They had done all they could do, and now the application for a license was in. Four nights they had spent toiling over financial forms. And only after the Sunday morning offering did they dare state their financial condition—$800 in the bank.
Eight hundred dollars? To build and operate a radio station? Why, it was only a drop in a bucket! Why should the FCC approve? Besides, they weren’t encouraging religious radio these days. Too many off-beat brands had left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people—including radio officials.
So, while they prayed, they waited— Pastor Raymond A. Schoch, who had founded the church eight years before, Jean L. Carpenter, who had so often supplied the spark that kept them going, and others in that praying band.
July 7 came, Pastor Schoch’s birthday, and still no answer. But knowing God as a loving heavenly Father, the pastor
that day in 1955 asked the Lord, as a birthday present, for approval from the Federal Communications Commission to set up and operate a radio station. Still no answer.
“But God usually answers,” argued the pastor. “Let’s phone Washington. Let’s give God a chance.”
So Carpenter phoned Washington. He succeeded only in running up a big phone bill. No one he could reach had more than a faint memory of a request for a license.
Then at about six o’clock, at the end of that long hope-disappointed day, a phone call came. It was not from Washington, but from a reporter from a trade journal. He had heard that a small church in Glendale had been granted a license to start a new FM radio station and wanted the story. Apparently, a wire from the FCC granting permission had been sent and had not been delivered. God had answered!
That remarkable answer to prayer was only one in a long succession of providences. Again and again, with discouragement and failure looming like a cloud before them, God did the seeming impossible in answer to prayer. Today, as a result, radio station KHOF is broadcasting the gospel all day long to a potential audience of seven million people. And it is demonstrating that even a small church with vision and a burden can vastly extend its ministry through radio.
◊ It seemed to those waiting Christians a long way from the time the first dream of a Christian radio station began. Maple Chapel, an independent, interdenominational church in Glendale, Calif., had its beginnings back in 1947. Five years later the members of the church opened a Christian day school, Kahnack. Then in 1954 they bought a half-interest in Sa-Ha-Le, a mountain
camp, which they make use of all summer and many of the winter weekends.
Meanwhile, they were broadcasting regularly from the church. Jean Carpenter was selling radio parts at the time, going from one radio station to another selling, noticing how the engineers solved their problems and taking notes all the time.
One morning the regular engineer did not show up, and no one seemed to have the nerve or the interest to get things going. Carpenter, having some know- how by this time, took over. That was the first step which allied him with the broadcasting interests of the church.
About this time, in 1953, the first glimmerings came of what might be done to reach out to the heavily populated area along the South California coast. In fact, broadcast time was so expensive that it seemed easier to have faith to pray for their own station than to be continually raising money to keep on the air.
That was when the church started investigating the possibilities of a radio station. They found that securing AM space on the dial was practically an impossibility. But Schoch, Carpenter and the others were persistent. They went to a consulting engineer, who strongly advised them to go on FM if possible. But the idea of reaching anyone but a few hi-fl enthusiasts seemed out of the question. FM was at its lowest ebb. Yet the Maple Chapel men saw the vision. FM would grow. It would reach those whom they wanted to reach for their Lord.
◊ And who made up this audience? They were the hundreds of thousands of FM enthusiasts scattered up and down the Pacific coast from San Diego to Santa Barbara. They were the men and their families who had come from the East or Middle West to work in aircraft factories. They owned their own homes. In their childhood most of them probably had some kind of church or Sunday school connection. But many of them had lost contact with the church. Seven million people! This was the vast potential audience that challenged the members of Maple Chapel, a church corporation with a congregation of only one hundred and eighty.
FM listeners are considered a special-
ized group. They form what is sometimes known as the “Cadillac audience.” FM will sell exclusive brands that AM radio cannot sell. Its listeners want, high quality programming. Many of them no longer look at TV, judging that it caters completely to the masses. So in a sense TV has moved into the den and FM into the livingroom. For these TV deserters and FM devotees KHOF until recently was alone in the FM religious field.
