Category Archives: General

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.

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Discovering Truth in God’s Word

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.

Barb encouraging a number of women as they study the gospel of John

Barb encouraging a number of women as they study the gospel of John

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.

Renewing FEBC Connections

January 2015 marked some new beginnings in our family and ministry. The beginning of that month found us in Texas for the wedding of our daughter, Emily to her new husband, Alex Yamamoto. The day after the wedding also ushered in the next chapter of ministry for Barb and me. I began my new role with FEBC as Project Management Team Leader for the International Service Team (IST). We quickly ramped up our involvement in preparation for FEBC’s annual International Council Conference that was held in Bangkok, Thailand, at the beginning of February.

At FEBC Indonesia, Jimri (l.) will become the next director following Pak Samuel's (r.) retirement in 2016

At FEBC Indonesia, Jimri (l.) will become the next director following Pak Samuel’s (r.) retirement in 2016

As Barb and I boarded the plane from Minnesota to join the conference, we were looking forward to meeting so many of our FEBC friends and colleagues who are still ministering in Asia. Although we arrived at the hotel in Bangkok 18 hours later than planned, we were just in time to prepare for the events of the week. In addition to leading worship for the delegates, I was invited to present the process of project management as applied within the FEBC family. We were warmly greeted by many friends and colleagues we had met over the years during our earlier time in Asia. We also met some new leaders who will be instrumental in guiding FEBC through the coming years.

Following the leadership conference, the members of the IST met to discuss our plans and roles in the months ahead. With the dispersed nature of the team, living in a variety of Asian countries, Europe and the US, it was important to discuss how we work more effectively together. Barb’s role was clarified further during our discussions. She will be joining the Admin Team of the IST part-time, that helps manage the internal business and communications process for the team as a whole. Upon our return, she was appointed as its Team Leader while working closely with me to monitor and document projects throughout FEBC.

Guy West (l.) with the new 10 kW transmitter for Family FM

From Bangkok, Barb and I accompanied several members of the team to Phnom Penh, Cambodia where a major project had just been completed. The local station in the capital city, Family FM, was upgraded with a new 10 kW transmitter further extending its broadcasts. This is FEBCambodia’s first and, at present, only station in the country. While we were there, the transmitter completed its test broadcasts and began regular operation at full power. Already, the station is receiving reports from listeners of a clear signal more than 200 km (125 miles) from the capital.

There is still more development work to be done in Phnom Penh. The country continues its growth following its recovery from the difficult years of the 1970’s. FEBCambodia needs to take steps now to prepare itself for even greater ministry opportunities as today’s technology opens doors through social networking and internet broadcasting. The next project will involve a complete remodeling of their existing office facility to better engage with listeners and provide an efficient working environment for the staff. I will be involved in this project as the Project Director, working closely with National Director, Sopheary Hem, to ensure the rennovated building will meet the needs of future ministry.

A memorial housing the remains of many Cambodians executed under the Pol Pot regime

Part of our time in Cambodia was spent learning more about the country’s recent history and struggles. We were introduced afresh to those difficult years of 1975-1979 when the Khmer-Rouge attempted to set up a totalitarian regime. Fortunately those days are long gone, but the impact of that experiment still lingers today. We were both moved by the atrocities when we visited one of the “killing fields” where thousands of Cambodians lost their lives, executed during a time of purging under that regime.

For now, Barb and I have returned to Minnesota. Unfortunately, at the time of our visit to Asia in February, our visas to live in Jakarta, Indonesia had not yet been approved. We still await that approval before we can make further plans to relocate. Please join with us and pray for that process so that we can make this ministry move. In the meantime, I am fulfilling my projects role from the US. This is not ideal, as travel is difficult and costly. The time zone difference means sometimes working in the evening when our colleagues in Asia are beginning their work day.

