In 1923 – just three years after the first radio broadcast in the United States – the first Seventh-day Adventist radio station was set up, at Emmanuel Missionary College in Michigan. By the 1930s, H.M.S. Richards Sr. had begun his pioneering radio work with The Voice of Prophecy, and over the next several decades, Adventists in a wide variety of countries embraced radio evangelism.
To address the challenge of reaching people in the Communist countries of Eastern Europe, the church took a leap of faith in 1971 to establish its largest single initiative in international broadcasting, and Adventist World Radio (AWR) was born.
Allen Steele, AWR’s first employee, remembers the heady days after the fall of communism: “What joy we had when AWR became the first western broadcaster to air programs on some of Radio Moscow’s giant shortwave stations, stations that before had consistently been jamming AWR’s broadcast into the Soviet Union. We knew without a doubt that God intended His message to blast away all barriers.”
AWR has continued to carry the voice of hope to unreached people groups in their own languages. Today, programs in more than 100 languages can be heard around the world, through FM and shortwave radio, podcasts, and on demand.
“Radio is an incredibly valuable vehicle for spreading the gospel,” says AWR president Dowell Chow. “It reaches across borders and barriers, directly into people’s homes and hearts. Radios are generally affordable, and people are able to listen in privacy. Hearing a message in their mother tongue resonates deeply with them.”
AWR serves a diverse array of listeners, from Middle Eastern students accessing podcasts in Internet cafes, to villagers with small shortwave radios in Cambodia and FM listeners in the major cities of Uganda. The programs not only introduce listeners to Jesus, but also continue to nurture them in the absence of church workers. In countries such as Kenya, Vietnam, Madagascar, and more, people in remote or restricted areas have formed “AWR churches.” They learn – in their own language – about health, family relations, and above all, Jesus’ unfailing love for them.
A listener in Nepal wrote, “I am 19 years old and am studying in a local college. A few years back, I had contact with some Christian friends, who gave me advice on becoming a Christian. But I had to return to my village, which is very deep in the inner Himalaya and far from modern civilization. So for a few years, I was totally cut off from fellowship.
“Then I found your program, which has given me a new spirit and new energy to come to Jesus more closely. Now my whole village, about 20 households, is listening to your program every day. We are very close here. Your program has been a great resource for us all. Thank you very much for thinking about us, and giving us this inspiring program.”