Blog Archives

The Past Returns to the Present

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.

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An evening wth our colleague and friend, Romulus S.

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.

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We met the new station manager from Radio Wimbi here in Jakarta

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.

 

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Who’s Listening?

One of the challenges that media ministries face is the physical separation that exists between a broadcaster who has something to say and the people who might want to listen to it. Most of the time, a broadcaster will sit in a studio or in an office somewhere trying to think of topics of interest to share, selecting music, editing audio recordings, filling out program logs or a variety of other reports about a program. At the end of the day, will there have been any time, let alone a desire, to hear or interact with a listener?

Knowing our listeners is the best resource we have to keep them tuning into their favorite programs

When it comes to effective communication in media, no matter what form or channel, the process starts and ends with the listener in mind. Even as a program is conceived and planned, it must start with some understanding of who will be listening to it. Often that knowledge is incomplete and must be verified or deepened as the program is broadcast. Fortunately, there are many more ways for a listener to tell the broadcaster what he thinks, whether by phone, e-mail, mobile phone text messaging or today’s social media platforms. However, will that listener actually connect with someone who is interested or  involved with the program?

At TWR here in Africa, we are preparing to address these kinds of questions with our partners across the continent. During the first week of March, we will be conducting a partner’s conference with leaders from TWR’s national offices across Africa to discuss how to grow and develop our partnerships. I’ve been asked to prepare a workshop focusing on the spiritual transformation of our audiences. How will we be able to tell if and how God is at work in the hearts and lives of our listeners? How can we observe and even measure the evidence that God is changing hearts among those who listen to the broadcasts? Fortunately, there are steps we can take to learn about what’s taking place in listeners’ lives. This introductory conference will be followed up by visits to individual partner locations to apply these steps directly to programming efforts. I’m praying our partners will gain a new enthusiasm to connect with their listeners, learning more about them, so TWR’s programming can be more relevant with greater impact.

Before that conference, however, I will be traveling to our partner in Maputo, Mozambique to address critical financial and ministry issues with the staff. This partner is struggling financially and finding it difficult to maintain their production schedules. We are working together to evaluate and renew programming to the Lomwe and Makhuwa people in the north-central part of the country. Pray for our discussions and the follow-up actions that need to take place soon afterwards.

The next few weeks promise to be very busy. I’d appreciate your prayers for strength, focus and wisdom as I work with and encourage our vital African colleagues to enthusiastically engage more consistently with their listeners.

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.

Mozambique – Norway Connection

When we work in partnership with organizations around a common goal, there are some unique events that mark the journey. I would not have thought that working on a community radio project in Mozambique would bring me to Norway. However, at the gracious invitation of our partner in the Radio Wimbi project, Ibra Norway, Narciso and I traveled to Oslo to meet with our key partners at Ibra.

Narciso from Radio Wimbi meets with Jan from Ibra Norway. They worked together well.

There were two reasons the meeting was held in Norway. Narciso and I were already in the UK the previous two weeks discussing what Narciso has been learning while meeting with community groups in Pemba. It was a short journey over to Norway from there. Air fares are far more reasonable in Europe than they are in Africa! My African counterpart at Ibra Media, Jan-Erik, is also back in Finland this summer for a period of home assignment. Meeting in Norway was the best way we could all get together to build on the momentum growing in Pemba. It also enabled Ibra Norway (our host for the meeting) to be more directly involved in project development, besides raising funds for the station.

Our three days of discussions focused on developing a draft program strategy for Radio Wimbi. Based on the findings Narciso brought to the group, we worked together to describe what programming would be required for the community station to meet its goals and objectives. From these guidelines we brainstormed a draft of a multi-lingual 24 hour program schedule. We also assisted Narciso in outlining what resources and help he would need to implement this schedule and produce the programs.

Continue to pray for Narciso and his family as they get ready to move to Pemba. The original move didn’t happen as planned last April due to visa problems for him to go to Europe for these meetings. He’s now making final preparations at home before moving north. One thing is certain, Narciso is eager to get back to work on the project in Pemba.

Radio Wimbi Meets the Community

Community radio provides a unique opportunity to engage and bring together different segments of a community around a common purpose. However, in order for that to occur, the community must become actively involved in the station, even at a project’s earliest stages. The Radio Wimbi project team is working hard with the distinct groups of the community of Pemba to ensure that this happens. It’s not an easy process since it’s the community that decides whether or not to participate, not the project!