Our financial support situation has improved since returning to the US. However, we are still lacking regular monthly supporters to cover our salary and other employment costs. Please continue to pray for us as we trust the Lord to meet our financial needs fully so that when we return to Asia we can keep our focus on supporting our Asian ministry teams. Your partnership with us has great potential to impact listeners across Asia with the gospel in the years ahead. If you would like to support us monthly, you can do so online at FEBC’s web site.

A Ministry Summary

One of the challenges we often face is finding concise ways of describing our media ministry to friends and partners. It’s often repeated throughout our travels, but it is very helpful to have a short explanation of what our ministry will be when we return to Asia in early 2015. The following video will give you an overall picture of what our new role in ministry will be.

If you would like further information or have any specific questions after viewing the video, please comment below. I’ll be happy to respond here or privately, if need be.

Thanks so much for your interest in our ministry as we return to Asia.

Farewell Africa

Over the past few months, our ministry situation in Africa has grown increasingly unsettled. Something in our spirits was telling us there was another change coming our way. TWR was encountering change in the way it would be handling its ministry in Africa. The vast majority of these changes would not require my involvement any longer. At the same time this was happening, some significant changes were also taking place in FEBC. One result from these changes is a request that I join FEBC’s Internatlonal Service Team and consider returning to Asia, where our ministry got started more than 25 years ago. While we aren’t quite sure where our next home will be yet, we do know that the time has come for us to say farewell to our time in Africa. 

As I reflect back over the 7.5 years we’ve spent on this rapidly changing continent, it’s become apparent how God has been shaping and molding us. We’ve learned a number of important lessons about shifting cultures around the world – how change, often considered universal, impacts culture uniquely in many different ways. I have noticed here some similiarites in the approach to relationships in Africa when compared to Asia, but, by and large, there are some stunning and significant differences as well. All of these things have served to shape us and help us become more aware of the people who are impacted by our ministry. 

A spotted hyena greeted us on our final visit to Kruger National Park

Africa, with its wide open savannahs and more temperate climate, brought us many new experiences we never would have encountered in Asia. We’ve learned to appreciate the fine art of the “African Safari”, getting up close and personal with Africa’s unique wildlife in their habitat. We have greatly enjoyed the visits to Kruger National Park to explore the drama and reality of uniquely African species surviving in their own environment. We’ve also adapted to the South African version of the barbeque, called a braai, which has its own unique traditions when it comes to cooking and preparing meat. There were aspects of our life in Asia we missed when we came to Africa. Now as we depart, there will be other aspects of African life that we will also miss. 

Special friends we’ve made in Africa. So glad we could share together before we leave.

Amid all of the details of relocating, perhaps the most difficult part of the process is the loss we feel in the many different and close relationships we’ve developed during our time in Africa. We will take so many people with us in our hearts as we leave at the beginning of September. Whether they be the people with whom we have worked every day at Feba Radio or TWR, our church fellowships, members of the various Bible studies Barb has led, or the musicians and artists with whome I’ve been privileged to collaborate, we take with us a host of memories and valued relationships just as we have done from the US and the Philippines. While it is painful that these relationships have to change, they will endure in our hearts. We will treasure the memories and remember them in prayer as the Lord brings each to mind. I’m grateful for Facebook and other platforms that keep us informed about one anothers’ lives.

So we are in the final weeks of packing up our home and preparing for our move back to Asia via the US. We will leave South Africa for the final time in early September, right around Labor Day back home. There are still several uncertainties to sort out before we settle in our new home sometime around the March 2015 timeframe. In the meantime, we’ll be back in the US, meeting up with many of our good friends based in the upper Midwest and elsewhere. A part of that visit will include our daughter Emily’s wedding. Please pray for us as we travel back through Indonesia and seek God’s direction concerning whether we should relocate to Jakarta following our home assignment. More details on all of that once we get back to the US.

Radio Wimbi Update

It’s always encouraging to see how God continues to work through the circumstances and challenges of ministry. Much of my time in Feba Radio was spent working on a radio project in Pemba, Mozambique. My focus was to establish a solid local foundation  for a community radio station so that, once it started its broadcasts, it would be recognized as a local station by its listeners.

