(originally published in Lifeword’s September 2015 newsletter)
In January of 1978, Harvest Gleaner Hour radio broadcasts were heard in three languages: Portugese, Illongo, and Mandarin. The much-anticipated Spanish and Arabic languages were added in 1979. Letters to HGH included requests for booklets and tracts mentioned on the broadcasts. Those listener responses came from the States and many countries including Africa, Cyprus, Panama, Sierra Leone, Virgin Islands, Mexico and Guam.
HGH radio programs never asked for money on the air (and still do not to this day), but listeners often sent checks “to cover the broadcast expenses in our area.” Builders, contractors and architects that helped with construction of the new building charged reduced rates or donated their materials, labor, appliances and fixtures. Church, auxiliary and individual offerings came in regularly. Broadcasts, studios and costly production equipment was often underwritten as well, enabling the Enterprise Avenue building to become debt-free in late 1978, just three years after it opened.
In 1979, the Radio-Television Department of the BMA, as HGH was often called, included seven on-site employees, two language coordinators (Travis Moore-Philippines and Paul Robinson-Spanish) and six speakers (Dr. E. Harold Henderson-English, Jack Bateman-Chinese, Yousef Costa-Arabic, Frank Rogue and Alfonso Quiroz-Spanish, Pete Etabag-Illongo). In 1980, a $20,000 computer was purchased to help employees “use our time more effectively.”
In June of 1980, Bro. Bearfield attended a conference during which he heard about a fundraiser called a “walk-a-thon,” which he adapted as the first HGH Walk-A-Thon. Bro. Bearfield had led the ministry for eight years and knew the broadcast could reach more people if it could be aired on more stations and in additional languages, particularly the “heart languages” of its listeners.
In October of that same year, churches throughout the BMA held twenty-mile walks for the first time and raised $82,000. During the next four years, income from the Walk steadily increased to $242,000 and the length of the Walk decreased to 20 kilometers (12.4 miles).
In 1985, the name of the event was changed to Walk of Faith. Bro. Paul Bearfield had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and, although he was physically not as strong, he walked nineteen kilometers earlier on the day of the Walk, then finished the last one with nine hundred well-wishers who had been invited to a special rally at Central Baptist College. Receipts for that walk were $373,822.
Bro. Bearfield passed away on January 23, 1986, and the Lifeword Board voted to change the name of the event to the Paul L. Bearfield Memorial Walk of Faith. He had served HGH as director for fourteen years, leaving behind his wife Johnie, a Harvest Gleaner Hour employee, and two children, Paul and Phyllis. Along with the two previous HGH directors, Bro. Bearfield was laid to rest in the Crestlawn cemetery.
History of Lifeword Part 6 in September newsletter