Asia Pacific Media Ministries: It’s about people
By Tim Schirman
Focusing my camera on the hills above Cagayan do Oro,
Philippines, I realize I have lost track of my missionary … again.
Backtracking, I find that Bill Snider has stopped to talk to a family resting
under some shade trees beside their simple wood home. Through the camera lens they
appear framed against the valley below, with the ocean barely visible behind
them. It looks like a scene from a classic missionary film of the 1960s.
I’ve known Bill and his wife, Kim, for more years than I can
remember. In addition to being AGWM area director for Southeast Asia, Bill is
founder and director of Asia Pacific Media Ministries. Since my work is
missions storytelling, our paths have crossed many times, but this is my first
time to be with him in the Philippines, his base of ministry. Watching him
interact with the local family clarifies what I have known about him all along
and what I have come to see as the basis of APMM’s success: Bill does media
because Bill loves people.
Behind the scenes
Bill and Kim have been involved with media ministry for as
long as they have been missionaries. Over the past 20 years, the Sniders and
the APMM team have produced an impressive list of materials. Among the latest
are 26 episodes of Family Talk, a drama and discussion program, and several
evangelistic and pre-evangelism feature films.
Two facts catch my attention as I walk into APMM. First,
while the facility is carefully maintained, it is very compact as media centers
go. It doesn’t have large studios and control rooms, which is surprising given
the amount of material produced here.
Second, while the ministry is founded and operated by U.S.
missionaries, the staff is mostly Filipino. APMM has been successful and
financially efficient over the years because the Sniders understand missions
media are most effective when produced by nationals who understand local
culture and can design programs for use by national pastors and laypeople.
Missions media’s goal is the same as any other missions endeavor — to
bring people to Christ and integrate them into local churches.
felt that success in Christian media is when people become involved in local
churches because of it,” Bill says. “Putting the Word on the airwaves is fine.
It creates an atmosphere and sows the seed. But if you don’t link the message to
local believers, you have missed the potential. Local churches are the end
result. That’s where the harvest is.”
Traveling across the Philippines, Bill and I visit several
rural church plants. Several years ago APMM designed a strategic follow-up
mechanism as part of a broadcast to create direct contacts between listeners
and programmers and enable evangelism and church planting opportunities. The
intentional use of media resulted in planting more than 40 churches.
Harold and Melissa Cruz are a charming couple with open and
honest smiles. Watching them together, you can see the love and respect they
have for each other. Few people would guess their marriage was once on the
verge of collapse. But God intervened in their lives and marriage, and today
they are the hosts of APMM’s flagship program, Family Talk.
Sitting in the APMM studio — which is not much larger
than the typical American family room — they explain the program to me.
Part drama and part talk show, the 26 episodes cover difficult subjects, such
as marital infidelity, teen pregnancy and spousal abuse.
The Cruzes explain that Filipino culture is very
nonconfrontational. People have a hard time openly talking about personal
struggles and pain. Family Talk is designed to be a conversation starter to
help people talk about needs in their lives and seek help.
The video series is most often used in family or group
settings as a tool for evangelism or discipleship. “The shortest path between
the truth and the message you want to convey is a story,” Melissa says. “Family
Talk bridges the gap between what you want to tell people and how they can
relate it to their lives and say, ‘I have that need as well.’”
“We are just so humbled with the results of this video
ministry,” Harold tells me. “Because of what happened in our marriage, we are
thankful that God has been so gracious to let us have a part in it.”
Tools for the local church
Thursday evening a group of about 30 people gathers around a
television in a side room of a Manila church to watch a Family Talk program on
teen pregnancy. Pastor Peter Benzon plays segments of the video and then leads
a group discussion. The dialogue is animated, and everyone in the room is
engaged. The video has clearly hit a responsive chord. During the prayer time
at the end of the evening, it is clear that the cultural barriers that kept
these people from openly sharing their needs have been broken, and true healing
is taking place.
Tools for personal evangelism
Following the meeting, I ask Pastor Benzon about the
effectiveness of media tools in ministry. One of the most powerful uses, he
says, is personal evangelism. He tells me of a group from his church that
knocks on doors and offers to show the videos to families.
“They knocked on one door and asked the woman who answered
to watch a video with them,” he says. “The video was about forgiveness. After
they watched it, they learned that the woman was packed and ready to leave her
home because her husband had cheated on her. Instead, she opened her heart and
shared with the team, and they counseled her. The woman gave her heart to the
Lord and then asked, ‘Could you talk to my husband?’ The team counseled the
husband, and now both of them are attending the church.”
It’s not about electrons, it’s about people …
The sun is setting as I stand on the beach in Roxas City
talking with District Superintendent Johnny Gallos, who also pastors a
church. At the end of our
interview about his church planting efforts, I ask, “Are there any ways that
media tools have been useful in ministry in this district?”
For the next 10 minutes, Gallos talks almost too fast for me
to follow as he lists ways he and his fellow ministers use APMM’s media tools.
Among them are outreaches to businessmen, cell group meetings, personal
evangelism, crusade evangelism, church planting, discipleship, teaching, family
counseling, world missions, home missions and much more.
Over supper that evening Bill tells me he never anticipated
all the ways people would use the various media tools. I notice again that the
success of this ministry stems from its emphasis on people — both on
those who are trained to create the tools, and the national believers who use
In my 30 years of doing media, I have learned that equipment
breaks, software becomes obsolete and production styles change. The only
lasting media investment is in people. Any student of missions already knows
that truth … it’s about people!
“People come to Christ through personal contact,” Bill says,
“but how do you get to that first contact? Media can be a great tool to get the
Word and the people into the marketplace.”
It’s about people …
TIM SCHIRMAN is video production manager for AG World
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