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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An African Return

It’s always good to reconnect with the familiar, especially in the middle of a transition. We have been working toward getting ourselves settled in Indonesia for the past three months, but I knew there would be a time when I would have the opportunity to return to South Africa. Earlier this year, I was invited to speak at two workshops as part of the Africa by Radio (now known as AbR Media) Continental Convention that was held in Johannesburg, South Africa. So even though we were still waiting to fully settle in Jakarta, at the beginning of September, I departed for that visit, leaving Barb to manage the office and home.

Met up with Rudolf Kabutz of TWR to continue our discussion on the future trends in media

Prior to the convention, I was able to spend a few days visiting offices where Barb and I had worked while living there. During those seven years, we worked with FEBA Radio South Africa and TWR-Africa. Both organizations have experienced changes in the last year. It was encouraging to visit each office and see how God has been at work in their respective ministries.

I managed to re-connect with several colleagues and friends over my time there. Some had been former colleagues at ether FEBA or TWR. I caught up with friends from each of the three churches we attended while living in the country. I met with some musician friends, exchanging stories and perspectives about our shared passion. I was blessed to spend an evening with our most recent home cell group, where we explored together God’s strength and stability. Even though it was a full schedule, I treasured each and every moment to extend the relationships we shared.

The convention provided me the opportunity to reunite with several ministry partners through the AbR network. I was encouraged to meet the project coordinator from Radio Wimbi in Mozambique. This project has been on the air now for two years. The station has received several reports of listeners who, previously uninterested in following Jesus, started visiting some churches in the city. Even though I am no longer actively involved in these media projects, God continues to lead each one to greater effectiveness and fruit in ministry.

I presented two workshops during the convention program. One workshop focused on digital radio across Africa. Regulatory bodies in several countries are now making plans to convert radio broadcasts to digital platforms. I led an interactive discussion about how radio stations should participate in the process and prepare for what will eventually come. The second workshop explored mentoring among media ministries in Africa. Over the years, western mentors have sought to encourage local African media professionals for greater influence in ministry. Our session examined the challenges and opportunities Africans face to actively mentor others in their local contexts. This strategy may be key to greatly expanding the impact of media across this vast continent.

I returned  just in time for the arrival of our personal effects that shipped from South Africa at the end of August. Our agent in Indonesia cleared the shipment through customs such that we were able to take delivery at our home at the end of this last week. All has arrived in good shape. We are now in the process of arranging our home with the familiar sights, sounds and smells of Asia and Africa. This is the final step to establishing our home, so we can now focus fully on the ministry God has for us here.

Thank you for praying with us in this transition. We are encouraged to see what God is going to do next!

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.

A Family Visit

The year 2013 brought many changes to our ministry as well our family. It started with us together in the US before Barb and I returned to South Africa to begin a new chapter of ministry. We rejoiced when Nathan had a job before we departed in Feburary. Somehow, we have the idea that once we’ve gone through an intense period of change, our circumstances will settle into a more normal pattern. It doesn’t always happen that way. As we finished up our first year with TWR-Africa, we realized we needed a bit of a break. So, as is often the custom here in South Africa, Barb and I took an extended holiday from our ministry efforts with TWR. We had enough holiday time alloted to us that we took off the entire month of December, something we had never done while overseas. It gave us ample time to prepare for Nathan and Emily’s visit with us for Christmas. The break of 4+ weeks gave us time to turn our attention to other activities that included time together and with the family. Consequently, my email load dropped off dramatically.

The family’s encounter with a cheetah. So glad to enjoy our day with Emily and Nathan

Nathan and Emily arrived together in Johannesburg on Barb’s birthday, December 15. It was a wonderful present for her to have everyone back together after 10 months. Unfortunately, we had a bit of a delay with Emily’s luggage, so it took some work to track down her bags prior to our holiday on the south coast at a town called Plettenberg Bay. We spent the balance of that week enjoying the beach, hiking in the mountains, a few trips down a zipline, and generally spending time together. We were back to our home in time for Christmas. We also took in a number sights around Gauteng (the province that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria), including a visit to a cheetah reserve and several places around Johannesburg. Basically our goal was to spend time together as a family. That we were able to accomplish.

We haven’t been without change in our family. At the end of November, Nathan learned that his job at a TV station in Minot, ND, was coming to an end. It was disappointing for him, but now he is busy looking for another position in the broadcast media environment. He’s had several interviews, but nothing has materialized so far. We’d appreciate your prayers for him as he diligently seeks out his next assignment.

Emily and her boyfriend, Alex, are pursuing their masters’ degrees in North Dakota and will be completing those studies in May. They both wish to continue on to get their PhDs (English for Emily and Electrical Engineering for Alex). They are currently in the process of investigating alternatives. We are praying that God will guide them together in their choice of schools.

Barb and I are now back on our own again as January, 2014 starts up. As I’m attempting to assist TWR national partners in crisis in southern Africa, there will  undoubtedly be more change for many of my colleagues through the process. I’m praying for God’s wisdom and discernment as we attempt to balance effective ministry with financial constraints. Barb’s Precepts Bible Studies will begin shortly. Her group is eager to get started again as they finish up Genesis- looking at the life of Joseph.

We do appreciate your interest in our ministry. Please continue to pray for us as we approach this new year with attentive hearts to hear how God would lead us in our service for His kingdom.

