The National Religious Broadcasters awarded the McDonalds and Radio Kahuzi, Bukavu, D. R. Congo on March 1, 2010 with their prestigious award and recognition for media impact in Africa and beyond.
Richard and Kathy left the States the year after their marriage in 1972 to serve along side Kathy’s parents, Fred and Millie Bahler, missionaries to Burundi (where Kathy was born) and the Belgium Congo where she grew up in a mud house with dirt floors and grass roof.
They arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and served with Kathy’s parents in linguistics, administration and child evangelism. In 1979 they felt led of the Lord to become “tent-maker” missionaries by working for an American agri-business company.
In 1983 Richard was blinded by an accident that tore both his retinas and changed the course of their future ministry to missionary radio
After eye surgery in Washington D.C. Richard was told he should be very careful of the roads in Africa. His eyes would not stand any stress or pressure for the first year waiting for healing. Undaunted, Richard and Kathy returned to Bukavu as independent missionaries with little money and no organization in the States for a home office.
With the help of his sister, Barbara, a secretary at Toccoa Falls College, the Smiths incorporated Believer’s Express Service, establishing a home office, a board of directors, and a small donor base of friends and family in 1986 while attending TFC.
Our Partnership with HCJB Global
Richard felt one retina was detaching again in 1988 and Kathy’s father was very ill. Lying in a hospital bed, Richard began to envision the possibility of reaching millions of souls through radio. The only problem was he would need the permission of President Mobutu to accomplish his dream. In those years the government radios had a monopoly and the law prohibited foreigners from broadcasting or even using a HAM radio to send messages outside the country.
They came to the States quickly, and were finally successful in getting an insurance settlement from the accident and eye surgery of $75,000 which underwrote their work in Africa.
Fred remained in ICU for six months with malaria, spinal meningitis, and lymphoma. Fred died eight years later at the age of 73, in 1996 during the First War of the Congo Revolution. (Sadly, Richard and Kathy were literally pinned down on the floor, once for three days, later, for eleven days.)
Richard labored night and day for three years preparing and presenting his request to the local, provincial, and national government for the first non-governmental radio license. There was much opposition by the dominant religious group, once the word was out regarding his application for a license.
But God overruled and in March of 1991, President Mobutu signed a Presidential ordinance, declaring BESI to be a Congolese organization so that Richard & Kathy and Fred Bahler could begin their work, and the Ministers of Agriculture and of Information and Press signed the documents on the 4th of July 1991, to allow BESI to begin the first Christian development broadcasting network through out the Congo.
After the 1991 food riots and a major national evacuation of foreigners settled down, Richard was now suffering with double vision and difficulty until 2007 when another surgery gave him 20/20! A real answer to prayer!
In 1988 while waiting for the license, BESI made a proposal to HCJB World Radio—if Richard could get the license would HCJB provide them with the equipment. This was the beginning of a new outreach for HCJB. Through much prayer, phone calls and just not taking NO for an answer, HCJB agreed and invited Rich and Kathy to come to Elkhart, IN, in 1992, to their engineering center to train on the “FM transmitter in a suitcase.” HCJB Global now has over 300 radio plants around the world with Radio Kahuzi as the prototype.
Excited to see their dream come true the McDonalds returned to Bukavu and flipped the switch on Christmas Eve 1992 with Focus on the Family, “Adventures in Odyssey” and beautiful Christmas music.
The next 16 years were filled with war, bodily danger and no rest. They never left the station, even for medial checkups, dental work, or many bouts of malaria for 17 years.
- 1994 the genocide in Rwanda spilled over into Bukavu with 30 refugee camps under our antennas and two million souls to reach with the Gospel. The World Food Program asked Radio Kahuzi to be the unique messenger of their daily rations to the refugees in French, Swahili, and Kinyarwandan languages.
- 1995 Richard worked with a group from World Vision and a German group, “Daguna” to show the “Jesus” film in the refugee camps. Their truck was attacked by Hutu rebels and the pastor who gave the invitation to receive Christ was nearly beaten to death until a Russian Daguna team member threw himself between the attackers and the pastor, saying, "If you kill him, you will have to kill me, too." The rebels backed off.
- 1995 – 1998 World Vision and the other groups evacuated from the Congo at the beginning of the war, because it became too dangerous to work. Richard and Kathy remained at the station. Radio Kahuzi broadcast the sound track from the “Jesus” film out to the refugee camps.
- 1996 during the first invasion Rich and Kathy lay on the floor of the radio station as mortars and shelling hit all four sides of the station. It was a surprise attack from Rwanda, beginning the long war that continues today with the rape and mutilation of the women and young girls.
- This invasion from Rwanda and seven other nations found Rich and Kathy displaced and hidden in a new residence for a week along with the King of the Bashi tribe of two million souls. Most of the staff of Radio Kahuzi had to flee into the mountains and jungle, marching over 100 miles to safety with only the clothes on their backs.
- 1998 Kathy was alone with one staff member while Richard assisted a local family when 17 rebels surrounded the station. Others burst into the station putting a gun to Kathy’s head and demanded they get off the air.
Kathy was confronted with rape and certain and death. However, God gave her the strength to show them no fear by standing toe to toe with the rebel in her face. He asked, “Aren’t you afraid to die?” Kathy looked him in the eyes and replied in perfect Swahili, “Oh, no, Jesus watches over me, Jesus protects me. If I live, I live with Jesus; and if I die, I die with Jesus.” Shortly, thereafter, they packed up their weapons, and left.
