Beginnings (1979-1993)

For our humble beginnings, we are grateful for the powerful leadership of two women:Nina Lau-Branson and Jeanette Yep.

In 1979, Nina served as the first part-time coordinator for the Asian American Ministry Fellowship. By 1980, she served a dozen Asian American staff and 698 students, which made up 2.5% of the entire fellowship. Jeanette Yep succeeded her between 1983-85. Both women pushed the ministry forward, helping InterVarsity better care for and empower Asian American staff and students.

Empowering leaders (1993-2009)

In 1993, Vice-President and Multiethnic Director Dr. Sam Barkat saw a need for addressing the rapid growth of Asian Americans on campus. He asked veteran staff Paul Tokunaga (and a planning committee comprised of Donna DongHong Eng, Jeanette Yep, and Sam) to direct a conference for Asian American staff, which was held in Berkeley. Forty staff attended. The following year, Sam asked Paul to become the part-time Asian American Ministries Coordinator.

Paul would bring his passion for leadership development to the fore. In 1996, the first Asian American Coordinating Team (Jeanette Yep, Brad WongSusan Van RiesenCollin Tomikawa, and Paul Tokunaga) developed a five-year plan which focused on developing the next generation of Asian American Leaders. In 1997, to develop Asian Americans more robustly, Paul’s role became a full-time position. In 1998, the 2nd Asian American Staff Conference brought 85 staff to Berkeley for more development. That same year, Asian American Ministries published an in-house resource, Developing Asian American Leaders. In 2000, Greg JaoJon Paris, Jeanette Yep and Paul Tokunaga taught a course for staff working with Asian Americans, again titled Developing Asian American Leaders.

In 2001, while keeping our emphasis on leadership development, the Coordinating Team saw the need to begin moving beyond our own community. At our Asian American staff conference in Atlanta, we invited Vinoth and Karin Ramachandra, IFES staff in Sri Lanka, to address the themes of justice and racial reconciliation. We had 150 participants. In 2004, our conference in Torrance featured Dr. Russell Jeung, who also pressed us toward blessing beyond our own communities. We had 110 in attendance.

Then Paul created Asian American Ministries’ key contribution to the national movement. In 2003-04, the Asian American Coordinating Team ran a 15-month “executive leadership development program” for 14 outstanding young Asian American staff who displayed senior leadership potential. It was named The Daniel Project. The goal was to help fill InterVarsity’s leadership pipeline with gifted but perhaps untapped and unrecognized leaders. Currently 11 of the 14 have moved into higher leadership roles. We ran a second cohort in 2005.

The success of these initiatives led to movement-wide adoption. In 2006, InterVarsity’s Black Campus Ministries and La Fe, the Latino Campus Ministries, held their own Daniel Project Cohorts. Since then, it has expanded into women’s, Greek ministry, International Students Ministries, and Prospective Senior Leadership cohorts. AAM has been a vanguard of leadership development for InterVarsity as a whole.

In 2008 after serving 14 years as the Asian American Ministries Coordinator, Paul Tokunaga stepped-down from the role in order to step up as Vice President and Director of Strategic Ministries. Under his leadership, the ministry grew to 4,673 Asian American students and 160 Asian American staff. Jennifer Ikoma-Motzko, served as the interim national coordinator until 2009.

Emerging ministries (2009 to the present)

In 2009, James Choung became the National Director of Asian American Ministries. With a new Asian American Ministries Leadership Team (Sabrina Chan, Brian Chang, Joe Ho, Kathy Khang, and Anna Lee-Winans) in place, the new direction of the ministry focused on the intersection of leadership development, evangelism and multiethnic engagement.

To that end, we have pressed even more strongly into emerging ministries, particularly in the South Asian, Hmong and Filipino student communities. The South Asian Leadership Institutes of 2008 and 2011, led by Jason Thomas and Jerome Mammen (who has served on the Asian American Ministries Leadership Team 2010-2013), were hugely successful, and a third SALI is being planned for summer of 2014. And the Filipino staff community, under the leadership of Christie Heller de LeonJen Hollingsworth, and David de Leon, held its first national leadership institute, dubbed KaLI (Kapwa Leadership Institute) in July of 2013.  InterVarsity will also host its ninth annual Hmong Christian Collegiate Conference in February of 2014. 

We also seek to continue to press into East Asian ministries, particularly with those who are not yet believers. In the spring of 2010, the national leadership of five Asian American campus ministries gathered together for an Asian American Evangelism Symposium, to continue to learn more about reaching Asian Americans for the gospel.

In July of 2013, Joe Ho became the National Director of Asian American Ministries.  He is excited to lead InterVarsity, along with the AAM Leadership Team (Alice Atkins, Jen HollingsworthKathy KhangKathy Tuan-MacLean, and Derek Wu) to grow the depth and breadth of ministry to Asian American students.

At present, 251 Asian American staff serve at all levels of leadership in the movement, and a record number of 6,198 core students are involved.

Thanks be to God! And we can’t wait to see how the story will continue to unfold.