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  • Video: Japan Disaster Relief Project Report - 2 Years Later

    The Story is Not Over

    This Easter weekend, we are waiting for Sunday. The cross has spoken; the lifeless body of Jesus lays in the tomb. To the disciples, it seems hopeless . . . but Sunday's coming. The story is not over.

    In northeast Japan, the triple disaster of March 11, 2011 has spoken. At times, to many Japanese people, it has probably seemed hopeless . . . but Jesus' Body in Japan—His Church—has risen to the challenge, bringing help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless.

    In this video, Asian Access reports to donors on some key Japan disaster relief projects it has supported over the last two years. Discover our grid for deciding on projects. Learn what has been happening. Hear from people and churches involved in these projects in all three hard-hit prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima). Be encouraged. Above all, keep praying; the story is not over.

    More information...

    Stay tuned for more updates from Asian Access.


    In addition to thanking our wonderful partners in Japan, I wish to recognize A2 creative team members Loren Roberts of Hearken Creative Services and Joshua Clayton of NYU for their invaluable work on this video project.

  • Happy Easter from Asian Access

    Happy Easter from all of us at Asian Access
    Photo from Asian Access Global Leaders' Summit in Chiang Mai, Thailand

    We are grateful for you and for Jesus' love for us!

    The Latest News from Asian Access:

    Uprooted by Tsunami, Church's Flock Regroups — NY Times article

    If you want to grow the church, you must grow the leader — A report from Cambodia

    Body of Christ growing in former Communist Nation
     — A report from Mongolia (Mission Network News)

    Red Sun Blue Earth — A novel about the tsunami written by one of our staff children

    The Second Year — A Reflection two years post-tsunami

    What do pastors have to do with art, film, music and business? — A report from a restricted access nation

    Beauty from Brokeness — A video on the Nozomi "Hope" Project for Japan

    "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13

  • Red Sun Blue Earth

    Sienna North's first novel, inspired from Japan's March 11, 2011 Disaster

    Red Sun Blue Earth book cover


    Sayaka Sato is an ordinary fifteen-year-old—until 2:46 pm on March 11, when an earthquake and tsunami strike Japan and rip her life into shreds. Sayaka is frantic to find her family, but first, she must survive cold, hunger, and worse. Will Sayaka be able to reunite with her family, earn their forgiveness, and forge a new life for herself, or will she be too late?

    From the Author:

    "I've just released my first novel, Red Sun Blue Earth on March 11th, the 2-year anniversary of Japan's tsunami. It's the story of a teen girl in Minamisanriku, who survives Japan's 2011 tsunami and her life in the aftermath. The earthquake and tsunami were life-shattering, life-changing events for so many people in Japan. In this story, I attempted to research thoroughly and stay true to the facts, and at the same time to reveal a bit of the true heartbreak and loss experienced by so many in the tsunami. I sought to add a glimpse of hope and light in the midst of darkness, both to remember those who suffered in Japan and to bring hope to others in their own sufferings."

    Sienna North | www.siennanorth.com


    More information...

    Red Sun Blue Earth is available on Kindle & print from Amazon:

  • Being There

    Today, 3/11, we have felt the burden and the privilege of walking with our Ishinomaki friends through the remembrance and the pain of two years ago. We are thankful for so many who have joined across the world to pray with us. We posted messages and photos today up on the wall for everyone to see — amazing reminders that Ishinomaki is not alone!

    It has been a really special time of having a continually-running 24-hour prayer event going on here, while at the same time most of today (and continuing into this evening) having an open area where community friends could come for company, prayer, or to just have a safe place to be.

    I have spent several hours yesterday and today being with Nozomi Project friends. Whereas last night there was a time for some laughter and lightness, today has felt entirely different. Heaviness. Waiting. Dread. Around 2:30 those of us all meeting together formed a circle, prayed, and sang several songs, stopping at 2:46 pm for a minute of silence to remember the long moment when all of the horror began. There were sirens going off across town to remind us not to forget — who could? Our childrens' schools had a special assembly in which they did an early minute of silence all together; and then at the end of the school day at the exact time once again remembered together.

    This afternoon I had on my heart Chi., one of my Nozomi Project friends. Her husband is often away for work, and I know how shaken she had been during the big earthquake scare we had in December. So Yuko and I decided to briefly visit her at home. She had just helped her kindergarten daughter fall asleep for a nap; her fourth grade son wasn’t home yet. She cried at the door, remembering too vividly two years ago. They have rebuilt a home in the same place as their previous one that had been washed away. From their front door, we could see the path where the tsunami had come.  She couldn’t help but remember.

    Yuko and Chi wondered how our friend N. might be doing today. N. had tried in vain to hold onto her mother-in-law’s hand as the tsunami waters ripped them apart; the water washed away her home and her family member in a swoop. We know the loss of her loved one must be felt more keenly today; her father has recently passed away as well. Chi shared with us that her next-door-neighbor on that day had tried to hold dearly onto the hand of her fifth-grade son; she could not. I imagine that a mother can never physically forget the feeling of her son’s hand being pulled away from her own. It is a bitter day for many.

    As we parted ways at the car, we looked down and had a laugh at Yuko’s black shoes, with white fancy socks bunching out.

    She had gone to the temple that morning with her father to remember her sister and sister’s unborn baby who had died two years ago. Hurriedly she had dressed to come and join our time of prayer, forgetting to take off her fancy dress socks. Life up here has a funny way of mixing the pain with the mundane.

    Several friends and I had a very early dinner with dear neighbor sisters, who insisted on feeding us, knowing that we were in and out of gatherings and caring for our own children. I tried to pray for the food and ended up crying; we ate their delicious food (I never thought I would say boiled radishes and octopus are delicious – but they certainly were!); and they commented on how their family has swelled to include so many of us in the past two years. It was a sweet interlude in the midst of this day.

