We stepped out of our home early one September morning to load our bags into a taxi headed for the Jakarta airport. We had done this several times in the past. Yet this time, the journey would be much longer. Instead of just a week or two, this trip would be nearly 4 months long with multiple stops across Asia and the US.
Content Innovation Summit
Our first stop was in Chiang Mai, Thailand where FEBC held its first program directors’ conference in 10 years. The event drew directors from all across Asia and even from a country in Africa. The three-day summit was intended to promote sharing of innovations in programming. We learned from one another about a variety of approaches to connect with audiences around the FEBC world. Some of the innovations included movie conversation starters, children producing content for children, storytelling, and many others. The directors found several ideas to try. One highlight of the discussion was the many commitments to assist one another across ministry teams. For the next few months, the directors will be going back to their teams to explore their new ideas further.
Asia by Media Meetings
From there, we continued on to Tokyo, Japan for a series of meetings with Asia by Media. A major portion of our steering committee meeting involved reviewing the recent “Content in Context” workshop conducted in Indonesia. I was quite encouraged by the warm reception from the steering committee as they heartily endorsed the concept and encouraged me to repeat the workshop in the near future. We are currently considering a workshop in Thailand next year. I’m also in discussions with another media conference to introduce the concept, gauge interest and develop further opportunities for media teams to join.
Arrival in US
Barb and I are now in the US, starting our time of home assignment. We spent the first week in California with a visit to the FEBC-USA office on the agenda. We then made a stop in Denver, Colorado where I spent some time with our co-worker and good friend Guy West. His church was having a men’s retreat in the mountains. I was invited to join them to lead worship, share some songs, and work with the ministry’s leadership team.
We have now arrived in Minnesota for a few days as we get prepared for upcoming meetings with supporters and churches.
Meetings in October
Our schedule is starting to come together. We expect the month of October to be busy with a variety of events where we will be sharing our ministry. Here’s the current schedule:
- Oct 7 – Steer Banquet in Bismarck ND
- Oct 8 – First Baptist Church in Wishek, ND
- Oct 15 – First and Lucky Mound Lutheran Churches in Parshall, ND
- Oct 22 – Covenant Village in Golden Valley, MN
- Oct 29 – Immanuel Lutheran Church in Springfield, MO
Over the past few weeks, my time has been focused on preparing for a pilot workshop for media teams in Indonesia. This workshop, called “Content in Context” was held on Aug 8-10 and is sanctioned under Asia by Media, a network of international media organizations operating in Asia. Offered to teams located in Indonesia, the workshop created environments for a team to explore their media efforts from their unique perspectives of their audience. It is the first time this framework, formulated during my time in Africa, has been presented in this way. It assists teams to discover meaningful and creative ways of delivering their messages in ways the audience would value.
There were four teams from Asia by Media member organizations participating in the workshop. It didn’t take long for the teams to appreciate what they were learning. Brief introductions to tools to help them explore their audiences and evaluate their content set the stage for individual team discussions. Each team then applied the tools to their issues and strategies. This allowed the teams to find answers to the questions most important to them. As I visited each team at various times, it was quite clear the workshop was giving them fresh and valuable perspectives on their content. New discoveries were surfacing, including the need to understand more about their audiences.
The workshop was quite interactive, both within the teams and during sessions when we all met together. Some of the comments heard from participants included:
- “We need to visit our listeners regularly so that we can learn more about their values and needs.”
- “Once or twice a month, our team is going to listen to one of our programs from the perspective of our audience.”
- “We need to review the different programs we produce to evaluate how well they match with our intended audience.” The workshop introduced a tool to help with this.
- “I realized that I need to know more about my audience.”
There are already discussions starting about conducting this workshop again for other teams, both here in Indonesia and elsewhere around Asia. I’m currently working on a report for Asia by Media to share the results of this pilot. In September, at our steering committee meeting in Japan, we will review these and make some decisions about how to proceed with the concept.
This was also the first time Barb and I had organized this kind of workshop. Barb was instrumental in handling the registration details, coordinating with our hosts, and communicating with the participants prior to the workshop. Her diligence to the many logistic details to organize the event made a huge contribution to its impact on the participants.
