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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.