Mozambique Takes Two Punches

The start of 2019 has been a rough one for many across the country of Mozambique in southern Africa. With nearly 2,500 km (1,540 mi) of coastline along the Indian Ocean, the country has a history of natural disasters caused by tropical disturbances. In recent years there have been very few . . . until now.

In the past two months, Mozambique has been targeted by not just one, but two, cyclones. Known as hurricanes in the Atlantic or typhoons in the Pacific, cyclones form in the Indian Ocean. Madagascar usually reduces a storm’s intensity and limits wind related damage, but does little to slow down the rains when it reaches Mozambique.

A bridge washes out near Beira in Sofala Province

In March, the first cyclone (named Idai) made landfall near the city of Beira in the central part of Mozambique. Intense amounts of rainfall caused the bulk of the trouble with drastic flooding inland throughout Sofala province. Crops, roads and other infrastructure were hammered by the tropical downpours. The flooding drove people from their homes and caused disease to spread rapidly. During the weeks that followed, humanitarian organizations responded to the crisis. One of FEBC’s media partners, HCR out of the UK, stepped in with one of their partner radio stations in the province to offer emergency and disaster radio programming to assist those in need.

At the end of April, a second cyclone, this one named Kenneth, took aim at the northern part of Mozambique. Cabo Delgado province was directly affected. I visited here frequently when working with local radio stations in the cities of Pemba and Macomia. FEBC continues to support and assist these stations which were started during my days in the area. Once again rains were the major concern. The storm hit quickly and hard, dumping excessive amounts of rain that flooded many areas of the province. While many were losing their homes, both stations were taken off the air. The station in Pemba started its broadcasts again once power was restored.

The staff at Radio Nuru, even though they have suffered, are helping others

The station in Macomia suffered greater damage. Two staff lost their homes to the flooding that hit the area. The station lost the roof on its studio and needed help getting it all put back together. After a week, that station is also back on the air following temporary repairs. Please pray for the staff as they recover and offer assistance to others who have been impacted by the flooding.

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English in Indonesia

English is one of a few languages that is spoken in many parts of the world. When it comes to international communications, particularly in business, English is often the de-facto choice. However, in most countries where we have lived, there are other languages that are preferred. Speaking in the local language still has great value.

With the onset of the Internet, just about every person in an urban setting has access to a wealth of information. The knowledge of English opens a much wider window to this vast world that wouldn’t normally be available in the local language. Sometimes Google Translate can help a local language speaker translate English for themselves, but as many of my Indonesian friends say, “It’s just not the same.”

Yaski English Language class celebrates Christmas

Even so, our local FEBC operation here in Indonesia wants to see their staff learn more English so they can interact with others across the FEBC world and beyond. As a result, Barb is facilitating a conversational English class intended for those staff that already speak some English. The weekly class creates an environment where they can practice. Barb assigns topics of discussion that give each participant the opportunity to share a personal story or experience. The class also covers English grammar principles that foreign speakers struggle to put into practice.

These exercises in discovering English have helped us learn more about the staff and their families. With each story they tell, we get to hear about what life is like for them, as well as insights into Indonesian culture. Our Christmas party last month doubled as a birthday celebration for Barb. So this has been another bridge to disciple, mentor, and encourage our co-workers in media ministry. Please be praying for our team here as they improve their English skills while focusing on their media ministry for Indonesia.

Christmas Reminders

The season is upon us. Once more we’ve come to that time of year to be reminded of the bigger things in life. We reflect. We look ahead. We remember what is perhaps the most important events the millennia have ever seen.

It just seems, when Christmas comes and takes over the routine, more people tend to reflect about the broader picture. Where can I find the source of peace and contentment? Sometimes those questions can get pushed out by the many appointments and lengthy to-do lists that creep into our schedules.

Wonderful to share our hearts for Christmas with this group of musicians.