For those who have prayed with us about this workshop, please thank God for the answers to your prayers. There was much evidence that God was at work.
We anticipated being busy in May. Now that I look back at the month just past, all the places we’ve been, and the variety of people we’ve met, it is no wonder we’re feeling just a bit tired. Barb and I traveled together to Bali and Hong Kong. I made my first visit to Australia while Barb tossed in a trip up to Bangkok in Thailand. So after visiting 6 different airports last month, we’re ready to stay in Jakarta for a few weeks so we can get some focus for the coming months.
The month started off with a visit to Bali, another island in Indonesia. We’ve been there several times in the past so are getting familiar with the place. This time, we spent a few days meeting up with several of our former colleagues at TWR. We built some wonderful relationships with several staff, both in Africa and in Asia. While they were part of TWR’s emerging leaders’ summit, Barb and I were able to cross paths with them as well other members of the FEBC family who also joined this inter-mission conference. It was encouraging to see younger leaders from the different media ministries working and preparing together.
I then paid a visit to the eastern side of Australia for meetings with Asia by Media, a forum of media ministries in Asia. The two days of planning focused on an upcoming workshop for Indonesian content teams currently scheduled for August. I also participated in a conference on Christian media. This conference was quite helpful as there was a major emphasis on the use of digital media and the networking opportunities available with our audiences through today’s social media platforms. This is a key topic for many of our teams using social media to engage with their audiences.
Shortly after I returned from Australia, Barb took a special trip to Bangkok Thailand to visit with some of her good friends from the Philippines who were part of a Bible study group several years back. The three of them had a wonderful time exploring Bangkok together and encouraging one another.
Soon after her return, Barb and I traveled together to Hong Kong to participate in a digital media conference sponsored by FEBC for content teams focusing on Chinese languages. The teams explored approaches to their online ministry efforts. This conference confirmed a number of principles I’d heard in Australia. I was particularly encouraged to see the steps that our colleagues are taking with volunteers to interact with those contacting FEBC through social media channels.
We have now returned to Jakarta and are prepared to settle in for a few weeks. We need to focus our efforts to prepare for the Asia by Media sanctioned workshop which I will be leading. That will be followed by a FEBC programming directors’ summit in Thailand in September. We will value your prayers for clarity and diligence as I work on the agendas for each conference and Barb assists with the logistics.
Following these upcoming events, Barb and I are planning to return to the US for a few months of home assignment beginning at the end of September. We’ll be in the country through sometime in January 2018. We anticipate a fair bit of travel when we are home but look forward to meeting family, friends, supporters, and churches involved in our ministry.
As with any journey, there are always adjustments to be made. Since we see the future through a dim lens, we trust the Lord to guide our steps. Such is the case every year when we, the International Service Team (IST) gather together following the annual FEBC International conference of our leadership. This year, our meeting took place in Seoul, South Korea, just as the cherry blossoms were blooming. Coming from the tropical temperatures of Indonesia, the cooler spring air of Korea was a refreshing welcome.
In the dynamic ministry environment of media, particularly when working in so many cultures and languages, we frequently deal with change. We know that adjusting is just part of the process as we learn more about the needs of our international ministries across the FEBC world. We adjust the way we work together and apply the years of cross-cultural experience in the team to be more fruitful.
So over the past few months, I’ve been working to refine my roles in the IST. While I am still maintaining my project management role, I’ve noticed that the need in this area is diminishing. Most projects don’t require the kind of international coordination IST was offering to help them succeed. So this has freed me up to shift my focus to supporting production teams across FEBC International. I’m now working on the preparations for two conferences that will impact FEBC teams producing content not just for radio but for a wide variety of media channels available today. Here’s a brief focus of each:
- Media Retreat Pilot: In cooperation with a network of international Christian media ministries known as Asia by Media, I’m developing a new concept called a “Media Retreat”. This involves bringing content production teams together into an environment where individual teams can review and develop strategies for impacting their audiences.
- Content Innovation Summit: It has been several years since FEBC programming directors have met together. This summit is being designed to bring these leaders face to face to share what has worked in their context. They can learn new approaches that can encourage audiences to follow Jesus. We also look for new ways of partnering together for greater impact.
