Hymnals in Swahili, Amharic, Mandarin Chinese and Indonesian

How did a decision to pursue deaconess studies lead Sandra Rhein to become an international hymnal consultant?

dissertation student
“One of my classmates at the seminary was [the] Rev. Isaiah Obare, who is from Kenya. Through our friendship, I became interested in the Lutheran Church in Kenya and wrote a paper called ‘Toward a Theology of Mercy: Hymnody as Bodily Care to the Church in Kenya,’” Rhein explains. “Isaiah’s father, the Rev. Dr. Walter Obare, who was archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) at the time, had asked the LCMS for assistance in developing a hymnal. Bishop Obare asked if I would help, a request that I took to my professors at the seminary, and a hymnal project was developed, with me as coordinating editor.”

That hymnal, Ibada Takatifu (which means “Divine Service”), was completed in 2012 in the Swahili language. Rhein is now working on hymnals in Amharic, Mandarin Chinese and Indonesian, thanks to generous grants from the Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation.

To shepherd a new hymnal from conception to completion is no simple process. Want to know how Rhein does it? Visit Engage magazine and read the story at engage.lcms.org/hymnal-project-spring-2018.



  • Rich Bearup says:

    How does one find and purchase these non-English hymnals? I direct an International ministry at Michigan State University.

    • Mark R. Pflug says:

      Rich, By now you probably already know that Lutheran Heritage has a list of publications. I found out before a MOST Vision Mission to Bariadi, Tanzania that they offered a Swahili hymnal that contained “Asante Sane Jesu” – the theme song of the host church in Bariadi and sung by our native evangelist companions on our forays into the countryside where we found and baptized several hundred new Christians in 4 late afternoons of outreach after our eye clinic work. The hymnal also had Swahili texts for “Jesus Loves ME’ and “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb”.
      It was primarily a Swahili Lutheran Hymnal, not indigenous Swahili music. In the congregation with whom we left our copy, many members were not literate in Swahili and most singing, led enthusiastically by the a huge dancing choir was learned by ear, so hymnals were not needed except by a few leaders. “Joining Jesus on His Mission” was exactly what we were privileged to experience in Tanzania. What JOY!

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