January 9, 2008

Turn Your Radio On

2008 1501 page6 cap’ve sometimes told people that in terms of being a Seventh-day Adventist I picked the “wrong” grandparents. I wasn’t born into an Adventist family; I didn’t grow up in the church, and, in fact, was fairly along in life before I joined this movement. That’s been good and bad, allowing this pilgrim to view Adventism with fresh (and, I hope, mature) eyes, even if I’ve missed some of the common experiences many lifelong Adventists rightfully cherish.
(Of course, I loved my grandparents, and I honor their legacy. But that’s a story for another day.)
My testimony of coming to the church is a bit different from some. It was a meandering, some would say wandering, path. When I was very young, as mentioned here recently, I read Your Bible and You by the late Arthur Maxwell.1 As a boy of nearly 13, I saw Billy Graham on television and made a commitment to Jesus.2
But it was also around that age when I began listening, intermittently, to a little radio program you might have heard once or twice. It was The Voice of Prophecy, which began its broadcasts with four strong, male voices intoning, “Lift up the trumpet, /and loud let it ring /Jesus is coming again. . . .”
2008 1501 page6From the early 1970s in New York City, to various other locations over the years, I would hear The Voice of Prophecy from time to time, mostly with the voice of the late H.M.S. Richards, Jr., occasionally his late father, Harold Marshall Sylvester Richards, Sr., and in more recent years the mellifluous tones of Lonnie Melashenko. All three men would close the programs with the same benediction: as the King’s Heralds quartet softly sang “O Jesus, blest Redeemer /Sent from the heart of God . . . ,” and either Richards or Melashenko would ask that same Jesus to “hold us, who wait before Thee, /Near to the heart of God.”
I can’t even write that without tearing up. The quiet, gentle witness of The Voice of Prophecy, heard now for more than 75 years on radio, will be fully known only when we all stand before Jesus. There will be multitudes of people, some of whom you and I may have encountered in other circumstances, who will be part of the heaven-saved throng because they heard a little radio program started by a tent preacher on the eve of the “Great Depression.” I’m one of those; hearing the VOP gave me a good feeling about Adventism.
The music of The Voice of Prophecy has touched my heart as much as its other forms of ministry. I think, especially now, of Del Delker, a young contralto who said “no” to VOP founder H.M.S. Richards, Sr., at least twice before finally agreeing to sing for the ministry. Nearly 60 years later, Del’s association with the Voice is perhaps one of the most notable in Christian media. She deserves our thanks for her selflessness and dedication.
I think also of H.M.S. Richards, Jr., whom I had the privilege of meeting just once, at a VOP “camp meeting” in the parking lot of their Simi Valley, California, studios in 1999. The word “gentleman” may have been created just for Pastor Richards, for he was as gracious and welcoming as you could hope for. It was no wonder that, among many others, his daughter, Mary, and son-in-law, Greg King, were each able to “rise up and call [him] blessed” at his memorial service.
Along the way, Lonnie and Jeannie Melashenko have also become great friends. I first met them at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in 1997, and even though I wasn’t an Adventist at the time, they couldn’t have been nicer. That friendship has only grown over the years. These two are people of deep spiritual commitment, personal integrity, and a heart for Jesus—as well as for those whom Jesus loves.
A lot has been said about media ministries, Adventist and otherwise. As I write, the head of a (non-Adventist) university, founded by a famous Christian televangelist, resigned amid charges of scandal and improper spending. So far as I’ve known, no impropriety has ever been attached to the VOP; I pray it never shall.
In a time when it’s convenient to dismiss radio as a medium whose day has come and gone, I’m still thrilled that The Voice of Prophecy is out there, offering a message of hope and letting people know that, as Lonnie Melashenko now says, “It’s still true—God loves you.”
Thank you, VOP!

1Please see “Logging On to Tech’s Benefits,” Adventist Review, Nov. 22, 2007, p. 6.

2Kellner, “Why This Jew Accepted Jesus,” Adventist Review, Nov. 23, 2006, p. 28.

Mark A. Kellner is news editor of the Adventist Review.