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20 Years of Stories

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Well, I guess I’m not finished talking about the past 20 years just yet. On February 7th, we will celebrate those 20 years by gathering together at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center with an artist that has spent many nights at that venue, former NewSong lead vocalist Michael O’Brien. While preparing for that evening I thought of many things that we’ve experienced over those years. Obviously, you can’t get 20 years into one newsletter, but I thought I’d reminisce a little.

Many of the memories are associated with concert nights. My first image is of Rich Mullins, barefooted and drinking Coke while performing our second concert, produced July 7th, 1990. That memory will never leave; it was such a terrific evening, being our first concert with Rich. I remember the times at the end of an evening’s concert, Rich would be performing, having gotten the audience into a worshipful mood, joining with him in song (with their eyes closed). We would be singing and Rich would silently, secretly slip off the stage, leaving us to sing quietly and eventually opening our eyes to find no Rich Mullins present at all. That was a special treat and the unique personality of Rich Mullins. It was a bit of his signature humility. I remember a staff member’s son being born again at a Guardian concert. I have a memory I’d like not to have because David Meece got lost on the way to our concert and ended up in Mt. Vernon before figuring out he had missed Marion all together. Similarly, Phillips, Craig and Dean arrived at 4:30pm one snowing evening, just an hour and a half before ‘doors’ at their concert. Randy Stonehill got iced in at the St. Louis airport one concert night in March 1998. He actually hitch-hiked a ride in a rental car to Carterville with a professor travelling to SIU that night. It was a strange evening all in all. Randy finally arrived at John A. Logan and started the concert at about 10pm. Everyone that had come for the 7pm start waited on Randy and he gave us a great concert well past midnight. Bryan Duncan did two concerts in one night there that same year. He is such a dude! He loved every minute of it and the first concert crowd got invited to the second concert. I remember a young artist, not having a lot of experience on the road, running out of material to talk about and just turning around and asking the crowd if anyone had any questions for him in between songs.

I remember a night at the Civic Center when Carla came to see her favorite group, Phillips, Craig and Dean. Carla was just a few days from ‘going to be with the Father’ but wanted so much to see that concert. We have a picture of Randy, Dan and Shawn singing to her that night as she rested in her wheelchair. Brought tears to the eyes of each as they sang. I remember standing back stage with Mark Schultz and he asked me why playing here is so different than any other place he plays. I remember the tears running down Mark’s face as the audience sang “Remember Me” with him at his first concert here on August 1st, 2001. He was so moved that people would know his music and sing with him that night. Obviously, that meant so much to Mark…He’s repaid that kindness over and over to us many times since then, high-water marking with Mark choosing to film his DVD here in July, 2005. I remember Andrew Peterson playing some kind of skinned armadillo or something instrument at Aldersgate Church. Got a picture of that thing somewhere.

I remember our first morning DJ, Sandy Payne, giving away Charlie Teacock P-shirts (actually they were Charlie Peacock T-shirts, but she got a little tongue-tied that day). I remember Sandy giving away an Imperial’s cassette one time and the winner was a CCM artist calling the station to get directions to the civic center for an upcoming concert. He just happened to be the right number of caller! She innocently asked Bruce Carroll if he had ever heard of the Imperials! Of course he had.

Not everything is wonderful you know! I have had some really scary nights in the middle of the night at the tower site. Not fun on a stormy night. We had the software crash on 1/1/2001 that took everything out! For a time we lost all ability to transmit our library of songs. That was a three-day nightmare. But, thank God, we were able to recover the material, something the techs said we would not be able to do.

And, the music…well, the song that changed my life 20 years ago is, of course, Rich’s “If I Stand”:

There’s more that rises in the morning than the sun
And more that shines in the night than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here that keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s when her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home

That song still means so much and I turn to it often in times when I’m searching for the comfort of God. I think the most powerful song we’ve played was Mercy Me’s, “I Can Only Imagine”:

And now we’re 20 years from that first song but still finding ways to celebrate the Gospel in music and affect our listeners’ lives. We currently have a song that continues to get requests over a year after its release, the Christmas song from Downhere, “How Many Kings”:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child is this who we’ve waited for?

Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you

Well, those are some of my memories. This past year we experienced the passing of a dear friend, Larry Burns. Larry was one of 5 early volunteers at the station back in January, 1990. Larry ran a program on Sunday nights called ‘20 The Countdown Magazine’. He continued to volunteer up until his death a few months ago, attending his last concert, so weak that he had to be helped out of the civic center. Many of the pictures in our concert archive are photos Larry had taken for us for 19 years. We miss him, and he in so many ways represented what we wanted to be about at WBVN. And, finally, I remember the people that have been so kind to us for 20 years. Such kind words and strong words of faith and joy expressed from so many listeners. Letters, calls and comments at the concerts. Thank you for that encouragement– we needed that so much. Thank you for financially supporting this ministry for 20 years. I have always said that our testimony at WBVN is that people, by the Spirit of God, have been so gracious to us for so many years. We are so grateful for that help and the provision you have provided so that whatever this ministry has accomplished over the 20 years, the people that have funded it are directly responsible for that ministry. Thank you for that from all of us here and all the listeners that have benefited from your decision to help keep this ministry here that long. We look forward to many more years of WBVN.

Christy Nockels with Ronnie Freeman

Posted on by Ken Posted in Concert Photos | Leave a comment

20 Years

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

20 years: January 8, 1990–January 8, 2009

Our Future:

WOW! 20 years. I, for one, would have never thought it would have lasted so long. We started the station to be an encourager to believers in 1990, never thinking far enough ahead to think that we would be encouraging our original listeners’ children some twenty years later. That a new generation of believers would be added to those people that have already joined with us in praising and singing hymns to God over FM 104.5 was never imagined. And certainly we did not know that doing this simple thing would have continued to find a home here in 2009.

It has been our purpose to provide an environment of celebration for our salvation and do that in a way that included the most people. We started out to celebrate what we all, as believers in Christ, have in common with one another and gather together each day on the radio and occasionally in a concert to enjoy our faith and enjoy being together to cheer each other on. Now, after all those years we still do that same thing and celebrate in those same ways through this radio ministry.

There is a trite saying that many have used before. It goes like this: ‘This is your radio station.’ We have tried to make that more than words but true to our listeners for all these years. Every decision, each attempt to inspire, has been our obligation to do what we think will be a blessing to our listeners, not to do just what we want to do personally. We are about to enter another ‘great adventure’ this coming year. We have made significant financial decisions that obligate us to being vulnerable economically and at the same time offer a tremendous opportunity to, again, bring you the very best programming and events for Christian encouragement we can muster. We’ve made that kind of decision with our eyes wide open. We know this is a time when we could draw back and give up some of the many opportunities we have to continue an aggressive ministry of encouragement. The future does not look so inviting, but you know, it did not look so inviting 20 years ago. Two national ministries had publicly failed because their moral and ethical way was lost in personal greed and abuse of the Christian community. However, we continue to trust and believe that God has inspired us, set us here to encourage the church no matter the conditions that are around us. In fact, our future might be the very most important time for this ministry to be here. It could be a season of increased ministry in a time of decreased worldwide security.

As I think about where we are at some 20 years later, I’m aware of WBVN having ‘guarded the trust.’ We’ve had the opportunity to share the Gospel message. We’ve held on to it as a great treasure to be given to others. We have not abused the opportunity or taken it for granted. We have been careful, thoughtful about what we do and deliberated about how we do it. We know exactly Who has given us this chance to encourage the Body of Christ, and we recognize the challenge to not squander the chance to be an ambassador for Christ in these communities. We know exactly how your faithfulness to God and to this ministry plays a very significant role in our being here at all. We have been responsible to keep the vision of this ministry and not get lost in all the trappings of ‘radio.’ We continue to look to our listeners to motivate us each day and inspire us in the effort it takes to continue to bring you this ministry. We took huge risks to start this ministry in 1990, knowing that huge things were possible if we did take those risks, things that we could not even imagine in 1990. Had we not lived out of our hearts those early years, all the things that have been a vital part of our ministry would have never had the chance to take place through this ministry. We’ve had over 76,000 concert attendees, producing 118 events through the latest Big Daddy Weave tour. We have experienced tears and cheers, and changed lives during those events. We’ve had the rare opportunity to film Mark Schultz’s DVD, that was a gift for us all and a gift we could never have experienced without the partnership of our listeners and this ministry. Many people have shared financially to support this ministry for 20 years. With your help, WBVN has provided Christian encouragement for over 1.5 million minutes of programming and hours of gathering together for those 118 events.