Local residents draw a map of their community and highlight locations important to them.

The Radio Wimbi project team, led by project coordinator Narciso Zandamela and Raymundo Camaliere, the chairman of the Radio Wimbi local association, are using some simple but effective tools to strike up those conversations with community residents. The mapping tool helps residents identify important issues by drawing a map of their community on a blank piece of paper. They do it together as a group and highlight the elements of the community that are important to them. This generates a discussion about issues and concerns that matter most. These are applied to a second tool called the problem tree. One or more issues are placed on a separate sheet of paper so the residents can evaluate what’s causing the problem or issue. They also examine the consequences from this issue not being addressed. As they walk through this exercise, the community finds itself actively seeking solutions to its own problems.

The project team conducted its first session in the Paquete district, one of the more isolated communities within Pemba. After several meetings with community leaders, the team secured permission to conduct the exercises at the end of January 2012. In one of the community buildings adjacent to a medical clinic, several residents gathered to work through the exercises. Despite the rain outside, maps quickly covered the plastic tables as the residents started telling the team about their community. It didn’t take long for the conversations to start. Soon the issues rose to the surface. It became apparent there were some deep concerns about the relationship Paquete had with the rest of Pemba. One of the foundational concerns affecting the city is how isolated the different people groups feel from one another.

A drainage canal isolates the Paquete district from the rest of the city of Pemba

One problem that surfaced that morning was the lack of transportation for Paquete residents. Public transportation around Pemba is limited everywhere, but is non-existent in Paquete. The residents don’t have the financial capacity to pay for any taxi service. As a result drivers don’t come to the district so the residents have to walk, mostly uphill, to get to the town market. While several blamed city government for a lack of concern, some of the participants started to realize that residents themselves were also contributing to the problem with their own perceptions and attitudes. At the end of the session, one participant thanked the project team for facilitating the session. It was the first time anyone from outside Paquete had come to really listen to their problems and show their concern. This was a very positive step for Radio Wimbi.

Enthused by what they are learning, the project team is now working to conduct similar sessions in other sectors of the community. It’s not an easy process. Community leaders are understandably suspicious of a group coming around to ask questions. The team finds it difficult to secure permission to bring a group of residents together. Finding an appropriate time and date along with a venue where participants feel comfortable takes much time and effort. If Radio Wimbi is going to be effective at working within all the communities of Pemba, then these sessions are crucial before the station gets started.

Please pray for the project team as they work to conduct sessions in four other community districts in Pemba. Ask God to help them in their communications with local government officials to alleviate their fears and secure permission for the sessions. Several residents are asking about the station and when it will begin broadcasting. Yet, the project team knows that these conversations are crucial to helping the station start well in engaging the community. Pray that the team will be diligent and focused on completing these first sessions and then consolidating what they learn. This knowledge will be vital to the station’s programming strategy and efforts. The team has set an ambitious goal of completing the other four sessions by the end of February. Cooperation from the communities is vital in reaching that goal.

Renewing Wimbi Vision

The holiday season is behind us now. Nathan and Emily returned to the US so life picked up again in a hurry. My year started off with a quick visit to Feba in the UK to focus on the year ahead. Now it’s off to Pemba, Mozambique to encourage those working with the Radio Wimbi project.

Radio Wimbi local association will gather once again to help move the project forward

A key component of this next visit will be to review and consolidate the vision and direction for the radio station in Pemba with the local association. It’s been some time since some preliminary work was done. Much has changed since 2009 so we are planning a three-day workshop with the local association to review the vision and goals of the station in light of what we know today about the community. I’ll be working with Jan-|Erik Nyman of Ibra Media to help our partners learn about the tool of radio, how to use it effectively, and establish some parameters and goals for the design of the station. We’d appreciate your prayers in this process. Some exciting developments are unfolding with technical aspects of Radio Wimbi. The work to design the station, its transmission and studio systems is underway. One of the many challenges faced in community radio is the difficulty in securing broadcast equipment that works reliably in adverse conditions while still keeping the costs manageable. I’ve recently been in contact with Schweitzer Engineering Labs, a manufacturer of electric utility protection equipment in the US. They have agreed to donate an industrial grade computer system to Feba Radio. This system is rugged and reliable, designed to operate for ten years in many difficult conditions. We’ll be using this computer system as the primary broadcasting computer, playing out programs to air and also helping Feba technical personnel keep watch over the station remotely to address technical problems as they arise. The computer has now been ordered. Once it arrives, Graham Kimber, Feba’s development engineer in Africa, will be putting the entire system together. I will appreciate your prayers as I work with Narciso Zandamela, our project coordinator in Pemba. Progress has not been as far as we had hoped. We’ll be taking a closer look at our planning and identifying the important and critical tasks that Narciso needs to prioritize to keep the project on track. I should have more to report when I get back.

