USA (MNN) — When you’re a news anchor, you often think about what will be your last story. You wonder, “What will my last newscast sound like?”
I’ve always envisioned doing an investigative report on some profound topic like human trafficking, persecuted Christians, or an amazing move of the Holy Spirit in a city or nation. I never thought my last story would be about me. But, that’s what I’m writing about today. It seems self-serving, but I want to honor God for what He has allowed me to do here at Mission Network.
I started with Mission Network News on September 11, 1995. Since then, I’ve had the incredible privilege to be a part of communicating nearly 26,000 stories about God’s work around the world. Who gets to do that?
When I began in 1995, Cornerstone University had just acquired MNN from World Concern. Lee Geysbeek was the VP for Broadcasting, responsible for acquiring MNN. Peter Brooks was the voice. Lee hired me to be the director, even though I didn’t want to be. That’s a long story, but God moved me. He gave me a passion for mission news.
Jenni Travasos was our first Cornerstone producer for MNN. Together, with God’s leading, we saw MNN grow from about 475 stations to more than 1,000 almost overnight. How? That same year, a guy by the name of Chris ‘Topher’ DeRosia came to me as a college student and said, “Do you know what a Web site is?” I said, “Yes, I’m very familiar with them.” He said, “Want one for MNN?” I said, “Yes, that’d be great.” “I build ’em,” said Topher. So, he did.
We started posting stories. Then, audio and stations around the world started airing MNN. Just after that, Jenni got married and moved away; we hired Ruth Kramer in 1997 to replace her, hired Topher to be our webmaster, and watched the Lord begin to use the internet to inform Christians about the needs around the world. Beth Gabriel, Rachel Kirsch, Bonnie Haveman, and Ashlee Vance were our first office assistants. It’s been amazing all of the people and students who have been a part of MNN.
August 1, 2015 was a pretty difficult night. I went to my office to clean out 20 years of ministry from my office drawers, shelves, and walls. I found notes, cards, pictures, brochures, and other things that reminded me of all the travels my team and I have been on. Jenni Travasos started things off by going to Israel. I followed with a trip of my own. I also traveled to Rwanda, India, Kenya, Russia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, India, Guatemala, Netherlands, Moldova, Romania, China, Tibet, Haiti, Egypt, Dominican Republic, Thailand, Liberia, (and other I may have forgotten). Ruth Kramer traveled to Uganda, Egypt, South Africa, Mexico, and I’m sure I’m missing some. Katey Hearth our writer and social media coordinator has traveled to India and Haiti. Who would have thought any of us would ever do that?
The evolution in technology evolved, too. We started off sending audio feeds via telephone. Next we used dial-up internet to feed audio via e-mail. Then, we were able to record everything we needed and send audio files to the website through FTP. Now, we can actually record stories on our I-phones and send the reports through any cell service.
What was my favorite story? I have NO idea. There are so many. What I do know is God gave me opportunities to see Him at work. Each and every trip and story was an opportunity to see God at work and to share that with others.
What has our team accomplished? In 1995 (when Cornerstone acquired MNN), we were on about 475 radio stations. Thanks to the writing and production values of our producers Jenni Travasos (1995-97) and Ruth Kramer (1997-present) and the voice of Peter Brooks, we grew to over 1,400 radio outlets by 1999.
The Web site created by Chris ‘Topher’ DeRosia in 1996 gave us something no other news organization had at the time: a free online news service with audio. MNN was one of the first news services to offer a news subscription service via e-mail. MNN quickly grew to one of the top short features in the country, ranging as high as #5 by NRB. Then, in 2007, MNN was named the Best Short Feature by National Religious Broadcasters. We were awarded the Open Doors USA Passion for the Persecuted Award in 2009. MNN was also awarded the prestigious International Impact Award that same year from NRB.
In 2006, I started posting our news on Facebook, and soon after, Twitter. Both quickly took off. Now, with our social media coordinator Katey Hearth ‘s leadership, you can receive news from MNN all day long.
Over the years the MNN team also produced some amazing specials. They include: International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (many years), Women’s Day Special (3 years), Ramadan Special (2 years), Easter special (1 year), Christmas Around The World (2 years).
Why did we do all this? To inspire and encourage average everyday Christians to get out of the church pew and do something for Christ: pray, give, go.
Was MNN successful? If you were encouraged by just one of our newscasts, e-mail, specials, or social media release to pray, give, or go, we were successful.
Through the years, I’ve had the privilege of being interviewed by some amazing people. I’ll start with those I spoke with regularly: Greg Wheatley with Prime Time America (love Greg’s heart); In the Market with Janet Parshall (she ALWAYS forced me to really think); Austin Hill on Faith Radio; and Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand.
Then, the people I interviewed. There are too many to name specifically. I’ll leave someone out.
So, where am I going? God has clearly directed me away from Mission Network News to another passion of mine: kids. While MNN has clearly been a passion, I’m involved in ministry to kids when I’m out of the office. I sit on the board of Orphan Outreach and have traveled to many countries to reach out to kids so they can see, know, and understand who Jesus is.
Beginning on August 17, I’ll be the executive director of Keys for Kids Ministries (formerly Children’s Bible Hour). An international Christian ministry based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Keys for Kids Ministries produces and distributes excellent media resources to evangelize and disciple kids and their families. I’m thrilled that while I have told the stories of ministries working around the world, now I get to actually DO it every day.
And finally, I want to thank our MNN listeners and readers. Many of you have sent letters or e-mails, posted to our website, or called our news line. You have either been recipients of our e-news updates, listeners on the radio, Web site surfers, or social media friends. You are why we do what we do. We want you to know about the needs around the world so you can make a difference for God. Thank you for 20 years of adventure in what one singer calls, “The Great Adventure.”