Joe Handley





Stories from Joe Handley,
president of Asian Access

What a joy it was for me to participate with Bishop Efraim Tendero at the World Evangelical Alliance gathering of Associate Members to brainstorm the future of the movement. I was so inspired by Bishop Ef’s style of leadership: so humble, so gracious, so serving. And, he invited us in to see the inner workings and problems the WEA is facing. He asked us to speak into their life and growth. Very few leaders do this! I was impressed… 

You may know that Bishop Ef was the key person to help us begin getting connected in the Philippines so I credit him with opening the doors and networks and today, Asian Access/Philippines is off to a great start!

One of the highlights of our week with the WEA was being hosted by Loren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM who hosted our meetings on their Kona University of the Nations campus. The last time I saw Loren was December 1989 when I coordinated Conquest ’89, one of the first Urbana like missions conferences for high school aged students. What a joy it was seeing him again!

Bishop Ef invited Loren to speak into our lives and he shared some amazing stories. I believe all of us were ready to sign up as YWAMer’s following his inspirational sharing.

Aspen trees

Aspen Trees

What caught my attention was the metaphors he used to describe YWAM. The first day he described YWAM like the Aspen Tree. When you plant one Aspen, it becomes a grove within a short period of time. Why? Because the roots go down and start new trees. It’s really a network of one, living, breathing tree rather than a bunch of separate trees growing on the mountain side.

I loved that picture of the growth of YWAM because it so reminded me of the growth of God’s kingdom! It also reminding me of another picture that I’ll share later…

The next day, one of the leaders who was with us asked, “How do you keep YWAM thriving as an organization?” This leader was clearly perplexed with the growth of YWAM and how the organizational side of leadership, governance, etc. could keep up with such tremendous growth.

Banyan trees 

Banyan Trees

Loren had another brilliant story and example to share that illustrates where I’m heading in this blog. He said, “Have you ever seen the Banyan tree?” They are all over Hawaii. The Banyan grows but as it grows it sends its branches down and they start new trees. Again, it’s another network of trees without a centralized control system. In fact, the Banyan trees sometimes outlive their original core stump! 

What another brilliant model for us to learn from… You see, I’ve learned over the years that for things to grow you must have an open hand when it comes to controlling things. When you have a closed fist, nothing can grow. It stifles people and they can only grow to the size of your fist. But, when you lead with an open hand, people can develop their own sense of how things can move forward retaining the original DNA or footprint of the movement. 

That’s YWAM. Everywhere you go today, you can find YWAMer’s who carry that ethos. In fact, Loren said, “Once a YWAMer, always a YWAMer!” Even if they leave the organization, that same spirit is alive!

Similarly, Asian Access has a similar spirit. Yes, we have a core DNA we call our Essence. But beyond that core, there is a lot of freedom!



One Japanese pastor and key member of Asian Access expresses this so well, Pastor Chida. In describing one ideal evangelism model for Japan, he uses the metaphor of the strawberry. That fits us so, so well. You see, Asian Access is small but it’s influence is remarkable. Why? Because the strawberry, once planted, acts very similarly to the Aspen and the Banyan trees. It sends shoots out to start a new strawberry plant and soon you have an entire field of strawberries. It’s tough to stop!

We at Asian Access say: Small is Big! And, if you change the few, you will change the many!

It was so inspiring watching this principle embodied by Bishop Ef and then shared in such powerful fashion by Loren. May we all live to be like Aspens, Banyans and Strawberries for Christ and his Kingdom!

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Joe Handley

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