Fresh Start for Radio Wimbi Project

I’ve often heard this African proverb quoted when discussing project work on the continent. While there are problems with both extremes, there is good reason to give heed to this principle:

If you want to travel fast, go alone
If you want to travel far, go together

Travelling together requires relationship. It takes time to position the right people in a project and nurture those relationships to develop so the project can go far. It’s taken us two years to find a suitable project coordinator, the point man on the ground, for the Radio Wimbi project in Pemba, Mozambique. It’s involved massive change for Radio Feba Mozambique, the Feba national association in the country to achieve this. Now that Narciso Zandamela has moved to Pemba, the project can start taking some new steps forward.

Now that Narciso has moved to Pemba in August, 2011, he faces the challenge of starting to build relationships with the local association formed to own the project and the station license. He also needs to build relationships within the community, not easily done when coming from the capital city, Maputo, at the opposite end of the country. So our first step was to give Narciso some tools he could use to engage and interact with the community.

New friends (Narciso in middle) explore community centered radio together

In September, Narciso and I travelled together to Indonesia where Feba and FEBC sponsored a workshop on how to develop community-centered radio stations. During the week-long seminar, Narciso learned the importance of involving and engaging the community in the radio station. Rather than making assumptions about what’s important in a community, a radio station gives the microphone away and let’s the community influence the conversation. To help open up the community, Narciso learned how to use the mapping exercise and the problem tree that would get the community talking and wrestling with their issues that impact them directly.

Upon returning to Pemba, Narciso started applying what he learned during the workshop. I visited him on site earlier this month. We met together with the local association who welcomed him as the project coordinator and agreed to work with him to start the radio station. Narciso went right to work, leading members of the association through the mapping exercise, where the members worked together to draw a map of Pemba, highlighting what was important to them. Narciso plans to conduct 10 more of these exercises with different community groups. Each mapping exercise will be followed up with a problem tree session. Pray for Narciso as he works to conduct these interactive sessions in Pemba over the next couple of months.

Graham Kimber & I introduce Narciso to Eric Dry (r.), another missionary in Mozambique

We also explored possible partnerships while in Pemba. Narciso is getting to know other ministries in Pemba and the surrounding region. One such missionary from another community in the province (shown on the left) is already producing local language programs for other community radio stations in the province. We’re looking forward to joining together with others like him to help reach the people in Pemba. Please pray for Narciso as he nurtures these relationships for mutual ministry.

Stay tuned for more developments. I’m in regular communication with Narciso about his progress and what he’s learning. Hopefully with the information he’s collecting, we’ll be able to gain a clearer understanding of the community of Pemba and how Radio Wimbi can best meet their needs.

Project Coordinator Appointed for Radio Wimbi

One of our strategic radio projects in southern Africa is the development of a community FM radio station in the port city of Pemba in northern Mozambique. Radio Wimbi was conceived back in 2008 and yet progress so far has been slow. Pemba is a strategic city in the region, a gateway to development,with three different people groups living and working together.

Narciso Zandamela accepts Project Coordinator role for Radio Wimbi

One of the struggles slowing progress was finding the right person to lead this project in Pemba. It is critical to the success of the project that the project coordinator live in the community and is regarded as a local person. After much searching and struggles within Radio Feba Mozambique (Feba’s local partner in the country), a project coordinator has now been appointed. Narciso Zandamela, formerly the program director for Feba in Maputo, has agreed to relocate to Pemba and take on this important role.

