Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series by news editor Andrew McChesney about how Seventh-day Adventists in South America are using technology to spread the gospel.
Paulo Kretli, an IT manager for a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil, visited a radio station for the first time about a decade ago and walked away as excited as a schoolboy.
One thought filled his head: “How can I duplicate this radio station on the Internet?”
This year Kretli is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Rádio Advai, an online radio station that offers round-the-clock religious music and other Adventist programming. He runs RadioAdvai.net from a server in his home while keeping his full-time job as IT manager for the church’s Rio de Janeiro Conference.
“I am aware of many people who have come to the church because of the radio station,” said Kretli, pulling out his cellphone to play a recent television program from Novo Tempo, the Brazilian channel on the church’s Hope Channel network.
On the television program, a woman tells how Rádio Advai changed her life and led to her baptism.
Kretli isn’t sure exactly how many people have been baptized over the past decade, but he and local church leaders said the number was in the dozens or more.
Adventist believers in South America are known within the world church for their innovative use of technology to share the gospel. But Kretli’s project stands out as a pioneer in using online radio and embracing the fledgling social media of the early 2000s.
Kretli, who joined the Rio de Janeiro Conference as IT manager in 2005, opened Rádio Advai the next year after his memorable visit to the real-life radio station.
“The first time that I visited a real radio station and saw the process, I absolutely loved it,” Kretli said, his eyes sparkling behind dark-rimmed glasses.
After some research, he found software that would allow him to play music online, and Rádio Advai was born.
Sort of. Kretli had limited Internet at home, and no more than 25 people could tune in to his station at one time.
The initial broadcasts were only on Friday nights, and Kretli sent invitations to his friends to listen. He played music provided by Brazilian Adventist musicians.
Demand for the radio began to grow as his friends invited their friends. Kretli soon had to find an Internet plan that allowed a larger audience.
Eventually he installed a server in his home that today permits up to 10,000 people to listen simultaneously. The radio’s average audience is 4,000 people daily.
“It’s not easy to get many people to listen to the radio on the Internet,” Kretli said, speaking on the sidelines of a recent GAiN conference of Adventist communications specialists from across South America, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
With the new server, Rádio Advai expanded its programming to a 24-hour blend of music and Voice of Prophecy programs. Six years ago, Novo Tempo recognized the growing impact of the radio station and began to actively support it, providing music CDs and other programming. Musicians also send in their albums.
More recently, Kretli has introduced live programming — one-hour shows where Adventist friends can share their thoughts by connecting to his server from their own homes worldwide. Every week, a friend in Chile hosts a one-hour show in Portuguese. Another friend in Mexico hosts a show in Spanish. A married couple in Japan uses their hour to speak about Jesus in two languages: the wife in Japanese and the husband in Portuguese.
Kretli runs the radio with a small team of fellow volunteers, and they use Facebook to announce various programs and invite new listeners.
The team covers the radio’s $300 monthly budget.
“These people believe in the project, so they pay for it,” Kretli said.
Kretli used his own money to buy the $500 in software and other radio equipment required to open the radio in the first place.
Rádio Advai is also expanding into television. At the request of several local churches and the conference, it has opened a YouTube channel called TV Advai that broadcasts special meetings, Pathfinder camporees, and other events. TV Advai also offers a special program every Friday night.
Kretli expressed joy that he has been able to share his love for Jesus through the radio.
“I am the most blessed person in the world from this project,” he said. “I am so blessed to be able to use this radio to bless others.”