With these two events happening in calendar year 2017, there are many details to address to maximize the impact of these conferences. They don’t necessarily provide the answers, but offer environments of discovery where leaders and their teams are inspired to produce content relevant for their individual audiences.
Barb and I will appreciate your prayers as we work together in helping plan and coordinate these two events in the coming months. I’m currently working with others in and outside of FEBC to craft the agendas and approaches for the conferences, while Barb is assisting me with logistical details and venue arrangements. We have much to sort through in the weeks to come. Pray that these events will ultimately result in greater impact among the many different audiences FEBC serves.
Just after Valentine’s Day last month, I had the opportunity to visit one of FEBC’s FM radio stations here in Indonesia. This station was the second one to be constructed in what would soon be the birth of the Heartline network. I had visited this city of 300,000 people back when the station was first envisioned in 2001. So who would have thought, after 15 years of operation, I would have the chance to see how the station has been doing.
Much has changed since 2001. I arrived at a much different airport (in a different city, though) than the one I visited back then. It has been significantly upgraded because of the economic development in the region. It turns out that the island of Kalimantan has a number of natural resources which make it a destination for many investors. The city of Samarinda, where the station broadcasts, has grown considerably. Roads are in better condition. The signs of economic progress are everywhere, from construction taking place to a thriving port on the river passing through the valley. While FEBC’s station was one of the first in the city, I was privileged to also see two other stations during the visit.
FEBC’s station is still faithfully broadcasting from a residential subdivision nestled back against a hill that overlooks the city. The tower is located just below the summit. Programming is in the national language and in English. Much of the original studio equipment is still in service today.
The station has not been without its challenges. Just recently, the original transmitter was replaced with a much smaller and more efficient unit that still provides a strong signal. The tower supports not only the station’s antenna, but a number of other services. A few months before my visit, the top portion of the tower collapsed because the tower is getting older. It had been repaired by the time I arrived. The station already has a newer tower ready to put up, but it is still waiting for clearance from the government to do so.
A special part of the visit included a thanksgiving service that was hosted at a prayer chapel right next to the transmitter site. Approximately 30 people came on Saturday morning to pray for the broadcasts and to thank God for the provision of this new transmitter. Many have been faithfully listening to the station over the years and expressed their appreciation for the broadcasts. I met several of them after the service, including one woman who is completely blind. Heartline’s broadcasts have been very special to her.
Continue to pray for this radio station as they face a number of challenges in their operation. Besides struggling to upgrade their equipment, they face significant competition from the other stations in the city. Pray that the station and its staff would not only survive, but learn to thrive in the dynamic environment of growth that will broaden their audience beyond the churches in the community. I’m encouraged to see that God is still at work in a station I had the privilege, in a small way, to help get started.
Wow, after five weeks in the US for holiday time with the family, we are grateful to be back in Indonesia, where the air is significantly warmer and not a single snowflake in sight — anywhere! Yet, we certainly appreciated the opportunity to visit with family and friends in our three different locations during the visit.
Our stop in the upper midwest gave us our fill of winter and cold temperatures. Following -30 deg F in Minnesota, we were greeted by 12-15 inches of snow and a blizzard on Christmas Day in North Dakota. We did our best to stay warm as winter tried to give us its best shot. I was doing fine until I opted to assist my family in digging out from the snow. After some shoveling and slipping on a patch of ice, I dislodged a kidney stone that gave me enough grief that I had to visit the emergency room in Bismarck. In the middle of the holidays and the aftermath of the blizzard, I could not deal with this problem there. It would have to wait until I got back to Jakarta. With the pain medications, a return to the “warmer” climate of California, and some exercise, I could complete the rest of the visit relatively pain-free.
Now that we are back in Jakarta after the new year, I have had more work done to resolve the kidney stone. Too large to pass on its own, I underwent a procedure that broke up the stone into many small pieces, much like sand. After about 90 minutes, the stone disappeared, indicating success. After this, it’s a matter of getting rid of what I call “the leftovers”. My kidney also swelled from the experience, so I’m likewise hopeful that the kidney will return to normal eventually. Under the urologist’s care here in Jakarta, I’m drinking plenty of water!
