(March 19, 2015) There was no fanfare, no press conference, no invited guests, no ribbon-cutting, no decorations—just a pastor and a couple of trainers, engineers and technicians in a simple studio at a small church in northeastern Thailand.
At the microphone, a nervous pastor prepared to go on-the-air for the first time on Wednesday, Feb. 26. On the other side of the studio wall were some 30 people taking a radio training course led by members of the Asia Pacific team from Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB Global). The students were later given SonSet® radios for distribution to people in local communities.
Despite the station’s inauspicious beginning, it marked a key milestone for Reach Beyond in the Asia Pacific Region. It was the 100th radio station that the mission had planted in the region in the last 10 years. Of these, 38 were established in Thailand, 53 in Indonesia, seven in Nepal and one each in Cambodia and an undisclosed country.
For the 50 to 60 believers at this small church, the station marked a beginning. Students taking training to run the station included housewives, restaurant and store owners, a teacher, teenagers and even young children. None of them had any experience in radio, but they have a vision and passion to use radio to share the good news of Jesus Christ with their community. Nationwide, 85 percent of Thais are Buddhist and just 0.5 percent are evangelical.
“A man who had previously turned away from Christianity heard the worship music on the new station,” related Ty Stakes, executive director of the Asia Pacific Region. “He asked several people where their church was. Four days later he attended the Sunday service, repented and returned to the Lord. Broadcasting for four days, and already one soul has returned!”
What did it take to put 100 stations on the air? Stakes pointed to relationships with multiple partners throughout the region, making it possible to overcome numerous challenges.
“In each case, the local partner owns and operates the radio station and is self-sustaining for all operating costs from the first day. They also invest in local infrastructure (such as the location, license and tower),” he said.
Over the past ten years, SonSet Solutions in Elkhart, Indiana has been instrumental in providing much of the broadcasting equipment that is installed in the studios and on the towers. The challenges of shipping equipment into these Asian countries have been great, but God has always provided a way so that millions have an opportunity to hear via radio of the hope that is only found in Jesus.
By Jean Muehlfelt