    We discovered that a sealed letter had come to Nozomi Project for our friend Yuri. She had not had a chance to come and meet us this weekend because of their own family commitments. But when we circled back to the meeting place of prayer, we saw her husband, son and daughter waiting in the car. I went and hugged them. Her sixth grade daughter had not slept for the past two nights, unable to forget the memories of two years ago. The family had spent the last two days at temples and family gatherings, lighting incense for their 3-year-old who had been lost in the tsunami. Talking to her on the phone on Saturday, she said the hardest thing is knowing that her three-year-old is still wandering around trying to find the right path to God and to heaven. I told her that in the deepest place of my heart I believe that he is with Jesus right now – that God loves the littlest and least and has welcomed him home…

    I was so happy to go inside and briefly hug Yuri in person, pray together and pass on this unexpected letter. It was from a christian american in Osaka who had bought a necklace made by Yuri. He sent her a wonderful letter of hope with some of his handmade postcards. God’s timing was so sweet in showing such care for her on this particular day!

    Eric is at the center now with thirty or so others, meeting and praying with youth from the community and others who could only join in the evening (today was a normal work/school day here). There were quite a number of high schoolers who have become a part of Be One. Others from across Ishinomaki continue to stop by – wanting to know that they are not alone today.

    I truly believe that greater things are yet to come for this city; that God does have special plans for these that we love so much.

    More information...

    Read Sue Takamoto's A2 staff profile.

    About Nozomi Project

    Nozomi, translated 'hope' in Japanese, is a social enterprise bringing sustainable income, community, dignity and hope to the women in Ishinomaki, Japan by training women to craft unique jewelry products.  One-third of these women are single mothers and grandmothers; most of these women and their family members lost their livelihood when the tsunami crashed through half of their city in 2011.​ See the video intro below...


  • The Second Year

    Two Years Later...

    It has been two years since the March 11th disaster in Japan. Reconstruction is progressing in Tohoku, but there is still much work to do.

    Grant Inouye, an A2 missionary, helped to put this video together to give an update about what is going on in Miyagi Prefecture. We trust this clip will compel you continue to pray for the ongoing ministry to the people in this affected area.

    Please join us as we pray that God would heal the heart’s of those whose lives were effected by the disaster. And pray that the Church would be filled with Holy Spirit and would be able to share the love and saving power of Jesus effectively.

    Visit Hope Miyagi – http://www.hopemiyagi.org

  • If you want to grow the church, you must grow the leader!

    Meng and Joe

    Pastor Meng Aun Hour (pictured here with me) was recently traveling with me in the U.S. and shared this kernel of wisdom. He originally thought that in order to see his church grow and multiply, that he should focus on the church ministry.

    However, he joined Asian Access as a volunteer nearly 12 years ago because he was challenged from his participation in our program. What did he learn?

    In order to "grow the church,"
    it's best to "grow the leader."

    This, he thought, was real wisdom.

    Pastor Meng, National Director of A2/Cambodia, now spends much of his time investing in leaders both for his church and his nation. He has seen the fruit of this truth that through developing the leader, the Church grows and multiplies.

    One of the pastors in the class was a commander during Pol Pot's reign of terror known as the "Killing Fields." This man was brutal before he met Christ, but God got ahold of his life—and he's never been the same. He came through the A2/Cambodia leader development process a few years ago and since graduating has planted more than 300 churches in the center of the area occupied by the former Khmer Rouge people. Most of these new churches have 30-90 people of whom the vast majority had never heard about Christ before. It's simply amazing!

    The power of reproduction in the model Jesus created two centuries ago: invest in twelve select disciples and see them multiply! "If you want to grow the church, grow the leader."

    Please pray that the current leaders in the A2 program will allow God to change them, develop them and transform them.  This will, in turn, bring growth to His Church across Asia.

  • A2/Mongolia leader discusses growth of the church

    Chinzorig Jigjidsuren headshotChinzorig Jigdisuren reflects on Mongolia and being a first generation believer in Mongolia...

    In this Mission Network News interview, Pastor Chinzorig Jigjidsuren addresses these and other questions from Ruth Kramer:

    • What kind of growth--quantity or quality--have you seen in the church in the last 15 years or so?
    • In regard to Mongolia moving beyond communism, what are some of the particular challenges facing the church?
    • What is a core emphasis of the A2 training?
    • What difference is Asian Access actually making in the church in Mongolia.
    • How can Christians pray for Mongolia?

    Chinzorig Jigsidsuren speaking

    Listen to MNN's 12-minute interview with Chinzorig Jigjidsuren:


    More Information

    Chinzorig Jigjidsuren, in addition to pastoring a church, serves as National Director of A2/Mongolia.

    Download the audio file here:

    Size: 10.9 Mb

    Read the MNN article based on Chinzorig's interview.

    Related videos:

  • Body of Christ growing in former Communist nation

    Asian Access helps unify the Church of Mongolia

    MongoliaMONGOLIA (MNN) Did you know Mongolia has one of the world's fastest growing economies? It had a growth rate of 17% in 2011 and 16.7% in 2012, according to BBC News.

    The Church there is growing too.

    "It's not only growing in numbers, but it's also growing in quality," says Chinzorig Jigjidsuren, the founding overseer of Emanuel Fellowship in Ulan Baatar. (Click here to read about his Mongolian approach to discipleship.)

    Jigjidsuren partners with Asian Access (A2) in Mongolia and says they have their hands full training church leaders. But the results speak for themselves.

    He states, "We already have seen great transformation in our nation."

    Mongolia was the first Asian country to indicate interest in using A2's training model to develop church leaders; the program gained initial success in Japan. God's Word entered Mongolia only after the country abandoned its Communism rule in 1990.

    "It was God's timing, because He opened all the channels [through which] we could get [an] idea about the world. And then the Gospel was introduced," Jigjidsuren recalls.