This year, we’ve been taking a bit of a different approach to Christmas at our church in Indonesia. Rather than trying to focus our celebrations just on us, we’ve pushed out more into the community. One of the ways we have done this is sharing a musical experience of the Christmas story. I assembled a few musically inclined people from our congregation and offered a few concerts in smaller venues, such as homes and small restaurants. This gives our members neutral venues where they can invite their friends to an evening of exploring Christmas through music, drama, video and story. I was encouraged to learn that some came who were not familiar with the Christmas story. Another person commented following one concert, “Now it feels like Christmas.”

So we rejoice once more in the wonder of God revealing Himself by coming to us. This year, Barb and I are celebrating Christmas in Indonesia with friends. Our wish for you is a meaningful Christmas. May we all marvel at the story and what it means for us.

Bali Workshop Empowers

FEBC Indonesia conducted the first of a series of Content in Context workshops earlier this month in Bali, near its local Heartline station on the island. The teams learned more about individual audience. They explored creative approaches to producing new content. They also discovered ways to make their messages more appealing to those they want to reach.

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A plenary session where teams learned how to engage their audiences.

The workshop included four teams from the region. A local church association hosted the event at their headquarters since they already have a team of producers working with the station. In addition to the Heartline station team, there was also a group of station managers from another radio network. With the help of a translator for the presentations and several handouts already available in the national language, the teams were able to absorb and apply the concepts to their content planning.

There were several encouraging ideas that surfaced during the course of the workshop. One team is planning to start a radio drama series to model values for the families listening to the station. Another team had been collecting responses from their audience for several months but struggled with how to interpret what they had. The workshop gave them insights into learning more about their audience from the data. One team member shared how the workshop helped her team  relate better to the audience. It also impacted her personally, helping her think of new ways to share her faith with her family.

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The workshop facilitators stopped by a scenic stretch of coastline in Bali before heading home

The next workshop in the series is scheduled for this week in Samarinda, located on the island of Kalimantan. Teams living in the reach of FEBC Indonesia’s station will be joining. Please pray for the media teams now as they prepare for the three day event.

Content Workshops Across Indonesia

Since returning to Indonesia at the end of August, our involvement with the FEBC team here picked up right where it left off. We were welcomed back warmly and encouraged to step right into my facilitating role in conducting Content in Context workshops. While we were away, significant progress was made on FEBC Indonesia’s strategy to expand outlets for their content through other radio stations across the country.

The Content in Context workshops have a pivotal role in this strategy. Broadcasting their programming across more stations requires content that many audiences welcome and appreciate. The ability of a partner station to draw an audience to FEBC content is not only vital to FEBC, but to the partner station as well. The workshop focuses on these important issues and allows stations and their content teams to consider how they will align their content to the context of the audience to best communicate their messages. Improved content draws a larger audience for both FEBC and the local station.

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Meeting with station managers from our Heartline network to introduce the Content in Context workshop

Earlier this month, I introduced the concepts used in the workshop (what I call a simulation) to station managers of FEBC Indonesia. In a fast-paced series of presentations, they learned how some of the tools work to guide individual teams in creating more effective content. One station manager told me when she first heard about this workshop, she was not very interested. But after the simulation, she said she wished this workshop had been available to her station last year.

I am now working with the local project team here to conduct two workshops before the end of the year, in the provinces of Bali and East Kalimantan (where our newly enthused station manager is located!) We are expecting to conduct further workshops at other stations in 2019. The first workshop takes place at the end of October. Space in this workshop is now filled with five teams wanting to participate. I’m working closely with the coordinator of the workshops on translations and preparing the teams for the event.

I would invite you to pray for these teams that are joining the first workshop. The teams include our local FEBC station team and two teams from a local church that are producing programs for the station. Another team of station managers connected with an Asia by Media partner also plans to participate. There is another missions organization, wishing to remain anonymous, who wants to add a youth program to their strategy to be broadcast from the FEBC local station.

  • Please pray that God will lead each of these teams to discover their content strategy and trust Him to reveal a workable plan for the next year.
  • Pray for the facilitators who will lead each team. They will be trained, some for the first time, the day before the workshop. Pray that God will give them wisdom and insight on how to guide their assigned team.

