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The Asia-Pacific Leadership Academy was officially begun in early 2008, and has been a resounding success. Many factors have played a part in this success. We started with a wonderful steering committee made up of Koko Enrile, Cesar Lopez, Rolan Monje, Frank Kim, Chris Jacobs and me. We developed the curriculum and the educational philosophy underlying how it would be taught. I was asked to serve as the Dean of the academy and as the primary instructor in the beginning. Our long-range plans included raising up Rolan to be a full-fledged teacher in the school, and he has excelled so much in the process that he now is fully prepared to replace me as the Director of the program. To be candid, although I have served as the primary teacher for the previous four years, Rolan and his talented wife, Weng, have done most of the administrative work from the very beginning. I will have more to say about Rolan and Weng later in the article.

The Asia-Pacific Region family of churches is blessed to have congregations of disciples in six nations: Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Philippines. As early as 2005, the need for leadership training in the Asia-Pacific Region had become both obvious and urgent. As churches grew, the region had the pressing need to develop the existing leadership and to train up the next generation of leaders. The nations of Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and the Philippines have a combined population of over 310 million people. It had become apparent that mission work had to be catapulted to a much higher level in a short period of time, and this had to be partnered with a love for the Bible and deeper knowledge of God.

These staggering facts created a burning desire in many hearts and led to the discussions and the formation of APLA. Its mission of developing leaders in the region has blossomed, with at least 12 in-person sessions having being taught since 2008 with a total enrollment of nearly 300 students from eleven countries.  A growing number of students have graduated from the 3-year diploma programs. The impact of the APLA has been well recognized by students and their respective home churches. Today, APLA continues to offer Bible-based courses to equip leaders and broaden the leadership base in the region.

The Academy offers three tracks of training:  a track for those who are church supported leaders (Ministry Track); a second track for more mature disciples who can be trained to fill shepherding roles, some of whom will ultimately be appointed elders (Shepherding Track); and a third, individually customized type track to further train those who serve in a variety of leadership roles (Elective Track). Those who graduate from the Ministry Track must complete a total of 11 courses (8 basic courses plus 3 additional practical courses from the Shepherding Track) and those who graduate from the other tracks have a curriculum of 8 courses.

The following facts show the evidence of APLA’s direct impact in the last four years.

Number of churches from our designated territory with APLA students enrolled (listed by country):

  • Cambodia – 3
  • Laos -1
  • Myanmar -2
  • Philippines – 22
  • Thailand – 3
  • Vietnam -2
  • USA Territories – 2

Number of other countries from which students have requested enrollment and have attended:

  • China
  • India
  • Taiwan
  • U.A.E.

Some other statistics are noteworthy as well:

  • The three classes which generated the greatest enrollments were Leadership Development (held in Bangkok, with over 70 attendees); Marriage and Family II (held in Cebu, with over 80 attendees); and, Psalms (also held in Cebu just recently, with 97 attendees, taught by none other than our new Director, Professor Monje).
  • About 89% of the enrollees are married.
  • About 70% of the enrollees are at least 10 years old as Christians.
  • About 35% are church staff.

Although the plan in the beginning was for me to do the bulk of the teaching, Rolan not only was a part of my classes, but started teaching segments of various classes with me. We also had several other teachers from the US come in to teach certain courses, John Oakes being the most frequent of these. The plan begun this year has me cutting back to one trip per year and teaching either repeat courses for new students or continuing education courses for older students. The plan also includes having Rolan teach one course and another outside teacher for the third course each calendar year. Not only did this sound like a good idea to our steering committee, the students have already given an obvious hearty Amen by making Rolan’s recent course on Psalms the best attended class ever! (Rolan has just had his excellent new book on Psalms published, and DPI is going to publish their US version soon.) Having other outside teachers in for at least one course per year will provide the necessary exposure to a variety of outstanding teachers, each with their own unique personality and teaching approach.

I will finish by giving you a few facts about our new Director. Rolan, in addition to all of his practical training in ministry and training in APLA, has earned a BD (equivalent to a Master of Divinity degree) from the University of London, with a major in biblical languages. He received his Master’s in Ministry and Doctorate in Ministry degrees from the American Bible College, with a major in pastoral theology. His wonderful wife and ministry partner, Weng, finished a degree in Management, then studied counseling, after which she earned a post-graduate Professional Diploma in Family Ministries, and is now getting her professor certification in Solution-Focused Therapy (from Singapore). Rolan has been a wonderful friend and assistant for the past four years, but now is my fellow-teacher and the Director of APLA. I could not be more pleased to use the same words made famous by John the Baptist: Rolan “must increase and I must decrease!” (I know Rolan is not Jesus, of course, but he is about as good an imitator of Jesus as any man I know!) Congratulations, Rolan, and may God bless you to carry the APLA torch to higher and higher ground!

Gordon Ferguson