    Key to the effectiveness of A2's program in Mongolia is the careful selection of between 12 and 15 emerging leaders. These leaders are then invited to join a class that meets quarterly for a week at a time; the entire program spans two years.

    A curriculum established by A2 accelerates students' growth as spiritual leaders, as well as organization leaders. They become more aware of their individual strengths, as well as the unique gifts of their congregation. They're also taught how to determine the needs of the communities they serve and the context in which they live and minister.

    During their training, Jigjidsuren says the leaders form strong bonds.

    "Uniting the key leaders means uniting the Church of Mongolia itself. We all consider the Church of Mongolia as one church.... There's a great sense of unity, and A2 [plays] a huge role in uniting the pastors," he says.

    Jigjidsuren was part of Mongolia's first class to graduate A2's program in October 2001. He says they recently graduated their fifth group of leaders, and the bonds between each group remain strong.

    "We [are] still like one big community, so we fellowship with each other and we keep each other accountable," says Jigjidsuren.

    Pray that this unity would remain strong and that pastors-in-training would draw closer to God. Ask God to bring spiritual mentors alongside young leaders to help deepen their faith.

    "One of our core values is a love relationship with God, so we want the pastors [to] continue growing in their relationship with Christ."

    Click here to see how you can support God's Work in Mongolia.

    Listen to the MNN broadcast...

    (4-minute clip; story #3 begins at 2:45)

    More information...

  • Fire devastates poor, widows in Cambodia

    Slum fire sweeps near church; rebuilding plans underway 

    fire in Phnom Penh, CambodiaCAMBODIA (MNN/A2) According to the Solidarity for Urban Poor Federation (SUPF) in Cambodia, more than 180,000 people live in informal settlements in Phnom Penh.

    Many of these communities are made up of shanties built on rooftops, as well as along rivers and roadsides. Most of them don't have running water, a bathroom, or electricity. People living in these settlements are vulnerable to evictions, fires and flooding.

    Fires spread quickly and can easily take out a community before it's brought under control. MengAun Hour serves as the National Director of Asian Access/Cambodia. He says last Saturday, January 20, "Behind our church, one house, a coffee shop, started burning, and the owner of the house was not in the house, so the fire started burning from that house to many houses."

    By the time it was put out, "It destroyed 13 houses there. It's a poor community, and among the 13 houses are five houses of our church members." Because of the way the homes are built, there is not much time to grab anything, Pastor MengAun points out. "Most of them, they just ran away by themselves. They didn't take anything from the house."

    One woman carried her elderly mother out but couldn't get back in to get anything else. Four widows and their families lost their homes in the blaze. The loss of the homes is significant to a family that cannot afford to rebuild.

    Pastor MengAun says when the church saw who was affected, "Even though we are a small church, a poor church, we're encouraging them to help for the special offering. We got $185 (USD) to buy food and clothes for those who are really in need." They weren't alone, he adds. "About four or five churches came and took a special offering like our church did to help the people in the community whose houses burned."

    A2's pastors have been trained "for such a time as this." The key to its effectiveness is the careful selection of twelve emerging leaders. These leaders are then invited to be a part of a class that meets four times a year for a week at a time over a two-year period.

    In the course of the training, the leaders are able to become more aware of their distinct strengths individually, as well as the unique giftedness of their congregations. Eight years ago, Asian Access graduated its first class of participants in Cambodia. Last year, they graduated the 4th class. What has the training taught: that a unified Church brings hope in situations that are desperate

    The land belongs to the homeowners, so it's really a question of getting funds for building materials. Cement will cost between $4,000 to $5,000, but wood costs between $500 and $800. The $185 collected by the churches is a good start.

    What they're hoping for now is a little more help, says Pastor MengAun. "If we can come together, we will rebuild the houses. If we cannot build 13 houses in that community that burned by fire, at least we can build four houses for the widow families." For now, survivors are staying in the church and with Pastor MengAun. Their long-term response, he says, will create future outreach. "I think that's the best help, and it will also allow the community to see the love of Christ flowing through the Church in that area."

    To find out more about Asian Access, click here.

    Listen to the MNN broadcast...

    (4-minute clip; story #3 begins at 2:39)

    More information...

  • What do pastors have to do with art, film, music and business?

    Having just returned from an Asian Access session in a restricted country, I am blown away by the the kind of impact that investing in twelve key pastors has on a nation. After more than twelve years of investing in twelve choice leaders every two years, the leveraged influence was stunning to see. This was especially true knowing that, due to government pressure, we have been on cruise control there the last few years.

    Now, as we re-launched the training, the alumni introduced me to some of the leading artists, musicians and cinema stars in their nation. All are now believers and want to both deepen their faith and expand their influence. The pastors, having been inspired by A2's vision "to see a vibrant community of servant leaders with vision, character and competence leading the church in Asia", are now reproducing the training among those in the marketplace and across several sectors of society. This includes both the arts and industries, like publishing, and the business community.

    As I met with these artists, musicians, film stars, publishers and business leaders they shared a burden to see Christ shape their country and His values influence society. What a profound picture of God's kingdom at work… pastors and marketplace leaders mutually committed to changing their nation!

    These leaders inspired me and gave me great joy in seeing how investing in just twelve choice pastors can change the world. You and I can do this too… In our marketplace, our spheres of influence, our worlds, and His world. All it takes is investing your life in a few key leaders!

    For His Kingdom,

    Joe's blue web signature

  • Connecting the dots between Peru and Japan
    Urbana '12 (photo by Barry Sherbeck)

    JAPAN (MNN) Meeting Chris Conti at Urbana 12 in St. Louis, Missouri, was a 'God-thing'.

    Chris ContiConti is an SIM missionary to Peru. Growing up in a non-Christian family, she felt that God set her apart and protected her throughout her life. In university, she grew and became a leader within InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She attended Urbana 1990 where she signed a commitment to pursue full-time missions. Twelve years later (after teaching high school in Indiana for ten), she joined SIM and went to Peru (2003).

