Serving Our Awesome God in Japan

Ong Bee Choo 

The beginnings 

God first planted in me the desire to be involved in student ministry in Japan when I was attending a student conference in 1986. During one of the plenary sessions, what intrigued me most was the slow spread of the gospel in Japan despite its technological advances. When the delegates from the Japanese student movement, Kirisutosha Gakusei Kai (KGK) shared about their ministry, I was so touched by their commitment and perseverance to live out their faith in such a tough environment. 

My journey as a missionary to Japan began in 1996, after the completion of my theological studies and internship in my home church. I joined WEC and in Spring 1998, I was seconded to KGK to serve amongst students in the Kansai region. As I reflect, serving in KGK was the most enriching and rewarding experience I have had as a missionary in Japan. Here are some snippets of my experiences of our awesome God working amongst the Japanese.  

Experiencing the power of God  

Two examples of students experiencing freedom through Christ: 

  • Once, I noticed a student behaving oddly during prayer time. It was not until a few weeks later that I had the opportunity to talk to her privately. Then she confessed her sexual sin and we were able to ask God for His forgiveness. She felt a deep sense of relief thereafter and when we met again later, she was blossoming in her spiritual walk. When I met her some ten years later, she was really thriving in the Lord. Praise the Lord! 
  • Another encounter was with a pastor’s daughter who attended one of our spring camps. My colleague asked me to talk to her, so I did. During our prayer time, she suddenly manifested, went down on the floor and started chanting in an unknown tongue. She told us something was choking her. Together with my colleague, we had to trust God to show us what to do. Thank God that after four long hours of wrestling, she was finally set free! Hallelujah! Her facial expression lit up and she said she felt much lighter.  

Experiencing the grace & mercy of God 

Two memorable occasions of witnessing God’s grace & mercy: 

In 2014, the Lord directed my attention to an old lady in her eighties living at the end of my street. She looked lonely, aloof and odd as I have been living in the same area as her and did notice her a few times. However, this time, I could hear the Lord telling me to share the gospel with her. The problem is, I had no idea when our paths would cross.  

On a few occasions, I did see her, but wasn’t equipped with any gospel tract. I had to kick myself for missing those precious opportunities. When one of my church mates visited me that year, we prayed for this lady. Guess what? I saw her standing outside her house the next day! This time, I was equipped with a tract and managed to connect with her. She had the most surprised look on her face, but took the tract with a smile. 

A few months later, about 11pm one night, I heard sirens blaring loudly. Braving the cold winter night, I went downstairs and saw four fire engines parked at the end of my street. When I checked the local newspapers the next morning, horror of horrors, it was the house of this old lady! A couple of days later, I went to the burnt down site and found out from the neighbours that she had been discharged from hospital and was staying with her sister. I let out a sigh of relief! Whether she had read the tract I gave her, I am not sure; but by God’s grace, she still had a chance to get to know Jesus.  

Ms N first came to our church in 2015 for a Christmas event. Thereafter, she came to church week after week as a keen seeker. Her late mother, who had not been a believer, used to listen to Christian hymns, and Ms N had grown to become fond of them too. By God’s amazing grace and mercy, Ms N accepted Jesus after three years of seeking! In 2019, she was finally willing to say ‘goodbye’ to her expensive ancestral altar. With the help of a few church members, we were able to witness Ms N being set free from idolatry and taking a firm stand for her faith. On Easter that year, she went through the waters of baptism. Hallelujah!  

Concluding thoughts  

Over the years, God has taught me the importance of seeking Him for my daily agenda, that is, to always listen and discern what His Spirit says and directs. In May 2021, after 25 years of serving in Japan, I returned to Singapore to look after my elderly parents. These days, setting out to influence people is not on my agenda. Rather, if someone gets influenced by what I say or do, it is a by-product of my obedience to God. The need to ‘feel useful’ has somehow lost its grip on me. If there is one takeaway from my time in Japan, it is the importance of discerning God’s agenda for my life and ministry. In other words, to be in the centre of His Will is what matters most! 

In closing, I would like to share a verse I hold dearly to:  

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24 ESV