September 29, 2011 13:53
by AWR Staff
“My first concept of the power of radio came to me as a student in college,” says Allen Steele, one of AWR’s pioneers. “H.M.S. Richards, of the Voice of Prophecy, spoke to our communication club, and as the consummate communicator , he soon had me enthralled with the potential of speaking to the world via the radio waves.” Allen clearly remembers the challenge that Richards threw at the students.
“We’ve got a message that the world is waiting to hear,” Richards declared, “and it’s up to you to get this message out there. God is calling you to do it!” Allen says the world mission of the church gripped his heart that day, and he determined to pursue the challenge as far as possible.
After graduation and two years as a U.S. Army draftee in Europe, Allen moved to Takoma Park, Maryland, near the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There he volunteered to produce radio programs in the General Conference building for Adventist college radio stations. He heard rumors that church leaders were considering starting up a radio outreach to Europe, and quickly made known his interest in serving the church in the project.
To his delight, he was chosen to travel to Lisbon, Portugal, to begin Adventist World Radio programs for Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Just two months after his marriage to Andrea Grover, the two flew to Lisbon as AWR’s first employees. They were only asked to commit one year to the project, because funding was unsure. “But as we reported on the exciting results of the radio programs, God’s people gave generously, and the message kept flowing,” Allen says. “When we returned to the U.S. for graduate school at Andrews University after five years, Ron Myers was employed to take our place in Europe.”
The Steeles’ call to Europe was the beginning of a lifetime of service to the church in media outreach. In his 21 years with AWR, Allen advanced from being the first employee to vice president in charge of strategic planning. He chronicled the system’s first 25 years in his book, Loud Let It Ring. He led AWR into the satellite age and oversaw the building of AWR’s flagship station, KSDA, on the island of Guam. Andrea was initially a secretary in the Lisbon office, but later became public relations director for the worldwide AWR system. By the time of their retirement recently, they had lived and worked in five of the church’s world divisions and learned four languages.
When asked to look back and pinpoint a time when they saw God’s leading most vividly, Allen remembers the tensions in Portugal at the time of the country’s “Flower Revolution” in 1974. “Armored tanks were in the streets, and military jets flew overhead. We were concerned about the future of our broadcasts over Radio Trans-Europe in the south of the country,” he recalls. “New leaders in the military coup to oust the dictator ordered all local radio stations off the air. Radio Trans-Europe was the only station not to close down – we lost not one minute of airtime! We were thankful to God for watching over us!”
The Steeles remember the dedication of the large shortwave station on Guam as the real milestone in AWR’s growth and efficiency. “That station really put AWR on the world stage,” Allen says. The new station had four shortwave curtain antennas the size of football fields and two 100,000 watt transmitters to carry the Adventist message to all of Asia. Two more transmitters were added within a few years. “We became known for our constant broadcasts to China – more hours than any other station.” The number of languages has expanded over the years, and “KSDA, AWR Asia, has become one of the world’s major international broadcasters.”
Allen also remembers the heady days of 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 broadcasts into the Soviet Union. We knew without a doubt that God intended His message to blast away all barriers,” Allen says with conviction. “Through our experience with AWR, we saw how the Holy Spirit works. We received so many letters from people saying they ‘accidentally’ found our signal. But it was no accident. AWR puts the message out; the Holy Spirit causes people to listen.”
Speaking of the rare but wonderful opportunity to meet listeners, Andrea says, “We were in Korea one year for division meetings, and I was told about a young woman who was visiting her sister in Seoul. She came to the meeting to tell her story. From a mostly Korean village in Manchuria, China, Eun Mi* didn’t know she was one of many people listening to AWR in her neighborhood.
“Then neighbors began to talk about the broadcasts. They were excited to discover so many of them were listening, and began to meet together. A visiting Korean pastor baptized 14 people in the village to form a new Adventist company. Young, rosy-cheeked, and excited about her new faith – Eun Mi was a wonderful inspiration to me. That was the greatest reward!”
“AWR’s expansion into the use of satellite, the Internet, local stations, and other creative ventures was always our dream,” says Allen. “We are proud to see AWR continue to pursue every possible avenue to reach people with God’s message. The challenge is still out there, and it’s up to us to finish the work.”