    Enter Asian Access (A2). A sharp left turn, right?

    Not really. Asian Access and SIM are partnering together to recruit and send missionaries to Japan to plant churches. Conti explains, "We're going to be their senders, and they're going to be the receivers on that end. So, we're going to help more on the training side and help them be more equipped to be missionaries, and they're going to take care of them once they get to Japan."

    SIM assumes responsibility for recruiting missionaries, as well as the financial accounting and related human resources functions of missionary training and U.S.-based care. Asian Access retains responsibility for championing the overall vision in Japan, managing the strategy of missionary deployment through its vast network of Japanese churches, and caring for Japan-based missionary personnel.

    At SIM's international conference, Conti met and got to know an Asian Access representative who was visiting to see what SIM was doing well. A friendship developed as both women talked about each organization's strengths toward a common goal. Conti says, "Our philosophy is ‘from anywhere to anywhere,' so currently I am the person in Peru who helps people go. So, if we have a candidate for Japan, we would go through Asian Access."

    By leveraging the specialties of the two mission-sending agencies, they hope to maximize effectiveness toward the goal of planting 1,000 church congregations in Japan by 2020.

    How do Peru and Japan fit together? Actually, it's not such a huge leap, notes Conti. "For Peru, specifically, it's very Asian. Our past president (two presidents ago) was half-Japanese (Alberto Fujimori)." Peru has the second-largest population of Japanese people in Latin America after Brazil, and the largest population of Chinese people in Latin America.

    As for a timeline on seeing Peruvian missionaries in Japan, Conti reflects that it could happen in the next year or two. "I think there will be more people who will come through our training sessions, mix with SIM workers, and then go out to Japan. We hope that there'll be more missionaries in Japan because of it."

    Taking a look at the larger scope, the partnership's innovation has not gone unnoticed in the missions' circles. Last September at the North American Mission Leaders Conference, SIM USA and Asian Access jointly received the eXcelerate Award for excellence and innovation in mission partnership.

    Robert & Roberta AdairAlthough the partnership is new, already SIM's first missionaries to serve in Japan are one the field: Robert and Roberta Adair (pictured right). They're working with post-disaster relief post-disaster relief and development, working with young adults and responsibilities within Asian Access.

    Please pray for all involved in helping this partnership take root, and give thanks to God for His guidance and blessing in the process. More specifically, says Conti, "Pray for wisdom and how to know what we don't know; how we can work well together, what are some policies and procedures that we haven't thought through that would make it easier."

    Check out go2japan for a closer look at what the partnership is doing in Japan.


    Listen to the MNN broadcast...

    (4-minute clip; story #3 begins at 2:33)

    More information...

  • Last Day of 2012 to Empower National Leaders

    Dear Friend,

    As we celebrate the final hours of 2012 and look forward to the hopes and dreams for 2013, I ask you to prayerfully consider a special year end gift to invest in key leaders.

    If you wish to give online, click here to make a gift.  Your gift by midnight tonight may be tax deductible as allowed by law. But next year your gift may not be tax deductible if you are in one of the higher tax brackets. So you may want to consider giving some or all of next year's gift now while you can still be sure of the tax benefit.

    One A2 national director told me: "The young church in my country is like a hospital now, full of young wounded soldiers with no older friends or spiritual fathers to care for them."

    Please join me in praying for more spiritual fathers for pastors in Asia, as they ask us to invest in them.

    A2 Leader Summit 2012 

    Know that your partnership with Asian Access is a blessing to hundreds of pastors, who are becoming spiritual fathers to younger believers. I pray you have a wonderful New Year.

    In Christ,
    Joe's blue web signature
    Joe Handley
    President, Asian Access
    (310) 787-3321

  • The Need for Fatherly Love
    "For [the Father] so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
    that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

    Merry Christmas from Asian Access! Here is a photo of our A2 staff in Japan.

    A2 Japan Spring Retreat 2012 - Group Shot

    At this time of year, we rightly focus on the incarnation, the coming of the Lord in human form. But Christmas also reminds me of fatherly love. First, I see our Heavenly Father, whose perfect love compelled Him to send His one and only Son to reveal Him to a broken world. I also recall Joseph, the adoptive human father of baby Jesus who chose love over any embarrassment he may have felt.

    The love of these fathers highlights the great need everyone has for fathers—both physical and spiritual. Asian Access is committed to help train up a generation of leaders across Asia who can serve as spiritual fathers to an emerging generation of believers and leaders for the Church. And we are exceedingly grateful to you, because your prayers and gifts are essential to this ministry.

    Yet as we look to 2013 and beyond, we know there is much work to be done. One A2 national director told me:

    "The young church in my country is like a hospital now, full of young wounded soldiers with no older friends or spiritual fathers to care for them."

    Please join me in praying for more spiritual fathers and friends for pastors in Asia.

    A2 Leader Summit 2012

    Know that your partnership with Asian Access is a blessing to hundreds of pastors, who are becoming spiritual fathers to younger believers. I pray you will have a blessed Christmas season and a joyous New Year.
    Joe's blue web signature
    Joe Handley, President
    Asian Access

  • Brief interview with A2/India's National Director

    Hear about some distinctives of A2's ministry in India and Japan...

    David Dayalan, A2/India national directorPastor David Dayalan, National Director of A2/India talks to Ruth Kramer of Mission Network News about our leader development model training. He does a great job highlighting how we do what we do.

    Download the file here:

    Size: 9.86 Mb
    Read the MNN article written from David's interview.

  • Training new leaders to offset the 1:600,000 odds

    Pastoral Training in Japan is on the uprise

    JapanJAPAN (MNN) In Asia, for every 600,000 people, there is only one trained, competent Christian leader. David Dayalan from Asian Access says they are working on training more leaders, especially in Japan.

