The winds of change drive new openness for ministry team in Japan

Japan (MNN) ― Japan's opposition swept to a historic victory in elections Sunday, following the theme of "change."

The new Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised to rebuild the economy and breathe new life into the country.

As a result, the opposition swept 300 of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament, ousting the Liberal Democrats (LDP). 54-years under the same rule has come to an end, but in that time, the government has acknowledged things have gone astray.

According to Asian Access (A2), leaders in Japan have characterized their own nation as "a super power without a moral compass." This is a relatively new phenomenon in a country that was guided, for centuries, by a moral and religious ethic that came out of Shintoism and Confucianism.

However, at the same time, disillusionment is running high. In a country known for its traditional ways, this could mean many open doors for the Gospel.

Tim Clark with A2  says the election results are an example of that. "People of all ages are chanting, 'Yes, we can! Yes, we can!' I think that shows a desire for change. And then, this week's election is really very remarkable as decades of rule have ended, and political shift has been dramatic."

More importantly, it signals a paradigm shift in thinking.   "Asian Access missionaries, along with Christians throughout the country, are hoping that this change will really come forward in a desire for change, spiritually."

Clark says people are very open to the Gospel now, making it a ripe harvest for summer evangelism teams, called  J-Teams. These are teams of 3-5 people who work with a Japanese church to do community outreach through English classes, coffee houses, children's ministry, camp and other relationship-building activities. Team members' specific interests and abilities can usually be incorporated into the ministry as well.

Clark says this year "teams were able to build relationships with many non-Christians who normally would not be at a church. But because of this new openness and this new search for hope and encouragement, they found their way to a church."

Despite the needs in the church and the culture at large, the greatest need is for people who faithfully live and represent the reality of Christ and the power of the Gospel. The Japanese need the Life and hope that Christians can bring. You can help. Click here to read more about Asian Access j-Teams.

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This article was originally published by Mission Network News. Click here to read.

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Leadership marks three decades of growth 

Asian AccessJAPAN (MNN) ― Asian Access (A2) observes an important anniversary this month. Their leadership development program in Japan just marked 30 years, and 189 pastors helped to celebrate.

Asian Access President Joe Handley says ministry has come a long way since 1979. "The word on the street for Japan for decades has been 'it's a missionary's graveyard.'" 

Not anymore. A2 picks a dozen church leaders to be a part of an accelerated two-year training program. The goal: to deploy 100 church multiplication teams.  

When the twelve meet together, they are working through an established curriculum that accelerates their growth as spiritual leaders, as well as organizational leaders. Over the course of their training sessions, leaders in and outside of Japan resource them so they have what they need to grow.

By the time they are ready to graduate, they have developed skills to equip their congregation for effective service. At the end of the program, these church leaders lay out their long-term vision and then begin to develop strategies for growth and multiplication.

Handley explains that "over the next two to three years, we hope to double the amount of networks that we have in Japan. These networks are becoming a model for other countries as well." 

As word about this work in Japan spread across Asia, interest grew. Mongolia was the first country to indicate interest. They adapted the Asian Access/Japan model and began training sessions in 1996.

Soon, other countries were added. Asian Access has established leader development programs in eight countries thus far, with an ambitious vision for establishing work in 20 countries by 2010.

An added benefit is that the strategy unifies the church body. As the leaders implement their plans for evangelism, discipleship and church growth, they share a common vision.

From that, Handley notes, "You see remarkable fruit from church planting movements that have birthed essentially from this leadership development institute that launched in Japan." 

Once these pastors begin church planting, A2 networks three or more of them so they can make the best use of their strengths. They meet together for a period of 3-4 years, during which each pastor aims to reproduce a congregation.

The only thing holding back their growth is a lack of funding. Can you help? Click here.


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As suicide rate increases in Japan, Asian Access responds with hope of ChristPastors pray for president Joe Handley 

Japan (MNN) ― In Japan, suicide is on the rise. Nearly 34,000 people took their lives last year alone, according to USA Today. This number is the second-highest toll ever in Japan and ranks Japan at ninth for suicide rates worldwide.

This has been the case for the last decade as Japan's economy continues to weaken and spiral downward. Since 1998, there have been over 30,000 suicides each year, reported the Japan Times.

Takeshi Takazawa with Asian Access (A2) said two factors contribute to this.

"This basically shows the hopelessness. They think killing themselves is better than continuing life, so they basically give up," he said. Also, many feel isolated, without anyone to talk to or show support.

Asian Access in Japan is trying to turn this number around.

Takazawa said the church in Japan needs to reach out to society, rather than waiting for the hopeless to come knocking on the church doors.

"We're encouraging our Japanese pastors to become a true bridge to those people who desperately need hope and salvation of Christ," he said.