◊ It is not an easy matter to operate a radio station. Much of the work done t KHOF is by part-time workers. Three secretaries dedicate and donate their time. Engineers are teenagers, who have demonstrated that, if given responsibility and treated like adults, teenagers will do the job. Only the head engineer, Howard Bollenbach, who works part-time, is of voting age.
The station’s one full time employee is Jean Carpenter. Back in 1948 he was going with a girl named Mona Dybdahl, who invited him to Maple Chapel simply because it was the only church she knew of which had an altar call. Soon he too was saved and wanted to serve the Lord full time.
For a while Jean attended a Lutheran seminary, then switched to a Nazarene college in nearby Pasadena. By graduation time, having married Mona and with two small children, it seemed to him that the next, even though temporary, step was to get a secular job. That is when he began selling radio parts and picking up incidentally the know how that stood the church in such good stead in the years that followed.
But no sooner did the vision of a new radio station begin to take on form and substance than the difficulties began to mount. Christian organizations in Los Angeles united in crying, “Don’t!” Some very important people insisted, “It’ll never work!” and, “You’re throwing the Lord’s money down the drain!”
It was this last criticism that was hardest to take. But a few more hours on their knees, a few more hours of heart searching, and a whole lot more sacrifice on the part of every member of the church proved that the Lord did mean for them to pray, to persist and to work in order to put an FM station on the air.
Oddly enough, there were twelve places
to choose from on the dial. FM was not popular then and you could have what you wanted. So quite blandly they selected as near to the center of the dial as they could—99.5 megacycles! By the providence of God that spot is now between the two most popular secular FM stations, and people have to cross KHOF in tuning back and forth. Many of them, liking what they hear, often stay right in the middle—99.5!
◊ Then the real work began. First of all they had to find the right piece of property on which to locate a transmitter. This they did without much trouble, securing an option which gave them the right to rent several acres between a mountain and a hilltop for the reasonable price of between forty and fifty dollars a month.
Site agreed upon, they went to an engineer to draw up the plans. To their dismay, it cost $500—at a discount! Added to this the Federal Communications Commission in its governmental way required five pounds of paper work. Most of this was done by Schoch and Carpenter in the pastor’s livingroom, as they wrote and prayed and ate onion sandwiches.
Criticism continued. “It’ll never work.” “Don’t waste your time.” “You ought to go out and save souls.” “Nobody—but nobody—listens to FM!” And so on. But they didn’t stop.
Before filing the papers in applying for a license they found that the FCC required the organization to show evidence of solvency. Four laborious nights later they sent the financial forms in. Would or would not the FCC approve their request? Who could prophesy? Then Schoch’s birthday came, and after the delay, approval from the FCC.
They went back to the man who had first given them an option on the property, to complete the deal. But now he didn’t want to rent! He wanted to sell five acres to them—at far, far too steep a price!
Schoch and Carpenter shook their heads unbelievingly, looked at other pieces of property and worried and prayed in equal parts. Each morning a prayer meeting was held—not many attending but lots of prayer.
They went back to see the man.
After some talk he offered to sell them fifty acres for $50,000. They were to pay $5,000 down, interest for the first two years, and then reasonable payments. While it was more land than they thought they needed, there was no question but that it was valuable property, and the terms were of a miracle variety. They would see what they could do.
All they needed now was a mere $5,000. Again the process began: tell others, tell God, Maple Chapel members gave what they could, but 90 percent of the money came from interested, burden- sharing outsiders.
The day before they were to go into escrow they were still short $1,000. A small group prayed all night, and in the morning the money started to come in. One man had received $150 from his income tax refund, another had been paid a bad debt of $50. And so on. By eleven o’clock, three hours before the deadline, they had the money.
◊ Difficulties were not yet over, however. There was a zoning problem. Though the property is higher on the hill than any homes, technically it was situated in a residential district. Also, while the station was to be in Glendale, the transmitter property was on the border in Los Angeles. So both cities had to be satisfied.
At the Glendale hearing, the man who had sold them the property stormed and bluffed until the city agreed to withdraw its zoning objection. Then came the hearing in Los Angeles where one of the men from Glendale had planned to make a loud protest. But on seeing the head of the Glendale zoning commission, a well-known, consecrated Christian, he decided against it.