    "Asian Access developed a strong emphasis on helping pastors to look at this new Biblical paradigm of developing leaders within their contexts effectively," Dayalan states. Leadership development is not just about teaching, he explains, but also about equipping."

    Asian Access (A2) has started a very unique and creative leadership training. It has been developed entirely by Japanese, for Japanese, in Japanese. This will help Asian Access minister to the pastors more effectively.

    "It's very relational, which allows the pastor to also have the freedom to express and question and to wrestle. At the same time, we have developed a very secure, safe community."

    David Dayalan, National Director of A2/India12 emerging leaders as carefully selected to take part in this program. "We bring in 15-20 key pastors, who are leaders of leaders, influential pastors. We go through this whole curriculum of eight modules," says Dayalan, who serves as National Director of A2/India.

    A2 brings in practitioners who can sit with the new leaders and wrestle with them about issues that need to be covered. Dayalan says, "We are trying to help them to be intentional in taking time off and also in their own role as a pastor, to be enlisting in lives of people in the congregation and developing leaders within the congregation."

    Pray for new leaders being trained in Japan. Pray that the pastors will use the skills they learned with Asian Access to develop even more new leaders. Ask God to open the hearts of the people who are searching for answers in Japan.

    Listen to the MNN broadcast...

    (4-minute clip; last story begins at 3:01)

    More information...

  • Merry Christmas from the Handleys

  • Our Greatest Need is Leadership
    Lesson from Japan's triple disaster

    Pastor Makito Matsuda of Rifu Oasis Chapel.Makito Matsuda is pastor of Oasis Chapel in Rifu, Japan, one of the key hubs for relief efforts after the triple disaster in northeast Japan. Pastor Matsuda, a graduate of Asian Access’ leader development program, is one of the emerging generation leaders in Japan.

    Immediately following the disaster, people from outside the disaster region wanting to help, continually asked Pastor Matsuda: "What do you need?" Because there were so many needs early on—such as food, clean water, clothing, blankets, dry places to live, emotional support—the pastor struggled to know specifically how to answer that simple question.

    But then something happened to make the answer crystal clear.

    One month after the tsunami, Pastor Matsuda visited this village washed away by the tsunami.  He met an amazing survivor.

    Mr. Abe, 70-year old survivor from the disaster, who lost close family members, found his 90-year-old mother alive and ran up the hills carrying her on his back. After rescuing his mother, this man sought other survivors and created a temporary housing campsite for his community. Assessing the situation, Mr. Abe determined to build a shelter, grow a vegetable garden to feed the people, dig a well for all the survivors and encourage those who remained. He led.

    When Pastor Matsuda arrived, he noticed that everyone was lively and vibrant. He had brought food to hand out, but was treated to a meal himself. He came to serve those in need, but the ravaged community actually served him. Having visited many other survivor outposts, Pastor Matsuda was shocked at the way this village responded to the catastrophic situation.

    Why was this village so different?  Clearly, it was Mr. Abe’s leadership that made all the difference.

    From that point on, Pastor Matsuda began responding to that simple question by saying: "Leadership is our greatest need!" While there are many needs following a disaster the size and scope of what hit Japan 3.11, Pastor Matsuda saw the deeper and more enduring need—leadership.

    Following this discovery, Pastor Matsuda felt a renewed challenge that Oasis Chapel should also take up the mantle of developing leaders during this crisis. For example, they found a city without power and water for several weeks. The church determined to collect water from a church member’s well and distribute it to those in the community who were without supply. This was followed by several endeavors to help empower the local community: everything from coming alongside fisherman to creating a leather-works micro-enterprise. These gave survivors something to do and provided at least some form of income.

    Oasis Chapel determined that, better than simply delivering aid for physical and emotional help in the moment, they need to focus their efforts on fostering local leaders, who would make a huge impact their communities in both immediate and long lasting ways. Put simply, leadership transforms.

    Pastor Makito Matsuda of Rifu Oasis Chapel.

    Pastor Matsuda and his church embody a core belief of Asian Access: Leadership is a huge need of the Church of Asia! Without leadership—like the 70-year-old taking ownership of the situation and rallying his community to rebuild and press on—the people falter.

    Proverbs states it this way, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." - Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)

    The world needs more leaders who provide leadership for communities, as well as guidance to other leaders toward God’s present and eternal purposes.

    Asian Access comes alongside of leaders like Pastor Matsuda, helping contribute to a vibrant community of effective leaders who make eternal impact. In this way, we endeavor to work with God, who transforms people, communities, and nations.

  • $1M match met!

    Thank you for helping us match the $1 million challenge for Japan. By November 1, the deadline for the matching grant, you helped us not only match the goal—you went above and beyond. We're still calculating all the funds to know exactly where we stand, but we now know that we've exceeded the match. We are so grateful for God's provision.

    Thank you for standing with the "Unsung Heroes" of the disaster, the pastors and church families who continue to be engaged in providing hope and healing to the Japanese people. We are humbled to have tremendous partners, through which these relief efforts are carried out.

    Some of our partners in Japan Disaster Relief

    Sadly, I just read an LA Times article yesterday ("Billions for Japan tsunami recovery went elsewhere, reports find") about government misspending in Japan relief. Here is an excerpt:

    Billions of dollars meant to help Japan recover from its devastating tsunami went to government projects that had little or nothing to do with the disaster, a new spending review shows.

    Japanese politicians have questioned why millions went to a factory that makes contact lenses, or why money was spent to fend off  environmental activists opposed to whaling, or other projects in areas far removed from the tsunami. Local media have dug up numerous  examples of dubious spending, from renovating government buildings outside the disaster zones to job training in prisons.

    All in all, government documents show roughly one out of every four dollars budgeted for reconstruction went to unrelated projects, and more than half has not been allocated at all, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. An outside analysis by recovery expert Yoshimitsu Shiozaki found the same pattern of spending on projects outside the disaster zones.