May God use these opportunities to further His plans to touch hearts in Indonesia with His hope and transforming grace.

 

Stepping Out

Barb and I have now returned to Indonesia and are settling back into our ministry roles. The flight back from the US was uneventful as Barb handled the return very well. Her mobility during flights was not an issue as she was able to get up and move around on a regular basis. While she used a wheel chair to get around the airports, she had no difficulty with her hip and could walk around with very little assistance.

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Live in Heartline Studio during Coffee Morning

Once we landed in Jakarta, it was time to pick up ministry where we left off. In addition to sharing with the staff upon our return, I was invited to join our local morning talk show to share some music as part of the program. There were some lively conversations among the guests that day as they explored how to live harmoniously in today’s environment.

I also returned to my role of ministry in our local church in Jakarta. Recently I was invited to join the church leadership team with an emphasis in worship and the performing arts. I’m inviting members of our congregation who have an interest in these areas to consider being involved in our “Worship Community”. Together, we’ll explore how to use the arts to encourage conversations and build relationships among our members and their networks where the gospel can be discussed. Our first event will be a series of Christmas encounters in which we use music and the spoken word to introduce the essence and relevance of that first Christmas. These encounters will be held in homes and other neutral venues in the vicinity. Our members will be encouraged to invite their friends to an enriching evening of  music and conversation. Please be praying for church members to catch the vision and for those who will be invited, that they will explore with us the significance of that first Christmas.

Planning is also underway for two Content in Context workshops to be conducted here in Indonesia in the next couple of months. It will start with an introduction to the workshop for the station managers of the Heartline network followed by the two workshops at locations outside of Jakarta. More updates on these as the planning progresses.

Our Imminent Return

Our two-month summer in the US brought with it a vastly different approach to life than we have in Indonesia. This visit was planned quickly back in April when it became clear that Barb’s right hip needed to be replaced to alleviate her ever increasing pain. So the past two months, instead of ministry in Asia, we’ve been staying in California where Barb had a successful hip replacement procedure and subsequent recovery.

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We are so pleased with Barb’s hip surgery and recovery

This quickly planned diversion was a step of faith that demonstrated God’s care for Barb and me every step along the way. Not sure she’d be approved or scheduled for a procedure, we went to the US praying for God’s direction. While there were a few unexpected twists during that first meeting with her selected surgeon, we could see God’s hand at work. Following her successful procedure in the middle of July, Barb started her road to recovery.

Each day we saw a bit of improvement as her mobility started to recover. She noticed right away that the pain from the joint had completely vanished. She still had the pain from the surgery but with each passing day that became more manageable until it faded away. With the help of her exercises and physical therapy, she quickly graduated from walker to cane to moving around the house on her own. By the middle of August, she was feeling well enough to leave the cane in the car as we went shopping, took in some of the sites, and visited with several we know in the area.

We met with her surgeon earlier last week who indicated he’s pleased with her progress so far. He would like to see her again when we come back in a bit over a year. He also gave her the go signal for our scheduled return to Indonesia in the early hours of August 29. While Barb has some precautions to observe when we return, she should be able to resume her normal routine when we get back.

While we’ve been in California, we’ve tried to keep up with our ongoing work in Asia via email and phone conversations. We are grateful for the technology that allows us to maintain our influence and assistance even though we are separated by many time zones. But we can tell it is time for us to get back so that preparations can fully proceed for new content workshops in Indonesia later this year.

For those of you who have prayed, commented, sent your love, and encouraged us through this time, we are grateful for God’s expressions of goodness through each of you. Thank you for standing with us through these past two months. We are so thankful that Barb’s hip problem is now resolved, enabling us to regain our ministry focus upon return to Indonesia.

Restoring Mobility

Barb and I made a medical trip back to the US earlier this month. We are currently in California awaiting a procedure for Barb. She’s been suffering for several months with pain in her right hip. We thought upon returning to Indonesia last January, she would be able to manage the arthritis, but that did not turn out to be the case.