- 2001 HCJB installed the 1,000 watt, tropical band short-wave making it possible to reach most of Central Africa and beyond with a potential audience of over 10 million in seven languages / dialects: English, French, Swahili, Lingala, Kicongo, Kinyarwanda and Mashi.
- 2005 Lt Richard MBUYU testified in an interview, that in 2000, while he was laying siege to the city of Bukavu, he listened to Radio Kahuzi on the Galcom radios his seven hundred troops had pillaged from several Radio Clubs. What he heard was Richard and later Gregior, reasoning with him not to destroy the city, intermittent with readings from Psalms and Proverbs.
- Lt. MBUYU was convicted by what he was hearing and received Jesus Christ as his Savior at Camp TV, overlooking the city of Bukavu. He then laid down his guns, machetes, fetishes and magic water, which they believed made them invisible to bullets, saying, "Your words were too powerful for me."
Pastor Gregoire (standing on the right) visits Mai Mai rebels after their return home
- Christmas day 2000, He ordered his Mai - Mai troops to return home to Fizi where they built a church, listening to Bible teaching on Radio Kahuzi and giving out recorded copies of the programs to the population. The congregation has grown, and the church is still functioning today. He and his troops have integrated into the National army and he is now a Commander.
- 2007 Radio Kahuzi helped the government monitor the elections and to broadcast the results of the first free and democratic election in the history of the Democratic Republic of Congo with our shortwave transmitter to the whole country.
- BESI in partnership with Galcom International are providing the local people with solar-powered radios, pre-tuned to Radio Kahuzi 91.1 FM or 102.1 FM or 6.210 Mhz short-wave. Since 1992 we have distributed over 15,500 radios with more on the way.
- Richard has organized over 300 Kahuzi Radio Clubs in the local area with an estimated membership varying from 10 to 1,000 per club, with a total of well over 10,000. This does not represent our total listening audience, but only those who have direct contact with the staff of Radio Kahuzi.
- Each club elects a president, who is responsible to organize the village or radio club to do self-help projects and coordinate listening to maximize the effectiveness of Radio Kahuzi.
- They also come to the station or rendezvous with staff on a regular basis, bringing correspondence, reports, and small notebooks filled with testimonies of the newest believers, greetings to family and friends, and their favorite song requests. Their correspondence is very popular and becomes a vital testimony as they are read twice a day on Radio Kahuzi.
- The presidents also come to get seed to plant gardens, and tools: watering cans and hoes, etc. One radio club organized a health center and feeding program (nutrition center) for approximately 800 widows and orphans that are cared for with the help of seven other radio clubs nearby. They help them plant gardens, etc.
- 2009 cellular phone communication has been established with text messaging. Recently, Hutu refugees in the jungle with the FDLR sent a message to thank the young lady who reads a chapter from the Bible each day in Kinyarwandan for them. What they are hearing is a Mega Voice reader!
Teachers and students visit Radio Kahuzi from a local university
- Rwandan listeners send text messages in from Cyangugu and the University of Butari further East in Rwanda. They also enjoy hearing the Word of God in their own “heart language.”
Text message also come from distant Kahuzi Radio Clubs. They also use their cell phones to call into VOA in Washington, DC, to participate in live programs like “Washington Forum”, “America and You”, “Dialogue on Religion”, etc.
As you can see technology has even penetrated the heart of Africa!
- We believe that Richard and Kathy McDonald have made a significant ministry impact on the Democratic Republic of Congo. They have uniquely impacted their region and beyond, through establishing the very first non-government, Christian broadcasting network utilizing FM, and Shortwave, along with distribution of 15,500 Galcom solar-powered, handheld, pre-tuned radios, text messaging, cell phone and live streaming via satellite programming that is vital and pertinent to the lives and culture of Central Africa and beyond.
- Since Radio Kahuzi does not sell commercial airtime, or ask for donations from its listening audience, or charge for any fees to our great programmers, our faith-based radio ministry is very unique. We depend upon those in the States with a burden to help us reach the lost and needy in Africa.
(She was so thrilled that we still carry "Love Worth Finding" as many programmers have cut out international broadcasting. We were happy to tell her that we have never charged their ministry for programs.)
- Programmers: Adrian Rogers, “Love Worth Finding”; Children’s Bible Hour, Uncle Charlie’s “Keys for Kids”; Pacific Garden Mission, “Unshackled”, Radio Bible Class, “Our Daily Bread”; Dr. Kenn Gangle, “Morning Light”; Focus on the Family in French and English; Creation Institute, “Science, Scripture, and Salvation”; Voice of America, (Selected programs relevant to the region), and many others.
A Message from BESI - Radio Kahuzi President
Their pioneering of independent Christian radio in this war-torn region of the world has saved countless lives through participation in broadcasting life-saving information on malaria, cholera, AIDS, and measles in cooperation with the Red Cross and the World Health Organization.
Their life-long passion to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to improve the daily lives of the Congolese people and all those within the hearing of Radio Kahuzi deserves to be honored after so many years of sacrifice and faithful service.
We mentioned in our last blog that we were anticipating the costs of bringing the McDonalds home to attend NRB and receive their well-deserved award. The costs of international travel continue to climb. We still have a short-fall of $1,470.83.
If God has blessed you and your church family in such a way that you might prayerfully consider partnering with u on a monthly basis, or with a one-time gift, it would be so much appreciated and well invested!
May God bless you and your church family as you reach out to a lost and suffering world in need of the sound of the Gospel.
Keep Looking Up!
Harold Smith, President
BESI / Radio Kahuzi