    In contrast, we want you to know how A2 has invested relief funds thus far; please download our September Japan Disaster Update.

    Construction site for a new apartment building for evacuees displaced by the nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

    We consider you to be one of our heroes for standing with these heroic leaders in Japan through your prayers and support. Your ongoing prayers are still very much needed.

    Thank you for helping during Japan's greatest hour for the hope of Christ!

    Joe's blue web signature
    Joe Handley


    A2/apan Disaster Report [4 single pages]

    A2/Japan Disaster Report [tabloid layout]

  • Releasing Indigenous Leaders: Empowerment vs. Enlistment

    Kevin Malone, Ph.D.I was reading the latest issue of EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly) on the plane the other day and noticed an article that piqued my interest. As I was reading through the piece noting the importance of indigenous leadership training, I was pleasantly surprised to see an assessment of Asian Access' unique model of leadership development. The article was written by Dr. Kelly Malone, a former missionary to Japan and current professor at Southwest Baptist University: www.sbuniv.edu/redford/faculty/KMalone.htm

    For those interested in practical issues of church and mission, I heartily recommend reading the EMQ. If you are interested in subscribing to the journal, you can contact them here [ http://www.emqonline.com
    ]. EMQ is well worth subscribing to learn more about church and mission. The articles are focused, practical and of immense value!

    Joe's blue web signature

    Releasing Indigenous Leaders: Empowerment vs. Enlistment

    by Kelly Malone, Ph.D.

    Photo courtesy EMQ

    When I was serving as a missionary in Japan, I saw a number of mission organizations that either came with a pre-designed church-planting strategy or designed a strategy they believed would be appropriate for the local context. Only after all the meaningful decisions had been made were nationals invited to participate.

    When Japanese Christian leaders raised questions about the appropriateness of these plans for the local context, missionaries castigated them as spiritually immature, un-evangelistic, and close-minded. Perhaps the worst comment I heard was that these believers were “contaminated by their exposure to historic Japanese Christianity!” When I heard these comments, I wondered, “Aren’t these Japanese brothers and sisters spiritually mature believers in Christ? Don’t they know their own culture better than we do? Isn’t the same Holy Spirit working in them as well as us? I am certain they have weaknesses. We all do. But shouldn’t we at least listen to them?”

    In his book, Searching for the Indigenous Church, Gene Daniels observes that we “usually don’t ask local leaders what their visions are because we are too busy thinking about our own. We find it easier to use them as a means to reach our dreams than to help them explore theirs” (2005, 98). My question is, “How do we develop more indigenous churches by cutting local indigenous leaders out of the planning process?” Rather than empower local leaders to develop a truly indigenous strategy to reach their nations for Christ, missionaries often enlist Christians to help them carry out a strategy that is not sufficiently rooted in the local context.

    James F. Engel and William A. Dyrness write that Western mission agencies are often guilty of “managerial reductionism” which is preoccupied with “strategies and methods” rather than concern for people (2000, 67-70). Local churches and people become only the means through which agencies and missionaries fulfill “their own evangelistic aspirations” (2000, 76-77).

    Another possible approach is to empower leaders to participate in mission on the basis of their own calling and giftedness. Bill Easum writes that leaders are most effective when they help individuals discover and use their spiritual gifts for the benefit of the Body of Christ. This results in the multiplication of leaders which, in turn, leads to the multiplication of disciples (2000, 99). By emphasizing the empowerment of national leaders, we become more effective in multiplying not only leaders, but also believers and churches, and ultimately church-planting movements.

    Lessons from an Enlistment Strategy

    When I was in Tokyo, I had the opportunity to partner in the development of a training center designed to equip nationals for ministry in local churches. Initially, I sat in a donut shop with a missionary from another agency and listened to his vision. After prayer and consultation, he and I began to refine this vision.

    Within a few months we had a leadership team on board with the intent of bringing our training center to fruition. At this point, the issue came up of whether or not our leadership team should include Japanese leaders. After much discussion, we reached the consensus that in the beginning leadership should be limited to missionaries. We agreed to consult with key Japanese church and denominational leaders and to take their opinions in account, but those who actually made initial decisions regarding the vision, strategy, and direction of the training center were all missionaries. There were three reasons that we decided to exclude Japanese from leadership.

    We were confident that our plan would be effective in providing contextualized leaders for the local churches.

    We were afraid that the Japanese would not share our vision, so they would try to change our plans.

    We desired to carry out our strategy without possible interference from those who might disagree.

    Once our strategy was set and our plans were made, we encouraged many local leaders to send church members to receive training at our center. We also invited those with giftings in teaching, evangelism, and discipleship to become instructors. My question is, “How do we develop more indigenous churches by cutting local indigenous leaders out of the planning process?

    In the beginning, the response was encouraging. A number of qualified pastors and church leaders taught courses that were highly contextualized to the current situation in Japanese churches and society. Young adults from churches throughout the Tokyo area participated in classes.

    Over time, however, interest among pastors and their church members began to fizzle. It became more difficult to find both instructors and students. As we investigated the reasons behind this response, one primary factor was that the training center lacked local identity. The pastors and churches said, “This is not our training center. It is the missionary’s training center.”

    If Only We Had Have Done Things Differently

    In retrospect, we could have been more effective if we had included Japanese from the initial stages of planning. As Tom Steffen notes, “Effective action plans call for immediate involvement by nationals in planning and implementation.” Nationals should be involved in answering crucial questions “before they commit the action plans to writing” (1997, 87).

    If we had done this, the Japanese would have enjoyed the donuts and the initial vision and approach to training. The resulting training center would have looked and acted more Japanese. Local pastors, churches, and future church leaders would have believed that the leadership training center belonged to them.

