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Newsletter 5
26 December 2005

Warmest greetings from Kitami City, Hokkaido!

2005 is a year of many disasters. The calendar is marked with tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, snowstorms, blizzards, drought, hunger, famine, terrorism, pestilences, pollutions, bird flu, diseases and wars. A brutal number of hurricanes was recorded, devastating the lives of multitudes in the West. New hurricanes even have to adopt Greek names as the forecasters ran out of their standard list of names.

In Japan, heavy snowstorms and blizzards had claimed eight lives so far, disrupted traffic, triggered blackouts and injured hundreds of people. The Japan Meteorological Agency registered the heaviest snowfall in decades. Many people around us are searching for an answer to what is actually happening to our world. It is here we must share with them the blessed hope that we have found only in Christ Jesus.

Throughout all of our lives, we are making decisions. There are goals to achieve on one hand, and there are dreams to cherish on the other. Coming to Hokkaido for a season of time was an important decision that I had made earlier this year. I was desperately yearning to take some time off, to renew my mind, and to seek His face enquiring about what He had in store for me to do. I could not rely on my past skills and experiences.

During these past nine months in Kitami, I was able to reflect creatively. As I slowed down, I found a long lost friend named Time. Yes, I found time to do a lot of meaningful things that I never had dreamt to do. I became available for my Master and Lord again. Even the doors were opened for us to minister through songs in a hospital and some town centres. And I met God once more in this rural city of Japan. This happened as I began to view things through His eyes.

Many of our students have some forms of emotional or psychological problems. They need people to understand and love them despite of who they are. Hereby, we have to do better than our best, relating with their life issues at the same time teaching them educational subjects. His love can warm and melt even the coldest hearts. We have become their friends besides being their teachers. Our strength is not dependent on numbers and dollars. It is firmly founded upon the grace of God, which He bestows upon us daily. Fresh manna from heaven every morning. Truly He has granted us sufficient strength to live and face every new day. Our confidence is in Him alone.

I had also found a new love - photography. With a borrowed digital camera from my sister, I was able to produce 50 photo galleries. Never in my whole life have I ever seen so many flowers. And I have never before taken so many photos of children at play. I see Him everywhere I go, and in every face I see. All of us are truly made in His image! There is a little light shining in every life. If we look a little closer, we may see the wonderful hands of a Creator perfecting His created beings just like the Potter molding and remolding His clay! He has indeed given us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; so that we may be called trees of righteousness.

To uncover this Kitami adventure, I must first take a step of faith. Last year, I knew nobody in Hokkaido, and my Japanese language was bad. The only person I knew was the Japanese pastor who came to Singapore, and asked me to help him in his church worship service. And we only met for 2 hours. What would the people and place be like? How extreme would the winter weather be? What about the accommodation and the food? What about the finances at home and abroad? My heart was greatly rejoicing but there were a lot of things to consider. There were some doubts and worries. But I took the courage and went forth. Looking back now, I believe that I am a changed person. I have become more human. The more I know God, the more I begin to love the people around me. His gospel is peace, and His law is love!

About 2006, I am not sure what is in store. I will not even contemplate to say that I am going to such and such a city, and stay there a year or two, or open up a profitable business or ministry. I don't know about my tomorrows. Thus, if the Lord desires me to, I shall live and do this or that. There are no plans to brag about. I believe that His grace has brought us safe thus far will also be grace enough to bring us through another year! For in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

Let's continue to love God by loving others in the midst of our troubled times.

Thanks for being a part of this journey back to the Father. As a token of appreciation, please view the 50th Photo Gallery.

Blessed 2006!
Joshua Ong