Editor's note: News editor Andrew McChesney is traveling in Eastern Europe with Trans-European Division communication director Victor Hulbert and reporting on Adventist work in the region. For a list of others stories, follow the links at the end of this story.
Liene Meiere, an English-language teacher in a small Latvian town, is the unlikely leader of a Seventh-day Adventist congregation whose members include Baptist and Pentecostal ministers, people from Denmark and Canada, and a woman who decided against suicide after a Bible story and music.
Meiere refers to the Voice of Hope online radio station as her church — and it is similar in many ways, with 100 people from Latvia and other countries listening daily to its looping four hours of music, church services, Sabbath School classes, and audio books by Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White.
“We have a radio church,” Meiere said in an interview in a studio at the Latvian State Radio building in central Riga, where her ceribasbalss.com radio station records programs at no cost. “We want to lead people to Christ. This is my heart’s desire.”
The studio, unexpectedly provided by a Latvian State Radio journalist who is also a church member, and other miracles allowed the radio station to be established in just six months, Meiere said. The radio has operated for four years with nearly no expenses.
Church members have set up online radio stations before. Paulo Kretli, an IT manager for the Adventist Church in Brazil, has run Rádio Advai from a server in his home for the past decade. But few have dared to start a radio station with no experience or money.
Meiere, who teaches English at two public high schools,didn’t want to take that risk when she began to pray in 2012. She wanted the Adventist message to receive more airtime than the 15- to 30-minute slots that the church paid for on Latvian Christian Radio, a Baptist-run station. She soon felt impressed that God wanted her to start an Adventist radio station.
“Lord, I am the wrong person,” she prayed. “This is not for me.”
She sensed that God replied: “What is the problem? What are you afraid of?”
“I am afraid of starting and not being able to continue.”
“No worries. You will follow One who has never failed.”
“No, no, Lord. Thank you very much. It’s not for me.”
Liene Meiere had a vision to start an Adventist Internet radio station in Latvia. From the studios of Radio Latvia in Riga, she tells her story. (TED).
The conversation repeated itself during her prayer times for weeks.
“The Lord said, ‘What is the problem. What are you afraid of?’” Meiere said, recounting her struggle.
“I said, ‘I am afraid because I don’t know people. I need a team, a real team, because the radio is a big elephant and you need to feed it every day. Maybe five times a day. And I don’t know people. I don’t live in Riga. I live 200 kilometers from Riga.’
“And the Lord said: ‘Yes, it’s true that you don’t know people. But it is enough that I know people.’
“I said: ‘No. Thank you very much, but no. You need to find some other person.’
Then came a week that Meiere could not read the Bible or pray. It was too difficult. She said it was a painful time. She did not tell her husband. It was between her and God.
After seven days, she went to the bookshelf to try to find something new to read. She pulled out Selected Messages, Book 2, and read on page 168: “You must needs put away your questioning doubts, and have full faith in the reality of your divine mission, to be indeed successful in labor. The joy, the success, the glory of your ministry, is to be ever ready with listening ear to answer the call of the Master, ‘Here am I; send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). Here, Lord, with my heart's best and holiest affections; here, take my mind with its purest and noblest thoughts, take me, and qualify me for Thy service.”
“I started to cry,” Meiere said. “I closed the book and went to my husband to share this crazy idea that a country woman wanted to start a radio station in Latvia.”
Meiere traveled to Riga, where she received the support of the church leaders. Suddenly people began to approach her with offers of support, she said. The first was Guntra Rusko, a journalist from Latvian State Radio who had tried to create an Adventist radio station two decades earlier. Rusko provided the studio and assists the radio station by taking interviews and preparing audio files for broadcast.
“It’s very easy for me,” Rusko said, sitting beside Meiere during the interview. “It’s no problem.”
Meiere also conducts interviews at the studio and at an Adventist Church-owned television studio.
Shortly after meeting Rusko,Meiere received a free ticket to Norway from church members who wanted her to act as their interpreter as they picked strawberries. Latvians often travel to Norway in the summer to earn extra money picking strawberries. Meiere didn’t want to go, preferring to stay in Latvia to start the radio station, But she couldn’t find anyone to take her ticket and ultimately decided to go.
The first Sabbath in Norway, she met a radio station manager at church who told her which microphones and other equipment she needed. Also at church, she also met a sound engineer and web administrator who offered to help.
“We did not pay any money,” Meiere said. “God provided.”
She also invested all the money from picking strawberries into the project.
Meiere knows of at least one person who has been baptized through the radio station’s work. But she is convinced that it is changing many hearts. She told of a woman who called the phone number on the radio station’s website to say she had stumbled across the broadcast several hours earlier as she prepared to kill herself. The woman had listened to a Bible story, followed by music, and then another Bible story, and more music.
“She wanted to talk with someone responsible for the radio,” Meiere said. “She told me her life story. We prayed a lot. Now we are good friends. She said our radio saved her life.”
The radio station’s main goal is to reach Latvian citizens living abroad. Meiere, who lived for a while in Britain, said it’s easy to lose contact with the church and drift away from God when away from home.
“But when you find the online radio, you can listen,” she said.
The radio station, which has four core staff members and about 50 other volunteers, has received e-mails and phone calls of gratitude from Latvians living in Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, and the United States.
Pastors from Baptist and Pentecostal churches also listen regularly.
“They call and ask for more information,” Meiere said.
Meiere is now praying to expand the radio station’s original programming. But she needs more volunteers. She said her daily prayer is: “You told me you know people, and You never fail.”
“I repeat these words to God,” she said. “He is really faithful to me with His promises.”
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