Celebrations Abound

The end of every year brings a bit of a pause to many of our normal routines. It also brings a host of other activities that require our attention. Any one of them can distract us from the celebrations at hand. So it’s important to enjoy the moments that come our way. So far, the remaining weeks of 2019 have been special for our family in a variety of ways.

Nathan and Anna mingle sand of different colors to represent their lives coming together.

We were so blessed to be part of a very special family celebration earlier this month in Florida. Our son, Nathan and his lovely bride, Anna, pledged themselves to one another in marriage on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean on a sunny afternoon in early December. We are glad to welcome Anna into our family as another daughter in the mix. We are likewise thrilled with this blessing God has granted to both of them as they journey together with Him. Several members of our immediate and extended families joined us for the event, which made it even that much more special for us all.

Travel can have its own set of challenges, especially following three months of journeys that took me to Africa and South Asia. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a nasty little digestive bug that would regularly come around to disrupt my day. Most recently, while in California for Thanksgiving, it caught up with me again. This started a process of unfruitful visits to clinics and ERs but ultimately uncovered the culprit. I am now on the mend after completing the prescribed treatment on the proper medication.

So we are now fully into the Christmas holiday season, planning to celebrate in North Dakota for what promises to be a truly white Christmas. We’re adapting to the chill that we don’t experience in Indonesia, but the warmth of time with family should compensate. Following the holidays, we will begin our visits with supporters around the upper midwest. Right now, our schedule of Sunday church visits in early 2020 looks like this:

  • December 21: Valley View Heights Christmas Concert – 2:00 PM in Bismarck ND
  • January 05: Lutheran Parishes in Parshall ND
  • January 12: First Baptist Church, Wishek ND
  • January 19: Crossroads Church, Fergus Falls, MN
  • January 26: Autumn Ridge Church, Rochester, MN
  • February 02: Bethel Baptist Church, Mankato, MN
  • February 16: Grace Community Church, Overbrook, KS

There could well be other visits that will be scheduled in the near future as well as visits with individual friends along the way.

Discovering Christmas from the perspectives of the main characters

The celebrations of the season focus on more than just family and friends. It is also a time to reflect on the goodness we enjoy because of the coming of the Savior. Enjoy this holiday season. Click the photo on the right to access the playlist that introduces you to perspectives on the Christmas story.

A First Visit

The end of October ushered in a visit to a country in South Asia, a region of the world I had not visited until now. At the invitation from a member of the FEBC International family, I spent nearly two weeks working with media teams in one of our more challenging parts of the world. The planning for this visit started last February with several hours spent on arranging permissions and travel for such a visit.

I was invited to lead a Content in Context workshop for teams who prepare content in a wide range of formats, including audio, video, and even print, in the language of the people in their region. The workshop explored what the teams know about their audiences with the opportunity to discover how that knowledge can make it easier for their messages to deliver value. By the end of the three-day workshop, each team had developed plans for future productions. Even in these difficult places, today’s media platforms are available to deliver content to audiences in their immediate area. The choices are growing and at times present some unexpected challenges.

One of the content teams working on their plans for future productions.

Language was a challenge during the workshop. To help improve the understanding of the large group sessions, my presentations were also translated into the local language. Some teams conducted their discussions in both that language and English. Other teams worked together exclusively in their local language. Our local director and I moved around among the teams to assist them as needed. The team discussions were so enthusiastic, it was sometimes difficult to break away.

Our mornings started out with traditional songs from the Psalms.

My hosts also made arrangements to visit some of the nearby points of interest in the city and surrounding countryside. These visits were valuable to learn something of the history of the area. It also gave me the opportunity to experience some of the local music that makes up a strong element of the culture. These experiences helped me appreciate just how diverse the people are in this part of the world, something I hadn’t anticipated before I arrived.

I’m now back in Indonesia while those teams are pursuing their new projects and plans. I’m in contact with several as questions arise and initial steps are taken. They so warmly offered their thanks that I was willing to join them for this visit. Some new friendships were made along the way.

Please uphold these teams as they take their next steps to more impactful content for their audiences. Pray that these new initiatives will invite and engage listeners to follow Jesus. One teacher, after listening to FEBC and joining a seekers’ conference had this to say:

“I am a teacher in a local religious school and I teach the Law of Moses to youth,” describes one attendee. “This four-day Bible study has really turned me upside down. Now, I have a complete picture of the law and grace in my mind. I feel comfort and joy in my spirit and would love to share this experience with my students.”

