Blog Archives

Discovering Christmas

Nathan_Orlando

Enjoying Downtown Orlando with our son Nathan who just moved to Florida

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.

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Back and Forth to Asia

Let me see, which side of the world am I on now? The month of May was a whirlwind of travel and conversations all drawing me into the new role of project management at FEBC.  It concluded with the realization that I would be heading back to Asia sooner than I thought. I’m now back in Minnesota only long enough to repack and make the move to Indonesia in a few days’ time.

Cambodia Visit

Cramped office environments need a revamp at FEBCambodia

I traveled to Cambodia from May 18 to June 1 to start up the renovation of FEBCambodia’s headquarters in Phnom Penh. I met with a project management consultant who we expect to help us with the remodeling required to accommodate new production and broadcast studio equipment. The entire headquarters will be transformed to better engage staff and listeners for more effective ministry.

I also worked on a number of other projects that FEBCambodia is planning for the future, including an outreach to believers in the provinces as well as reaching the next generation of listeners across the Internet through mobile phone technology. I’m expecting this will require a significant portion of my attention in the coming months. 

Visa Issued

Barb and I were thrilled to hear the news from the FEBC operation in Indonesia that our visa was  approved. The process required our application be passed through a number of government agencies before it was finally approved at the end of May. We are grateful for all of those who have helped us in Jakarta as well as those who have committed this matter to prayer.

Returning to Asia

With the visa waiting for us in Singapore, we have plans to depart the US in the next few days. We anticipate leaving for Asia on June 17. We will  visit Singapore first to pick up the visa. We’re expecting to be in Jakarta by June 24, when we will begin the process of settling into our next ministry assignment.

Please pray for us during the transition to this new environment.

  • We will be looking for a suitable place to live. We are hoping to find a home nearby the FEBC headquarters where our office will be located.
  • Pray for a smooth process of completing our papers upon arrival in the country. We need to have special documents in place for permission to import our personal effects, rent our home, and set up services we need to begin our life in the community.
  • Pray for the safe and timely arrival of our personal effects from South Africa. We’ll have to wait a bit once we authorize the shipment but it will be an important step to getting settled.
  • We are still working on arrangements for some language study upon arrival. We will have to choose a course that will best meet our needs and the place where we will study.
  • We will be seeking a new church fellowship where we can further our spiritual growth as well as engage in ministry. We’re trusting God to lead us to an English speaking church seeking to strategically impact others as they walk with Jesus.

So our next adventure has begun. We are on our way to Indonesia to help projects not only in that country but across the rest of the FEBC family. In the coming months, I’m expecting to be impacting ministry in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, India and even back in Africa. We appreciate so many of you who have partnered with us to reach many hearts for Jesus through media.

The Wait is “On”

Waiting is a part of life

You remember the feeling. The traffic light is yellow and you know you won’t make it through before it turns red. So you stop at the intersection for the crossing traffic to pass. But wait, there isn’t any! Now you must sit at this open intersection, halted until that light changes. All you can do is, well . . . wait, for no apparent benefit, until the light authorizes you to go.

We found out this past week we will be in for some more waiting. For the past several months, we’ve been planning to establish a new role and location for ministry with FEBC in Indonesia. We are still moving in that direction, but it’s going to take a while for us to get there. We learned that the visa application process in Indonesia is going to take longer than originally thought. The government is taking additional care in reviewing visa applications. As a result, we were informed not to expect approval of our visa before June 1 this year. Until then, Barb and I will wait in the US.

This does not mean that we are idle. Since January, when I assumed my new role of providing project management services to FEBC International, I have been receiving a variety of project proposals for expanding ministry across the FEBC world. The projects have included upgrading FM radio station facilities in Indonesia, expanding FM networks in central Asia and Mongolia, and a major studio and office renovation in Cambodia. There are other projects in training and new media on the horizon which will need attention. Behind the scenes, I (with Barb’s administrative assistance) support FEBC’s International leadership with processes to help them review and select projects for action and funding.

