TWR Canada past-president Ray Alary blogged every Thursday, telling behind-the-scenes stories and ministry updates you won't find anywhere else. You can still access his stories and read about his time as a missionary with TWR.
I was in Angola and I had been out in the bush for a week. I hadn’t slept in a comfortable bed for days. In fact, for four of the days I had slept on the floor. There were no modern facilities in any of the locations, and I was tired. I just wanted to rest. But then Isac (read more about Isac) and I got a message from a man who wanted to have supper with us…right before we were to go back to the city. Normally I would get excited about this, but this time I was so tired that I would have preferred to just get a good night’s rest. We still had to return to the capital and then go back to South Africa. Yet we agreed to have supper with this brother; and I’m glad we did.
The reason for his wanting to share a meal with us was this. He had grown up in Manaus, Brazil. When he was a boy, he and his family were regular listeners to TWR. As a young boy, he committed his life to Christ, and he also committed to serve. He shared how TWR’s broadcasts had impacted his life: at the time we met him, he was serving in Angola as a missionary doctor. Hearing a clear message of the gospel helped put him on a path to serve the Lord in a remarkable way.
This is just one story I’ve heard over the years, but it’s these stories that helped me realize a valuable lesson, a lesson I only learned as I spent time with listeners.
When I joined TWR, I was responsible for ensuring that there was electricity to power our transmitters. Yet I never connected all the dots of what it takes to actually get the messages to the listeners – listeners who schedule specific times in their days to listen to TWR. I took for granted that everyone would receive a strong signal. In Canada, if we didn’t get a strong signal, we just moved on to the next station where we would get a clear message. As I moved from a technical role into a ministry role and started meeting listeners, I realized that in many parts of the world just receiving the message was complicated. It was an eye-opener.
In our early days, TWR was often the only way that listeners could hear the truth of the gospel so it was important that the message was there; it was important that our generators were producing the power; and it was important that the message could be clearly heard. Unfortunately, on Bonaire this wasn’t always the case. To remedy this, our engineers developed a device to strengthen our signal. The device was called a poster antenna. It was about the size of a piece of paper, and looked like a flexible circuit board. You would put it next to your radio, and it would bring the station in clearly. It was pretty ingenious.
I share all this because as I spoke with listeners, I came to realize that not only did we need to broadcast messages, we need to ensure listeners had the tools to hear those messages! This looked different in different places. In the Americas, most people had a radio so the help they needed was in strengthening the signal. In Africa, we faced a totally different challenge. Many of our listeners were so poor that they couldn’t afford a radio; others had managed to get radios but they didn’t have the resources to buy the batteries. We were, after all, broadcasting into some of the poorest countries on earth. We had done well at ensuring the message was being broadcast clearly, but how were we going to ensure people could listen to the messages we were broadcasting?
As we discussed this in Africa, we realized that we could meet the needs of both listeners and potential listeners. Many of our partners joined us in our effort to get audio devices – whether radio or other devices – to those who were within our listening footprint but didn’t have a way to hear the message. At this point in time, solar-powered radios and wind-up radios were available. Containers of wind-up radios were distributed in Angola and Mozambique; solar-powered radios were distributed in Kenya, West Africa and Swaziland. The stories that came from us supplying these tools continue to be told.
Today, new technology has given us new tools to ensure people can listen. Media players, SD cards, MP3 players, the internet and more are effective ways to do this. New technology allows listeners to hear the most up-to-date programs on a media player as well as listen to complete series of programs … all at their convenience. I cannot tell you the joy there is on someone’s face when they receive an audio device, a wind-up radio or a solar-powered radio. It is humbling to see.
TWR Canada is committed to ensuring that the world not only hears the gospel message but has the devices they need to hear a clear presentation. We are approached on a regular basis to provide technology to ensure people can hear the message of Christ. The need is great, and demand almost always outstrips our ability to deliver. You can be a part of the team that brings people the message and the resources to hear that message. Would you consider this?