Thailand (HCJB) — John Brewer and Ty Stakes know about that
magic moment when the radio DJ opens the microphone and for the very first
time, a voice is heard on radios throughout the city.
But putting a radio station on the air (called radio planting
at HCJB Global) isn't enough. Like their ministry partners in Thailand, HCJB
Global missionaries know that the real work has just begun. Growing a
relationship with the community is the key to nurturing listeners who trust and
love the station and call it their own.
Earlier this year, staff from the mission's Asia Pacific Region installed a
station in southern Thailand. It began with training showing volunteers how
to operate studio equipment, produce programs, and develop the station as a community
Then the local partners helped install the station with a group of churches
where the congregations see radio as a key strategy in reaching out with
Christ's love to their city of nearly 160,000.
Eighty SonSet® radios (solar-powered, handheld
radios that are fixed-tuned to the station's frequency) awaited distribution as
live programming was inaugurated with a prayer dedicating the station for God's
"Radio planting in Thailand is our most active function in any of the countries
we currently work in," said Brewer. "We assisted our first partner station in
2005 with an upgraded transmitter. The larger effort with a vision of 100
stations started in 2009, and HCJB Global has helped plant 12 new stations
since the project began in addition to repairing and upgrading a number of
Two Thai ministries, the Christian Evangelism Organization and Thai Christian
Radio Network, asked HCJB Global in 2009 to help them carry out their vision to
plant 100 FM community radio stations throughout the country.
Integrating their radio ministries into their communities is vital in Thailand
where 95% of the population is Buddhist. "Most Thais don't know what
being a Christian is. There is great reluctance to visit a church, even if one
is nearby," Brewer points out. "We've seen radio open many doors for the church
to engage the community in ways they couldn't without radio."
Eager to make Christ known in creative and relevant ways, the announcers–many
of them young people–also cultivate a station image of community involvement,
service, and genuine care for their city. They initiate many outreach programs,
which in turn are promoted on the radio. At these events listeners connect with
their favorite deejays.
In July 2011, HCJB Global helped launch iLove.fm in northern Thailand with a
potential audience of 70,000. Since its inception, the station has concentrated
on its community.
"Using radio, iLove.fm staff members meet people in their homes, in their
automobiles, in the markets and in their workplaces. By playing encouraging
music and programs that are helpful and relevant to the issues that the people
face, they have built trust and rapport," wrote Stakes, who directs the
mission's Asia Pacific Region.
"The DJs invite people to call or send text messages to request songs, ask
for prayer, make comments, or ask for help," Stakes continued. "One listener
said, ‘I love hearing your station in the market. It's different from all the
others, and it encourages me!'"
last fall's flooding in Bangkok, the station collected 150 boxes of food and
water from community listeners and delivered them to the flood victims. A
Christmas Day party drew 2,000 people from the community. Staff members from
the station have also conducted an outdoor music festival, helped put on a
local soccer camp at the city hall field and offered music lessons to students
from area public schools. They also hold a weekly kids' club for 150 children
sponsored by Compassion International.
A 13-year-old girl tuned in to iLove.fm and loved it. She began going to church
so she could learn more, then gave her life to Christ. Now, wanting to give
back so more people can hear about Jesus, she is training to become one of the
junior DJs at the station.
"This year we're helping set up at least 12 new stations in Thailand, and I
expect to see this many added in the next few years if licensing is still
available," Brewer said.