Marina headed for work with a light heart, her face turned up to the sunny sky. Spring had finally arrived after the long months of frigid winter, and she relished seeing the cheerful colors of the season’s first flowers.
Nearing her workplace, Marina saw some strange marks on the ground. Moving closer, she peered at what appeared to be ashes. Marina knew what that meant, and her blood ran cold. She sprinted home as quickly as she could, with one thought in her mind: “I’m going to die.”
It was April 1986, and Marina’s job was near the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The ashes she had seen were the result of the atomic block’s catastrophic explosion, and Marina was frighteningly aware of the effect radiation has on the human body. Her whole life had just been turned upside down.
Miraculously, Marina survived, with no ill effects. She moved to another city, got married, and had children. But she was constantly haunted by the feeling that her life would soon come to an end.
In 1998, she accidentally found a radio program about God. Within a week, Marina and her children began eagerly waiting for the next broadcast of a program called The Voice of Hope.
Marina requested the Bible studies that were offered on the program, and as soon as she had completed the entire course, she was baptized. Today, Marina and her family are enjoying a close walk with God and are members of the Adventist church. The fears that haunted Marina for so long have disappeared.
“Traditionally in Ukraine, people rarely attended church, but they still considered themselves believers, usually in the Orthodox church,” says Konstantin Halchynskyi, the new manager of AWR Ukraine. “As a consequence of the military operations in the east part of the country, people have started to become more interested in spiritual things and are even starting to attend Protestant churches, becoming more active in church activities, and requesting baptism. People are interested in politics, although they are very disappointed in it. Their top issues are safety and thoughts of their future.”
Adventist radio outreach is thriving. The five permanent employees of AWR Ukraine—a manager, three presenters, and an editor—are young and active, promising and purposeful. One or two employees of Hope Channel Ukraine (TV) also make audio programs for The Voice of Hope radio program.
MAJOR INVESTMENT IN NEW STATIONS
AWR has been broadcasting Ukrainian programs for 20 years, on shortwave and two large networks: Ukrainian National Radio 1 and 2. This network encompasses cable radio, 68 ultrashortwave transmitters, 4 medium-wave transmitters, and 108 FM stations. Together, these broadcasts reach 15 million homes.
But Adventist leaders in Ukraine have an even greater vision for sharing the gospel through radio. When the government made more than 30 new licenses available last year, AWR funded the church’s applications.
“We were hoping that the Ukraine Union Conference would receive one license,” says AWR president Dowell Chow, “but they were granted nine! We never expected that! There were a lot of big players also applying, but the Lord rewarded the church’s efforts.”
AWR will fund all of the equipment for the new undertaking, and will provide financial assistance for production and operating costs over the next five years, until the union is able to shoulder the full costs. This investment by AWR will amount to between $300,000 and $400,000.
People in the large capital city of Kyiv (Kiev) can hear short weekly segments on the current national network, but this new expansion will increase the potential audience by half a million listeners. Small local production teams will be developed over time in some locations, augmented by programs shared by the central studio in Kyiv. “The church leaders in Ukraine had this dream, and their tremendous enthusiasm speaks volumes,” Chow says.
“In some regions, radio is the only way for people to communicate with the outside world, the only way to hear about God,” Halchynskyi says. “Radio reaches places where we can’t even reach with television. In the current war situation, radio is a kind light that warms people and gives them hope.”
Shelley Nolan Freesland is Adventist World Radio Communication director at the General Conference world headquarters.