Sunday, July 5, 2015

Media Trailblazer: Adversity birthing new freedom for broadcasting

The first broadcast license for D R Congo (formerly Zaire) was signed on July 4, 1991 to allow FM, medium wave, and shortwave broadcasting of Christian programming, as well as agricultural and rural development broadcasting, including health, hygiene, and nutrition.

A new era of communicating directly to the people of Congo was ushered in. This has been followed by the creation and opening of many radio and TV stations across the country.

(Photo: In 2014, our journalist, Gregoir, on right in red shirt, attended a radio training workshop at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa with journalists from stations all over D. R. Congo.)

Prior to 1992 it was against the law to even do ham radio out of the country. What a milestone for democracy! 

Trailblazing does not come without adversity. Even as Job was tested in his day, God allowed Richard and Kathleen in 1983 to face the sudden shock of major eye surgery for torn retinas. (Many times our disappointments are God's way of placing us in a position of opportunity...of pointing us in a new direction for our lives and/or ministries.) 

During this time they were able to use funds received as a result of a work related vehicle accident, causing torn retinas, to allow the McDonalds to launch Believer's Express Service, Inc., as a Christian, non-profit organization in 1986.
God allowed Richard and Kathleen to remain in Congo in 1979 and continue as volunteers, directing the American Cultural Center / Reading Room from 1981 until its closing in 1986. They also taught English to eager students and government officials. 
Why is that important? Because it provided the opportunity to introduce Christian concepts of democracy to Governor, Mwando N'Simba, Kilolo, Kimbwa wa Mulona, and other leaders in Kivu Province over a period of years. After a year as the first test case for decentralization, Kivu Province's governor was moved up to the President's cabinet to become Zaire's first Minister of State for Administration of the Territory and Decentralization providing a friend in high places. The Lord provided Richard the unique experience of greatly helping Governor Mwando N'Simba in this period of transition.

Several years later, when Richard was in desperate straits and could not get from home to town to promote the communication project with authorities, the Minister of State arrived next door. The Minister was used of the Lord to hand carry the project proposal to the General Secretary of the Party (the number two person of the government) and to get a favorable written response from this man, the main political adviser to the President.

The new conviction to pursue a broadcast permit also came at a time of deep dependence on the Lord--when Richard had to be flown by helicopter to a hospital for evaluation of renewed problems with his repaired retinas.

By faith, in 1987, even before we had the first license, we presented our vision for broadcasting to officials of HCJB World Radio (now Reach Beyond). The McDonalds were operating completely by faith.
Richard signs proposal to HCJB
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11: 1.)

Richard and Kathy McDonald had no experience in operating radio equipment, they also had no equipment, and they had no money to buy equipment. A few years earlier in 1986 Richard ask his sister, Barbara, to incorporate a non-profit, and establish a home office. There was no donor base, no grants, no wealthy backers, only a coffee table and an old manual typewriter. But, they knew God was in this for the long haul, and so were they.

HCJB's Vice President, Ben Cummings said it was interesting since they had already been requesting a similar permit in East Africa. He pointed out that Bukavu is perfectly placed to broadcast into many unreached areas such as India and Eastern Europe by shortwave radio signals, because of the north-south direction and distance. Cummings requested that they be kept informed. They did more than that, they would not take "NO", or silence for an answer!" as Ron Cline, former President of HCJB stated when they met for the presentation to the McDonalds of NRB's (National Religious Broadcasters) "The 2010 International Impact Award" in Nashville.

Ron & Barb Cline, Kathy & Rich, Barbara & Harold Smith
So, what is faith? 

"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." (Heb. 11: 3.)

God takes nothing and turns it into something. What a mystery! God will make it all plain to us when we get home to Glory.

Praise Him...the Alpha and the Omega!


On July 4, 1991, BESI's application for a free, private radio license was used of the Lord to end the governmental monopoly on broadcasting; establishing the first private Christian development radio network, including the present ministry of Radio Kahuzi, broadcasting the Gospel in twelve languages in FM and Shortwave and distributing MegaVoice Bibles in Mandarin and Russian to UN troops.

Richard receives Prime Minister Kendo wa Dondo

On April 24, 1991, President Mubutu announced that he was stepping down as President of the MPR party, ending the governmental monopolies, and turning the government over to the Prime Minister who would work with the different branches of the government to change the constitution and to provide for multi-party elections. Interestingly, Believer's Express Service, Inc. was made a Zairian (Congolese) association by Presidential Decree two days later on April 26, 1991. (Zairian Law number 91-1234).

Later, the permit for our radio ministry was signed on July 4, 1991, by both the Minister of State for Information and Press and the Minister of State for Agriculture; thus, helping to open the country to a free media by receiving the very first license for a private, Christian, non-governmental radio station.

To God be the Glory!