I never knew in all my life that there was any religion other than Buddhism and Hinduism—until you introduced me to Jesus Christ. Thank you for allowing me to taste the sweetness of God.” Responses like this one from listeners across the planet are what keep Adventist World Radio (AWR) broadcasting day and night in more than 100 languages—ever expanding—ever seeking to fulfill the great commission of our Lord, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
As the radio arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, AWR strongly believes that “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14).
Our studios in Tula, Russia, receive bags of mail on a regular basis. I discovered the story of Antonina, who lives several hours outside of Moscow. She said, “I grew up under communism so God was not talked about. When Easter or Christmas came around, that was the time to remember Christ. When I was going through hard times I would pray. During good times, I forgot about God.” But then something happened in her life. “I and my son began studying the Bible,” she said, “but there was no one to turn to for answers until someone told me to listen to AWR’s Voice of Hope radio program.”
Antonina continued to listen to our programs, eventually deciding to be baptized. She sent a letter to our studio in Tula, but a response did not come quickly enough for her liking. How did she deal with this problem? She went down to the river and baptized herself! Yes, she was on fire for God, and nothing was going to stop her desire to serve her new Lord. Eventually, one of our pastors did make the journey and officially baptized her.
To see and hear this level of excitement from listeners is not unusual. While in Nepal, I spoke with a middleaged fellow who was a tailor by trade. He worked and lived in a very remote and mountainous region. One day, as he was tuning his radio to the BBC News, he came across our program. The messages were far different from what he had been accustomed to hearing as a Hindu, but after listening for some time, he gave his heart to the Lord. Then he began radiating a smile that was infectious as he shared with me, “I am responsible for many people coming to Christ.”
“How many?” I asked.
With an even bigger grin, he said, “Two hundred and fifty!”
For a large percentage of the world, radio is one of the few effective means of sustainable evangelism. The reasons are many, such as laws that prohibit sharing the gospel one-on-one, religious intolerance and persecution, or geographical restriction—mountains, jungles, and so on. To know that AWR is normally able to reach past any and all restrictions in order to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to this lost and dying world is exciting.
Shiva was one such person— discourage dan d experiencing hopelessness—until someone told him about Jesus. He was thrilled to hear of a God who would die for him, but as soon as he shared his newfound faith, the Hindu village rose up against him and made his life horrible. It was not long before he made the choice to forget this new God and return to the thousands of gods of his fathers.
This reversal of belief brought little peace to his life. Yes, the persecution had ended, but there was a great emptiness. One day, while tuning his shortwave radio, he heard AWR’s Voice of Hope broadcast. “The moment I heard about Jesus,” he said, “my heart jumped for joy. I began listening every day, and every day my faith grew stronger.”
Life was different for Shiva this time. Now he had the daily support of the radio broadcasts. He soon found the courage to change his name from Shiva—the destroyer god of the Hindus—to Solomon—a strong biblical name. He began inviting his family to listen to the radio broadcasts and then his neighbors. It was not long before the Holy Spirit assembled a large AWR listener group. (This is not unusual. We have listener groups all over the world consisting of 30–100 listeners. It starts with one person inviting another to listen, and soon the flame of the Spirit has caught an entire village on fire for Christ.)
When I met Solomon, he was building a large bamboo home. I was amazed to discover that the entire third floor was a church sanctuary. And on the very pinnacle of his new three-story home, centered in a Hindu village, Solomon placed a towering Christian cross. What had changed from his first encounter with Christ? Receiving the daily support and com-fort he needed to sustain his young faith via the radio.
He told me, “So many people are attending services on Sabbath that we no longer have room for the children, so we had to move them downstairs for separate services.” That is the power of God using radio!
While traveling in Madagascar, we were told by our radio producer in that region that they had recently discovered more than 25 AWR lis-tener churches. Many of these groups had constructed their own churches, acquired Bibles, and were meeting for weekly Bible study, worship, and prayer. Most groups have never had— or have rarely received—a visit from a minister. Radio has become their pastoral support and lifeline to the church.
I visited a family who had been entrusted with a solar-powered radio that they received some years ago during a radio giveaway program sponsored jointly by the government and AWR. They were so proud of their radio they could not wait to show it to me. Leading a huge procession of listeners, the patriarch ushered me past the farm animals to his humble home, all the while negotiating deep ruts in the red clay earth.
Each evening, after everyone returns from laboring in the fields, he ascends his wobbly staircase to the second floor deck, hooks up the radio, and proceeds to play the AWR program
for the 250 people who faithfully hud-dle into the tiny, brick-enclosed yard.