Rev. Camaliere and Narciso are thrilled that Radio Wimbi is on the air!

During my recent visit to the Africa by Radio Continental Convention, I was so encouraged to meet up with the leaders of this radio project. Both the coordinator, Narciso Zandamela, and the local association chair, Rev. Raymundo Camaliere, were able to join us for this gathering of nearly 100 broadcasters from Africa. It was such a privilege to get to see them again. Both Narciso and Raymundo were enthusiastic to share what had been happening with the project since I  left Feba.

Narciso told me about how the station went on the air in a test broadcast mode at the end of August. While the station is primarily playing music at this stage, Rev. Camaliere was quite excited about what the station means to the community. They have been continuing their work in discovering the needs of listeners while preparing for the arrival and installation of the equipment for the station. God has been gracious to enable a reasonable lease of a telecommunications tower for the antenna and transmitter. The studio facilitites are in a rented property that used to be a guesthouse for another mission. Now that the station is on the air, Narciso is searching for presenters and producers to prepare the local content. He’s been interviewing candidates and evaluating qualifications. This is a vital step to keep the station connected with its listeners in order to remain effective.

While at the Continental Convention in Nairobi, there was a meeting of trainers in Africa that I have joined from time to time. We have been seeking to expand media training in Portuguese over the years, but have not had much success. However, now that Radio Wimbi is operational, along with a number of other community stations operating in northern Mozambique, the trainers felt this is the right time to push for a stronger training presence in the Portuguese language. We have agreed to come together again in September 2014 in Pemba for a focused effort on training, assisting Radio Wimbi and other stations. The goal is to train more local broadcasters and identify Portuguese speaking trainers who can be equipped to carry on the training for the region. There will be a need to translate available materials into Portuguese that will provide a library of resources in this trade language in Africa.

Rejoice with us that Radio Wimbi is operational. Pray for the selection of skilled and motivated presenters and for the training programs that will be developed to equip them for their work. Pray that the station will fulfill its role in bringing transformation through the gospel to the community of Pemba.

One of Those Days

Every so often, a day comes along that takes a bit more energy to get through it. This was one of those days. Most Mondays aren’t like this (fortunately)!

It started with a trip to Pretoria. I needed to apply for a visa to travel to Tanzania this coming week, where I’ll be working on assessing possible ministry opportunities for TWR in the country. I thought this would be a relaxing trip to the Tanzania High Commission. It didn’t turn out that way.

Our Toyota (left) didn’t quite make it through the intersection as I’d expected.

On the way there, my car (and I) was involved in a minor accident at a busy intersection. While I was stopped for a traffic light (called a robot), another vehicle clipped the rear bumper of my vehicle. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The damage was minimal enough to not affect the operation of either vehicle, but it did mess up my rear bumper. Within moments, the tow trucks (called break-downs), as well as an emergency medical vehicle arrived at the scene. One paramedic came over to my car as I was sitting there sorting out my papers and asked if I was OK. I was fine, just a little frustrated. She said, ” I can understand that.”

An accident like this isn’t too traumatic, but the aftermath will consume a portion of my days for a while. I’ll need to sort out the repair of our Toyota, working with the other driver’s company and our insurance agencies. I’m hoping we’ll be able to settle the claim fairly quickly so I can get the car repaired.

When Barb and I returned home from work that evening, we discovered our video recorder for our TV had gone out. Even though there was power through the cable, I could not switch it back on. So, I added running that appliance over to a repair center to my to-do list. I’m happy to report this is now repaired (after a week’s wait) and installed so Barb can use it while I’m away.

So as I am preparing for a ministry trip to Tanzania, I’ve had a host of other distractions to interrupt my days of ministry with our partners across Africa. I’d appreciate your prayers as I attempt to manage the preparations for the Tanzania visit with less time than what I thought I would have at the beginning of this past week. I’m anticipating my next post will have more relevant ministry information. I expect to leave for Tanzania later in the week.

