HomeVisionStatement Of FaithArticlesPhoto GalleryEditor's NoteLinksContact

Newsletter 6
27 March 2006

Warmest greetings from Kitami City, Hokkaido!

2006 really flies. Three months have already come and gone, expiring a quarter of the year away. During these past months, so much have happened, one dramatic event after another. Now it is a good time to pause, and give thanks to the Lord!

Our church in Kitami operates a tuition centre to reach out to the students living here. We pray regularly for our students during our morning devotion times and weekly services. Some of our students had received the Lord, and were baptized. Some of our students have emotional or psychological problems besides facing difficulties in their studies.

One student had wanted to attempt suicide because he thought he did not do well for his examinations in order to enter into a high school. He was so worried that he could not think of anything good. Everything was bad in his eyes. It turned out that he passed, and managed to get into a high school nearby.

Another student passed but did not manage to get into a high school in Kitami. He was given the choice of a high school in Sapporo, about 300 kilometres away from his home. His parents paid a lot of money to get him registered into the Sapporo high school. A few days later, a local high school informed his parents that they had a few vacancies left, and they were able to enrol him. Unspeakable joy filled the hearts of his whole family and ours!

Last two days, we have some celebrations with these two students and their families, one after another! The parents were greatly rejoicing to know that their kids had managed to get into a high school. Some of our other students did well, and their parents sent us cookies as gifts of appreciation. Our efforts paid off! Sowing in tears and reaping with joy! God is so good!

Japan is a country very notorious for placing heavy educational burdens on her young. Their children are among Asia's most stressed kids. They are trapped in an endless race of extra tuitions, loads of homework, examinations and such. In desiring the children to have a better future, the parents press on to ensure that their kids do well, and get a good education. But are they preparing their children for success or are they just overloading them with unnecessary stresses? Over-cramming is essential if their kids are to have any chance of keeping up with their peers. Therefore, teen suicides arising from school-related stresses are on the increase.

The Japanese Ministry of Education has, in recent years, implemented strategic measures in their schools to do some restructuring. Schools are now required to adhere to a policy of yutori kyoiku (relaxed education). This involves a broadening of the curriculum to include more general studies, but at the same time, reducing the overall course materials and school hours by as much as 30%.

Half-day schooling on Saturdays has also been scrapped. This new policy will be evaluated every 10 years or so. The emphasis now is to enable the children to learn independently, rather than just stuffing them with information. In doing so, they hope that each student will become a well-rounded individual with a healthy mind and body.

Last Sunday during our church service, we did an inspirational song titled "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban:

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until You come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on Your shoulders;
You raise me up...to more than I can be.

There is no life - no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when You come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on Your shoulders;
You raise me up…to more than I can be.

This year, spring arrived early in Tokyo. The cherry blossoms came about one week earlier than before. May the Japanese find faith, hope, love and joy as the Dayspring from above visit their land of the Rising Sun:

Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

May Japan one day be widely known as the Land of the Risen Son!

With a grateful heart,
Joshua Ong