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Newsletter 7
18 October 2006

Warmest greetings from Kitami City, Hokkaido!

Some leaves are fading, some leaves are going to fall, some leaves are falling and some leaves have fallen. This autumn seems to be colder than last year's. Last Saturday, the temperature fell below zero, and the morning dew on the grasses and leaves turned icy.

Having stayed here for more than 18 months, I have become quite well adjusted to the cold temperatures here. Living in Hokkaido needs lots of preparation spiced with a few spoonfuls of spontaneity. Daily, I am faithful in watching the weather forecasts because that will determine what I should wear the next day - more clothes or less, shoes or boots.

Preparation is of utmost importance. Before the cold weather arrives, we have to ensure that our bodies has built up the basic defence mechanisms to fight any attacks from the outside. Regular intakes of orange juices, grapefruits, bananas, grapes and vegetables are better than any supply of medicine or pills. Prevention is always better than cure.

Preparation can also be a matter of life and death. Before driving up the mountains, we need to check our fuel level because there may not be any refills along the way. I was once travelling in a friend's car, and she was running below the E level. And we were going up the mountains. The nearest fuel stand was about 40 miles away. Obviously, switching the gear and running on neutral would not do much good. So, I prayed earnestly at full volume. Interceding uphill, and praising and worshipping God all the way downhill. And amazingly, we made it to the nearest fuel stand. I will never forget that day when my faith was strengthened enormously! Nothing is impossible with God!

Preparation allows for spontaneity. Serving God here in Japan needs lots of groundwork and planning. Some knowledge of the Japanese language, traditions and cultures are necessary to ensure effective communication and interaction. A bilingual dictionary at hand is indispensable, and so is a heart that is willing to learn. My best Japanese lessons are those precious moments I interact with my students when I fetch them to school and back home. What do you do today? What do you eat for breakfast/ lunch/dinner? How's school? What do you do during the weekends? These youngsters always give different answers each time. New dishes, phrases, words and expressions. And learning from them is more interesting than just reading the tedious language books. The language of the heart is easily understood when all vocabularies and ways of expression fail.

Waking up early each morning has become an intense struggle. It is making a choice to either enjoy a few more minutes of the warmness of the blankets or arise immediately, and get ready to face the cold and start a brand new day. A new day of loving others and be loved, and also a new day when occasionally we hurt others through misunderstanding or miscommunication, and getting ourselves hurt. Life is a bed of roses with many thorns. There are happy moments, and there are sad moments too. There are victorious times, and there are also times when we feel defeated. But somehow and somewhere in the depths of our hearts is a strength that lingers on and brings forth faith and hope to carry on! Love never fails!

An earnest desire to save souls is upon me, and prayer is essential. Japan is now facing a nuclear threat from her neighbouring country, North Korea. I am praying for peace in the Asian region, but I am also preparing to meet my Maker if war ever breaks out! Someone once asked me, "Are you pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation or post-tribulation?" I replied, "I pray for pre, but I am preparing for post. If mid comes along, it would be bonus for me!"

Life needs lots of preparation. So is our spiritual walk with Christ! We must be ready to preach the Word, in season and out of season. But like Paul, we must also be ready to be poured out as a drink offering when the time of our departure arrives. We must fight the good fight, we must finish the race, and we must keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:2-7).

In doing so, every new day becomes a precious gift and present from God. We begin to celebrate life. We will celebrate Jesus Who is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)! We will rejoice and be glad and say that this is the day that the LORD has made! We will go forth with gladness and joy! His joy will continue to be our strength! Our lives will be renewed daily, our faith will be refreshed, and we will sing a new song unto the LORD spontaneously! And we will live the life that God has abundantly given us!

With a joyful and thankful heart,

Joshua Ong