Joe Handley




Stories from Joe Handley, president of Asian Access

JapanLandOfTheRisingSun 131906563

March 11, 2020—This title may seem surprising to you in these days of fear and ongoing polarization in the world. – Hope Rising, really?

The coronavirus impact seems to have the world gripped in fear: the markets have been in a free fall, businesses have closed, schools are shifting to online formats, and people are constantly thinking about washing their hands and whether or not they can buy facemasks.

Certainly, the impacts have had a ripple effect and Asian Access is no exception. However…

those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31

Sendai tsunami disaster 29Mar2011 jj 044Remembering, Reflecting, and Mourning

Today marks the ninth anniversary of the March 11th Triple Disaster that hit Japan. It also happens to fall on the year of some significant milestones that Asian Access Japan will be celebrating. And, Lord willing, Tokyo will host the Summer Olympic Games this summer.

You may wonder how we can have hope after such a tragic event like the disasters that hit Japan. You may wonder how can we live in hope when it seems like fear is ever-present.

Following the Triple Disaster, month after month, year after year, the global Church rose to the occasion serving as agents of hope in the midst of the despair. They became carriers of hope throughout the ongoing trauma. You may remember children seeing the relief workers come to their shelters to hold BBQ’s and pass out supplies saying,

“Grandma. Grandma. Jesus is Coming!”

J-Teams Disaster - NozomiJ-Teams relief work lineSennan Chapel

Nozomi Project

You may have heard the stories from the Nozomi Project that birthed out of the brokenness of the tsunami where women’s lives were transformed. They were given purpose, a livelihood and a place to connect through the social enterprise. Despite losing everything, they saw how God turns brokenness into beauty.

Similarly, years ago when Asian Access set our 2020 Vision, many believed it was an impossible task. But, our founder Ken encouraged my predecessor saying,

“Impossible. Impossible. I love Impossible.”

Why? Because we serve a God who likes to turn Impossible into the Possible!

Today, we remember the lives of those lost and all the pain this tragic day brought on us nine years ago. We’ll never forget our friends, communities, neighborhoods, and family members lost to the waves of that tsunami. We recall the pain and walking with one another – together saying “Ganbatte” knowing that Japan could overcome.

A2 Tohoku teamYet, we do so with a deep sense of sadness, particularly because this year we are not able to meet in groups because of the coronavirus and its impact on Japan (as well as many other nations). We won’t be gathering in community as we normally would... simply because we want to protect others and society.

Yet, in the midst of these challenges, we are a people with hope. We cling to the promises shouted by Isaiah,

“those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength and they will fly like eagles.”

We are a people who believe in the God of the Impossible and in the midst of the trials, God will make beautiful things out of broken things. In fact, all of us are simply broken vessels:

“we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

That is why, this year, in the midst of the coronavirus, we can grieve the losses of 3.11, that fateful day, and remember what God has done in bringing beauty out of our brokenness. And it is why Hope is Rising even when things look bleak and seem impossible.

MMN meetingFBBC elderly apt buildingPastor Akira and Chieko Sato

Celebrating the Culmination of the 2020 Vision

This year we will remember all that God has done and even celebrate, yes celebrate, the milestones from our 2020 Vision God gave to us nearly 30 years ago:

  • To deploy 100 church multiplication teams
  • To establish 1000 reproducing congregations
  • To enfold 1,000,000 new followers of Christ
  • Who will send 1000 missionaries from Japan to reach Asia

A few years ago, key Japanese leaders said we had already reached to key metric in that the core of this vision hinged on seeing 1000 reproducing churches established. As he reflected on the history of Asian Access, he was confident that we have seen those 1000 churches started and the rest is in the Lord’s hands.

So, today, while we grieve the deep loss of 3.11, we do so with a renewed sense of hope that God can turn the coronavirus situation around just like he did with the tragedy of March 11th, like he did for the women of the Nozomi Project, and like he has done through what seemed impossible: our 2020 Vision.

May the Lord use us, as broken vessels (simple jars of clay), to see a mighty move of God started this year through the Olympic Games and beyond.

We will overcome: Ganbatte!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” – Philippians 4:13

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Joe Handley, President

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