして残したい言葉は、日本におけるキリスト教会の宣教活動に貢献できたとは言えても、他の宣教師が証言するように、日本の皆様に与えたことより受けた方が遥かに多かったと思います。これからも同じことになるのではないかと思います。というのは、野尻湖のキャビンに毎年の夏を過ごしに戻ってくる計画だからです。