A few months ago, I found a treasure – a sermon my father, Clayton C. Brewer, had written back in 1963, handwritten in pencil. He had given the sermon at his church in Liverpool, NY, as a farewell address before moving his family of six fifty miles east to the Utica area.
The sermon was based on the hymn “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” which I remember was his favorite hymn. In the sermon, he told a beautiful story I had never heard before. Since my father passed away twenty-five years ago, I felt like he was reaching down from heaven and giving me a special message that had transcended time. The story was about an experience he had as a young G.I. while he was serving in Japan after WWII, a story that offers a glimpse into the generous and honorable person that he was. But even more, a story that offers a timeless message that is relevant for all of us today.
His little girl, Nancy, whom he refers to in the story was me, at just two years old.
In honor of Father’s Day, I share my father’s message with you. I hope you will be encouraged by his story and by the words of the hymn which inspired him.
. . .”Blest be the Tie That Binds . . .
“When I think of examples of Christian Fellowship, I think of this song. One of the most stirring occasions that I have witnessed was in a Japanese orphanage in 1947. All orphanages in Kobe, Japan, are run by missionaries. The Red Cross had a 1946 Christmas program, and each G.I. adopted an orphan for the day. I adopted a little girl about the size of my Nancy. I noted that she was without shoes, so I bought her a pair. Her appreciation was so great I planned to check in on her later.
That spring I took several weeks cookie rations to the orphanage. Japanese and French nuns were in charge, and they could speak very little English. The French nuns spoke Japanese but talked to the children only in French in order to make them bilingual. I gave the cookies to the nuns for the orphans, and the orphans assembled to sing a song in Japanese about a red apple.
I could not locate the little girl that I had adopted at the Christmas Party, and it was explained to me in halting English that she had passed away from pneumonia. The little girls then sang in French a version of “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” or as near as I could tell with the language barrier. At any rate, Christian Fellowship at this strange meeting between G.I., Japanese nuns, French nuns, and the orphans had no language barrier. I felt near God, and I am still awed at the thought.”
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
By John Fawcett (pub. 1782)