Well, this is a ‘post’ Celebration newsletter. Since Celebration, I’ve been thinking about the history of WBVN and about many of the things that have been ‘miracles’ for us over these twenty-two plus years of ministry. Because Celebration is about funding the ministry, I remembered starting out the application process for the station in 1988 with $5300 in the bank. It was not really a very good time to begin a listener ‘trusted’ ministry. Three national ministries had failed, making national headlines. One ended up in prison and the other two in disgrace and shame. At the time we felt like it might not be wise to attempt asking believers to trust so soon after those huge failures. But at the same time, our hearts and many circumstances seemed to be overtaking us and pointing us in this direction. We started WBVN by asking people to send in $5, $10, actually anything they could afford. Our first month of ministry we received $365 in contributions. Not an overwhelming vote of confidence, but a start. The first contribution to WBVN came from Rick and Laurie Chapman. Rick handed me their contribution one day while I was coming out of the post office. That gift came before the radio station was on the air or anyone knew for sure we were going to start the station. They just knew they wanted to be a part of it, and the Chapmans have now contributed to WBVN every month now for over 22 years. WOW! The first check we received in the mail was from a grandfather in Carterville. Charles Carter sent it with a letter about how supporting WBVN was supporting his grandchildren. I still have that check under glass on my desk and the grandchildren that still live here listen to WBVN, contribute to WBVN and their children are now listening to the station.
It took us three years to finally meet the annual budget needs of this ministry. We have met that budget each year since 1992. There is much about our history that could be put in the category of ‘having done everything wrong’. By that I mean we have not always done the most logical, most reasonable. We’ve lived by following our hearts for the most part and tried to subject our thinking to that heart attitude. Just recently an incident comes to mind. Last year, we were in such a bad way with our transmitter; it had not worked consistently for most of the year. We had spent 7 months fixing, repairing, fixing and repairing with little results except spending far too much money on keeping it going. Once we decided we had to approach our listeners about funding a new transmitter, we discovered that the only day that we could schedule for fund-raising was July 3rd. To a person, no one thought that that was a good day, and no one thought it would be wise to do that the day before July 4th. However, we not only raised the funds to pay for a new transmitter that day, we had raised sufficient funds early enough that we stopped the fund-raising two hours early and just celebrated with our listeners the joy of such a terrific response.
We operate with one full-time employee and 5 part-time employees to run the station 24/7. Of course we have volunteers all over the place that help us do the impossible things that must be done by others. We have telephone techs that help when needed, a computer tech-head that is at our beck and call, we have a crew of 13 ‘heavy-lifters’ that help us set up the concerts, we have people that help with mailings and concert tables, a contractor to keep the building and tower site in ‘shipshape’, a CPA that keeps us legal and two auditors that confirm all our decisions, a super cooperative civic center across the street, a deputy sheriff that has kept us on air for over 22 years acting as our engineer whenever we have an emergency. (Amazingly, we have done this for 22 years and never had a full-time engineer! That’s amazing because what we know around here about the technical you could place in a thimble.)
Truly, you and this ministry have met and exceeded all our expectations. Much of what has happened, we had never imagined at our beginning. Part of that is the concert series. We never thought they would be so much a part of our personality and ministry touch. We never imagined the response from our concert attendees, and the kindnesses of the employees at the Civic Center and this station’s purpose and attitude about ministry would develop such strong relationships with the artists. Now, many of our events have become annual re-unions at the concert hall. Amazingly to us, we’ve produced 146 events.
I say all that to say this. So much of what happens, and has happened here, is in many ways impossible! We are fragile technically. We’re always financially challenged. We voluntarily make ourselves vulnerable to our listeners for financial support and do that 100% of the time. This past year 695 different contributors did just that with one-time, monthly or annual financial gifts. Our testimony for all the years contains much too much about miracles and much too much about the impossible becoming possible for this letter to express, but truly it’s because of those, rather than ourselves, that WBVN exists. Many times people have asked me how they could start a radio station and I always tell them to do it differently than we do it. This is not the most successful way to run one. WBVN is not the text book formula to make that happen. The most I hope we can say is this is our history and in it we trust you will find His-story mingled into our daily expression of the Gospel. We simply live out of our hearts about both this station and this Message. This may be the least likely way to do this, but it’s been our unique expression of the Gospel. We obviously thank you again for your prayers, financial help and the enthusiasm that keeps us encouraged and joyful.
Before I quit, let me share about the most impossible of all. It’s certainly a story that if you were to ‘make up a tale’ of how to be successful, you might not follow this formula either. Suppose you wanted to create a story that would change the world and have it steeped in your traditions and your doctrines. Let’s say you wanted to create an everlasting story that even people not of your tradition would ‘buy’ as truth. Let’s assume you are Hebrew, of Jewish faith, and you want to create a story that would propel your traditions to the whole world and that because of your story, your traditions would grow in strength and length of time. If you wanted that to work for you, wanted it to have the most potential to succeed, then you might want your Messiah to be born in the Temple of the Most High God, certainly not a simple manger. You probably would want this Messiah’s father to be of the High Priestly fashion, not a poor carpenter. You would want Him to be from the Holy City of Jerusalem, the place your God lived, not a small town in Nazareth, never from Bethlehem. You might want Him to come through the throne of David’s kingdom, but Herod was king. If you wanted this story to succeed you might want to declare it loud and clear as it occurred, rather than having a ‘dumbed’ Zacharias made silent. You might, as a good idea, choose a married couple to have a child, not a betrothed Virgin. How’s that going to work for you. If you wanted to have the potential for the most success you would build your hero a legacy of kingship, a resume like Moses or David, not a quick three year ministry among the poor and outcast and an early, Roman death. But that is exactly what has produced the most successful story ever told. What would seem to be impossible has become possible. Just think of the likelihood of this story surviving with no Fox News, no book or movie deal, no PR firm, no political party.
Finally, there is a subtle hint of something here I want to bring out in plain language. All things God has prepared for us are possible with God. What we have to watch out for is that we do not convert that into all things that are our things are made possible. Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing. We had no guarantee that this ministry was possible; certainly, we never thought it would be possible with just our effort or just hanging it on our idea. We needed Him to make it possible. It had been revealed to our hearts to do but with no other guarantee. It was a signpost that pointed us to the next way to go on our journey through the Gospel, but it itself was not the destination. We still are moving through this experience. So much is beyond our imagination, so much more than we ever expected, but we followed that signpost and joyfully we found what lay beyond it. It was not that it was easy. Actually, there have been hard spots- financial, mechanical, crises of every sort- but it has been possible in Christ Jesus!