Author Archives: Bob Bartz

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.

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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.

 

Signs of Progress

Having the opportunity to interact with so many across the FEBC family is a privilege. The past couple of months were filled with several fruitful discussions in Thailand and Hong Kong. These conversations are laying the foundation for content developments across several FEBC ministries in the months to come.

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The IST (back) enjoyed our time with the Russia and Ukraine team

FEBC was well represented at a major Christian media conference that included representatives from more than 140 organizations. There were 16 delegates from six FEBC ministries who joined specific training workshops held prior to the conference itself. This included technical and information technology staff, researchers, content creators, and leaders responsible for content strategy in their specific countries. During our one-day meeting with just the FEBC participants, I was so encouraged to learn of the plans to implement what they had learned. I’m pleased to report that several of our teams are becoming more focused on learning about their audiences so they can be more effective.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to introduce the “Content in Context” workshop. The workshop itself offers media teams the space and tools to consider how their content is impacting their audiences. The two separate presentations generated interest from several media organizations, including FEBC. The conversations that followed resulted in new opportunities:

  • I am currently working with a media network in Northern Thailand to conduct the workshop in that region later this year. I’ll be meeting with the leaders of this network in June to negotiate the details. Pray that we will find an organization during this visit to host the workshop sometime later this year.
  • FEBC-Philippines expressed interest in learning more about the workshop. They are one of our leading innovators in content production on multiple platforms. They are keen on developing strategies with their audiences in focus. There will be further conversations in June as we mutually explore the possibilities.
  • Here at “home”, FEBC-Indonesia is embarking on a project for equipping potential partners to produce inspiring content for their local Heartline station. A key part of their strategy is the workshop. I’ll be working with the team here to roll out a locally delivered series of workshops later this year.

FEBC International has also just concluded its members’ conference in April. This conference brings together key leaders from many FEBC operations around the world and some of their key ministry partners. In addition to learning about media ministry in various locations across the FEBC world, there were many important conversations about how the Association can work better together. Several of us in our team, including Barb’s administration group, provided support during the four days of meetings. Several participants commented how this had been one of the best conferences they had attended in FEBC.

So now we’re working not only on keeping the conversations going, but developing the action plans that will transform these ideas into reality. Our teams need the support to turn their innovation into inspiration as their audiences encounter the gospel. Barb and I are working on the detailed planning and guidance necessary to help the workshops take place.

The Gathering

One of the challenges of working among teams ministering in 100 languages is getting these teams together. It is difficult to find a common language, usually English, that everyone can use to communicate about the very basic topics of life. Combine that with the time pressures that come with producing content on a tight schedule, very few ever have the time to think outside their own environments. Opportunities to interact with others who have the same heart and focus for reaching people through media are rare.

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Meeting FEBC colleagues is always a privilege

There are many benefits from bringing members of different teams together. With the upcoming training opportunities at the EMDC conference later this month in Thailand, a few delegates from FEBC will be able to meet other colleagues.  Sixteen staff from six different FEBC countries are registered for the four-day training event prior to the conference itself. They will be joined by three of us from the FEBC International Service Team (IST). Our role is to help the delegates get the most out of their experience during the week together.

Each delegate will be assigned to a FEBC mentor. The purpose of these daily conversations is to help the delegate identify key points of learning and begin thinking about how they will apply them when they get back home. It’s not always easy to incorporate new skills and concepts into what is often a very busy and routine approach to developing their content. So we discuss not only what each delegate needs to do when they get home but also consider what support they might need. What obstacles might they encounter when they get home that could hinder them from applying their new skills? This sets up ongoing conversations with them over the coming months following the training.

There is also a one-day meeting for all the delegates before they return home. We call this the FEBC Gathering. We bring all the delegates together for a day of sharing plans and new ideas. They have the opportunity to meet other staff from FEBC who are doing the same kind of work, or learning similar skills. This is a golden opportunity to see how others are ministering and take home another  new idea or two. For some, this is the very first time to meet another person from FEBC outside their own country. One delegate told me recently that for him, this gathering was the most valuable part of his experience back in 2016. He’s looking forward to joining us again this year to pick up from where he left off.

Please be in prayer for these participants and for the three of us from the IST as we prepare to meet together. Pray for our preparations for the training, our mentoring and the one day gathering. Pray especially for easy communication in a different and sometimes difficult language, English. Those of us from the English world have to work hard to keep our conversations simple, slower, and easier to understand. Pray for wise application of what is learned and the persistence to carry through on putting skills and ideas into practice.

The Return

Just a few weeks ago, we were making our final preparations. It was time to head out from the frozen plains of the upper Midwest to return to the humid tropics of Southeast Asia. Our Christmas and New Year’s celebrations with family were now memories to take with us. We were busy taking care of last minute personal details, packing up our winter clothes in storage for the next trip back to the USA while ensuring what remained would make the trip to Asia. After one final cold snap and a dusting of snow we boarded our flight from Minnesota. Roughly 24 hours later we stepped into the humidity of Jakarta where a midnight shower ushered us back home.