Update from Africa

Catching up with some of my former TWR Africa colleagues during the convention

September started off quickly (it’s October already!) with a visit to Kenya in Africa where I participated in the AbR Media continent-wide biennial convention. AbR Media is a network of international media ministries operating across multiple countries in
Africa. Its efforts include training for local media teams, research to guide these ministries, and content resources to empower them to reach audiences with their messages of hope.

At different times during the week-long event, I had several opportunities to introduce delegates to the Content in Context workshop. This three-day workshop and strategy event I facilitate helps production teams discover how to deliver their messages to their intended audience with greater impact. The sessions introduced teams to what they could expect if they chose to host a workshop in their area. They were able to try out some of the tools that are core to the workshop process.

As a result of the presentations and the conversations that followed, delegates from 4 different organizations expressed interest in joining a workshop. I also had conversations with a Christian media college in Tanzania. We agreed to explore how the workshop concepts could be woven into their media communications curriculum. They may also train team facilitators from among their students. This could pave the way for a sustainable approach to offering multiple workshops in Africa. I am now following up these contacts to explore how to offer some workshops next year.

I also worked alongside several media trainers who serve teams on the continent. In a workshop conducted just prior to the convention, several of us assisted teams to address content and fundraising issues in their ministries. Working alongside these talented professionals, I also gained new ideas and approaches to improve the workshop. Their contributions help increase the value of the workshop across a greater number of cultural perspectives.

Even though I am not as involved in the FEBC ministries in Africa these days, it is still a privilege to connect with current and even new members of our expanding ministry on the continent. In recent years, through the efforts of FEBA Radio South Africa, several radio station projects have either been revived or started. In addition to the ministries in Malawi and northern Mozambique, new stations are being supported in Mali and Chad. The recently appointed director of FEBA Zimbabwe was also part of the group. Prior to the convention, these FEBA managers came together and created the FEBA Africa Leaders group to coordinate their efforts. I was able to join them for a few of their sessions, reviving relationships from my Africa days as well as meeting several of the new leaders.

Leaders from media ministries supported by FEBA South Africa had a productive and encouraging meeting together.

I am grateful for the opportunities to interact and engage with the work God is doing through media in Africa. He is continuing to lead Africans to Himself. It is a surprisingly young continent where the median age in many countries is below 20 years. It is critical to offer content that will engage the younger generations. Please continue to pray for wisdom for FEBA Africa leadership as they support local efforts in these ever-changing environments.

Cambodia Workshop Delivers

I traveled to Cambodia at the end of July to conduct the next installment of the Content in Context workshop for production teams at FEBC’s Voice of Love (VOL) in Cambodia. The workshop also included teams from several of their partners. Thanks to the support of another FEBC partner and the efforts of our local team in Phnom Penh, the workshop was conducted with minimal cost to the participants. Each of the five teams was encouraged by the progress they made in planning their content offerings for the coming months.

One of the teams from VOLCambodia are working on their plans

There was quite a mix of teams exploring their audiences together. In addition to our FM team in Phnom Penh, others included teams from rural stations, content suppliers to our station, a local video production team focusing on children, and a team of broadcasters in four rural languages in the region. With the limited English capacity among the teams, we were served by some wonderful translators who helped introduce the concepts. Our team of three international facilitators were joined by some from our local team to fill in the gaps.

As I monitored the teams working together, I could see they were learning from the process. Several found new ideas from the use of the “Problem Tree” exercises. Some of the tools took more time to understand. It’s not always easy to explain theoretical concepts in different cultures, but I learned valuable insights on how to adapt to the challenges this created. These lessons will improve the concepts for future workshops.

At the end of the workshop, each team shared what they planned to do next. One team, whose focus is on video ministry for children, made some key observations. Their shows were not challenging the viewers enough to consider Jesus. They plan on making some adjustments and sharing those with their leadership. The ethnic minority language team talked about a new way to share their programs on Facebook so that more friends would listen longer. One VOL team is planning a new series addressing the problem of alcoholism in society, and how to help a friend who struggles with it.