As FEBC keeps on expanding its ministry across Asia, it’s inevitable that some of our radio stations will be outside the warmth of the tropics. With the reminder of the winter in the US firmly in my memory, I learned about progress made with the growing FM radio network across Kyrgyzstan. Rushing to beat the approaching winter with its snow and wind, FEBC’s local team was able to install the third transmitter in the network in the middle of October, 2016. Winter comes early to these parts, but we are grateful the team could reach the mountain transmitter site before the snow came. Another region of this central Asian country now has the opportunity to hear the gospel. I encourage you to hear the whole story from the FEBC website. Please select this link for video and photos that tell the story of getting this newest transmitter up and running. I am grateful to see projects like these completed so more people can hear the story of Jesus.
It’s been a busy past couple of months for Barb and me. November was filled with team meetings in Jakarta and a regional meeting of Christian media ministries in Penang, Malaysia. Then we departed Jakarta to return to the USA for a December holiday to celebrate Christmas and visit our family. This particular adventure includes the sunshine of central Florida, the snow and cold of the upper Midwest, and the crisp morning air of Southern California. For the next three weeks or so, we’ll be traveling across Minnesota and North Dakota, where the temperatures are chilly and the snow is already piling up.
The change in routine and shift in focus has offered some time to reflect on Christmas and the story of Jesus that is at the heart of the celebration. As I’ve remembered again the various characters in the story, whether it’s Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, or the wise men from Persia, their routines of life were interrupted by the significant. There were changes in expectations, surprise developments and life changing decisions.
In each case, their contribution to the story started with a discovery. First, Mary became pregnant in a most unusual way. The shepherds were surprised by blinding light one night. The astronomers saw something in the heavens that had never been there before. Each discovery led them into wondering what all this could mean. Why were these circumstances suddenly demanding their full attention and changing their lives? Their individual discoveries drew them into the mystery as these events intertwined with one another, impacting them in ways they never could have imagined. They were captivated, even compelled, to participate in something that not only changed them but ultimately impacted the entire world.
I wonder if we have, over the years, missed some of that mystery and meaning that comes with Christmas. Maybe this year we’ll come back to discovering, exploring, contemplating and appreciating what the birth of Christ really meant, not only for the characters in the stories but also for us. As we marvel at the mystery, let God’s Spirit draw us even deeper into the treasure we call the good news of Jesus’ coming to this earth.
As we approach this season, I’m offering a few songs that try to capture some of the intrigue and mystery that surrounded that first Christmas and what the characters in the stories might have discovered. You will find the Discovering Christmas trilogy available online at SoundCloud. It’s my prayer that these songs will highlight the greatest gift of Christmas in a meaningful way.
From Barb and me, we wish you each a very merry, meaningful and joy-filled Christmas.
Barb is enthusiastic about helping others study the word of God. I’ll let her tell you about what’s happening:
“Why are you here studying the Gospel of John?” “What do you hope to learn this year?” These were some of the questions discussed at the first Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class a few weeks ago. Last year was my (Barb) first experience with BSF, when we studied the book of Revelation. This year, I was asked to be a group discussion leader. I am thrilled to be able to serve God in this way – to encourage other women to study God’s word inductively.
Each week we each do individual study in the Gospel of John, then gather together as a group to discuss the things God is teaching us through His Word. After the discussion, all six groups gather together to listen to our teaching leader, Viska, share from God’s Word. Throughout the week, I pray for the women in my group and contact each one to encourage them in their spiritual walk.
What a blessing it is to get to know these women! And what a blessing to study afresh the life of Jesus Christ as told by the apostle John. God has revealed Himself to us through His Son Jesus Christ. At times, the world that we live in can appear quite dark and oppressive. When we see the crime, terrorism, and social changes around us, we may wonder what the future holds for us and our children.
John 1:4-5 reminds us, “In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
The life we have in Christ brings light to our individual lives, to our families, and to our world. His light is continually shining. The darkness around us will never overcome the Light. God calls all followers of Jesus to shine His light to the world around us.
As you pray, please consider these:
- Pray for me as I lead the BSF discussion group. May each woman grow closer to Jesus as we learn from Him.
- Pray for Nathan as he continues to look for a full-time job in Orlando, FL.
- Pray for us as we make preparations to host our International Service Team mid-year retreat here in Jakarta Nov 7-11.