We will now be staying in the US longer than we had originally planned. This will impact our living situation in the weeks to come. Our home church in Minnesota had graciously provided us with temporary housing during our expected 6 month stay. With our time extending, we need to make some adjustments, which may include moving to another home in the next few weeks. We are considering  a number of options but need wisdom to balance our living arrangements against being ready to depart for Indonesia as soon as the visa becomes available.

So in the meantime, we are active in ministry from wherever God might place us. Please pray for the visa process in Indonesia, that our application will be granted favor and result in the approval of our visas to move to Jakarta.

 

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.

A Return to Southeast Asia

With all of our possessions packed up and stored, our obligations in South Africa met, Barb and I had reached the point when it was time for us to depart Africa for another ministry adventure. Rather than boarding a plane for the US, as we usually do when returning for a home assignment, we instead headed north and east, arriving in Singapore. We were on our way to Indonesia where we would be exploring a new ministry opportunity with Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC). With all the emotions of our departure, we would first have a welcome break in a popular tourist destination on the island of Bali in central Indonesia.

Barb gets her introduction to a traditional Indonesian staple

As we stepped off the aircraft in Bali, we were welcomed with a gentle breeze reminding us of our previous years in the tropics. Even though the humidity was quite high, we welcomed the warm temperatures as the chill of the South African winter quickly faded into our memory. Barb and I thoroughly enjoyed our walks along the beach, snorkeling at Lemboangan island, and the unique spices that accompanied many of our meals. This was Barb’s first visit to Bali. It was so enjoyable to be able to show her around to many of the places I had visited during ministry trips to the island.

At the beginning of the next week, Barb and I flew back to Jakarta to begin a week of meetings and introduction to life in Tangerang, an eastern suburb of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. We visited with FEBC’s Indonesian operation that has been expanding its minstry over several years since I visited them back in the late 1990’s. The radio station that I helped develop back then is still on the air today, using some of the same facilities we had developed. The radio station continues to have a vibrant ministry, located in the heart of a university district that is filled with students.

We enjoyed getting to meet some new friends among the staff at the radio station and its supporting ministries. We sampled a variety of Indonesian food as we were introduced to the way of life in this university hub of activity. We learned how to manage the public transportation options and made visits to the malls, shops and restaurants in the area. We discovered that communicating would be more challenging than in earlier assignments. English is not a major language yet, although many of the students are learning. We’ll likely need to spend some focused effort on learning Indonesian.

Our time in Jakarta helped us explore the culture as well as renew relationships

I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with the coordinator of FEBC’s International Service Team, with whom I will be working closely. Actually, Guy and I have worked together closely in the past and are looking forward to renewing not only our ministry partnership but also our close friendship. We had some in-depth discussions about the future of the team and how I would become involved. I’ll be working closely with Guy and FEBC’s minstry leaders in various countries throughout Asia to help develop ministry projects that will reach even more listeners across the region. My role will also include equipping many of these partners with skills to manage projects efficiently, particularly those that receive international funding from other members of the FEBC family.

We are now back in Minnesota in the United States for a period of time as we visit with our supporters and develop our financial base to return to Asia. We’ll also be involved in preparation work to get ready for our ministry in Indonesia. We must apply for visas to live in the country. We are also praying that God will raise up an expanded team of partners to help us cover the cost of relocating and setting up our ministry base in Jakarta. We look forward to sharing even more with many of you personally in the weeks and months that lie ahead as we approach the fall and winter of 2014.

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.

Bringing Hope After Typhoon Hits Philippines

Looking for water in the midst of the destruction from Typhoon Haiyan

Tropical storms are no strangers to the Philippines. They average more than 20 storms a year, bringing with them wind, rain and general mayhem, particularly on the eastern side of the archipelego. However the latest typhoon to hit the central Philippines last November 8 (Typhoon Hiayan) was the strongest that anyone could remember. With wind speeds reaching 180 mph or 290 kph, rain and debris pelted the city of Tacloban and the surrounding islands. The winds whipped up waves that came crashing into the shoreline, reportedly reaching higher than 20 feet above normal. The waves were the equivalent of a tsunami that could be experienced after a very strong earthquake. Needless to say, there is devastation wherever you look in that city and the surrounding region, including more than 5,000 deaths confirmed so far.

