So we can trust him now.
Our board of directors meeting was scheduled to be later this week in person. But due to COVID-19, we are now going to meet via teleconference. As I was preparing for the meeting, I received a letter from Doug Birdsall, my predecessor and current board member.
Doug gave me permission to share his letter with you. Our hope is to encourage you. Perhaps you are discouraged, facing difficult circumstances because of coronavirus or other challenges in your life. This is a testament to God’s faithfulness to deliver.
Thank you for your note. Though we were eagerly looking forward to being together in Portland, we certainly understand. Hopefully, our online meeting will allow all of us to be together.
You and the needs of the mission have been on my mind in light of the uncertainty brought about by the virus and the turbulence of the markets.
I have been thinking about 5 significant disruptions that have profoundly impacted the life of our mission over the years.
1. Devaluation of the Dollar: 1985-1987. The U.S. dollar lost 51% of its value against the Japanese Yen, which meant that our costs for doing ministry in Japan doubled during that period. That was while we are incorporating in Japan, buying land, building the Kotesashi office, starting the work of Communities for Christ, which was the forerunner to Church Multiplication Network, expanding JCGI, and running six other semi-autonomous divisions of ministry: ELI Centers, Scrum Dendo, SongRise, Friendship Golf, Friendship Radio, and the Summer American Language Tour (SALT).
2. Black Monday: October 19, 1987. I returned back to the States for a well planned year-end fund-raising trip on - Tuesday, October 20, 1987. Inopportune timing!
3. New Era Philanthropy Ponzi scheme: 1995. Hundreds of non-profit organizations from Harvard University to the New York Metropolitan Museum to Wheaton College to Asian Access, along with all of the major evangelical foundations were involved in a "matching grant" initiative which proved to be a Ponzi scheme. It collapsed in May of 1995. Everyone was stunned. We were out at least $250,000. Eventually, everyone settled (out of court) so that all participants had at least 80% of their own money back.
4. September 11, 2001: World Trade Center Attacks. The world changed.
5. September 2008: Stock Market Crash. During this disruption, Joe Handley is welcomed as new President of Asian Access (see photo below). In Lausanne, we were just two years from the Congress and needed to ramp up in a major way with building the team, signing contracts and convening consultations in12 regions of the world.
Sounds terrifying when I list that all at one time. Fortunately, we did not have to deal with five crises at once. They came one by one, and we dealt with them one at a time. In every case we began on our knees, asking God for wisdom and provision. Looking back, we see how God did guide, and he did provide. It wasn't always easy, but we did learn to trust him more in every situation.
The writer of the Hymn, "Be Still My Soul," wrote these beautiful words:
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
Ray Ortlund would encourage the board with the words of an older Scottish elder at Lake Avenue Congregational church,
"Now we have the privilege to stand back and watch God do a miracle!"
The current challenge of the coronavirus and the market gyrations are not too much for God to handle. "The One who called you is faithful, and... HE WILL do it!"
We are praying for and with you, Joe. And, we will share the load. "Leave to thy God to order and provide." He will!
God bless you!
And how are you doing these days?
What major disruptions has God brought you through? I appreciate Doug offering perspective at this moment. It reminds us that recounting his faithfulness in the past helps us trust him more in the midst of whatever current challenge happens to face us. As the first stanza of Isaac Watts' hymn based on Psalm 90 declares...
O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home
Joe Handley, President
- About the photos:
- The more formal photos are from my presidential installation in 2008. In the first one, Doug is performing a Mongolian ritual to pass leadership from the predecessor to the new leader.
- First inset photo: Doug held me up in a spontaneous moment of symbolic fun at Asian Access' 50th-anniversary gathering in 2017.
- Doug Birdsall has been engaged in the global mission of the church for forty years & is currently serving as the Ambassador-at-Large for Asian Access and the Honorary Chair for Lausanne.