By Ralph Kurtenbach, Special to ASSIST News Service
QUITO, ECUADOR (ANS – February 23, 2017) — War, peace, looming disaster, personal trauma — these themes all appear in the pages of a recent commemorative book about the pioneer missionary broadcaster, HCJB La Voz de los Andes (HCJB The Voice of the Andes).
On the pages of a Spanish-language book, HCJB 85 Años Pasión por el Servicio (HCJB 85 Years of Passion for Service) anecdotes reveal how Christian media in Ecuador has touched the lives of its listeners.
The broadcasts began in 1931 on a 200-watt transmitter when radio was in its infancy around the world. The founding families were in the vanguard of broadcasting, and down through the years, innovation has marked the station’s progress.
“I remember as a young lieutenant on the beautiful Curaray River at the Pavacachi and Lolocachi posts [in Ecuador´s rain forest],” recalled former Ecuadorian Army General Paco Moncayo, who is a candidate for president in upcoming Ecuadorian elections. He said that “we had no way of communicating with the rest of the country, so with another lieutenant and some 20 soldiers, we listened to HCJB on the battery-operated radios.”
Decades later during a 1995 border war with Peru (Ecuador’s southern neighbor), Moncayo and his jungle-based troops appreciated hearing news on the solar-powered radios issued to them by the Christian media outlet. News from the outside was revered, especially when Ecuador and Peru signed a peace accord. “For soldiers who are gambling their lives every day, knowing that peace had come was really huge news,” Moncayo said.
Former missionary Horace Easterling recounted how a pastor answering the listener helpline at a Bolivian affiliate station of the Spanish-language satellite radio network, ALAS (América Latina vía Satélite), received a call from a teenager in distress. “It took several minutes for her crying to become a mournful sob, as he gently spoke words of encouragement and reaffirmed that he would help her in any problem she was experiencing,” wrote Easterling.
The caller feared she might bleed to death. When asked about its cause, she confided that she’d had an abortion hours earlier. Her parents knew nothing of the abortion or the pregnancy. When the caller finally conceded to give her address, help was sent immediately.
Earlier in the 1990s, program producer Mauricio Carpio and others visited the site of a landslide that had formed a dam consisting of some 20 million cubic meters (26 million cubic yards) of earth. Disaster loomed as Ecuador’s army dispatched demolition experts to plan and execute a strategic release, even as flood waters rose behind the dam. The threatened area, known as La Josefina, was near a major hydroelectric installation critical to Ecuador’s power needs.
Carpio went as a reporter, but also as a representative of Jesus Christ. Among villagers desperate in the face of potential ruin, he and his companions began sharing words of encouragement. At the same time, “the radio signal became a mediator of messages of tranquility or help for relatives and friends who lived in distant countries or provinces, and demanded to know the situation of their relatives or acquaintances.”
Even with a controlled release of the waters, parts of three highland provinces were affected and “the losses reached a total of $147.6 million, the equivalent to 1 percent of Ecuador’s gross domestic product that year,” wrote Carpio. He said that thinking back upon the time of giving both information and encouragement, “I am inclined to think that the informal talks on those cold nights were our best contribution to the settlers of La Josefina.”
HCJB was just the start, with other Reach Beyond mission work to follow, including establishment of a medical clinic in 1949, two hospitals in the 1950s and medical caravan work reaching some of the remotest parts of Ecuador. The chapter, “HCJB: More Than Radio,” chronicles such bold Christian endeavors as initiating an accredited communications school, a radio Bible institute, family practice clinics and a television station that operated for more than a decade.
A section of color photographs from the Reach Beyond archives graces the center of the 210-page book. In the epilogue, Radio HCJB Director Anabella Cabezas wrote that “the goal of HCJB is to continue being a key communications medium for releasing creative and current programming about people and the gospel, using the best tools available to connect Latin America’s families with God.”
Photo captions: 1) Radio HCJB gave out commemorative books to attendees of its 85th anniversary celebration. Here a guest views photos from the Christian ministry’s history. 2) Books nicely wrapped at the 85th anniversary celebration of HCJB in Ecuador. 3) Horace Easterling now. 4) Mauricio Carpio instructs at the Christian Center for Communications, with campus at HCJB in Ecuador. (Reach Beyond Archive Photo) 4) Table display of some HCJB artefacts from the past.
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