    Westerners are “driven people.” We are driven by our desire to achieve success. We want to excel in every endeavor, whether business, education, athletics, or religion. We fear that our models and methods will be replaced by something “new and improved”—whether that be the car we drive, the computer we use, or the churches we develop. We are driven to be the best in every pursuit: not only to improve ourselves, but also to exceed others.

    We measure everything against the dictum, “How much can I get for what I put in? How do I get the greatest gain on my investment?” (Luzbetak 1989, 260-62). When this drive to achieve and to excel is applied to mission, it leads to an enlistment strategy. Charles Van Engen writes,

    We work hard to create our own structures, to define our own purposes, to protect our own interests, and to direct our own unique vision. Each of us is trained to emphasize our own special contribution to world mission. Each of us sees our mission endeavor, the church, and the world through the colored glasses of our own agenda. (2001, 12)

    There is a mindset in which westerners think they are the ones in charge and that nationals must agree. But Larry Jones reminds us that in this situation, “yes” does not always mean, “I agree with you” or even “I will work with you.” In many cases, it only suggests that “I will let you have your way because I must, even though I’m certain you’re wrong” (2009, 406-407).

    Nationals who come on board with our agenda may become so absorbed in Western organizational culture, patterns of ministry, and models that they suffer “extraction”. Other nationals begin to regard them as Western rather than as participants in the local culture and society (Daniels 2009, 426). The final result is that the enlisted worker’s capacity for truly contextualized evangelism, ministry, discipleship, leadership, and church development becomes limited.

    Principles for an Empowerment Strategy

    In order to develop a strategy for empowering indigenous leaders, we must be willing to lay aside our personal agendas and “work together with people around us, building mutual understanding and cooperating to make decisions and solve crises in a manner acceptable and beneficial to the entire community.” We must accept our own God-given limitations while at the same time realizing the God-given potential in others (Lingenfelter and Mayers 2003, 74, 82-83).

    James Stamoolis writes that if we are going to develop spiritually mature leaders, we must adhere to five training principles (2001, 491-495):

    • Train in response to the heart questions and worldview of the people.
    • Train in a manner appropriate to the learning style of the people, based on scripture and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. (Stamoolis emphasizes that appropriate teaching will lead to contextualized application of biblical principles.)
    • Train to “change behavior, not merely impart knowledge.”
    • Train so the training can be replicated. Those who are trained will be able to train others.
    • Train so that those who are trained will claim the training program as their own.

    One example is Asian Access’ approach to contextualized training for local leadership. Their training process and curriculum was first developed in Japan, “by Japanese, for Japanese,” and is taught by Japanese, to Japanese, in Japanese. Twelve emerging leaders are carefully selected to engage in a two-year process which combines classroom instruction with mentoring. Special emphasis is given to assisting emerging leaders in understanding both their unique gifts and the giftedness of their congregations. They are also given training in skills that will enable them to equip their congregations for more effective ministry in their communities. Finally, they are encouraged to develop a vision for church growth and multiplication.

    As the training of indigenous leadership in Japan has escalated, the word has spread across Asia. This has led to the development of a training program in Mongolia and Asian Access has expanded to include leadership development initiatives in nine Asian nations (Asian Access n.d.).

    Edgar J. Elliston makes four crucial points that we must keep in mind when considering the issue of empowering national leaders (1992, 124).

    First, the source of empowerment is the Holy Spirit. Our equipping, training, and sending out of leaders are inadequate unless the Holy Spirit has already empowered them for the work. This is one of the pitfalls of the enlistment method: we enlist people to serve based on the needs of our strategy rather than the gifting of the individual. When we assign a person to a task for which God has not prepared him or her, we sentence that person to failure. On the other hand, when the Spirit’s empowerment determines a person’s place in mission and ministry, the ministry is in line with God’s clear purpose for the person’s life, and the chance of success is greatly enhanced.

    Second, the means of empowerment is spiritual gifting. Some seem to suggest that empowerment for mission and spiritual gifting are two different (perhaps even mutually exclusive) issues, when in fact they are one in the same. The word charismaton, which we translate “spiritual gifts,” is derived from the Greek word charis, meaning “grace.” Thus, spiritual gifts are God’s “grace gifts” given to members of the Body of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. These works of God’s grace empower each person in a particular way for participation in Christ’s mission carried out through his Church. Third, spiritual leaders exercise leadership through the use of their spiritual gifts. People with the gift of evangelism lead in the area of evangelism. Those gifted in the area of administration lead through administering. Those gifted in service lead by serving others.

    Two cautionary notes should be made at this point. First, we must not think that a person can serve only in the area of his or her giftedness. For example, to say that a teacher could never carry out responsibilities in the area of prayer or evangelism is not practicable. But we must keep in mind that leaders are most effective when they lead from their giftedness and, as much as possible, leadership outside of giftedness should be considered secondary, perhaps working in partnership with someone else, rather than primary. Second, the exercise of spiritual gifts should take place within the context of the Body of Christ. This does not mean that the use of gifts will always be directed towards the Body. But it does mean that they will always benefit the Church in some way. Ministry and evangelism, for example, are essential to the Church’s mission in the world.

    Finally, spiritual power is developed through the use of spiritual gifts. It is important to remember that this power is not human power; it is the Holy Spirit’s power. We release God’s Spirit to work when we allow indigenous leaders the opportunity to lead on the basis of their giftedness. It is the work of God’s Spirit that transforms the character of the leaders and works through them to transform the church, culture, and society.

    In his multi-cultural study of home groups in urban contexts, Mikel Neumann notes that the key to the development of new groups is not the outstanding gifts of the few, but rather the recognition and use of the gifts of everyone within the group (1999, 82). One pastor of New Life Fellowship in Bombay comments, “The leader must give others freedom to develop and not try to dictate. The leader must get underneath and lift them up to prepare them for ministry” (Neumann 1999, 86). This statement by an indigenous leader is an excellent summary of a strategy of empowerment.

