National Conference of TWR Partners, Evangelical Focus

They came from 32 organizations across three continentsspeaking a variety of languages, nations at war, nations struggling with shortages, nations facing political upheaval.

More … than 90 people gathered from September 6 to 9 in this charming town National conference of TWR Europe and CAMENA partners.

The first such event since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he brought partners from CAMENA – Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa – as well as from all over Europe.

The long wait between conferences made a landmark event all the more meaningful.

“We are interdependent” said Mariette Oosterhoff, Partnership Director of TWR Europe and CAMENA, in an interview as attendees arrived at the hotel in Bratislava where the conference was about to take place. “That’s why this conference is so important, that we meet again in person. And we can listen to each other. … There’s a lot of synergy happening.

Partners are an integral part to how TWR speaks of hope to the world. It all started in Europe in the 1950s with Germany, Italy and Norway, said Branko Bjelajac, TWR vice president for Africa, CAMENA and Europe. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel in each country, TWR chose to work alongside like-minded mission agencies who already knew the indigenous languages ​​and cultures. TWR today has a partner in almost every country in Europe as well as in many countries in Africa, South America and Asia.

We could see this unfold in practice throughout the four-day event. Apart from general sessions, times of prayer and worship, representatives of the various ministries met in “parallel” discussions, during lunch or over a cup of tea. Although enough networking time was scheduled, many saw their planning calendars fill up quickly.

It’s especially important to hear from partners who serve in difficult and sometimes dangerous places, Oosterhoff said. “When you see people from, for example, Central Asia who we are not normally allowed to meet in person because it is too dangerous for them – they find it difficult to be Christians; they are persecuted in their own country,” she said. “When they come here, and they stand in front of all of us and give testimony in person, that’s something we never forget.”

The theme for the evening sessions of the conference was “Movement Media” — picked, Oosterhoff said, because so many partners were asking for it.

Essentially, “Media to Movement” is the process that takes people from a media encounter with Jesus to an in-person engagement, she said.

To flesh this out, TWR Europe invited Chris Villwock and Amber Blumer for two evenings of presentations. Villwock, currently serving outside Hungary, attended in person. Blumer joined him via live video.

  TWR Motion seeks to partner with church planters. As they are out making disciples in some of the places least-reached by the gospel, TWR Motion wants to enhance their mission with video content. / Photo: TWR Motion

 

Both are passionate use digital media and technology to multiply followers. For Blumer, a key driver for this came from TWR MOTION, whose mission is to create videos to connect people with Jesus.

When the pro-democracy Arab Spring resulted in greater internet freedom in 2011, Blumer and his colleagues decided that online storytelling could make the gospel more “digitally acceptable”, she says. They didn’t have the skills to do it, and a year-long search of outside sources turned up nothing. Then someone suggested TWR.

“And I laughed. ‘Oh, you mean the radio ministry?’ Blumer said.

When she found out that TWR was launching a video storytelling wing, Blumer reached out. The result was Share the storya set of animated videos that tell the story of the Bible from creation to the cross. Since then it has been produced in several languages ​​and used by a number of other Media to Movement initiatives.

Research shows that 2 ½ percent of a given population are actually open to spiritual change, says Blumer. Media to Movement helps church planters use digital means to identify the “good ground” Jesus spoke of in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13).

After studying what Blumer’s group had accomplished, Villwock and his team adapted the approach to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was serving at the time. Aware of reports in the Islamic world of non-believers apparently encountering Jesus in vision dreams, they ran ads on Facebook asking: “Are you one of those who dreamed of a man in white? »

The result exceeded expectations: 23,000 people watched 100% of the video ads, Villwock said. Of these, 2,500 visited the website, 110 sent messages to the ministry, 10 requested a Bibleand two met the team in person.

Those final numbers were low, Villwock acknowledged, but in a decade of distributing Bibles, they had never had a single person request one. “In 20 days, we had more engagement with seekers than in the first 10 years combined,” he said.

Another church planting team, in Serbiaused the same approach and in nine months saw 281 new people involved in discipline relationships and 58 people accepting Christ as Lord, he said. The previous year, before Media to Movement, only four people were involved in the discipleship relationships of this church planting team.

It’s about going where people are in this generation, Blumer explained. “The digital age has already been born,” she said. “And the very people you reach, seeker and believer, are turn to Google, Instagram, TikTok to find the answers.”

The unity of the diverse body of Christ’s followers at the conference was palpable. It could be detected even via video, that’s how TWR Ukraine director Alexander Chmut and his team participated one morning. Chmut shared their appreciation for prayer and material support as he checked in 1,320 kilometers away.

“I hope one day I can hug each of you and thank you in person,” he said.

John Lundywriter and editor for TWR.

Barry F. Howard