In the meantime, I pray that there won’t be too many more interruptions.

New Relationships in Ministry

I remember when we first became involved in ministry overseas in the Philippines 20+ years ago, there were so many adjustments to make. Time zones, traffic patterns, new people to meet while missing friendships left behind, and just trying to feel settled all added to the stress as we got used to a new “normal” of ministry. Even though we had chosen this path, following God into a new environment, these changes weren’t always easy. I later came to realize that our family wasn’t the only ones going through adjustments. I had entered into a world where my new colleagues were learning to adjust to me, and not necessarily by their own choosing. This has been an important reminder to me as I face this current change in ministry.

Bob with “BG” & “AS”,
area directors for TWR-Africa

Earlier this month (April), I was invited to join the regional management team (RMT) meeting that TWR-Africa holds once every 4 months or so. This is a time where key directors come together to review and coordinate TWR’s ministry on the continent. We also examine our strategies, address any obstacles we might be encountering, and review policy changes that will help us be more effective. This afforded me the opportunity to spend some more time with my colleagues who also serve as area ministry directors in TWR-Africa. The organization looks to us to research the countries in our region to identify opportunities for ministry and determine how TWR can relevantly share the gospel in these contexts. During our time together, I began to appreciate how much of a workload these men carry. We shared together the heart we each have to reach listeners in our respective regions. By the end of the week, I realized how out of practice I had become in dealing with these kinds of gatherings. By the end of the week, I was exhausted! It took the weekend to recover, but this was an important step to integrating with the team here.

The Kimber Family
On their way to Swaziland

A former colleague of mine from Feba Radio, Graham Kimber and his family, also just arrived to join TWR-Africa. They have joined TWR to provide engineering support to the Swaziland transmitter site. As an operations engineer, he will be helping to keep the broadcasts on the air that reach into Africa from this important part of the TWR network. It was encouraging to be involved in hosting them during their orientation time and helping them adjust to their new ministry. They also were able to meet many of the other missionaries at TWR before they moved to Swaziland this past week. Graham and I are still amazed how we both ended up with the same ministry following the changes we experienced with Feba.

Barb and I are also beginning to adjust to a new church fellowship. After visiting a number of churches, we are starting to get better acquainted with Edenvale Baptist Church, approximately 20 minutes from our home. We have appreciated the depth of teaching there and are starting to get to know some of the people. We’ve started attending a weekly Bible study. I have been invited to sit in on some worship team rehearsals as I have the opportunity. This Sunday morning, Andre de Villiers, a well-known acoustic guitarist in South Africa, shared his testimony and music with the congregation. It was a real treat!

My prayer request these days is for God to work in the midst of all these new relationships. You would think by now I would understand the value of taking the time to let them develop and grow gradually. I still feel the internal pressure of pushing the envelope, trying to force them along. Yet if I depend on God’s timing, allowing Him to work in all of us, I stand a much better chance of adding new people to a growing list of treasured friendships.

Homeless No More

It’s been four months since we left South Africa for an adventure of travel, conversations, and renewing relationships with our family and friends in the US. While it was great to be back home for a time, carrying our possessions with us in suitcases for that long of a stretch was getting a bit old. As every week passed by, we were getting ever closer to the long flight that would return us to Johannesburg and our new assignment in South Africa. We arrived safely at TWR Africa as planned. We were welcomed into TWR’s guest lodge that is part of their office complex with our suitcases in hand.

Our first assignment upon returning to South Africa was finding a permanent home. Our search had already started while in the US via the internet, but we hadn’t found much. The rental housing market in eastern Johannesburg is extremely tight because many in the country find it hard to purchase a home given the current economic climate. As we started searching for available properties, especially within our budget, we found most rental agencies either didn’t have anything available or, if they did, it had already been taken. We had hoped to be in a place by March 1 but were starting to wonder if that would be possible. We knew many were praying both in the US as well as our new colleagues here at TWR, so we were trusting God.

