(originally published in Lifeword’s August 2015 newsletter)
According to the March 1972 edition of The Reaper (W.J. Burgess, editor), Bro. Paul Bearfield was “especially qualified for this work (director of the BMA’s radio ministry) since he now speaks the Chinese language which he learned in Taiwan.” At that time the English was the only broadcast language. There were radio stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. In addition, there were translated broadcasts in Puerto Rico, Haiti and Mexico. It would be three more years until HGH had its own native-language speakers.
To help finance the cost of the rapidly-multiplying American and foreign radio stations, possible television broadcasting, the high demand for print materials and cassettes, increases in postage, and a new building, July was named as an emphasis month for BMA churches. Bro. Bearfield traveled extensively to speak to churches and groups; in addition, a “tape/slide set” that “depicts by sight and sound the ministry of this department” was made available by “reel or cassette” in January of 1974.
In July 1973, “The Challenge of Television” was the headline article in The Reaper, and the Brotherhood adopted the HGH television ministry as their ’73-’74 project. Bro. Burgess wrote, “Television seems to be a favorite target for abuse among Christian people today. We complain loudly about degeneracy, foul language, and other evils that appear on the screen. But the best thing Christians can do about television is to ‘put Christ in the picture!’” Television broadcasting and its cost would continue to be an issue for years to come.
After being in various Conway locations and a year at Temple in Little Rock, the six employees of HGH moved into the newly-built Industrial Park building in Conway in June of 1975 with the intent to some day include television broadcasting. At the time of the building ‘s dedication, forty-four stations in thirteen states and three foreign countries aired HGH radio broadcasts, but 1976 and 1977 were the years of tremendous increase in foreign stations and languages.
It was during those years that Radio Nicosia in Cyprus brought HGH gospel programming to the Middle East in Israel, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other Arabic-speaking countries. (See “History of Lifeword Part Four” in the June newsletter for details.) Stations in Sierra Leone, Panama and the Philippines were also added, and in all four of those countries, BMA missionaries played important roles in the establishment of those broadcasts.
After years of prayer, Taiwan missionary Jack Bateman preached the gospel in his native tongue (Mandarin) to the millions of people of mainland China on December 31, 1977. Five programs were produced at an undisclosed location and brought back from the “Far East” to HGH studios by Bro. Bearfield. They were then sent to a powerful radio station in Guam from which “almost ONE BILLION souls living under Communist rule”, an entire generation, heard “the Good News of the Lord Jesus” for the first time.
(History of Lifeword Part Five in the August newsletter)