Thirty years ago on this All Saints’ Day, Melanie and I were living in Pekin, Illinois, across the river from Peoria. I had accepted a job managing a new Christian radio station. We had spent the summer building the radio studio and hiring a staff of announcers to run the programs. A few of those voices were still on the team with me when the above picture was taken four years later.
On this day, All Saints Day, we had tested everything and were just waiting for our official permission from the FCC to begin broadcasting. I had hoped we could make this our debut date but we had to settle for the news that we’d been granted our license. The following day, at about 9:15 am, sitting at the studio control board, I punched a button to start the first song. The start time had been chosen to accomodate a big convention of Assembly of God ministers in Peoria that day. I’m told they had called for silence in the convention hall and waited to hear the birth of the new station piped over the loudspeakers.
The station call letters were WCIC. The slogan selected to go with that was, “We’re Centered in Christ.” These days the station has chosen another slogan but they’re still on the air. With the aid of several repeater transmitters they now cover a good part of Illinois, reaching many more ears today than was possible in those early years.
I hadn’t looked at that picture up there for many years until I received an email today from the widow of the bearded fellow standing in the middle of the group. John Bachman was the first announcer I hired. He was still on the air four years later when I left. He himself eventually moved on to attend seminary and become a Lutheran pastor on the staff of a large Peoria church. John contracted brain cancer and went home to the Lord a couple of years ago. [Just a moment, Grandpa has to wipe something from his eye.]
I’ve heard where a few of the others have gone as well, but not all. It’s been thirty years now, after all, but I must say the memories remain pretty vivid.
That picture is actually the cover of a little newsletter the station mailed to listeners. The photo was at a farewell dinner for Melanie and me. It was the last newsletter I handled before Melanie and I left
the snow Pekin to return to Florida. Inside that newsletter was my farewell to the WCIC family, called “Prayers For Little Ones.”
A few days before WCIC finally got on the air I was making a phone call arranging for something or other we would need.
The person I was speaking to told me, “Putting a new radio station on the air will be an unforgettable experience for you.”
I didn’t really believe him. Technically, WCIC is just wires and hardware and equipment, some of it already breaking down and needing replacement. On the other hand, maybe that fellow wasn’t talking about building a facility.
What has been unforgettable for me these four years is meeting people, getting to know brothers and sisters from so many different churches. I have wondered if I would be able to leave those wonderful experiences behind.
My last appearance publicly at a WCIC event was as emcee for the Celebrant Singers concert in July. I gazed out at the crowd filling up St. Philomena’s Church in wonder. Here I was, employed by an Assembly of God radio station, hosting a concert at a Roman Catholic Church with Catholic Charismatics, and saying hello to friends from A/G, Catholic, Mennonite, Nazarene and other backgrounds: the whole Church centered in Christ, gathered for ministry and worship. Moments like that are unforgettable.
At the end of their concert the Celebrant Singers walked into the darkened church to minister to those who had stood for prayer. A couple was standing in the pew behind me so I got up to pray with them.
“My wife was due to have our baby yesterday,” the husband told me.
I began to pray, asking the Lord to give a safe, easy delivery with no complications. Then I asked the husband to place his hand on his wife’s tummy. I put my hand on his and heard myself beginning to say,
“Little one, it’s going to be all right. It’s all right for you to come out. There are loving arms that are waiting to hold you. Mommy and Daddy are waiting for you with joy. There’s a family that can hardly wait to see you. They love you and they’ll take good care of you. God has planned this for you and He’s called you and He’ll provide for you. It’s going to be all right. Don’t resist.”
As I drove home that night the Lord began speaking to me. “You are like that little baby just now.”
I had given my resignation as manager of WCIC a few days earlier. Already Melanie had most of our belongings boxed and ready to move. Our apartment resembled a warehouse. Decorations were gone from my office. We already knew what our address in Lakeland, Florida, would be. I did not expect to ever return to work in the field of radio. I was at peace with my plans.
Still, I felt little waves of panic and uncertainty break over me every once in awhile. There was an impulse to “put on the brakes” and slow down. How strange it is to feel yourself pushing away that which you know, inside, is right!
“Little one, it’s going to be all right. It’s all right for you to move on. There are loving friends that are waiting for you. God has planned this for you and He’s called you and He’ll provide for you. It’s going to be all right. Don’t resist.”
When I made my announcement to the staff, I read, through tears, from Philippians chapter one.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in… all of us… will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
With Paul, I add it is only right for me to feel this way about you all because you all are partakers of grace with me. How privileged we are to know life centered in Christ!
(By the way, Matthew David was born one week after the concert to Dave and Dee Jonas of Morton! He weighed 8 pounds 10 ounces and was 20 1/2 inches long. The whole family, including four older sisters, was there to welcome him.)
Wherever he is, today Matt should be 30, out of college, probably married with children of his own, maybe just like you kids putting up with Grandpa’s memories today. God has planned all of this. When you’ve made Christ the center of your life, it’s going to be all right.