June 15, 2010

Adventist World Radio

Adventist World Radio

Benjamin D. Schoun, President reports schoun

capBy carrying the Adventist message of hope to the unreached people groups of the world in their own languages, Adventist World Radio (AWR) is filling a unique role in the Adventist Church’s global outreach efforts.

  • When missionaries cannot enter forbidden territories (such as North Korea or Somalia), AWR’s shortwave radio broadcasts easily bypass governmental boundaries and hostile neighbors to bring the gospel directly into people’s homes and hearts.
  • In remote areas in places such as Madagascar and the mountains of Nepal, where transportation is slow and difficult, AWR’s radio signals leap over geographic obstacles.
  • In territories where both residents and the church have extremely limited resources (such as Bangladesh and Myanmar), villagers can gather together around a single small radio and hear of God’s love through AWR’s broadcasts.
  • When individuals are unable to read printed materials, or the church has no resources in their language, AWR’s programs are accessible and connect with millions of listeners in their mother tongues.

AWR has served as the mission radio arm of the church since 1971. Since then the ministry has grown to more than 80 languages, with programs broadcast through shortwave radio, local AM/FM radio, satellite transmissions, and Internet podcasts. Listeners are responding with heartfelt testimonies of changed lives, often in the most difficult circumstances. One listener in Vietnam wrote:

“Our family listens to the Word of God preached through the Peace and Happiness Radio every night. We can’t live without it in our spiritual life. Thanks to the messages delivered by the radio broadcast, we entrust our entire faith into God’s hand. We are poor, and we have to struggle in order to put our daily meal on the table. We constantly pray and believe that God will help us if we have faith in Him.”

Growth . . . and Recognition
AWR has introduced many initiatives in the five years since the 2005 General Conference session, and has been pleased to receive recognition from some unexpected sources.

  • Twenty-five new languages have been added to AWR’s shortwave and FM broadcasts. New broadcasts in Thai, Lao, and Hmong—which are produced at a new studio at Mission College in Thailand—are particularly noteworthy, as their addition gives AWR complete coverage of Southeast Asia.
  • Numerous other new studios have been built and equipped with AWR’s assistance, including ones in Israel, Turkey, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, and more.When changing circumstances in Nepal brought new religious freedom, AWR began broadcasting on a few local FM stations. That arrangement has grown to a network of 12 stations spread across the country.
  • In Somalia the Somali Times conducted research that showed that 75 percent of Somalians listen to AWR. This ranking put AWR in second place to the BBC by only 5 percent.
  • When the government of Madagascar created a nationwide project to increase awareness of the problems of poverty and HIV/AIDS, it chose four radio stations—including AWR—to work closely with it on the initiative.
  • The Voice of Hope Media Center in Russia received two highly prestigious national awards—“Socially Aware Enterprise” and “Best Company of the Year: 2009”—in recognition of “its active participation in the development of Russian society.” AWR is currently broadcasting on a network of 1,500 stations in Russia.
  • In China, AWR is broadcasting 10 hours of programming a day in the Mandarin language via shortwave radio.
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At a new studio in Israel the team of volunteer producers includes former professional handball player and Olympic medalist Eugenia Tovstogan.

Successful Pilot Projects
AWR tests the feasibility of new broadcast technologies by setting up pilot projects in various areas. In one initiative, AWR obtained a supply of self-contained digital audio players, called MegaVoice Ambassadors, that could be preloaded with up to 160 hours of recordings. These were distributed in South Sudan through a partnership with district pastors. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

In another series of projects, AWR distributed quantities of special shortwave radios in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cambodia, Philippines, and Madagascar. These radios can be powered by four different energy sources—batteries, electricity, solar panels, or hand cranks (a feature that makes them ideal for users in remote areas).

When AWR made programs in several languages available as Internet podcasts, the number of subscribers climbed quickly, despite virtually no publicity efforts. As a result, AWR has made a major investment in a media asset management system called Mediator, which will enable all of its radio programs to be automatically repurposed as podcasts.

With Mediator’s capability AWR’s ministry has suddenly expanded to what it calls a “new continent”—that is, the digital world, where people can access programs in their mother tongues, regardless of where they are living. Notably, it will also be possible to hear AWR programming regularly for the first time in North America and other places where it does not normally broadcast. Churches and members will be able to use the podcasts as a valuable tool as they seek to minister to their non-English-speaking neighbors and communities.

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In the summer of 2009 AWR began airing programs in the Lao language to listeners in the country of Laos. “This is a historic occasion,” says AWR president Ben Schoun, “as this is the first Adventist media broadcast to the people of Laos in their own language. In addition, with our launch of Thai programs in Thailand, we now have complete coverage of Southeast Asia.”

Future Opportunities
In many countries—particularly in Africa—frequencies are becoming available for local AM and FM stations, and AWR hopes to take advantage of the new broadcasting opportunities, provided that sufficient funds are available. But the window of opportunity will be open for only a short time before other multinational corporations acquire the licenses.

  • Preparations are being made to build new FM stations or purchase airtime on local radio in 20 areas, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, and Ghana.
  • Within the next four to five years AWR expects to be able to begin broadcasts in 25 additional languages, bringing its total number of languages to more than 100.
  • AWR plans to increase its purchased airtime commitments for 17 current languages in critical mission areas.

There are generally considered to be about 200 critically important languages spoken in the world. So while AWR looks back on the past five years and more with gratitude for the way God has led in expanding its ministry, it is clear that there is much more outreach yet to be done.

For more information, please contact: Adventist World Radio, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904, U.S.A. Or call toll-free in North America: 800-337-4297; phone: +1-301-680-6304; fax: +1-301-680-6303; e-mail: [email protected]; Web: www.awr.org.