One way they did this was by sending several pastors to the U.S. through the pastor's vision tour. These pastors visited Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, as well as Vancouver, B.C. and according to A2's Web site, "had a very fruitful time."

Takazawa said Seattle area is one of the least-evangelized places in the U.S. Thus, the pastors observed the unique models and approaches evangelists used there and were taught how to use them in Japan.

The pastors realized two main issues they needed to address in Japan as a result of the conference.

First, Takazawa said, "[The] Church needs ears to listen to society. The answer is Jesus Christ, always, but what questions are they asking?"

Second, they became aware of the need to create multi-site churches. Rather than keeping the church in one location, the church would go to the searching and allow them to connect on a deeper level.

Pray for the church in Japan as they seek to reach out to lost and hopeless individuals. Pray that they will reach people before they feel the need to end their lives.

To learn more about the ministry of Asian Access and how you can get involved, click here.

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Biblical discipleship program answers Japan's growing divorce rate

Japanese buddhist wedding couple

Japan (MNN) ― One in every four marriages in Japan now ends in divorce. The issue has been a source of concern for a society in which families are a core strength. The Japanese grow up following their society's emphasis on social interdependence---the concept of being members of the whole as opposed to the individual.

Family responsibilities take precedence over individual desires, and familial relations provide the model for social integration at all levels. Furthermore, the family plays an important role in determining individual life chances. That's why the rising divorce rates have shaken the society to its core. The family unit foundation is falling apart for both this generation and the next, tearing at the fabric of their society.

There are ways this is being addressed. Tim Clark with Asian Access is working with a pilot program called "The Marriage Course" by Alpha. However, some of the facilitators were concerned about how it would be received by the Japanese.

It's a delicate issue because the Japanese are known for their sensitivity, propriety and privacy regarding marriage and families.

That was soon overcome. Clark acknowledges that "many start the course with a little bit of skepticism and hesitancy, not wanting to go deep into discussion. But both Christians and non-Christians are finding it to be a great way to ease into discussing important matters that are crucial to the health of their marriages."

The Alpha Course provides a comfortable environment topeople from all walks of life to discuss and learn about foundational issues of the Christian faith. The course is designed to serve those seeking to study the essential basics--new believers as well as seekers (those who have not yet come to a place of fully believing).

From the course came a seven-week study for marriages. Participating couples are equipped with biblical tools for communication, conflict resolution and growth.

Clark says interest is rapidly growing from the three marriage courses running now, and A2 is beginning the Japanese translation of the course materials. "There are very few resources in Japan for strengthening marriages and families. Many churches are recognizing this need, both for church members as well as for their friends and others who aren't a part of the church."

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This article was originally published by Mission Network News. Click here to read.

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A2 DVDSharing vision and hope for evangelism in Asia

Asia (MNN) ― Asia is the world's largest and most-populous continent. Buddhism, Hinduism and a host of other religions compete for dominance, and most of the world's unreached live in Asia. Conflicting worldviews have led to a spiritual dissonance in many of these countries, which leaves millions open to the truth of Christ. So, who will take the Gospel to Asia? That question is answered in a documentary entitled, MISSIONS:REDEFINED. Craig Detweiler directed the documentary for Asian Access. "For those who want to see for themselves what it is like in Sri Lanka, Asian Access has prepared a documentary. It shows you what's going on in Mongolia, in Japan, and in Sri Lanka." The 35-minute documentary details a part of Detweiler's own journey as he returns to Japan 20 years after he was there as a missionary with Asian Access. Although aimed at missions professors, the purpose of MISSIONS:REDEFINED is to open eyes toward the difference the Gospel makes in Asia. The documentary also reveals A2's commitment to developing church leaders who can reproduce new leaders and build or plant churches...

In answer to prayer, God provides a ministry team

Japan (MNN) ― Last month, Asian Access offered an opportunity for volunteers to serve missionary kids in Japan. A team of 6 - 10 was needed to help shine the light of Christ in the dark country. A2 recently announced God's provision of a children's ministry team for this year's annual Asian Access /Japan Spring Conference.

Ten candidates are currently in the screening process and very likely will be heading to Japan soon. The team will provide VBS-type programming for children of missionaries attending the Spring conference held March 5 - 9 in the breathtaking mountain ranges of the Nagano region.

The purpose of the 5-day event is to refresh and equip missionaries serving alongside Japanese congregations, providing ample opportunities for fellowship and rest. The children's ministry team contributes to the A2 missionary team by serving their kids.

Asian Access asks you to join them in prayer for this spring's team as they raise financial support and prepare quality children's activities. Pray that each team member remains healthy and grows in their relationship with God through the process.

Asian Access holds conferences each year in the fall and spring. To learn more, visit their Web site by clicking here.

This story was first published by Mission Network News.

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