As one can imagine, everything is now in short supply in the disaster zone spread across several islands. Shortages include water, food, shelter, transportation, fuel, electricity, and almost anything else you might need. Virtually all the communication infrastructure, including all the local radio and TV stations have been rendered useless. Even mobile cellular service has been disabled. Most relief agencies are relying on satellite phone communications. With very little resources and no communication, people in the disaster areas experience intense and often overwhelming despair. Their search for loved ones is quickly followed by trying to find shelter and food to attempt to rebuild their lives. Often their biggest challenge is just not knowing what to do or where to go next.

Interviewing survivors, aid workers, and government officials provides information people can receive over radio.

FEBC Philippines has stepped up to respond to the crisis in Tacloban City. Within a week after the storm, FEBC responded with a team of journalists, broadcasters, and technicians to set up a local radio station at the Tacloban city hall. Bringing with them a complete radio station as well as portable radios for survivors, the First Response Radio team immediately went to work to get the station on the air. As soon as the station became operational, the team worked with relief organizations and government services on the ground to start the flow of life-saving information to the survivors. It even became a channel of communication that the President of the Philippines could use to encourage and comfort them. That kind of information helps people find the relief goods that were streaming in, whether it be food, water or shelter. It was also helping in the search for suvivors.

This effort of connecting survivors with family goes far beyond the region where the disaster hit. Earlier this week, a South African man contacted FEBC in the US through e-mail. He had not heard from his girlfriend who had returned to Tacloban for a visit with her family. After the storm struck, he didn’t know whether or not she or her family had survived. The FEBC US office forwarded the information to the First Response Team on the ground. One of the girl’s relatives heard her name mentioned on the broadcast with a request for her to call her boyfriend in South Africa. Despite the challenges, she was able to let him know she was OK. That’s just one example of the kind of life-saving connection that is vital to the storm’s survivors and their families.

At this time, we don’t know how long the station will be operating in Tacloban city. It could be a while as there is still so much to be done. From reports so far, it looks like it could be weeks before any of the local stations are back in operation. Please pray for the First Response Radio team in Tacloban city as they continue the broadcasts. Pray for the distribution of radios that can be delivered to the area so more survivors can listen. We’re also praying that many will experience the kind of compassion and love they need at a time like this, even turning some hearts to Jesus in the process.

To learn more about the First Response Radio Team and the work they are doing, you can find them on Facebook at the link in this post. The photos you find in this posting are courtesy of the team in Tacloban.

Back Home – On the Road

The seasons can change, almost in an instant. One moment we are enjoying the warmth of an early summer in South Africa. The next day, after a 16 hour plane flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Atlanta, Georgia in the US, we’re once again huddled in our jackets, staying warm and working our way toward Minnesota. The flight was a bit rougher than what we’ve experienced in the past as we dogged thunderstorms over South Africa and the Atlantic, including then Tropical Storm “Sandy”. We were very thankful for a safe trip and landing back on US soil.

Our last few weeks in South Africa were spent packing up our home and moving all of our furnishings into storage while we are away in the US. We’ve been closing accounts, packing, arranging storage, packing, bidding farewell to friends, and then packing some more. The process went smoothly with the movers so we were able to depart at the end of October. We arrived in Atlanta and met with a friend of ours who now lives in that part of the US. I encountered a bit of trouble with my contacts lenses that we were able to resolve once we arrived in Minnesota.

Barb and I enjoy the warmth of a Minnesota fire and fellowship with supporters

We have now settled into our home base in Fergus Falls, MN where we will be living when not visiting supporters and churches around the country. We are blessed to share a home with a member of our home church. We are nestled between two of the 3,000 lakes in Otter Tail County where Fergus Falls is located. It’s a quiet place for us to rest and recharge after our travels.