We are grateful for the past 4 months back in the US. We were able to connect with several of our friends and partners. We welcomed new opportunities (some unplanned) to share stories from our work in media across Asia. We met new friends even though we weren’t able to schedule times with everyone on our list. Through the faithfulness of many, we are able to return to Asia with the resources we need to continue what’s been started.

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Good to be back into our roles with our Indonesian and international colleagues

Now we are back in our office in Jakarta, renewing our relationships with colleagues in ministry. While there have been a couple unexpected surprises upon our return, it’s been mostly uneventful. We are grateful for the warm welcome back.

We needed to get right into our work activities. One of my immediate responsibilities includes coordinating FEBC participation in media training as part of a conference in Thailand. There will be 16 FEBC staff coming to join in training workshops offered prior to the conference. I’ll also be introducing the “Content in Context” workshop concept to delegates at the conference as well as giving a more detailed overview to the steering committee of Asia by Media, who are promoting its use. Please continue to pray that these opportunities will raise interest among media ministries to participate in the workshop. The response to these sessions will give us a good indication of interest and opportunities to schedule the workshop for other media teams.

Barb and I will value your prayers over the next few weeks as I prepare for this conference. Shortly after that, both of us will be on our way to Hong Kong to help with  the FEBC International annual meeting.

Family Focus

The last couple of months have gone by quickly as we’ve traveled around the US with updates about our ministry with FEBC. We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to share, and for the people we’ve met who are interested in the impact media has in communicating the gospel in other cultures.

The major holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are now upon us, so we are focusing our time on family. We were in southern California for Thanksgiving, visiting with Barb’s sister, brother and their families. It was good to strengthen family ties and catch up with the changes in their lives.

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Looking forward to spending time with Emily, Nathan, and those close to their hearts.

Back from California, we are now shifting to visiting our children. First on the list will be Nathan, who is currently living in central Florida. We are now driving there from Minnesota. He recently started a new job with the city of Orlando and is getting settled into that routine. He’s involved in his church and is spending time with his girlfriend on a consistent basis. We are grateful for that developing relationship.

From there, we’ll return to Minnesota in mid-December and then head over to North Dakota to visit with my mom and brother. Mom continues to adjust to her new home at an assisted living facility. My brother is currently studying online with Minot State University. We’ll be celebrating Christmas with them which will include a concert for the residents at mom’s home and also sharing with my brother’s church on Christmas eve.

For New Year’s, we will fly to Texas to be with Emily and her husband Alex. Emily has received approval of her dissertation and is shifting towards completing that major project. She also continues to teach English classes at Texas A&M. Alex is pursuing his doctorate in electrical engineering at the same university. We’re looking forward to catching up with them and learning more about their progress.

The month of December has always been a special time to focus on the good things that God provides, first of all through the coming of His Son, Jesus. We are filled with gratitude for the opportunity to serve Him. May you have a wonderful time with loved ones, growing relationships with family and friends during the coming days. It is my prayer that God will bless you with times of reflection on the way He has been at work in your life. Have a Jesus-centered Christmas and a blessed start to the new year.

 

US Re-entry Whirlwind

Even though we returned to the US in the third week of September, there’s not been much time to slow down. Following our arrival and brief time in California, our next stop was Colorado. I was invited to join fellow FEBC colleague, Guy West, at his church’s men’s retreat. We enjoyed the beauty of the Colorado Rockies while meeting new friends, members of Guy’s church family. The view of Pike’s Peak did not disappoint.

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Fall colors at a MN rest area

After that brief 4 day visit, we quickly found ourselves in the upper Midwest of the US. It was an enjoyable time meeting friends over the past few weeks. We met several of our supporters and churches near our home area in west-central Minnesota as well as in North Dakota. We were able to get a glimpse of the fall colors as the trees in the region dropped their leaves in preparation for winter. We were even able to squeeze in a few days along the north shore of Lake Superior with some close friends and former colleagues in ministry.

Our visit to North Dakota included an extended time with my family who still live in the state. We were glad to be there for a few days as we worked through a variety of issues that needed attention. While our visit perhaps raised more questions than answers, we have a better idea of my family’s circumstances. We will appreciate prayer for my mom and brother as we work through the adjustments that are taking place.

Our next month looks to be filled with a variety of experiences while traveling through the central US visiting churches and supporters along the way. Our current schedule includes:

  • Oct. 29 – Immanuel Lutheran Church, Springfield, MO
  • Nov. 5 – St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Napoleon, OH
  • Nov. 11-12 – Autumn Ridge Church, Rochester, MN
  • Nov. 19 – Crossroads Church, Fergus Falls, MN

For those of you who may be nearby one of these locations and would like further details, please contact me via this blog. If you wonder if we could be passing near your place, please let us know. We’ll see if even meeting for a coffee somewhere might work out.

A Journey with Many Stops

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.

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The Content Innovation Summit sparked great conversations with our media teams

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.

The view of a snow-capped Pike’s Peak from the retreat center

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

Workshop Benefits Media Teams

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.

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Engaging conversations with the team from Heartline FM. They reported excellent progress.

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.