    As I train students for cross-cultural ministry, I try to impart to them a sense of wonder of what the “Lord of the harvest” is doing among the nations. It seems that in our generation (as none that has gone before), he is responding to the prayer of his followers to “send out workers in to his harvest field” (Luke 10:2). This new generation of laborers includes millions of believers in the East and the Global South whom God has called, gifted, and envisioned for the task of bringing the people of the nations to him. We must encourage them to carry out God’s vision for their lives in the power of his Spirit.

    The Impact of Empowered Leaders

    Paul Gupta writes that church-planting movements occur when we enable gifted national leaders to develop churches in which the “forms and styles of worship, music, leadership, communication, community, and learning…are contextual to the culture of the people” (2006, 60). While those engaged in cross-cultural ministry know this by both intuition and training, the reality is that we have difficulty releasing nationals to develop churches that are truly indigenous. Yet when we are able to take this crucial step, big things can happen.

    When I was in Tokyo, I had the opportunity to meet Nobuo Watanabe, the associate pastor and principal of the Bible College at Tokyo Horizon Chapel. Nobuo is a Japanese national who has MDiv and DMin degrees from Fuller Seminary. Following fifteen years of ministry in the United States, he returned to Japan to take his current position at Horizon Chapel, assisting long-time pastor Koichi Hirano. Missionary involvement in Horizon Chapel is limited. From time to time, they invite missionaries to assist in the training program at the Bible College. Currently, they have an American missionary who leads an English language ministry, working under the direction of the church’s Japanese leadership (Tokyo Horizon Chapel).

    Following the leadership of these two Japanese leaders, Horizon Chapel has launched an innovative, multi-campus approach. There are two main campuses and a network of smaller congregations and ministries, centered in the greater Tokyo area, but spread throughout much of Japan. When I asked Nobuo what method they used in order to develop new work, he responded that no two of these ministries is exactly the same, and no single pattern is used to establish new work.

    They encourage their Bible college graduates to move into areas that do not have churches in order to begin new work. But they also have lay people without any special training who have followed God’s call to begin work in new locations. Some groups have developed as independent churches with their own buildings and paid staff. But others are small house gatherings that remain closely tied to the parent church in Tokyo. Nobuo stressed that each “church” must be allowed to develop on the basis of local initiative in a way that fits the local situation. This is a good description of indigenous church planting.


    Kelly Malone is associate professor of intercultural studies and holds the Jack Stanton Chair of Evangelism at Southwest Baptist University. Prior to this, he served as an educator and church leadership trainer in Japan for fifteen years.

    EMQ, Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 406-413. Copyright  © 2012 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS. 

    A2 Blog Centre editor's note: This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) www.emqonline.com and has been reposted here with permission. The yellow highlight in Dr. Malone's article above was later inserted by Asian Access to make that section more noticeable for our readers, because it pertains to our model.


    Asian Access. Accessed June 3, 2011, from www.asianaccess.org/ministry/leaderdevelopment.html.

    Daniels, Gene. 2005. Searching for the Indigenous Church. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library. 2009. “Decoupling Missionary Advance from Western Culture.” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 45(4): 420-427.

    Easum, Bill. 2000. Leadership on the Other Side: No Rules, Just Clues. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

    Elliston, Edgar J. 1992. Home Grown Leaders. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.

    Engel, James F. and William A. Dyrness. 2000. Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong? Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

    Gupta, Paul R., and Sherwood G. Lingenfelter. 2006. Breaking Tradition to Accomplish Vision:Training Leaders for a Church-Planting Movement. Winona Lake, Ind.: BMH Books.

    Jones, Larry B. 2009. “The Problem of Power in Ministry Relationships.” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 45(4): 404-410.

    Lingenfelter, Sherwood G., and Marvin K. Mayers. 2003. Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

    Luzbetak, Louis J. 1989. The Church and Cultures: New Perspectives in Missiological Anthropology. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.

    Neumann, Mikel. 1999. Home Groups for Urban Cultures. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.

    Stamoolis, James. 2001. “How Are We Doing at Developing National Leaders?” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 37(4): 488-495.

    Steffen, Tom A. 1997. Passing the Baton: Church Planting that Empowers. La Habra, Calif.: Center for Organizational and Ministry Development. Tokyo Horizon Chapel. Accessed June 3, 2011, from www.horizonchapel.jp/index.html.

    Van Engen, Charles. 2001. “Toward a Theology of Mission Partnerships.” Missiology 29(1): 11-44.

  • Match offer expires November 1st - There's still time to double your gift

    Dear Friend,

    Japan MailerThank you for your prayers and support for the ongoing work of Asian Access and the response toward tsunami relief in Japan the past 18 months. To show you what support from people like you has accomplished, we have posted a report online, which you can view here.

    In addition, I wanted to remind you that Asian Access has until November 1st, 2012 to finish our latest $1,000,000 matching challenge that will bring continued hope and healing to Japan. We are now just under a month away from the deadline, but we still have $300,000 left to meet the match. Every dollar towards Japan given between now and November 1st will be doubled to bring both spiritual and physical relief to Japan.

    Pray for us as we seek to meet this challenge.  Would you consider a gift to help us maximize this match? For more information on this opportunity and for ways to give go to this web page.

    Most importantly, pray for Japan. As my predecessor Doug Birdsall has said, "We haven't had an opportunity like this since the end of World War II when Douglas MacArthur called for 5,000 missionaries to be sent to Japan."

    This is clearly Japan's critical hour of need. And in this time of tremendous opportunity, Asian Access missionaries are reaching out to be the hands and feet of Jesus, meeting needs and sharing the love of Christ. Thank you for being a part of this answer to prayer. God bless you for standing with us during this important season of hope in Japan.

    For His Kingdom,

    Joe's blue web signature
    Joe Handley
    President, Asian Access


    Japan Disaster Report - Sept. 2012 [4 single pages]

    Japan Disaster Report - Sept. 2012 [tabloid layout]

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