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May Newsletter-Memories

The last few months I’ve been writing about thirty years of concert memories, not just the onstage but the backstage as well. This month’s letter is not artist memories, but memories just the same. Do you remember your first memory? The very first thing you can just see in your mind when you pull out the memory file in your brain? Mine has always been easy to remember. I was about 3 years old, my mother and father rented a house on what was called the Martin Odum Hill. My first filed away memory was of me and our two terrier dogs (Snoopy and Poochie) playing under the porch. That porch went all the way across the front of the house and rose away from the ground so that it was easy for someone my height and two dogs to play in the dirt. The dirt was dry and soft because the dogs slept there and kept it in perfect condition for a little cowboy to spend the afternoon. The house was located west of the Springhill Church in the community of Palzo, South of Crab Orchard. My grandfather, Parker Holmes, was the postmaster there and ran a general store near his home (just like Ike’s in the Walton’s TV series). I still have one Palzo cancelled envelope that was given to me by my grandmother.

Another early memory is of the church at Springhill. There, I remember sitting in Dennis Tanner’s Sunday school class and actually listening. Some of the others kids (I won’t incriminate them by giving names) were passing notes, giggling and whispering. Sharing chewing gum seemed to be a big church thing in that class. Even then, I was serious and attentive about the Gospel. Those church memories take me back to a unique day when I was 16 years old. I remember that afternoon I was washing my red with black interior, two door, 1962 Impala. It was a sunny Saturday and I’m washing that car and I had tears in my eyes. Something was going on inside my heart. L.G. Hartley was holding a revival in the church that week and I knew, deep inside I knew, if I went to church that night I was a ‘goner’. As it turned out, I went. Dale Beasley, who was sitting behind me that evening, put his hand on my shoulder, never said a word, but the next thing I remember is standing down front, I don’t remember how I got there. After that, Leslie Hartley and I became good friends. I was a teenager, he was in his 80’s and a retired pastor. I became his chauffer for nighttime church meetings around the area. Those road trips ended up changing my life. To this day, I’ve never met any other man like L.G. Hartley.

For many years after that, I became quiet about my faith; my belief was alive, but silent. When I was about 35 years old something went off inside me again. All of a sudden I couldn’t study enough; I read lexicons, concordances like they were great novels. Studying more lead to hearing more, those lead to following my heart more. Memories can be markers that identify special times and changes, moments similar to Robert Frost’s poem ‘the road less traveled’, places where our lives take on a new direction. I’ll now skip to 1987; it was another ‘road less traveled’ decision.

That year, someone, knowing how much the Gospel meant to me, asked me if I’d ever thought about getting into Christian radio. This part of the story would take far too much room than this letter can give so I’ll use to the short-cut version. My answer: No, I had not. I didn’t want to even think about the risk involved with something like that. One, because of the insecurity it created for my wife and three daughters. Secondly, I had no skills for broadcasting, speaking or engineering. I would be for the most part a fish out of water. Third, there were no financial resources to even begin that kind of project. You can’t imagine how little finances Jane and I had, and Christian radio would be a pretty big undertaking. I was pretty much exhibiting the spirit of Jonah at that time. The person making that suggestion didn’t know that just a few days earlier I had walked down the hall to my boss’s office to knock on his office door and tell him I wouldn’t be able to stay on the job much longer. I didn’t know what ‘not going to be able to stay’ meant, but I knew that it was true. For some reason, I didn’t knock. I turned around and went back to my office and simply prayed, asked God to calm me down on the inside. Something was going on inside that I’ve often described as ‘being with child’ and a birthing needed to take place. Had I left that job position on the day I went to resign, the next step in the creation of a WBVN would never have had a chance to happen; from my standpoint, one of the early miracles in BVN’s history.

Then, within weeks, a man gave me $5000 and told me to do with it whatever I wished. A few days later, the suggestion about creating a radio station was mentioned to me again. An AM station had become available for purchase. After that I began to pay attention to the idea more and more. Jane and I did attempt to purchase the AM station, the attempt failed. Actually Jane and I learned about the failure at midnight the day we had signed the purchase contract. One moment we thought we owned a station and the next I was simply unemployed. Amazingly, almost immediately a second radio opportunity presented itself. The FCC opened up the possibility of a new FM. Pretty soon I had contracted an FCC attorney in Washington to help make an application. I had left my job, was unemployed, and I had a big, fat loan approved for starting a new FM station, but no real station and no real skills to do one. From there, I could literally stack miracles on top of miracles. The incidents were so numerous and obvious that Jane and I could not find excuses to run from what seemed to be going on. Things were happening without us initiating many of them. Impossible things became possible. Those didn’t happen because we were special, they were happening because the Father getting His Grace message to you was special. We were just willing; He was enabling.

Since we began the station in January, 1990, our ministry story would contain mentions of hundreds, perhaps thousands of miracles. Instead of a marker every few years, there would be markers almost every week. Literally, there’s not enough space and not enough time to list them here. In many ways, I can’t even describe the life of WBVN. Years ago I wrote a family history document for my daughters to read about their father’s life, a short little summary of my history. The first half of my life was easy to write about. When I came to the part about Christian radio, I haven’t added one sentence further in that document. It’s just too big, too amazing, for words to express. It’s been so overwhelming it would be hard to argue against the reality of God’s hand being on what we’ve seen with this ministry. WBVN has not been something accomplished by our abilities but something that happened simply by following His lead. So much of what is now BVN was not planned or easily explained. Much has just simply been discovered along the way of walking with Christ Spirit. Again this year our story has been amazing. Covid had changed so many lives and certainly had its gut punch to the station. Our announcers have an isolated work area, and everyone has their unique schedule, headset, mic cover and very little contact with the others announcers. The office doors are locked; there are no concerts (we love concerts). As I write this letter, we’ve had one DJ hospitalized for some length of time, two of the staff have had surgery incidents to manage through. Add to that, being a listener supported station while many of our listeners are financially stressed. Yet we’re still here for 2021. The kindnesses and help from our listeners is one of those continuing miracles we’ve experience again this year.

Memories. We began on January 8th, 1990, with two announcers and 7 volunteers that helped run the audio board, one each evening. That was long before doing 213 concerts. So much has happened that we never imagined. Even today, as I write this letter and describe these memories, faces and names flash across my mind of people we’ve met along the way that have become part of the pleasure of doing radio. Artists, lyrics, stories from our listeners, testimonies of how those artists and lyrics have changed people’s lives, all those have been powerful moments and memories. I’ve always said ministry is addictive. Once you’ve experience how ministry changes lives, or hear about how a song can change the whole day for someone, you want to do it again and again. Loving God and loving people is following Christ. When believers experience a simple smile from someone affected by their having given compassionate care, they experience encouragement a hundred fold in their lives as well.

I’ll mention one more of my early memories that I’ve always found interesting. At the time it was an incident that seemed so misplaced, now not so much. I was in my teens. I had gone with my cousins to visit some of their friends. While we were there the mother of that family said to me, ‘You should be on the radio.’ She explained that she was teasing that because I pronounced my ‘ings,’ therefore, I should be on the radio. Instead of huntin’ I said hunting, instead of goin’ I said going, and instead of hunerd I said hundred. Her statement was a bit shocking back then, so shocking it’s become one of those markers in my memory. It crossed my mind that day that this shy, scaredy-cat kid was never going to be on the radio. Sometimes it still sounds strange to me even today. But, maybe Gatha knew something on the inside of her that day; something so impossible did become possible because God cares immensely about you

Posted on by Laura Posted in Uncategorized

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