These graduates are the first-ever class in Bangladesh, the first Islam-dominant country in which Asian Access serves. Up until now, A2 has operated in countries where Buddhists, Hindus or atheists have been in the majority. With a Christian population of less than 1%, the Church in Bangladesh needs more leaders of the highest caliber.
A Risk Worth Taking
In July 2011, our foray into a Muslim country was considered a huge risk. Could Asian Access understand the unique religious landscape? Would A2 jeopardize the work of pastors in a Muslim society? Would we really be able to contribute to Bangladesh?
On September 2, 2013, the initial answers seemed to emerge at the graduation ceremony. Based on testimonies from many of the graduates, A2 has made a meaningful contribution through investing in them. They thanked Asian Access for this opportunity. Bangladeshi national leaders appealed for more classes or “batches” to follow this inaugural class. Rev. Leor P. Sarkar and Rev. Peter D. Mazumder, A2’s national co-directors, introduced the selected participants for Class 2, set to launch in November. Sounds like A2 is scratching an itch.
Praying a blessing over upcoming Class 2
Commencement: A Beginning
The A2 training impacts the leader and his or her worlds over the long haul, which is another reason this newest class of A2 Alumni is significant. Twelve people are forever changed and ready to turn the world upside down. Sound familiar? This means that their families are the first to see fruit of this positive change.
I shared with the graduates that their graduation was a beginning—not an ending. It is a time of embarking on fresh vision granted by God through the two-year transformational process. Each graduate senses a directional course inspired by God, birthed in community with other pastors and church leaders, and nurtured by A2 faculty and coaches.
Because these leaders have experienced personal transformation, their families, churches, communities, and country will be changed as well. Graduation is only the beginning of what God will do through these leaders, whose network of friendships built within the A2 community is in and of itself breaking down long-time denominational barriers.
A Privilege to Serve as a Cultural Servant
My official short-term role in Bangladesh is called Country Resource Coordinator (CRC). There are many CRC responsibilities in terms of lining up faculty, assisting with logistics of dates and funds, facilitating sessions, and working with the local leadership team to keep the program operating. The goal is a sustainable, indigenous ministry. From a traditional missions mindset, these tasks may sound newfangled.
But at its core, being a CRC is quite similar to my role as an Asian Access missionary in Japan. In our maiden mission field, A2 missionaries are now called “Missional Partners.” As a CRC, I’m really a missional partner, though I don’t live in-country as they do. The philosophy is simply this:
I come alongside a national pastor and church to help achieve shared vision. My objective is not to achieve my vision, but theirs. It’s not about me, but them. I must decrease; they must increase.
This is part of the DNA of Asian Access, since its inception. As our founder said to a Japanese pastor,
“My vision is to help you achieve your vision.”
Joe Handley with new graduate
To Contribute Is A Joy
My biggest thrill came at the end of the receiving line at the commencement. The Co-Directors called their names. One by one, they received their certificate from president Joe Handley. Then they flashed a huge smile and hugged me in uncontained joy. Each whispered a quiet, personal message. I must say this was a jolt of excitement.
Hugging each graduate was a thrill for the participant and me
So we proudly present the newest A2 Alumni, who can’t wait to start. Indeed, they have already begun. They are now a part of a vibrant community of servant leaders with vision, character, and competence leading the Church across Asia.
The class presented me with a nice thank-you plaque