PUC Graduates join Satellite Crusade in Africa

By Amy Bauer-Heald on December 18, 2007

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When Christian Anderson and Lars Engeberg boarded the 747 bound for Africa, they had no idea what they were doing––or whether there would even be someone to meet them at the airport in Nairobi. But at the invitation of Jon Wood, assistant professor of digital media at Pacific Union College, the two recent digital media graduates agreed to go to Africa to teach what they know best: how to use computers to produce digital video.

Initially thankful when they found a bus waiting for them at the airport, the two were less enthusiastic after a twelve hour ride over pothole-ridden dirt roads that led them to the Tanzanian town of Mwanza. The last 15 miles of the journey covered roads so deteriorated that the bus slowed to a crawl, making it an easy target for robbers who haunt the area waiting for a vehicle to venture in after dark. “We arrived at this stretch of the road just as the sun was setting,” Christian recalls. An hour later, in total darkness, they arrived unharmed at their destination.

From June 20 to July 6, as part of the “Africa for Christ 2001” satellite crusade––an evangelistic series translated into 17 languages and broadcast around the world––Christian and Lars worked with 40 pastors and laymen from all over Africa. Their goal: to provide these students with the skills needed to create digital videos for the church. Ultimately, with media centers across the continent, these programs can be uplinked to satellites and broadcast around the world.

“I was amazed at their enthusiasm,” says Christian. “We crammed into three weeks almost everything that is taught to us in four years at PUC.” Though class officially lasted from 10 in the morning until five or six in the evening, the students would regularly stay until 10 every night. The atmosphere was energetic: “They were dying to get on the computers and use the cameras,” Christian recalls.“When I was a student, everyone would dread carrying all the heavy equipment out to do a shoot. There was no foot-dragging here. They’d grab the tripods and cameras and run out––they were waiting for us to get our act together!”

When the media class began, many of the pastors and laymen had never touched a computer before. Aside from a couple laptops and a few cameras, all the equipment was provided by Adventist Global Communications Network. The students used the Macintosh work stations to create two projects: a live broadcast about the media school itself and a drinking water awareness video to be shown in clinic waiting rooms.

Brad Thorp, head of Adventist Global Communications Network and organizer of the project, acknowledged that a three-week class can only plant the seeds of what will someday be a much greater program. Thorp says that he’s content to wait five, even 10 years, to see the results of this project. With the skills to set up their own satellites, the media students will have access to downlinks and uplinks connecting Africa with the rest of the world church.

“Africa for Christ 2001” resulted in 25,000 baptisms in Tanzania alone; and with 40 new producers trained to send satellite broadcasts, the prospects are unlimited. Some of the students expressed interest in coming to PUC to continue their study of digital media, and Thorp hopes to continue what he started by sending PUC student missionaries to Tanzania this fall.