Episode 1. Christmas Celebration
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Christmas is a time of celebration – a time to celebrate the very first Christmas present of all. So often our circumstances stop of from celebrating – really celebrating. Why don’t you join …
Christmas is a time of celebration – a time to celebrate the very first Christmas present of all. But all too often our circumstances stop of from celebrating – really celebrating. And that is going to be the case for many people again, today.
We’ve been talking about Christmas these last few weeks and so I thought we might take a change of tact this week as we head into this last week for the year. That kind of funny time between Christmas and New Year. And look at life, as we do around this time, look back on the year that has been and think forward to the year that is to be.
I love listening to other people’s stories and so I’m joined this week on the program by a man called Dave Hanson. Dave’s an American with a really ordinary upbringing but these days he’s the Vice President of International Ministries for Back To The Bible. He leads an extraordinary life.
Today we’re going to look back on his life briefly and as we do that perhaps you and I can look back on our lives too and think about the things that have been, a time to pause and reflect on our stories kind of through Dave’s story.
Berni: Now Dave just tell us just briefly where were you born, what was your childhood all about?
Dave: Sure, well I was born in Minnesota, one of the northern States known for ten thousand lakes but moved to the State of Nebraska when I was very young. My father was a pastor and so I grew up as a PK and spent most of my life in Nebraska, I graduated high school in Nebraska and then went to Grace University in Omaha and also went to a radio engineering institute in Omaha. So that kind of gave me the education that I needed.
Berni: So you had a fairly, I guess, standard conservative upbringing, is that a …
Dave: Definitely. When you grow up up in the Bible belt in Nebraska, pretty much the mid west central part of the US, a conservative Christian life.
Berni: And these days you spend a lot of your time tripping around the world to all sorts of weird places I believe.
Dave: I do.
Berni: Including Australia.
Dave: (Laughing) That’s right. As the Vice President of International Division for Back To The Bible I have that privilege of travelling the world and of course I’ve been to this wonderful country of Australia on a number of occasions and been to places like the Solomon Islands, been to places like Indonesia and India and Sri Lanka and it goes on and on and it’s been a wonderful time.
Berni: So how does this kid who has this pretty routine, straight out of central casting Bible Belt upbringing end up doing this sort of stuff because I can imagine coming from where you came from, what you see now, what you do now probably blows your mind a little?
Dave: Oh absolutely. I wonder of every guess more than thirty years ago when I started this career journey that I would be doing this. I wonder of every guess that I was going to travel the world. I wonder at every guess I was going to work with these wonderful Bible teachers around the world.
My passion was in the area of electronics and I wanted to use the talents and interests I had to advance the Gospel through media and that actually got Judy and myself to Italy and that was in, believe it or not, 1974 and we actually spent eleven years there before we moved back to the United States.
Berni: You don’t look a day over what, seventy.
Dave: Oh yeah right, thanks Berni (laughing)
Berni: That’s my gift. So you look back on, how old are you now?
Dave: I’m fifty seven.
Berni: So you look back on this kind of amazing journey, we’re going to explore your journey more during this week on the program but you look back on this journey, what are the things that really stand out for you, what are the things that you learned or the insights, the wisdom that have come with your advanced years.
Dave: Yeah thanks Berni, appreciate that. Well, there is a reality that through life there are many things that God is actually preparing you for that you don’t know you’re going to be prepared for down the road. I went to Italy in ’74 as I said, had a background in electronics but had also done a lot of construction and little did I know that Vonchi Olivia was going to build was going to build a massive studio/office complex in the 1980’s. But all those years of construction which for me was nothing more than money basically gave me a background to do that and life is that way. God is constantly preparing us for what He has next for us.
Berni: Mmmm, He doesn’t seem to waste a whole bunch does He?
Dave: No He doesn’t, He has it all planned out if we’re willing to follow.
Berni: Yeah, so what does following look like? I mean you’ve got a chance now to look back a little bit, what did all that look like?
Dave: Well, eleven years in Italy and they were wonderful years, our boys were born there, they attended Italian schools, we learned Italian. We learned to love the Italian people, I didn’t know much about Italy before I got there, had never really ever been out of the United States but it really impacted our lives because within that first year we understood that the number one objective was to entrust to the national Italians everything that God had given to us.
And it reminds me of 2 Timothy 2:2 where it talks about “entrusting to reliable people the ability to teach the Word of God”. And that was crucial and so those years really impacted what I was going to do next and after eleven years the office was nationalised or turned over to a national leader and I was asked to come back to the United States and oversee the international part for Back To The Bible and thats where my world went from Italy to the entire world and today Back To The Bible is working in twenty five languages around the world, as you well know, and I have that privilege of working with thirteen, fourteen wonderful men.
Berni: How did God prepare you for that? I mean I still struggle over this leap from, you grow up in Nebraska and your football team The Cornhuskers.
Dave: The Cornhuskers yeah, they might even win this year (both laugh).
Berni: And now you’re doing this, you look back on that, what did you learn, what’s God really taught you through all that?
Dave: Well one, I think is the reality “its not about me, it’s about God” and a necessity for me to remain humble, a necessity for me to realise that there are no borders, for God there are no nations, there is not an Australian, there’s not an American, they are people who God loves and I have to set all that aside in order to make sure that the Kingdom is being reached.
It’s also the reality that I had no idea that there were 1.8 billion people who still have never heard of Jesus Christ – 1.8 billion. You know Christmas has just been completed and yet there’s 1.8 billion people who have no idea what Christmas is even about, they don’t know what that “Jesus in a manger” was about and it’s important that we take that message to them.
Berni: 1.8 billion people. So you’ve got a busy life then.
Dave: I have a busy life.
Berni: You don’t have time to retire.
Dave: No I don’t have time to retire but it will come one of these days.
Berni: You comment about ‘God preparing’ and I look back on my walk and I can see how God prepared me for things where I had no idea. Like before I became a Christian I was travelling around the world speaking at conferences, doing all this stuff and then when I encounter this person Jesus Christ and I look back, it’s such a humbling thing when I realise that all of that time God was getting me ready for something.
I think we often are going through things, I don’t know if you’ve had this experience but we’re often going through things and they’re hard and they’re painful and they’re scary and we don’t know why it’s going on but God’s in that place and Gods doing something that we can’t see down the track.
Dave: Yeah, as I said I would have never guessed that I would be doing what I’m doing today. In fact, I remember going to Italy saying that I am never going to get into a position where I don’t do what I’m trained for and I actually didn’t expect to be in administration, didn’t expect to be doing what I’m doing today overseeing the international side, globally for Back To The Bible.
I had an engineering background, I knew how to run the knobs, the tape recorders, how to fix them, how to install transmitters, how to climb antennae’s and I wouldn’t have ever guessed that I was going to give that up in order to be on the other side of the media ministry.
Berni: And I just wonder when each one of us looks back as we’ve just briefly over the last few minutes done on your long (both laugh) life.
Dave: Thanks for that.
Berni: It’s my gift. But as each one of us looks back I think we can each point to things where God has done things, sometimes through difficult circumstances to prepare us for what we’re doing now and other things around the next corner and over the next hill that we just have no idea about