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.
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.
We anticipated being busy in May. Now that I look back at the month just past, all the places we’ve been, and the variety of people we’ve met, it is no wonder we’re feeling just a bit tired. Barb and I traveled together to Bali and Hong Kong. I made my first visit to Australia while Barb tossed in a trip up to Bangkok in Thailand. So after visiting 6 different airports last month, we’re ready to stay in Jakarta for a few weeks so we can get some focus for the coming months.
The month started off with a visit to Bali, another island in Indonesia. We’ve been there several times in the past so are getting familiar with the place. This time, we spent a few days meeting up with several of our former colleagues at TWR. We built some wonderful relationships with several staff, both in Africa and in Asia. While they were part of TWR’s emerging leaders’ summit, Barb and I were able to cross paths with them as well other members of the FEBC family who also joined this inter-mission conference. It was encouraging to see younger leaders from the different media ministries working and preparing together.
I then paid a visit to the eastern side of Australia for meetings with Asia by Media, a forum of media ministries in Asia. The two days of planning focused on an upcoming workshop for Indonesian content teams currently scheduled for August. I also participated in a conference on Christian media. This conference was quite helpful as there was a major emphasis on the use of digital media and the networking opportunities available with our audiences through today’s social media platforms. This is a key topic for many of our teams using social media to engage with their audiences.
Shortly after I returned from Australia, Barb took a special trip to Bangkok Thailand to visit with some of her good friends from the Philippines who were part of a Bible study group several years back. The three of them had a wonderful time exploring Bangkok together and encouraging one another.
Soon after her return, Barb and I traveled together to Hong Kong to participate in a digital media conference sponsored by FEBC for content teams focusing on Chinese languages. The teams explored approaches to their online ministry efforts. This conference confirmed a number of principles I’d heard in Australia. I was particularly encouraged to see the steps that our colleagues are taking with volunteers to interact with those contacting FEBC through social media channels.
We have now returned to Jakarta and are prepared to settle in for a few weeks. We need to focus our efforts to prepare for the Asia by Media sanctioned workshop which I will be leading. That will be followed by a FEBC programming directors’ summit in Thailand in September. We will value your prayers for clarity and diligence as I work on the agendas for each conference and Barb assists with the logistics.
Following these upcoming events, Barb and I are planning to return to the US for a few months of home assignment beginning at the end of September. We’ll be in the country through sometime in January 2018. We anticipate a fair bit of travel when we are home but look forward to meeting family, friends, supporters, and churches involved in our ministry.
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.
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.
We have finally made it to Jakarta, Indonesia and are in the process of getting settled into our new home. While we knew this would be a process, we had a few more twists and turns along the way. We are indeed grateful for the support and encouragement we’ve received from the the staff here at FEBC who have been helping us work through many of the details.
It took a bit longer than what we originally thought to get our visa. There was some confusion about the process that resulted in an extra trip to Singapore. After about three weeks of uncertainty, we were eventually rewarded with visas in our passports on July 13. Now that we are back in Jakarta, we are in the process of completing a number of other requirements to obtain documents we need to live in the country.
In the meantime, we’ve been able to find a home near the FEBC office in the western suburbs of Jakarta. With the assistance of Yaski staff, we found a suitable house within our budget that we could rent. The lease has been signed. We were able to move in at the beginning of July and are now setting up the home. We still have to wait for our shipment from South Africa, but with the help of the landlord lending some furniture to us, we are able to live in our subdivision rather than in a hotel.
In the midst of the moving, traveling, and settling, we were invited to participate in the Heartline staff retreat of FEBC Indonesia. This provided a good way for us to meet the staff in a more informal setting and start to get to know them. The two day event was filled with activities, meals, and sessions designed to help us interact with one another. It also reinforced our motivation to learn the local language!
In the weeks ahead, we have a number of prayer requests as we continue to settle into our new ministry roles here in Asia:
- Pray for the completion of the rest of our documents that will allow us to be in the country. We cannot send our shipment or travel outside the country until these documents are obtained.
- Pray for our plans to study the Indonesian language. We are working on an audio course at the moment but are considering more formal study, most likely with a tutor over Skype so that we can remain in our home .
- Pray for our adjustment to the environment and culture. We are still in the process of learning our way around the area and how to transact business in shops and stores to purchase what we need. Just purchasing drinking water took longer today as many shops had run out over the extended holiday.
We are glad to be in Jakarta. As we adapt to the way of life here, we are trusting we will also build relationships with those around us. We are grateful for many of you back home who are helping make this all possible.
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.
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.
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.