This article from eXcelerate Magazine is being reposted with permission from Missio Nexus.
Congratulations to Asian Access and SIM,
recipients of the eXcelerate award for
partnership in mission.
New Dawn in the Land of the Rising Sun
A2/SIM Strategic Partnership for Japan
Edited by Mary Kay Palguta, Missio Nexus
Japan has long been considered a resistant mission field. Years of mission effort have
yielded small results. But the overwhelming effects of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster of 2011 have opened the doors of opportunity and Christian leaders in Japan are asking for help. Poised to answer the call is a new strategic partnership between two very different mission organizations – Asian Access and SIM.
A Little History
Asian Access realized that a change was vital for accomplishing its vision in Japan and after much deliberation decided to pursue one organization as a strategic partner — SIM. Because this meant changes for Asian Access staff members (especially missionaries in Japan), all staff were involved in the discussion from the outset.
Following a thorough process of examining their respective organizations’ DNA, the leadership teams of Asian Access and SIM seized the opportunity in forming a new model of mission work. Each is maximizing its strengths; each was willing to adapt to the other’s needs. Both believe that by working together a greater outcome will result.
This new collaboration is not a merger or simply a sharing of office functions; it is truly a new way of doing mission together, where each team brings its strengths and commits to a common kingdom vision. SIM assumes responsibility for recruiting missionaries and for missionary support services such as financial accounting, 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 network of Japanese churches, and caring for Japan-based missionary personnel. The partnership requires ongoing teamwork, but retains organizational strengths and fiduciary controls. Together they want to plant 1,000 churches in Japan by 2020 and mobilize 1,000 Japanese missionaries.
Mutual Submission-Mutual Benefit
These two agencies are very different in size, scope, and diversity. There was concern that SIM would dominate over Asian Access, but both organizations are committed to mutual submission. Asian Access continues to lead the work in Japan and SIM submits to Asian Access’s leadership in this area. SIM does the recruiting, selection, and initial training of missionaries and Asian Access submits to SIM’s leadership in this area.
The most obvious benefit to both agencies is better financial stewardship. In the past, Asian Access has deployed only 2-3 missionary units annually on average. Yet, in the wake of the triple disaster in Japan, Japanese pastors have asked Asian Access for many more missionaries than it could send. SIM can provide additional resources for Asian Access missionaries because SIM already possesses the infrastructure. Finally, Asian Access can shift the sending agency functions to SIM and is able to hone in on the leader development ministry that God has been blessing abundantly.
Challenges Along The Way
When it was just an internal discussion within Asian Access, the challenges were mainly about the idea of partnership. There was concern over losing a sense of identity and distinctiveness with potential loss of control. One barrier for Asian Access was getting members spread across two continents on the same page. Through a variety of discussion formats, they gained consensus that they were moving in the right direction of a partnership, not a merger. The other challenge was an external one – how to share the nature of this partnership with the public.
Other challenges were building a cooperative spirit between the two entities and maintaining an identity among Asian Access staff in Japan who would become SIM missionaries. There is currently a transitional challenge of transferring missionaries from Asian Access/Japan to SIM. This is primarily a two-fold challenge: financial and emotional.
How’s It Going?
In the first five months three missionary units have already successfully completed SIM’s pre-field training. One such family has already been deployed to the disaster zone in northeast Japan. Two others are raising support to get there. And there are several more missionary applicants in the pipeline for screening. News of fresh applicants and candidates encourages the existing missionaries on the field in Japan. The infusion of more workers revitalizes the work there and has given added hope to Japanese pastors asking for help.
The partnership is still new; however, it is creating conversations for other initiatives. Like SIM USA, SIM Canada is in conversation with the Asian Access/Japan field leadership about sending missionaries to Japan. Other countries within the SIM global network have expressed interest in sending missionaries to Japan once the partnership is in full swing. This has the
potential of sending dozens of new missionaries to Japan each year.
The primary reason for success is that God is in this, leading the way. God laid the groundwork as both organizations value partnership and both presidents (Joe Handley and Bruce Johnson) worked well together before the partnership was even conceptualized. Both organizations are fully supportive and the people involved have had spirits of humility and cooperation and an attitude of hope.
The timing is right and Asian Access and SIM are eager to seek the Lord together to help fulfill His mandate for the people of Japan. The strategic partnership for Japan was officially announced by Asian Access and SIM on November 11, 2011. (e.g., http://www.asianaccess.org/simusa)