At the station, amateurs have been able to provide a radio ministry (certainly no experts) with the help of terrific volunteers and employees that give more than they take from this ministry. The heavy lifting is done during our fundraisers by regular folks: a freight company owner, a handful of housewives, a commercial contractor, a car-body man, a teacher, copier salesman, a gymnastics instructor, a mother of 2, mother of 1, and a mother of 5, a daycare center owner, and a home school family of 6 to illustrate just a few. Well, you get the picture. No hired guns here, just local people that have a passion for the ministry provided here. Most of the time, we are not very good at fundraising. We take our share of criticism for being so silly and having too much fun during the Fall and Spring Celebrations. However, we are light-hearted about the fundraising because we want to be so careful not to be too heavy-handed in our fundraising. While we are weak at it, you will never hear us promise anything we cannot deliver and never say anything just to make sure we’re successful at fundraising. However, we hope to be successful at encouraging people to be givers for the Gospel’s sake. To give for the simple reason that they give to God and not to us. Every conversation that I have in my office is a conversation about what to do and how to do it with our listeners as the subject of that conversation.

We enter our 20th year facing unstable economic times and an uncertain future. However, our commitment is to stay on purpose, to act on the vision of this ministry. We have arranged for one of the premier vocalists in the world to be here on January 10th. Christy Nockels is unlike any other performer with a unique voice and terrific purpose in ministry, having toured the country with the Passion Worship ministry. We would be shrinking back from our promise to do such events and would be cowardly to not take the opportunity to bless this community of believers for this coming year. We would be shying away from doing the best we can do for you. Akin to David, as believers we run to the battle rather than running away. We will have Michael O’Brien minister to us this February, a homecoming of sorts for Michael, having performed here for so many years with NewSong. March gives this ministry a chance to encourage and bless families with the VeggieTales performance of “God Made You Special.” That production is expensive, and it’s lots of hard work. But, it’s loaded with potential ministry to children and their families. Not to do those events, to let that opportunity go on down the road, would be akin to us moving away from our pledge to give our lives away for the sake of the Gospel. We could quietly shrink back from doing the best for our listeners, but it would be a violation of the trust you have placed in us for those 20 years. We came to do the best we can do to encourage this community of believers.

Financially, WBVN is a month to month ministry. Somehow that has grown to 228 months so far. We’re vulnerable to the culture and the economic climate we find ourselves a part of. We have chosen to spend our time celebrating the Gospel, exercising our Faith, and being an encourager of the Body of Christ. We pledge to so do as long as we can, as carefully as we can, and as thoughtfully as is possible for us. Having a testimony of 19 years is terrific. The opportunity to have spent the time together each day on the radio or at those 118 events has created a great respect from this ministry toward our listeners. In 2009, we have already scheduled community Christian events for January, February, March, April, May, June, September, November and December. Now, in these times, is the time ‘to show forth His praises’; now is the season to draw close in rather than to scatter and hide. Today is the day of Salvation and this is the very moment that this ministry is to do even more encouragement than probably anytime before. We trust you will join us in that. We ask for your support and prayers. We started this ministry on January 8th, 1990, with a short scriptural reference on our newsletter. ‘For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).’ We are still about that today. Twenty years ago we knew that we came for one reason and one only. We are not to teach, although teaching is fundamental to the Christian Faith. We did not come to declare a doctrine, although choosing a doctrinal point of view is a proper thing for Christians to do. We came to encourage the Body of Christ, and encourage it is what we have done and continue to do, even more aggressively today.

Thank you for all the kindnesses, the nice words over those years. Thank you for your trust with your financial gifts. Your attendance has provided some moments of ‘super’ praise at some of the concert events. 2009 looks to be the most active and a year with the most potential to make a difference in people’s lives since we began the station 19 years ago. We look forward to a refreshing of celebrating Christ through WBVN, FM 104.5.

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