We all enjoy the routine of life, to have a place to call home and get into a rhythm of predictable schedules. Our family, over the years, experienced various times when a major move meant facing a host of new changes and challenges, some good and some more difficult.
Now the time has come for our son Nathan to make a significant move in his life. As I am drafting this post, Nathan is making final preparations to move to Florida. He’s getting ready for the long trip from North Dakota, a state he has known well, to a warmer climate where snow will no longer be a part of the routine. This new adventure will bring many changes to his life. We are hopeful many of them will be positive. We’ve been coming alongside Nathan as he has made this decision to move on his own, weighing his options and stepping out for new opportunities.
Nathan (along with Mom and Dad) will appreciate your prayers for him as he makes this long journey. Please remember the following changes he will face along the way:
- Pray for the extended journey from the northern to southeastern US. It’s a long drive, most likely taking the better part of a week to complete the journey. Pray for his safety and the decisions he will need to make along the way. This needs to be the priority until the middle of September.
- We are thankful that Nathan has found a place to live before he moves there. He’s already made initial arrangements near a university. Pray for his adapting to his new living situation and that the new relationships he makes will be encouraging ones.
- Nathan will be looking for a job when he gets to his new location. Pray that God will provide him with a job and income to get established in his new community.
- Pray that God will lead Nathan through the new experiences and adjustments he will need to make. We pray that God will grant him great wisdom and peace as he makes new friends and finds ways to plug into positive fellowship and spiritual growth.
While Nathan makes his way to Florida, I will also be making my way for a visit to Africa. I’ll be leaving soon for Rwanda for a series of meetings with other international ministries to encourage and build up local broadcasters in the region of East Africa. I’m anticipating I will be meeting delegates from Uganda, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and probably other countries as well.
Thank you for your ongoing encouragement of our ministry, but also for our family. We value your prayers as we ask God to protect, lead, and provide for Nathan as he takes these steps to a new experience. We are very grateful that God is going with him.
One of the privileges of having lived in a variety of locations around the world and traveled to several more, is the opportunity to build relationships with so many from differing backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and perspectives. It gives us a much broader perspective of the creativity and diversity that God has woven into and throughout humanity. I was reminded of this over the past couple of weeks as we’ve renewed and developed some new relationships right here in our little corner of Indonesia.
I was on my way out of the office the other day to refill my tumbler at the water cooler. I needed a break after a rather long session at my computer. I was on a mission, not paying a great deal of attention to anything else around me. But on the way back, I passed one of the other offices and just happened to glance in on a meeting. Much to my surprise, there sat one of our good friends from the Philippines whom we met when we first joined FEBC in the early 1990s. Back then, he was one of the Indonesian programmers broadcasting back to his home country through the shortwave transmissions from Manila. Now, right in front of my eyes, after more than 20 years, there he sat with that unmistakable smile that reflected the joy that was always in his heart.
Barb and I had often wondered what had happened to Romulus S., our fun-loving, exuberant partner in both ministry and tennis. We had lost touch with him when he returned to Indonesia, until now! It did not surprise us that he continues on in ministry in another part of the country at a local Bible school. Even though he is several years past what some consider to be retirement age, he’s still spreading the joy, sharing Christ’s love, and remaining faithful to the call. Some of our friends in our home town of Fergus Falls, MN may remember his visit to our home church back in the mid 1990s.
There’s been a recent worldwide conference of young leaders, sponsored by the Lausanne movement meeting this past week at the local university here in our part of Jakarta. The conference drew several friend from Africa, including a former colleague from TWR. We were glad to spend a block of time to meet up with Rudolf, whom I had met last year in Johannesburg. Through our contact with Rudolf, we were introduced to others attending the conference, including coordinators ministering through music and the arts.
We were also privileged to meet the new station manager for Radio Wimbi, the radio station in northern Mozambique that I had helped get started when I was with Feba UK.
So we have been further enriched, renewing relationships from other parts of the world, being introduced to servants of the kingdom and appreciating afresh how great the work of the Spirit of God is in so many different corners of the globe. We consider it a privilege to welcome old and new friends to our life in Jakarta, and to offer them some refreshment as they minister among us for a brief time.