Joe Handley



Stories from Joe Handley, president of A3

jpn pastors conf 2022 group

This was the most encouraging Japan National Pastors’ Conference I remember in my 14 years with Asian Access.

The theme as set by Pastor Yoshiya Hari, Asian Access/Japan National Director, was “From 2020 to 2030” and Pastor Shinji Takita’s words captured it best:

The first Asian Access National Conference in three years was a heart-gripping challenge for the future of Japan's mission, rooted in the love of theology and practice of young teachers who lead the future of the Japanese mission, and the challenge of the young teachers. Thank you Lord.

A2J 2020 2030

My predecessor, Rev. Dr. Doug Birdsall reflected on the 2020 Vision sharing insights into how we discern the Lord’s calling. All the pastors shared in small groups and several highlighted the influence the 2020 Vision had on the nation. Perhaps most telling was the influence that vision had on church multiplication. Today, pastors across the country have a heart for church planting that was not apparent in decades past.

jpn pastor conf 2022 insetsIn fact, prior to the Japan Evangelism Congress of 2017, those gatherings didn’t even have church planting as a core element. But today, as we head toward the next JEC Congress in 2023, Asian Access chairman, Pastor Makio Kodaira is at the helm of the event and our director Yoshiya Hari is leading the way for church planting.

I was asked to share after Doug on the State of the American Church to see what implications that might have as Japan contemplates their future. After my presentation, I encouraged them for their bold new vision to reach 2% of the population (doubling the number of believers in the country). I believe it’s fair to say that these new initiatives would not have surfaced without the Lord’s direction in the 2020 Vision. Praise God!

What inspired me further though was the next generation, or should I say Now Generation! Graduates of our U40 and U30 programs (for under 30 and 40 something pastors) shared what they have been learning so that we could discern further what the Lord may be telling us as we look ahead to 2030. What encouraged me was that the average age of this event was about 45. Why was that so encouraging? Because in my previous 13 years the average age had to have been around 65. A 20 year differential! For Japan, this is important and pivotal as the Church nationwide has been aging for years. To see such vibrant young pastors sharing their heart for the future was remarkable!

Yoshiya Hari designed the congress so well with the intent of preparing for the Japan Evangelism Congress 2023. I am praying for a great wave of people coming to Christ and many churches being planted in new forms all together. They might not look like what we think of as church. And, from the lessons learned about the American, or even Global Church, disciple-making must be key!

jpn pastors conf 2022 arigaRev. Dr. Paul Ariga, Global Ambassador for Asian Access/Japan, shared this:

There were Great messages delivered on 4 challenges this year: Discipleship and Leader Training, Churches to Send, Connecting with Churches to Communities, and Inter-Church Connections! The best is hidden in Japan!!!

The participants were 100% satisfied! I felt the foretaste of the 7th Japan Evangelical Conference in September 2023! With a new commitment to see with God's eyes, act with God's heart, connect with regions and realize God's kingdom! It was such a meaningful gathering. The Best Is Yet To Come!

I believe he is right. Japan’s future is as bright as the promises of God. Just as Doug Birdsall often shares Adoniram Judson’s famous response to what hope there might be for Burma years ago, Japan’s future is as bright as the promises of God. The best is yet to come!

Can we Double the Christian Population of Japan? – Of course we can! God can do all things!!!

joe sig blue

Joe Handley
President, Asian Access

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What I am wanting to do is practice being more of a noticer—seeing people who don’t seem to be flailing around in choppy waters like me but instead are more like anchors. People like my mom: a woman who is stable and steady, who sees similar things as me, yet keeps on watering her flowers, making food for people, playing the organ at church, showing up for her friends, and volunteering at a thrift store that employs people in the penitentiary system. She keeps on making music, meals, and memories, keeps on listening to Reactionary, Big Feeling Me, and keeps on being her steady self. 


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At the beginning of 2020, we had high hopes of reviving these summer mission teams, partnering with churches who wanted to do major outreach work surrounding the Tokyo Olympics. 

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For over a decade, February 1, 2011, remained memorialized in my mind as my “Japanniversary,” the day God took me to Japan, one month before the Triple Disaster. Each passing year, I have acknowledged this date in some way—karaoke with friends, a Facebook post, or a quiet prayer to God. 

But 2022 was the year I wrapped up over a decade of life in Japan and moved “home.” In 2023, to recall my arrival date in Japan, I had to look at my 手帳 (techō, my pocket schedule book). I was too late! The day, March 16, had passed by me without so much as a wink.


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