Now, let’s see if I can remember my passwords…… 😉

Homeless No More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Things Worth Celebrating

February is always a busy month in the Bartz family. There are three birthdays to celebrate plus Valentine’s day which sometimes gets overlooked in the middle of the rush. This particular February is even more hectic as we prepare to return to South Africa on Valentine’s day. Barb and I will get to celebrate together as we travel.

Nathan celebrated his 28th birthday with us in Bismarck, ND

We do have some other good things to celebrate. While we’ve been back in the US, we focused on supporting Nathan in his job search after he graduated from Minot State University. When we were together at Christmas, we developed a plan to focus his job search and some sample productions for his portfolio. After New Year’s Day, Nathan returned to Minot, ND to begin his job-hunting in earnest. and sharpen his production skills. While there may have been some moments waiting and wondering along the way, we are celebrating the news that Nathan has found a full time job! He has been hired by KMOT-TV, a local TV station in Minot, to do video production and collect video content for news and sports in the region. This is a great opportunity for him to gain some much needed experience in his chosen field while being able to stay in Minot. We thank God for answering our prayers that Nathan would find a permanent job before we departed for South Africa.

We’ve now come to the end of our home assignment here in the US. We’ve visited with many friends, old and new, as well as several churches. With all the travel, we were only adversely affected this past weekend (Feb 10) with a blizzard in North Dakota that kept us grounded in Bismarck rather than traveling to Wishek, ND. We’ll miss seeing our friends there, but rejoice in the many opportunities we’ve had to connect with those in other locations. We also rejoice in the new friends and a new church that welcomed us along the way.

Now we are in the process of returning to South Africa. We’re expecting to arrive in Johannesburg to take on our new assignment with TWR-Africa. We expect it will be a few weeks before we are able to fully focus on the new role since we are still looking for a place to live. Our first assignment upon arrival will be to find a secure home we can rent. We’ll  then walk through the process of getting ourselves settled and adjusting to our new surroundings. As we return, please remember the following in prayer:

  • Pray for wisdom and discernment as we sort through the housing options before us. One of our main requirements is security, which can be difficult to evaluate. It is important to establish this before getting involved in the ministry responsibilities before us.
  • Pray for me as I adapt and deepen relationships with my new colleagues at TWR-Africa, not only in the regional office in South Africa but also with the broader family in eastern Africa. Pray that I will be able to listen to their concerns and respond in ways that will help us all be more effective in ministry.
  • Barb will also be seeking a new opportunity to minister through TWR-Africa. While she has experience in administration and listener follow-up, pray that Barb will find a role in the organization where she can put her skills and heart for ministry into practice in an effective manner.
  • As with any relocation, we will be adapting and developing new day-to-day relationships. Not only will we be meeting new friends, but will experience changes in relationships with those we have grown to appreciate. Pray that God will lead us to a local church where our passions and gifts can be used for effective ministry.

We are so grateful for the support and encouragement we have received from so many during our time here in the US. We feel refreshed and empowered to step out into a new ministry that God has prepared for us at TWR-Africa. We treasure these friendships and support they bring our way, even as we return to Africa. I look forward to sharing more as the new adventure unfolds.

Children's Christmas Visit

Nathan and Emily enjoyed their visit to South Africa

During the month of December into the first week or so of January, the pace of life dramatically slows down here in South Africa. It’s a time for families to take time away from their normal responsibilities and disappear to a variety of havens for some rest and recovery time. Since life slows down, we decided it would be a good time to have our children, Nathan and Emily, join us in Pretoria for some family time.

Air travel during the Christmas holiday time can be stressful. This was particularly the case with both Emily and Nathan. They each arrived at the Johannesburg airport without their luggage. This meant spending the first couple days after each arrival following up on their bags. Fortunately I was able to track down Emily’s two cases before they made an unexpected journey to Capetown.

Our schedule was packed full of activities. In addition to catching up on their lives, we visited a number of sites around Pretoria up until Christmas. We visited the zoo and the National Botanical Gardens on separate days. Emily Caldwell, a classmate from Faith Academy in the Philippines also stopped to see us for a day. Following Christmas, we took a trip along the southern coast of South Africa. We stopped first at Jeffry’s Bay, spending a day at the beach. After that we took a leisurely drive to Capetown where we visited all the usual tourist sites. We enjoyed showing them the sights of the Western Cape, including Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, Boulders National Park (where the penguins live), and the Castle of Good Hope. What a blessing to have them with us for those weeks around Christmas and New Year’s!

Our time together was a great opportunity to get caught up on the lives of our children. Nathan is now studying at Minot State University in Minot, ND where he is pursuing a degree in mass communications. He is really wanting to get into radio broadcasting, particularly in the area of sports. He’s really excited about starting his first show on the local campus station. That will be part of his training in the current semester.

Emily expects to graduate from Minnesota State University – Mankato in May. She will be launching off in a new direction with a major in English and minors in both music and geography. She’s not quite sure what she’s going to be doing after school, but is starting to submit a bundle of applications for jobs in the US. Her initial hopes of considering graduate school in the UK haven’t panned out, so she is looking to see what else is out there.

Nathan, Emily and I all left South Africa on the same evening, January 6. They were headed to Paris for connections into the US while I was headed up to the UK for meetings with Feba. It didn’t take me long to dive back into ministry as they both got involved in their studies upon their return.

We are grateful for your continued interest in our ministry in Southern Africa.