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Newsletter 4
12 November 2005

Warmest greetings from Kitami City, Hokkaido!

Winter has arrived gently. The first snow has fallen.

Geologically, Japan is surrounded by many natural but dangerous intruders - on the east by earthquakes, tidal waves and tsunamis; on the south by typhoons; on the west by mountains and volcanoes; and on the north by a frozen sea. Only by the grace and mercy of God, this nation still remains today. Not only that, she prospers regardless of her foes and woes.

In Hokkaido, the chilly cold north wind has begun to blow, bringing along drifting ice. This ice is first formed at the Amur River in Russia during winter but it empties itself into the Sea of Okhotsk. As it freezes further, the ice grows bigger and bigger, gradually covering the entire sea. It then drifts towards the coast of Abashiri. It will persist to stay till early April before finally surrendering itself to an often-delayed spring.

This year, the church and school will use gas instead of kerosene for heating purposes in order to cut costs. The prices of petrol and its related products have gone past their ceilings in the past few months due to the devastating hurricanes in the Americas, and the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. As good stewards, we are accountable to the daily consumption of all necessities and utilities. Always bearing in our minds that in Pakistan and Afghanistan, many people will face a bitter winter after the catastrophic earthquake last month. Thousands of them will have no proper homes, blankets, daily bread and drinks to brave the freezing weather.

The leaves have fallen, and so are the temperatures. Thank God that the sun is ceaselessly faithful to arise and shine every new day. Its warmth brings great comfort. Its light paints a heavenly blue sky against the earthly moody landscapes. Likewise in the spiritual realm, the love of God has never failed to warm even the coldest hearts. The people of Japan are unsatisfied and dissatisfied. Unsatisfied because their spiritual needs are not met! Dissatisfied because they know that many things are not done right!

Many Japaneses are seeking new directions in life. Dreams and visions are not hard to kill when the mundane deeds and needs fill up all their weekly schedules. Here is our responsibility to share with them the Good News - letting them know that Jesus had come to give them life and life more abundantly! Only Jesus can satisfy and quench their thirst! We are His ambassadors, reconciling them to their God! Nothing can stop them from entering into His kingdom of love and righteousness!

The Japanese church is built from bottom up and not from top down. Servant evangelism is the key. True shepherding is required! One by one. Not mass evangelism! Not big stadium crusades! Not a famous evangelist who comes and goes but a pastor who will love his sheep with great compassion on a daily basis! Not a well-known prophet who comes and gives a few prophecies, and then departs but a prophet who will live out the very words in exemplary deeds! The Living Word! The Living Epistles!

The Japanese church needs to be nurtured properly in order to grow healthily. Despite the ever presence of potential disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, tidal waves, tsunamis, volcano eruptions and snow storms, the true shepherd will weather each one of them, through the thick and thin, through the dark valleys and the shadows of death, with his flock! The people of Japan need the Lord desperately! And the labourers of His harvest here are still very few!

Upon his birth, a Japanese is a Shinto but upon his death, he is a Buddhist. And interestingly enough, on their wedding days, many choose to hold them in the chapels. This gives us a great opportunity to minister the Word of God to them. Wedding evangelism. Very few of the brides and bridegrooms are Christians. Less than 1 percent of the Japanese population are Christians. While we can debate whether it is right or wrong for non-Christians to be married in churches, just going through the motions without understanding the spiritual meanings, their marriages are still sacred, whether Christian or not.

Marriage is instituted in the Garden of Eden, and not by the Church! Our chapel in Kitami have conducted many such weddings. Till today, I have played the Bridal March and the Wedding March in five different occasions! I have also sung "Amazing Grace" and "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" to the families and friends of these newly weds! Some of them even hosted their dinner parties at the Shalom Café. In those evenings, we doubled up as waiters and waitresses to serve food and drinks to the guests. Many of them were pleasantly impressed with their brief encounters with Christians.

The line between the spiritual and the natural is very hard to draw. The natural will lead on to the spiritual. We must help to light up their ways as they journey to know and acknowledge their God and Creator! Many couples have approached our Japanese pastor for counselling on life issues. The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart!

I still teach English and music on a daily basis. Every Sunday, I lead worship in the chapel. My Japanese repertoire has gone beyond 40 songs. Occasionally, I lead the Bible Studies and teach. Sometimes, I preach - in English of course, but interpreted into Japanese. My translator requires me to give her a complete set of sermon notes at least 3 days in advance. She is still a Japanese learning the English language while I am still a Chinese learning Nihongo.

Please remember us in your prayers whenever the Lord impresses upon your heart to do so.

Domo arigato gozaimasu!
Joshua Ong