Then a lead on a place came up one morning. We jumped on it right away and arranged a viewing, seeing it was within our budget. When we arrived to view the home, we didn’t expect what we saw. While it was a bit older, the house was in good condition. It not only met our requirements but exceeded our expectations. We were absolutely amazed that this place could be available at the advertised rent. As we viewed the property, we started visiting with the owner, who was there working on it. During our conversation, we discovered that he, too, has been following Jesus for many years and had a wonderful testimony of how God delivered him. We were so impressed with the place that we immediately went to meet with the rental agency who manages the property.  Within the day, we had our new home arranged. We won’t be able to move in until early March, but we’re relieved to focus on the move rather than the search.

Taken from our new garden,
we’ll enjoy the greenery and security of our new home

While we’re waiting to move into our new home, our orientation to TWR starts on Monday. There are a series of activities and events that will help introduce us to my new role and the approach to how ministry works in the TWR-Africa office. It includes a workshop with other professionals and ministry leaders back in Pretoria on how modern media enables missions. We may also be taking a quick trip to Swaziland to visit TWR’s shortwave facility where many of the programs are broadcast back into Africa. In the days to come, we would appreciate your prayers for the following:

  • A smooth transition into our new home as we work out all the details of the move and arranging for all the services to be connected. 
  • Clarity and focus as we begin our work with TWR. We will be learning many new things in the coming days as we get connected and integrated into the TWR culture and approach to ministry.
  • Nathan has started his work with a local TV station in Minot, ND. Initial reports indicate he is enjoying his new role and adapting well to the tasks before him. Thanks again for your prayers on his behalf.

We are so encouraged by those who have been praying for us in our return to South Africa. It seems that God is confirming for us our new assignment in so many different ways. For that, we are truly grateful.

The Winding Road Ahead

Christmas has been celebrated and the new year welcomed. We’ve enjoyed our family time with my mom and brother in Bismarck. Both Nathan and Emily were with us, giving us the chance to spend some time together as a family.

The Bartz Family together at Christmas at Grandma Bartz’s home

Now that the celebrations are over, it’s time to focus on the tasks at hand. Nathan has a challenge ahead of him following graduation. He is still living in Minot but needs to find more regular and permanent employment. He’s been scouring job sites and following up on potential opportunities while continuing to hone his skills. However, responses to his efforts so far have been minimal. While we were together in Fergus Falls, Nathan and I worked on some short audio samples (called air checks in the industry) that he could share with recruiters and prospective employers. Please pray for Nathan that this job search will lead him to the place and job that God has for him at this stage in his career. He also needs to look for housing, which is dependent on where he finds employment.

Our focus has shifted to sharing our ministry with supporters and churches in the coming weeks. Our schedule has filled up nicely with a number of churches, small group meetings, and individual appointments finding their way onto our calendar. Here’s a summary of where we will be over the next several weeks until we return to South Africa on February 14:

If you wish to connect with us when we are in your area, please feel free to contact me via a comment on this blog or responding to me via e-mail. We’d be happy to find a way to work you into our schedule.

As we prepare for our return to South Africa, we noticed how our home assignment activities, particularly our travel expenses from Africa, as well as getting around the US have depleted our support reserves. We’ve also incurred additional expenses in South Africa due to the change in our ministry assignment. Our support could use a boost of $5,000 in one time gifts to help us cover these ministry costs. If you are interested in contributing to these transition expenses, you can send your contribution to the following address:

Account No. 10400
Far East Broadcasting Company
PO Box 1
LaMirada, CA 90637-0001

Alternatively, you can also visit FEBC’s website. You will be directed to our personal ministry page with a brief summary of what we do as well as an opportunity to make a contribution online securely with your credit card.

Thank you so much for your ongoing encouragement and support. We look forward to returning to Africa in February to resume reaching African listeners with the gospel through TWR-Africa.