History of FM 95.2

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A short history of the what GOD did to bring about 
the Voice of Chageen

This page should really be titled "The Miracle of FM 95.2." In fact, there were four miracles we will will write about in due order, but first, where did the idea come from? Why technology like radio in such a backward part of the world?

"It was God who though these four miracles so much as insisted over our doubts and equivocating that building a radio station in Chageen was something He wanted to happen."

The idea 

The Idea first germinated in Mark's mind back in the mid 90’s as a way of furthering his vision of seeing the Kwong people transformed by the power of the Gospel. It was already clear at this early stage of his ministry that illiteracy, which is something like 70% among men and fully 100% among women, was rendering his efforts at Bible translation mostly useless. There had to be a way that Kwong men and women who could not read scripture could hear it.

Mark initially considered the possibility of producing and distributing cassettes - it certainly would have been cheaper and easier than a radio station. But the inability of the Kwong people to afford the fresh batteries that a cassette player requires rendered that idea impractical - not to speak of the incompatibility of all those little gears with the dusty environment in which they live. Radio seemed to be the ideal alternative. One out of every two or three families already owns one, they work even with mostly dead batteries, and they have few moving parts to break.

The First Miracle

Given the bureaucratic tendencies of the Chadian government, Mark despaired (correctly) of ever getting permission for such an undertaking and so didn't even try -  until late 2002. It was then that a fellow missionary mentioned in passing that the gentleman who headed up the Chadian government's High Commission for Communication was a Christian who was eager to see Christian radio stations established in Chad. But, the missionary went on to explain, we would have to act fast as this Christian gentleman would be retiring in a few months. 

Figuring he had nothing to lose, Mark whipped together, with the help of a Chadian pastor and a colonel in the Chadian army who was interested in the project, a request for a “Vernacular Radio Station” which would broadcast in 5 languages around Chageen. (And just for good measure, when some of his fellow missionaries also expressed an interest, he requested at the same time a license for two more radio stations in the larger towns of Kelo and Lai to the south of Chageen - a request which the government said it would reconsider favorably if we got the first one in Chageen going.)

A month or two later in early 2003, a phone call announced that the license had been approved and we could pick it up, which we did immediately. The bureaucrat in charge apologized for the speed with which they expedited our request - implying of course that anything really serious in Africa takes a very long time to do - which it usually does. We laughed at the bureaucrat, but were dumbfounded that we actually had a license.  

In over our heads

Almost immediately we realized we were in over our heads and began to wonder (the first of many times) whether we really should be doing this radio thing at all. We realized that building such a station would entail the purchase and shipping of large, expensive equipment - including an antenna tower, solar panels, and the antenna elements themselves. A shipping container was being prepared in Portsmouth Virginia for shipment to Chad even as  the license was being granted, and we had a choice of either getting the radio equipment into that container or waiting 4 or 5 years until the next container was shipped - by which time the grace period for using the license would have expired. The problem was that we had only a fraction of the money we needed. We would have to purchase the radio tower, antenna elements, and solar panels on faith (and the mission's credit)- which we did at the encouragement of our fellow missionaries. (We weren't worried about the transmitter and studio equipment - they were all small enough that they could wait until we had money and then come out in people’s suitcases.)

Dave Casement - the transmitter at Chageen works!

We are not radio engineers, and had no idea how to purchase a tower or antenna, and so the first of several terrific organizations came on board with us to help make FM 95.2 happen. Mark got in touch with an organization called  Galcom (www.galcom.org) out of Hamilton, Ontario which is dedicated to doing just what we wanted to do: build a low power, low cost FM radio station in a remote corner of Africa. A few emails later, and we were consulting with Dave Casement, who ordered and shipped the antenna tower and antenna elements to the container with just a few days to spare before it left for Africa. It was the beginning of a very fruitful relationship that eventually brought Dave all the way to Chageen (right). Although we were receiving some gifts for the project from our supporters, we still weren’t sure how we would pay for everything.

The second miracle

Meanwhile, in mid 2003 we mentioned in our newsletter the vision of the radio station. In what became for us a reassurance that we were not totally insane to attempt such a project - a thought was crossing our minds with increasing frequency - a former missionary to Italy who receives our newsletter sent us an email suggesting that Back to the Bible (www.backtothebible.org) might be interested in such a project. He had good reason to suspect as much since Back to the Bible had helped him start a small radio station during his years in Italy. Unbeknownst to him or us, it just so happened that the folks at Back to the Bible were praying how they might be more involved in - you guessed it - Africa. 

Recording interviews at BttB - Aug 2004


Back to the Bible is unique in that while they have their flagship preacher in the USA (Woodrow Kroll), they are not in the business of exporting “Wood” to other countries. Their overseas division is rather committed to finding and nurturing local talent in these countries - men and women who can relate to their own people and convey the gospel in their own language. They were just the kind of organization "we didn't know we needed". And just as they were praying about being more involved in Africa, and we were agonizing over this mammoth project we had unwittingly undertaken, our proposal came across their desk. 

To make a long story short, Back to the Bible saw in FM 95.2 exactly the kind of project they wanted to be a part of. Shortly after our return to the States in June of 2004, BttB recorded four interviews with us which were broadcast during August and garnered something over $20,000 in gifts from their listeners, thereby ending once for all any lingering questions as to how we were going to pay for the thing. Once again, we were flabbergasted. 