The radio giveaway program has been a highly successful means of spreading the gospel to the far corners of civilization. The units are compact in size and have four sources of power: crank generator, solar, battery, and electric. This affords the user a wide variety of options. For those of us who can afford batteries and have easy access to megastores, the need for other sources of power may escape our notice. But we know of listeners in Africa, for instance, who have gone without food for three days just so they can afford to buy batteries for their radios in order to listen to AWR. That’s how strong the desire is to hear the Advent gospel of Jesus Christ.
In addition to radios, we also dis-tribute a unit called a Mega Voice. These are solar powered units, about the size of a small smartphone, that can be preprogrammed with up to 500 hours of gospel content. Even though the unit is small in size, the audio speaker is large enough to be heard by 50–100 people in a village setting. Units such as these allow us to provide in-depth training for listeners who many not have Bibles, Spirit of Prophecy writings, or other study materials available.
An exciting example of our giveaway program comes from the country of India. We gave out T-shirts and hats that read Adventist World Radio, radios, and bicycles to 50 Bible workers. In two years, these traveling workers had won 6,000 souls to Christ.
Yes, people are responding to God’s Word daily. Some of the countries we work in are too sensitive to share what the Holy Spirit is doing, but allow me to give you an example. From our Guam shortwave complex, we have five antenna arrays that are each about the size of a football field (visualize them resting on their side). Several of these arrays blanket all of China with the gospel for ten hours each day. We cover the great nation of India in 12 languages, plus we cover North Korea, Bhutan, Tibet, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia. And the list goes on.
AWR constructs FM studios across much of Africa and supports FM work throughout Central and South America, as well as in many nations. Truly, the task is massive, and much more must be done to take this gospel to the world, but God continues to open new and exciting opportunities every day.
Several years ago we began to podcast. I must admit that, at the time, most of us knew little about this new technology—at least the potential to reach such massive audiences using such simple means. We began by purchasing a media assets management tool for our offices in England. This hardware/software tool reduced our program editing time to almost nothing. What would normally take half an hour of manual labor to edit a single program for the Internet now took less than a minute.
In 2014 alone, four years since we went operational with this new tech-nology, we experienced 8.75 billion program downloads in more than 100 languages. And some of the countries that have the greatest religious restrictions are the countries experiencing the greatest number of downloads.
To date, AWR is the largest pro-vider of audio content for iTunes in the world, and our chief engineer tells us that podcast growth doubles every six months. People are hungering for the Word of God, and He is leading many of them to AWR. Even more exciting, we have come to realize that this form of media—podcasting—is typically a young people’s media. This means that God has enabled us to reach an entirely new audience.
If you are seeking to reach language groups in your area, you can visit awr.org and download a small, but colorful, invitation that says something like “I have discovered peace and happiness through programs such as these. I hope you and your family will experience the same joy we have experienced.” The hand-out lists the Web location for that particular language—Vietnamese, Hmong, or Spanish, for example. To witness easily—you do not need to speak the language—just smile and hand them the colorful invitation written in their native tongue.
If you are seeking to reach the big cities of the world, radio is your key to success. Have you ever been stuck in traffic in Mumbai? How about Dhaka, Rio, Los Angeles, or New York? Ask yourself, What does almost every driver have in common? Answer: They are listening to their radios.
There are millions of people hungering to hear the spoken word. I met Mila, a Buddhist who had been a monk his entire life—I am guessing he was in his late 60s. He took me to his monas-tery and showed me the gold-covered walls and stunning vistas that shouted magnificence from every corner. He ushered me inside during the time of the evening service, where dozens of monks blew their mighty horns in unison. My entire being experienced the vibration as the sound resonated throughout my chest cavity. The strik-ing of tiny brass cymbals created a sweet sound in my ears while mingling with the powerful, but delicate, smell of incense.
But this former monk humbly shared with me, “I had no peace in my life.” Yes, it may be hard for some people to think of a monk without peace, but then he added, “I was tuning my radio to the BBC News and found your program. The speaker was talking about Jesus Christ and His amazing love. At that very moment, an unexplainable peace poured into my life. It was not like anything I had ever experienced.”
Then Mila told me he could no longer be a monk. “I must follow Jesus Christ.” He then shared, “I save enough money each week so I can take the bus to church. It costs me most of my weekly earnings. People in my town say, ‘You only go to that church because they pay you.’ I tell them I go because I am in love with Jesus.”
I asked him, “If there was one thing in the whole world you could have, what it would be?”
His response was rapid: “If I could just win one person to Jesus Christ!”
That is also our mission—helping people to experience a saving relation-ship with Jesus as we prepare for His glorious return.