It takes an army to deliver the gospel in oral format to the unreached people groups of this world. Each of our team members brings their God-given talent, dedication, passion, and humility to build and nurture relationships and create indigenous audio content that transforms lives.
Today, we’d like you to meet Tom Feldpausch, Director of our South Asia programs. Tom has been with Spoken for nearly six years and has been instrumental in evolving all of our programs, and our footprint. Like the rest of the Spoken team, Tom prefers to work behind the scenes, providing the resources and support his team and partners need in order to share Biblical truth with unreached oral learners.
Tom, tell us what you do at Spoken.
I am the Director for Pastor Development in the Southeast Asia region and the Strategy Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa projects.
Can you tell us more about the Pastor Development Program (PDP)?
The Pastor Development Program at Spoken exists to help fulfil the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18-20) among the oral learners of the world. At the heart of the commission is the command to make disciples of Christ by, among other things “teaching them all that I have commanded you to observe” (Matt 28:20), and equipping these believers to do the work of ministry (Eph 4:12). As such, we strive to partner with local churches and ministries who are working in their communities to design and implement effective programs. These programs are designed to disciple believers, strengthen the local churches and raise and develop local leadership teams (ILTs) who will continue to reach their people with the claims of Jesus Christ.
Why missions for oral learners? Wouldn’t traditional, literate missions be easier and more impactful?
My wife and I worked with an oral culture for over two decades, and by the end of our involvement, we realized the literate approaches we were using had very little impact! We were forcing oral people to use literate means to use and learn from what was being produced. Literate approaches and methods were easy for us, but not for the people we were serving. We needed to recognize (a whole lot earlier than we did) that what was needed was to communicate and fit into their culture and way of learning. That would have made the greatest impact. This is the approach that Spoken takes – culturally relevant and appropriate learning.
What brought you to Spoken Worldwide?
Several years ago, while I was working with East-West International Ministry, I met some of the Spoken leadership and learned of all that Spoken was doing in Orality. Recognizing the effectiveness and impact of Spoken’s oral discipleship model of employing stories, songs and drama, I wanted to be a part of what Spoken was doing around the world to help spread that model.
Tell us about your experience in coming to Christ.
I grew up in Chicago and came to faith in Christ my sophomore year in high school – a time that is clearly impressionable for young adults. Though I had attended church for a number of years it was at this time that I understood the truth of Christ and salvation. I grew in faith during my high school years, but didn’t walk closely with God while I was in college.
After high school, I went to Sioux City, Iowa for college, where I met my then-to-be wife. We got married the day before we graduated. We moved to Los Angeles for work after college, and God led us to a small independent Bible church. The people there showed much love to us, and it was then that my wife came to faith in Christ. It was also during this time in LA, as I was working in a secular-based position, that God reminded me that I was His – and I then fully committed my heart and life to Him. Within a few years, God led my wife and I to commit to serving Him in overseas missions, and that was the start of a 35-year career.
Walk me through what a typical day looks like for you with Spoken?
That’s tough to answer, because every day is so different. Often, I will have a zoom call with overseas staff or partners, from places like India or the Middle East. I am always working on new projects, which involves gathering information, dialoguing with potential partners, and assessing our organizational capacity. I interact with my bosses and co-workers on existing programs, personnel management and sharing ideas that will help us be more productive in our work. Periodically, I take trips (1-2 weeks at a time) to different countries to train local leaders in the oral ministry processes that are part of our programs.
In general terms, what impact has the PDP had on making disciples?
The Pastor Development program has a huge and long-lasting impact. In most of our efforts, there has been great evidence of growth in believers, both in understanding of Biblical truth and change in behavior. Local churches have also been strengthened. Our local partner in Kenya related that many pastors there see a clear distinction in faith and life of believers who participated in the PDP in contrast to other believers who are part of the churches.
When you aren’t working, what do you enjoy doing?
I work out regularly and enjoy the challenge of using different workout routines. This discipline keeps both my body and mind active. I also like to read, with history being a favorite of mine. I enjoy fix-it projects around the house, like insulating the garage and re-piping the drainage system. My wife appreciates my handy-man abilities, too!
What is one of the most inspiring times you’ve experienced working at Spoken?
There have been so many experiences over the years – from small to extreme, but all of them remind me of the importance of the work we do. That said, one experience that will always stick with me is when I spent time training a group of leaders from a Muslim country, and then later heard they used the stories and passages we had recorded for them to disciple a great number of people and raise up another group of Christian leaders to carry on their work. It was such a blessing to get this news, and see God’s hand in all of it.
What is an example of a project you’ve worked on that impacts people here in the US?
One thing that may not be apparent to everyone is that the Spoken team works hard and creatively to get the message out about the effectiveness of Orality ministry. I worked with team members to create a 1–2-day program that would introduce US-based partners and supporters to our work. Sounds relatively simple, but it’s not. The process of developing a presentation and explanation where they can truly grasp and appreciate our story-based approach to discipleship was incredibly challenging.
What impact has the pandemic had on the oral communities you serve?
The global regions I serve have faced the same restrictions we’ve experienced here in the US, which meant travel was severely restricted and the majority of our small groups did not meet in person for 6-9 months. We adapted by using video conferences to connect and continue with small groups – yet, in person is still our preferred style of connecting. The fear of getting Covid-19 is still affecting the number of small groups meeting in person, and how many people feel comfortable enough to meet together.
Is there any one thing you’d like readers to take away today about Spoken and the work we do?
The power of story to communicate truth, and to “stick” with people, this is what we have seen all over the world, and even here in our home culture. It’s an awesome sight to see an oral learner beam with joy when they understand scripture that has been shared with them orally, in their heart language.
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