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Barb enjoying our visit to an authentic Thai coffee shop

So after my trip to Singapore for a broadcast and media conference, it was time for us to come back for her hip replacement surgery. We have seen a doctor and scheduled the procedure for July 18. Please be in prayer for Barb’s surgery and her ongoing recovery. There will be several weeks of exercises and careful maneuvering while the new hip joint gets settled and she heals from the procedure.

With a successful procedure, we anticipate she will be more mobile than over the past few months. We were grateful she was able to travel with me earlier last month but it’s been increasingly apparent that we needed to take some time to have this problem addressed.

Thanks so much for the many who have been praying on her behalf for her surgery and recovery. We appreciate them and your messages of care and concern.

Signs Toward Progress

Barb and I just completed a trip around Southeast Asia with stops in the Philippines and Thailand. This included meetings with media practitioners about the value of the Content in Context workshop. These initial discussions, follow-up to conversations that took place last March, are important to give media organizations the chance to explore the concepts from their own unique perspectives before committing to participate.

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Meeting many of our FEBC colleagues was one of the highlights of our visit

We were privileged to return to the Philippines during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the first FEBC broadcast in Asia. We participated in a number of events during the week prior to the anniversary. It included times with staff, listeners, and other media practitioners in the country. One of the highlights for us was a staff reunion of more than 300 current and former FEBCers who have served since the 1950’s.

FEBC Philippines are pioneers of innovation in reaching out to their changing audiences. Their content strategies for their stations are reviewed and adjusted regularly. While they may not need a full “workshop”, they are considering adapting and including some of the tools from Content in Context in future training events. I’ll continue working with them in preparation for their next regional station content training scheduled for September this year. 

Following our visit to the Philippines, our next stop was Thailand. At the invitation of the Thailand Media Network (TMN), I joined their regular monthly meeting to offer further details about a proposed workshop. The organizers gave me the entire morning to introduce the workshop to their members. Their response was encouraging. The network will meet again in July to decide whether they will sponsor the workshop and endorse it to media teams in the region. One of its members expressed interest in hosting the workshop at their office in Chiang Mai.

 

We will keep following these developments in both Manila and Chiang Mai. Please pray for the coordination needed to host successful events in these locations when the opportunity arises.

Ready, Set, . . . but, First!

Over the past few months, I’ve been following up on the interest shown in the “Content in Context” workshop. Several presentations in March resulted in ongoing conversations over the past couple of months. I’m working with several media organizations, including FEBC, to host a workshop in the near future.

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Introducing the Content in Context workshop to several media organizations last March

These negotiations will determine the schedule for workshops in Thailand, and Indonesia this year. There is also interest at FEBC-Philippines to include the workshop in their content planning efforts. So over the next month, Barb and I will be visiting the Philippines and Thailand to continue those conversations. We are particularly looking forward to returning to Manila, where we ministered for 17 years, and visit many of our colleagues and friends.

But. . .  before these workshops take place, there are some personal matters we need to address. The first is with Barb’s health. Over the past several months, she has been struggling with one of her hip joints causing increasing pain. When we were home last year, x-rays revealed that osteoarthritis had worn away the cartilage. While we thought the pain could be managed with medication when we returned to Indonesia, the pain has become increasingly intolerable. As a result, Barb and I will be making a return visit to the US later this summer for her hip surgery. Barb is now in the process of making arrangements with a doctor and medical facility where the procedure can be done. We’ll know more details in the coming weeks

This visit to the US will also permit me to visit my family in North Dakota.

I will also be tending to some other FEBC related business while in the US. Both of us, as time allows, will continue to participate in our ministry activities in the midst of the medical process. I’m expecting to follow up on details regarding future workshops and help those who will host them in their preparations. Please be praying that we can work around these schedule adjustments and return to Asia in a timely fashion to proceed with the workshops.