The Work Teams 

We scheduled the construction of FM 95.2 for January-March of 2005, a time which fell midway in our year-long furlough in the USA. Having built our home in Chageen by himself back in 1995, Mark was pretty sanguine about what the construction of the radio station would involve and so resolved that we wouldn't attempt it without work teams from the USA. Quite apart from the fact that the project would entail the construction (and hence the climbing) of a 100 foot high tower and that Mark is deathly afraid of anything higher than the roof of our house, there is simply too much work in a project like this for one person to do - not withstanding the fact that we hire every skilled (and lots of unskilled) Chadians in the village to help. Hence the work teams.

These work teams bear witness to the truth that virtually anyone has a skill to contribute on the mission field. The first team of four people (here with us and the MAF plane on our airstrip) was started by Diane’s parents, Don and Pat Stocksdale, (who celebrated their 70th birthdays during and after their trip to Chad). One of our churches - Pleasant Hill Church of Union City, Indiana, a 165 year-old country church nestled with it's pioneer cemetery under huge oaks - chose John Beals, a self employed photographer and handyman, to join the Stocksdales (who attend the same church). Finally, First Baptist Church of  Sycamore, Illinois together with the Baptist church of nearby Wasco sent Fred High, a former union cement laborer, to join the team. These four individuals would come for one month from mid-January to mid-February to construct the studio and lay the foundation of the antenna tower.

The second work team would actually build the antenna tower, do the finishing work on the studio, install the transmitter, and see whether it all worked. They came during February and March of 2005. This team was headed up by Dave Casement, who had already done the technical consulting for the project. He was joined by Keith and Shari Davis of Heritage Fellowship Church in Springfield Ohio and their 16 year-old son Jason (who is home schooled and hence able to go to Africa at a time when most teenagers are in school.)  The Davis’s have been working towards becoming second-career missionaries themselves and were thinking of asking us whether they could come visit in Chad, and we, still looking for someone brave enough or crazy enough to go up the tower with Dave C.,  were thinking of asking Keith Davis if he could be that person, and if Shari would like to come too!

The Third Miracle

As 2004 drew to a close, all the pieces began to fall into place. The work teams were raising the money they needed to travel and getting passports, vaccinations,  and visas. Meanwhile we were making final purchases of studio, electrical, and safety equipment, and dividing it up among the team members to be carried to Chad in their luggage. As we  considered the quantity and fragility of the equipment, the number of pieces of luggage and the propensity of airlines to break or lose exactly the things you need most, the complexity of scheduling the comings and goings of 8 people on a continent where you never know you're going until you go, the fragility of human stomachs in a a land renowned for it's amoebas, and the sheer quantity of material needed to build the station, it seemed statistically impossible that something wouldn't go badly wrong.  We began at this point to seriously pray and ask others to pray for the statistical miracle we needed.  

The rest of the Story

By now most of you know that story. God defied the odds, and a project which should have entailed at least one serious problem had none. The work teams arrived and departed precisely on schedule, with no missing or damaged baggage. Each team finished exactly what it was supposed to do with exactly one day to spare. No one got more than mild stomach cramps during the entire three months, and all 8 of our visitors held up remarkably well as the hot season arrived early and temperatures frequently soared over 110 degrees. All the equipment, except for a power inverter (for which we had a spare in Chageen already) worked perfectly. And when we finally did flip the switch and make our first broadcast on March 8, we discovered that the range of our broadcast towards the north exceeded even our most optimistic expectations (even though our range towards the south was somewhat more disappointing - the antenna is directional, and is pointed towards the north where most of the Kwong live.) To say that the Kwong people were excited about having a radio station in their own language can hardly do justice to the congratulations which poured in from every part of Kwong society. Their only disappointment was that we were obliged to pack it all up while we returned to the USA in April to finish our home assignment. They would have to await the arrival of someone to run it on a regular basis.

The Fourth Miracle

We had no idea who that someone would be until the FM95.2 was already taking shape. One thing we were sure of - it would not be us. We regarded the radio station as a tool in our program of transforming Kwong society, and believed that if we operated it ourselves it would become an end in itself. As it happens, our insistence that we would rather mothball the station than sacrifice our translation and teaching ministry on its altar was un-necessary.  

After scouring the USA and Canada to no avail, a chance remark and quick thinking by a fellow missionary at Houghton College brought us into contact with a gentleman from the most unlikely of places - Romania. His name is Theodore Popa, a genial, 46 year old former electrical engineer who for the last two or three years has been working on - you guessed it - a missionary radio station in Niger. He speaks fluent French, is used to Africa and Africans, and is eager to come to Chad to help us run FM 95.2 for two years to train young Kwong men and women to run the station when he is no longer there. We had the privilege of meeting Theodore in England, on our way home from Chad in April 2005 and Lord willing we will again meet up with him at the airport in Paris on November 3 to return to Chad and Chageen together. 


Building FM 95.2 was one of those rare cases where God fairly insists that a project will be done. Too often we are under the impression (correctly on occasion, perhaps) that God is the reluctant participant of some project of ours - humoring us by not exactly opposing us, but, notwithstanding all our prayers, not being a real big help either. In this project, we were the reluctant participants, and it was God who through these four miracles so much as insisted over our doubts and equivocating that building a radio station in Chageen was something He wanted to happen. The miracles he performed were less about helping us get the job done than about persuading us that this was His idea - that he actually wanted this radio station. It will be fascinating to see what God might do with a radio station he wanted so bad. 

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Last modified: May 25, 2011