When the workshop finished, my colleague Jeff, one of our International Service Team members, came back with me to Jakarta. We worked with a task group focusing on tracking responses from people who listen to our FM stations or access their content through social media platforms. Over a period of 3 days, we discussed some ways to collect, analyze, and find value from what our listeners share with the station. Both of us were encouraged by the progress, including some action steps for the task group as well as for the two of us. One of those includes exploring and evaluating some software platforms that could provide assistance in managing their responses and interacting with those who send them.

Jeff is sharing his insights into social media opportunities
in Indonesia with the task group

On a personal note, plans are taking shape for our return to the US later this year for our next home assignment. This particular visit will include the wedding of our son, Nathan. We’re looking forward to celebrating with him and his bride, Anna, on their special day early in December. Preparations are well underway for this event. We will appreciate your prayers as we expand our family and meet the family and relatives from Anna’s side. We expect to be in the US for about 3 months.

Preparing for Africa

During the past week, I was privileged to host a media colleague of mine from Australia. Berni Dymet of ChristianityWorks is a broadcaster and fundraising consultant who is offering quality content to media ministries around the world as well as valuable insights to help these ministries address some of their financial challenges through compassionate encouragement of their audiences.

Jimri (l), the Heartline director and Berni (r) together at lunch

Berni was here in Jakarta working with FEBC-Indonesia. Together we explored how Berni’s short devotional programs could be included as part of the radio network’s schedule. We also worked on plans to develop local fundraising campaigns with segments of their audiences. We reached some initial agreement on the way forward. I’ll continue to advise the team here as they take steps to implement their plans.

Berni and I will also be working together in Africa. We will be in Kenya in September to visit with many of my former colleagues at the AbR Media gathering. As a part of that, several of us will be leading a 2-day workshop that will help address critical challenges media ministries face in East Africa. Berni and I had a chance to plan for that workshop while he was here. We shared a bit of what is coming in a video report while we were in the studios here in Jakarta.

Berni Dymet, the organizer of the workshop in Kenya, gives us a better idea
of how this workshop will help media partners in Africa

In a couple week’s time, I’ll be off to Cambodia for the next Content in Context workshop. There will be more updates coming when I am there. Then after a brief time back home in Jakarta, it will be time to head back to Africa for a few weeks.

Cambodia Workshop is Next

My main responsibility with FEBC is to encourage our teams around the world who create the content that shares messages of hope and love with their specific audience. One of the primary ways I do this is through a workshop I’ve developed called “Content in Context“. This workshop brings local teams together in various locations to consider and expand what they know about their audience. They discover how to apply this knowledge to their productions so they can more effectively inspire people to follow Jesus. This is not just for FEBC teams but also for other ministries that prepare content for FEBC stations.

The next scheduled workshop will be in Cambodia where FEBC operates an FM radio station called Krusa FM. They broadcast to the capital city of Phnom Penh and are also streaming over the Internet. They recently started to set up FM repeaters in other cities to extend the coverage across the nation. Their overall theme as a family radio station is to help families live and experience the love of Jesus.

CiC Cambodia Introduction
The Content in Context Introduction in Cambodia started some good conversation.

Recently, I shared an introduction to the workshop with the FEBC programming team and several other ministry partners. What was supposed to be an hour long presentation extended beyond that as there were many questions and discussion about how the workshop could benefit them. I was encouraged with the responses from the different teams. I am working with the FEBC director in Cambodia to conduct the full workshop during the week of July 29. Registration is now open for the teams to sign up.

Please be praying for this workshop in the coming days:

  • Pray for the FEBC team as they plan to host the workshop at their headquarters in Phnom Penh. There are many details to sort out to accommodate the 25 or so participants from several teams for the 3-day event.
  • We are grateful to learn that the funding needed to host the workshop has now been allocated so that the costs can be covered for participants.
  • Pray for the teams that are coming. Soon they will receive their homework assignments to prepare for the workshop. Pray that this discovery work will further raise their interest in the workshop and prepare them for what’s ahead.
  • Most participants do not speak English. The workshop materials are currently being translated into the local Khmer language. Pray that these translations will convey better understanding of the content of the workshop.
  • Each team needs a facilitator to guide their individual team discussions. Because of the language issue, we are planning to train a facilitator from each team. Pray that God will lead us to bilingual facilitators to assist the teams.

The teams will appreciate your prayer during this event. It is a time for them to listen and probe how they can better present their messages so their audience will become more inspired by what they hear and be drawn to follow Jesus.

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.

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.

CiC_Bali

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.

Bali_Visit_01

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.