We’ve already been visiting churches and supporters in the area. It didn’t take long for winter to impact us as on our first Sunday at a supporting church, I had to chisel ice off the windshield of our car before heading to the first service. We survived well and are enjoying our times of fellowship so far. In the next few days, we’ll be at another supporting church and then traveling out to California where we will meet with FEBC leadership and spend some time with Barb’s extended family for Thanksgiving. Later in December, we’ll be spending the Christmas holidays with our children, Nathan and Emily, and my family in North Dakota.

Even though we are in the US on “home assignment”, there is already some ministry issues to address in my new role as regional director for East Africa with TWR. There’s been a resurgence of tribal violence in Kenya in recent days (actually an endemic problem) in which our partners want to respond with emergency radio broadcasts. I’ve been in contact with another FEBC colleague who coordinates First Response, emergency radio for disasters. Unfortunately, we’re not as prepared as we should be. With the interest shown in the TWR operation in Kenya to respond to these kinds of crises, this will be one of my initial issues to address once I get back to Africa in February.

While we are home, we do have some prayer matters to share with you:

  • Our son, Nathan, will be graduating from his studies at Minot State University in December this year. Please pray for him as he is in the middle of searching for his first full-time job in his field of study – mass communications with an emphasis in broadcasting. He’s not yet determined where he will live after he graduates so we are praying for God’s direction at this time of transition.
  • We are still in the process of arranging our schedule for January and early February next year. Pray for flexibility and responsiveness to our efforts to contact supporters and churches, that God will grant us opportunities to share about our ministry with FEBC as we join hands with TWR in Africa. Since we are remaining as FEBC missionaries, our supporters’ relationship with our ministry remains unchanged. Pray for clear communication and understanding of our new role as we share our new vision for ministry in Africa.

As you enjoy your celebrations with your family during this holiday season, please join us as we thank God for the way He has cared for us in recent months. Our gratitude and thankfulness has been fueled by the way God demonstrates Himself faithful amidst all the transitions of our lives, helping us gain a deeper appreciation for who He is.

Refined for Greater Effectiveness

FEBC and Feba Radio have a long and rich history together. Built upon the heritage of FEBC’s ministry in the Orient, in places like China and Southeast Asia, Feba Radio applied proven strategies to reach even more listeners throughout south and central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Indigenous  radio broadcasts, whether by shortwave or local FM, have not only delivered life changing information but also built relationships and introduced listeners to the transforming truth of Jesus.

Recently, 75 leaders of  FEBC’s and Feba Radio’s ministries from 27 different countries came together in Bangkok, Thailand for a week of celebration and reflection not only on the past, but also looking forward to the future. As the representative for Feba’s association in Mozambique, I had the privilege of participating in some important discussions concerning future ministry and closer cooperation to reach out even more effectively in our changing world. While radio remains an effective tool, particularly in more remote locations in our world, there are also many new opportunities for ministry across a wide array of media platforms. FEBC and Feba Radio are sensing the need to work more closely in evaluating and exploring ministry in an increasingly globalized world.

Bob led worship at the recent FEBC and Feba ICC meeting in Bangkok at the end of February.

The week in Bangkok was also a personally encouraging one for me. I had the opportunity to meet up with many friends from FEBC, something that doesn’t happen all that often anymore. I was also privileged to lead the worship times at the conference. There were several Thai musicians from FEBC Thailand that joined with me through the week. While communicating sometimes was challenging, the spirit of cooperation among the group was evident through the appreciation of various musical styles. All this worked to help the delegates focus on what God had to say to us all.

During the course of the week, a special announcement was made concerning leadership in FEBC in the US. Over the past 9 months, FEBC – US has been searching for a new president to replace Gregg Harris. I was encouraged to learn that Ed Cannon, former interim president of Moody Bible Institute, had accepted the position. Meet Ed through this video posted on YouTube. We are grateful for God’s provision for leadership of the ministry at this time. Pray that Ed will adjust quickly to his new role and that he will sense God’s direction with clarity and focus.