Good evening. My name is Ong Eng Chuan, most of my friends in Japan calls me Ong-san. 34 years ago, I had the privilege of pursuing my undergraduate degree at Tokyo Institute of Technology. As one of the few foreign students in the university, I submerged myself fully in the Japanese culture – learning the complex tapestry of Japanese history and traditions. I was a great fan of J-pop, baseball and sumo.
Subsequently, by God’s grace, I was sent twice to Japan to work, first from 1996 to 1999, and second from 2004 to 2008. I spent a total of about 12 years in Japan and had several life changing experience there. One of which was getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
In my growing up years, I never felt that I needed any God. I went with my parents to the temples more out of obedience than belief in any divine entity. My family was poor and I used to feel looked down upon by our relatives. My father did not have a permanent job and my mother often had to borrow money from our relatives to make ends meet. I didn’t like my life then and was determined to become rich and successful when I grew up. I studied hard and was fortunate to do well enough to get a government scholarship to study in Japan in 1988.
I had absolutely no idea how my life was going to change in the next five years. Till then, all I wanted in life was to do well, have a successful life and make my parents feel proud. I had no interest to talk about the meaning of life. I knew I was not a bad person. I did not harm others and minded my own business. Many of my school friends had tried to share with me about the Lord Jesus Christ. I did not give them any chance. To me, God was for the weak and needy. I had through my own hard work done very well in life. I didn’t need a God. So I thought.
Ironically, it was in Japan, a country where only a small proportion of the population are Christians, where I encountered many Christian friends from different parts of the world. Being away from Singapore, I supposed, gave me a break from the competitive rat race back home. My mind was less preoccupied with success and was more open to listen to the testimonies of these Christian friends. What I didn’t realize then was that I was in fact searching for something that I did not really have – an inner peace. I thought I had, but I hadn’t. I was always chasing after something – success, money, and recognition. Things I thought would give me happiness. But I was never really happy. Outwardly, perhaps. But not in my inner self. God was knocking at my door and He finally got my attention.
I was fascinated by the different testimonies of my friends. I asked myself, “How could people of different language and culture, living in different parts of the world, come to believe in the same God?”. Their love for God seemed so genuine and sincere. They looked so contented. They were certainly not weak and needy. One summer, I finally decided to take up a Bible and read it cover to cover. I didn’t understand everything I read; there was no Eureka moment. But one night, after I said the sinner’s prayer printed at the end of the Bible, God changed my heart, in an almost imperceptible way. There was no thunder, no lightning, nor any visible manifestation to show that I have become a child of God. I was in fact quite disappointed, after some great testimony of others’ salvation experience.
But I began to gradually observe changes to my outlook about life. I found myself no longer focusing on success and material gains. I used to be impatient and had a terrible temper. Most people meeting me for the first time would have found me fierce and unfriendly. I was one of the most feared commanders in the army. However, after the summer of 92, God somehow changed my heart. I became more and more at peace with what I have and felt a sense of great contentment about my life. I no longer get upset easily. In fact, it is difficult for me to even get angry today. I found it awkward initially that my new friends would describe me as gentle. Not the image I had of myself for much of my earlier years.
It’s been 30 years since I accepted Christ. He has been my most trusted friend, sustaining me through different challenges in my life. I hope to share with you one particular episode when I really cried out to God and how He answered in His perfect time.
I returned to Singapore in end 1999 after my first assignment in Japan. We were renovating our new apartment and looking forward to starting a new life back home. Then our daughter, about a year and a half then, suddenly fell sick. She was born in Japan, living in Singapore for the first time. So we thought it was a normal influenza. But we became concerned when her fever did not subside after a few weeks. We sent her to our children hospital, where she was hospitalized immediately. Her temperature then would rise to 39 or 40 degrees Celsius every few hours. The nurses would give her cold bath in ice to bring the temperature down. It was painful to see her crying helplessly during those times. We had to go through that cycle several times a day for about a week. Every time the temperature came down, we prayed that it would stay down. But repeatedly we were disappointed. I was upset that God did not heal her quickly. The doctors were unable to explain her condition. During that time, I was just starting my new assignment in Singapore. I could not take leave from work. But we also could not leave our daughter in the hospital all by herself. My wife unfortunately fell very sick, probably by the stress. I therefore had to sleep in the hospital on a small make shift bed and go to work from there daily. The renovation work was also not going smoothly and the contractor was giving us problems. The stress was tremendous. I cannot remember how many times I cried out to God to have mercy on us.
God finally answered. My former boss in Japan heard about my daughter’s illness and told me that he knew a senior specialist in the hospital who might be able to help. So he asked the doctor to take a look at my daughter. The doctor then quickly assessed that my daughter could have contracted Kawasaki disease, an uncommon illness in Singapore then. Not many doctors in Singapore were familiar with the disease. He prescribed her the appropriate medication and to our relief, my daughter recovered soon after. I did not realize then that my daughter could have died or suffered permanent brain damage if she had not been treated in time. I was amazed by God’s timely intervention. I learned never to give up trusting in Him.
As I mentioned earlier, I spent about 12 years of my life in Japan. I am grateful for the good friends who had helped me during my days as a student and as a diplomat. God has since sent me to work in different countries in Europe and North America. But there is always a tug in my heart towards Japan. I hope I would one day return to Japan to continue His Work there.
I really don’t know how I can convey this great and wonderful love to you effectively. I wish I have more time to share with you what God has done and still doing for me in my life, hoping that somehow you would be touched by Him and His Spirit. I could only pray and believe that as I share, God is also speaking to you. Thank you.