InterVarsity’s media unit, Twentyonehundred Productions, has been a temporary home for a long list of interns and short-term staff. Most stayed for just a few months, to get some frontline media production experience.
That was Paul Tokunaga’s plan, when he joined Twentyonehundred in 1973. “My plan was to work one year for Twentyonehundred, as a thank-you to InterVarsity for helping me so much as a college student at California Polytechnic State University,” he said. “But the one year became two years, two became three and three became 35.”
Working toward his journalism degree, Paul had been drawn to politics. But at InterVarsity he found out the political process was not as exciting as another process that he witnessed.
“I kept asking myself, what burns in my gut, what do I feel real strongly about doing, what do I feel passionate about? The thing that kept coming back to me was seeing college students come to Christ and grow in their faith.”
After five years with Twentyonehundred, Paul moved into campus ministry when he learned of an opening on the Florida State campus at Tallahassee. Working directly with students became his passion.
“I just fell more in love with the mission of InterVarsity, and with what InterVarsity is trying to do in people’s lives,” he recalled. “It seeped into the core of my being. After a point I just said this is what I want to devote myself to.”
While at Florida State, Paul experienced another transformation. It occurred during a visit to the campus by InterVarsity evangelist, Cliffe Knechtle. Cliffe challenged the InterVarsity students to give their testimonies. Then he challenged Paul to do open-air preaching.
“It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done on staff, but it was one of the most important things in terms of relying on God, developing confidence, and doing something way out of my comfort zone.”
Paul is thankful for InterVarsity staff like Cliffe and his various supervisors who have mentored him during important stages in his career. “They showed a lot of confidence in me and my development,” he said. “I’ve tried to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Paul worked in campus ministry for 19 years, moving up to become an area director, then a regional director. Fourteen years ago, he was named Asian American Ministries Coordinator. “Paul has provided outstanding leadership and strategic direction for our Asian American campus ministry and staff team and made significant contributions to the Multiethnic Ministries Department and InterVarsity’s ministry overall,” said Paula Fuller, vice president and director of Multiethnic Ministries.
“A number of years ago, Paul took seriously the concern of senior leadership that we needed to increase the pool of staff members who would move into staff director roles. He partnered with the Asian American coordinating team and other senior Asian American staff to design and facilitate The Daniel Project.
After facilitating two cohorts of the program for Asian American staff, Paul partnered with Orlando Crespo and Phil Bowling-Dyer to create Daniel projects for our LaFe and BCM staff. This was a great example of one ethnic community sharing its gifts and resources to bless other communities and the results were powerful!
We have had over 40 participants complete the 18-month program. Many of these staff members have been promoted to new positions and others credit the Daniel Project for giving them a renewed vision to remain on staff for another season of ministry.”
Among Paul’s other contributions are a variety of resources published by InterVarsity Press. Paul is a co-author of Following Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parents (1998), editor/co-author of Faith on the Edge (1999), author of The Power of Friendship (2002) and Invitation to Lead: Guidance for Emerging Asian American Leaders (2003). He also edited Developing Asian American Leaders (1998), an in-house handbook for InterVarsity staff working with Asian American student leaders.
Paul enjoyed the collaborative aspect of his role as Asian American Ministries Coordinator, working as a team with the other leaders of the ministry. He is looking forward with anticipation to working with his new teammates: the other vice presidents who sit on the cabinet, as well as the directors of the ministries that he will now supervise: Nurses Christian Fellowship, Greek Ministry, International Students Ministry, Evangelism, Staff Training and Development, and Leadership Development.
Paul brings to his new job a passion not just for students and faculty, but for the whole campus, a message he shared at Urbana 90.
“It’s hard to be a staff worker without feeling passionate about ones particular campus,” he said. “Otherwise it feels like just a job or working with a small group of people trying to protect them from the big bad campus. But when you see the campus as your mission field and the place where God’s put you, with people to love, it changes the whole equation for being there.”