The Gospel Message radio program is a Low German language evangelical broadcast distributed since 1957 through nearly 30 radio stations across the Americas.
In the 1950s the ministerial of the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (EMMC) (then known as Rudnerweider Mennonite Conference) was concerned about the secular influence of radio broadcasts. In response it became an early supporter of Radio CFAM, Altona, Manitoba, 950 kHz. CFAM was an alternative radio station that promoted wholesome Christian values. From its beginning CFAM offered air time to the EMMC. I. P. F. Friesen, Edwin Klippenstein, and G. H. Penner served as the EMMC's first Radio Committee. On March, 1957 the High German program Die Evangelishe Botschaft (Gospel Message) was aired with Bishop Wilhelm H. Falk as speaker.
A second beginning occurred in Saskatchewan. In 1961 the program partnered with a group of Saskatchewan men from various backgrounds who were promoting evangelistic services held by EMMC pastor John D. Friesen. Friesen’s participation resulted from recordings of his messages that were delivered at a Niverville, Manitoba, crusade. These recorded messages were widely distributed on tapes. As a result John D. Friesen was asked to prepare more Low German messages specifically for broadcast. Friesen was initially reluctant because he felt churches were changing from German language services to English. However, many Low German speaking persons responded enthusiastically to his messages, convincing him to participate. In 1961 sermons prepared by John D. Friesen began broadcasting in Saskatchewan on a Prince Albert radio station, though the recording was done in Saskatoon. At this time the program switched from High German to Low German. Its motto is: "Holding forth the word of life."
This partnering proved to be successful. The program soon began being broadcasted from British Columbia to Manitoba and received full endorsement by the EMMC in 1966. Friesen prepared weekly programs, usually 30 minutes in length, for 30 years. Retiring in 1991 Friesen still occasionally contributed on a volunteer bases for the next two years. In 1991 Ed Martens, a Saskatchewan Bergthaler minister, took on the work of programming and preparing weekly messages. The continued success of this programming was due in large part by Friesen’s and Marten’s gifted and vivid abilities to communicate the gospel message in Low German.
The EMMC established the Board of Radio Ministries to oversee and manage the Gospel Message radio program. It reported annually to the EMMC convention. An advertising agency in Winnipeg, Manitoba, assisted in finding air time on radio stations throughout the Americas. Local congregations or local committees often ensured financial support of their local radio station and representatives from the congregations distributed literature, sample recordings, and information on station times and call letters.
In 1995 the EMMC opened the radio program to other Low German speaking Mennonite conferences. This drew the participation of the Saskatchewan Bergthaler and Manitoba Sommerfelder conferences. In preparation for the change in governance of the program, a careful financial audit was carried out that resulted in the discovery of serious financial irregularities. The manager responsible was dismissed and some funds were recovered. This delayed by a year the establishment of the new organization and board with the name Gospel Message Ministry (GMM). The new board, which began in 1997, had two members from the EMMC, two from the Manitoba Sommerfelder and one from Saskatchewan Bergthaler conferences.
The Gospel Message program has generally been self supporting with the conferences providing only modest financial support. In the 1990s the annual budget was just under $200,000 per year. Gospel Message has often released over 1,200 broadcasts per year and some years it received over 2000 letters from listeners. In 2002 it switched from distributing messages on cassette tapes to compact disks. From its founding it quickly expanded.
Table: Radio Stations and Broadcast Times in 1995
|KARI Blain, Washington, USA||550||Sunday 7:00 am|
|CFLD Burns Lake||1400||Sunday 9:30 am|
|CHLD Granisle||1480||Sunday 9:10 am|
|CKNL Fort St. John||560||Sunday 5:30 pm|
|CIBQ Brooks||1340||Sunday 9:00 am|
|CKYL Peace River||610||Sunday 7:30 am|
|CKHL High Level||530||Sunday 7:30 am|
|CKLA La Crete||92.1 FM||Sunday 7:30 am|
|CJNB North Battleford||1050||Sunday 8:30 am|
|CJNS Meadow Lake||1240||Sunday 8:30 am|
|CKSW Swift Current||570||Sunday 7:30 am|
|CJSN Shaunavon||1490||Sunday 7:30 am|
|CFRY Portage la Prairie||920||Sunday 1:30 pm|
|CFAM Altona||950||Friday 9:30 pm|
|CHSM Steinbach||1250||Friday 9:30 pm|
|CJRB Boissevain||1220||Sunday 7:00 am|
|CKOT Tillsonburg||1510||Sunday 12:30 pm|
|CHYR Leamington||96.7 FM||Sunday 7:00 am|
|KIKZ Seminole Texas||1250||Sunday 9:00 am|
|KIKZ SeminoleTexas||106,3 FN||Sunday 9:00 am|
|ZP30 Filadelfia Paraguay||610||Friday 8:30 am|
|ZPV24 Arandu East Paraguay||105.3 FM||Saturday 5:30 pm|
|CP25 Santa Cruz Bolivia||1160||Sunday 7:30 pm|
|CP66 Santa Cruz Bolivia||4855 FM||Sunday 7:30 pm|
|Blue Creek, Belize Central America||92.5 FM||Sunday 9:00 pm|
The composition of the programs has also varied over the years. They often included music, singing, poetry readings (often in High German), as well as preaching. Low German stories by Abram Janzen were popular and questions and answers from the Catechism have been included from time to time. Both Friesen and Martens and some board members have traveled to many Low German speaking communities to participate in Deeper Life and Missionary Conferences. This enabled them to visit with supporters and listeners, to gage how the programs were received, and to achieve personal contact with those who had previously only enjoyed the speaker’s voice.
"John D. Friesen Papers." Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan Archives.
Address: Gospel Message Ministries; 129 Pine House Dr., Saskatoon, SK S7L 0V5, Canada
|Author(s)||Victor G Wiebe|
|Date Published||April 2013|
Cite This Article
Wiebe, Victor G. "Gospel Message (Radio Program)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2013. Web. 6 May 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gospel_Message_(Radio_Program)&oldid=81313.
Wiebe, Victor G. (April 2013). Gospel Message (Radio Program). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 6 May 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gospel_Message_(Radio_Program)&oldid=81313.
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