Please pray for Narciso as he has a number of immediate challenges to assume this new role. He and his wife, Olga, are now in the process of moving to Pemba. They are now finalizing their affairs in Maputo. Narciso will move to Pemba on August 8 with Olga to follow about 3 months later. Narciso’s first task will be to get settled in Pemba, get acquainted with members of the local association, and start to interact and engage with the local community. I am planning to travel to Pemba later in October to work with Narciso on the detailed planning for developing the station.

In September, both Narciso and I will be visiting Indonesia to participate in a community radio workshop organized in part by Feba Radio. The purpose of the workshop is to introduce project managers like Narciso to the fundamental elements and issues in a community radio environment that are critical to a station’s success and acceptance in the community. Please pray this will be a valuable experience for both Narciso and me so we are better able to work together to shape Radio Wimbi into the station that will meet the needs of the people in Pemba.

Pruning for Sharper Focus

The realities of the worldwide financial slowdown are now being felt among the radio ministries Feba supports in southern Africa. As a result of a lack of financial capacity, Feba in the UK has made some difficult decisions to reduce funding for ministry projects in this region. The primary motivation for this reduction has been to sharpen the focus of ministry on those people groups that have not responded to the gospel. Southern Africa has a heritage of a strong Christian influence, but there are still pockets where the gospel has not taken root. These are the areas where Feba is focusing its limited resources.

Two established Feba associations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique have been seriously affected. Earlier this month, I was in Harare, Zimbabwe meeting with the local board and leadership. As a result of their drastically reduced ministry allocation, the staff have been reduced from 7 to 2 people. The two remaining staff include the director and a receptionist. Program production has temporarily stopped until new projects have been initiated and reviewed. This has been a particularly difficult time for the staff. There has been hope over the past several years that local radio stations would be permitted in the country. However, this has not happened. In the meantime, Feba’s Zimbabwe ministry is considering new alternatives for reaching segments of the population who are not responsive to the gospel. Please pray for the director, Kurai, as he seeks to follow God’s leading in this difficult time.

Feba Mozambique has also been experiencing a significant reduction in ministry and personnel. With many of its broadcasts focused in the Christian south, Feba Mozambique has decided to reduce its staff from 21 to 8 in an effort to exist within its limited allocation from Feba UK. However, after meeting the labor code requirements for releasing staff, the remaining allocation will not be enough to sustain the organization through the rest of the fiscal year. There are still further decisions to make regarding staff. I’ll be heading to Mozambique this week to further evaluate projects in the north where people are isolated and resistant to the gospel. I’ll also be meeting with leadership in Maputo to discuss further plans to focus their ministry efforts in the northern part of Mozambique. Please pray for our discussions during this difficult time.

Once I return from this visit to Mozambique, Barb and I will be making final preparations for our home assignment that starts in December. Please pray for the last minute details, both for our plans in the US as well as taking care of our home here in South Africa. We plan to return to South Africa in March 2011 to continue developing and nurturing the new shoots of ministry that will spring up from this season of pruning for Feba in southern Africa.

Radio Nuru Broadcasts Interrupted

The past couple of weeks have not been easy ones for Feba’s partner station reaching the Mwani of northeastern Mozambique. Radio Nuru has been broadcasting for just over a year on a test basis and receiving consistent response from residents in villages along the Indian Ocean. The Mwani have accepted Radio Nuru into their homes and routines, responding to the station on a regular basis. The success of the station has not gone unnoticed.

There was disappointment all around when Radio Nuru went off-air

On an early Sunday morning, an official representing the broadcast regulators in Mozambique made a surprise visit to the station. AIM missionary and station manager Andy Widmer was just about to leave when the official arrived for an inspection. Apparently something didn’t seem right because a few days later, a letter arrived at the station instructing Andy to cease the broadcasts until their license documents could be verified. The station is still awaiting confirmation of its permanent license. It is still unclear what the issues are, but Feba staff in Maputo are working to sort out the problems. The station has now stopped its broadcasts for the time being in order to comply with the order and not jeopardize the license’s final approval.

There wasn’t much time to explain to listeners why the station went silent. I’m sure the listeners were surprised when they couldn’t find their station. Please pray for Andy and Feba’s staff in Maputo as they untangle the regulatory red tape, attempt to finalize the station license and restore the broadcasts. Pray for good relationships with the government officials, that they will recognize the contribution of the station to the Mwani and approve the permanent license.