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Newsletter 2
24 May 2005

Warmest greetings from Kitami City, Hokkaido!

It has been almost 50 days since I landed upon this rural part of Japan. I have witnessed the last footprints of the overdue winter as it unwillingly surrendered its rights to the gentle arrival of spring. The period of transition was filled with snowfalls, rains and chilly winds. Over this same frame of time, the daily weather forecasts were almost unthinkable from minus zero to slightly above ten degrees Celsius. And this Singaporean survives through it all.

One of the Bible students has lent me her bicycle. It becomes my means of transportation around the neighbourhood. I love the homes in the vicinity. They have airy spaces between one another, unlike those in an overcrowded Tokyo. There is a garden in almost every house. Most of my photos are taken as I stop by to greet my neighbours, and take a look at their flowers as they bloom, day by day, in their beautiful gardens. Many people with speeding cars just miss all these wonderful sights as they zoom by.

Each morning, the sun wakes up about 4 am and sleeps at about 7 pm. No wonder, they called Japan the Land of the Rising Sun. The glass window in my room lets in, and welcomes some of these wonderful warm rays of sunlight. Depending on the weather, I would go to the kawa (river), which is about 1 km from my home if the sky is blue, bright and sunny. There is a big garden there! Even when all the trees are bare and brown, this place is awesome and almost sacred. It is surrounded by hills. And these hills are alive with the sound of music. The birds are singing their songs, and the trees are dancing to their music. The early morning air is really fresh and pure. The laughter of children at play can be heard in the background.

At 8 am, we will have a time of devotion as we read a chapter of the Epistles of Paul such as Galatians, Philippians, Colossians etc.. After which, we will share our thoughts or lessons learnt from the same passage. I have improved in my reading of the Japanese Bible. And now I am trying to share in Nihongo - slowly but surely. We usually conclude with a time of praise, worship and prayer. About 9 am, breakfast is served. Often rice and sometimes bread. We have coffee occasionally.

About 10.30 am each weekday, I will have to meet and counsel two troubled youths on an individual basis. Amazingly the Japanese kids are all so cute when they are in their tender age. But as they grow up, they become frustrated and disillusioned by their own society and by what others demand of them. Many could conform to the requirements of the tremendously strict system, and some just could not. This is where the road divides that some become rebellious, and some simply withdraw themselves from others. School dropouts! Rejects! Misfits of their own traditions and cultures! But all of them are precious in the sight of God.

I have lunch about 12.30 pm. At 1 pm, Mondays through Fridays, I will have to teach English and music, which involves giving guitar, piano and vocal lessons. I love this extraordinary assignment! My students are now able to play and sing songs like ""Amazing Grace," "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Do Re Mi," and "Ten Little Indian Boys" etc..

On Monday afternoons, I will have to travel about 40 km to another city, Bihoro, to give English lessons to 3 boys with ages from 4 to 6. They are very adorable and teachable. They love the alphabetical jigsaw puzzle and the nursery rhymes, and also the coloring time as they begin learning how to write their alphabets. After which, I will travel another 20 km to Memanbetsu to teach two Japanese men how to speak English. They are like sponges absorbing everything I teach them. They are now beginning to speak English more confidently and fluently.

The church has about 20 members with ages from 14 to 80. The whole service is conducted in the Japanese language. I play either the guitar or the piano as I lead them in offering praise and worship unto the LORD! So far, I am able to do about 20 songs in Japanese. My repertoire is increasing as the weeks go by. After the service, we would proceed to the Shalom Curry House to have our lunch together, enjoying sweet fellowship in the LORD! There is also a Bible Study on Wednesday nights and Thursday afternoons. The Christians here know the Word of God well, and they love God with a passionate zeal.

Every Saturday evening, we have a time of friendship evangelism as we share the gospel in songs. Jesus is the answer for the world today! The Shalom Curry House is a great venue for food, both physical and spiritual. One visitor even invited us to do our songs in his hospital next month.

I believe the anointing of the LORD will fill and touch the hearts of the sick, healing both their bodies and souls! The blind will see, the lame will walk, and the deaf will hear! The captives will also be set free! Salvation has come to Kitami! This is their hour to be saved!

Please do remember us in your prayers!

Domo arigato gozaimasu!
Joshua Ong