All this time, while the hassle for the zoning permit was going on, Carpenter kept his eye open for a used transmitter and tower. In a trade magazine he saw an ad for a transmitter at $2,500. He wrote the man about it and one Sunday morning went into a side room of the church, where Pastor Schoch was, and with him the treasurer, counting the Sunday school offering.
The church was in debt at the time, and when Carpenter mentioned the transmitter, the treasurer, as is the way of church treasurers, said, “We can’t afford it.” Schoch and Carpenter agreed,
but Schoch did mention to the congregation that the transmitter was available if the Lord would move anyone to buy it, or part of it.
In the congregation that morning were two consecrated women who were friends. They had not come to church together, but they had sat together. When Schoch told about the transmitter, one whispered to the other, “I’d like to buy half of that.”
“Good! I’ll buy the other half!” answered her friend, and together they sent a note to Pastor Schoch, pledging the money. One of them had the money because twenty years before she had taken out an insurance policy. Now she could have used the money to furnish her house; instead she gave it to the Lord.
The tower, too, was a miracle in its own way. Carpenter located one that could be bought for $1,800. In one meeting of two hundred people, the money was raised. The men took a truck up to Fresno and brought back the tower, a 280 foot giant.
◊ With the transmitter, tower and zoning permit in their possession, the work really began. Schoch, Carpenter and Russ Durham did most of the planning, and the men from the church did the manual labor. They came, overalls in hand, as soon as they finished their own jobs, and got to work digging into the mountainside, putting up guy wires. Someone would serve coffee and doughnuts. About nine o’clock they would go to the church where the women served dinner.
They did this three or four nights each week, with the women trying to outdo one another in the excellence of their meals. Carpenter says, “I never worked harder in my life, but I gained weight on all that delicious food!”
At last, with a delay here and a miracle there, on November 13, 1955. KHOF went on the air. From the outset, good programming has been Carpenter’s concern. Some people are critical because the station does not give the plan of salvation with each station break. But Carpenter feels strongly that he must reach the man and woman on the fringe of the church who has tuned in mainly because of the music offered.
Persistently he argues with older, perhaps wiser, or perhaps more money- conscious men, that the listener cannot be expected to pay for the gospel, any more than one can expect a national to pay a missionary.
◊ Carpenter is an annoying perfectionist when it comes to topnotch programs. Please—no running in and grabbing a hymn book and deciding what to sing as the red light flashes on. He insists upon smooth running, carefully rehearsed programs. And he goes into a quiet frenzy when someone upsets his program of carefully selected music with “gospel jazz.”
Each evening Pastor Schoch is allowed to preach an eleven minute informal sermon. But 75 per cent of KHOF’s programming consists of sacred music. The most popular program is that of Lorin Whitney at the organ. Among other programs are the nationally known Haven of Rest and Back to the Bible. Moody Bible Institute’s radio station in Chicago, WMBI, gives them a big assist with a number of good programs featuring music, story telling and drama—notably the popular serial, “Stories of Great Christians.”
KHOF, members of the church have discovered, must acquire more sponsors. At first there were none. Then a few Christian organizations began to purchase time. The station, however, would welcome coffee, oleomargarine and aim!lar sponsors to help support the gospel, just as men in various professions and trades, like butchers, electricians and engineers, give to the Sunday morning offering.
◊ What of the future? KHOF has varied plans. Carpenter wants to interest listeners in missions so he interviews visiting missionaries. A short wave station has been built to contact missionaries on the field. Plans are fast culminating to tape missionary interviews direct from the field.
More special events are planned. KHOF has a mobile unit, and they have taped such events as the Christian Endeavor convention in Pasadena, Billy Graham speaking at a pre-crusade breakfast, church dedications, and the like. A distinct need is felt for broadcasting all night to reach the heart hungry during the long lonely night hours.
One thing is sure to the members of Maple Chapel who under the good hand of God have broken out into a new field of Christian witness: faith via FM opens up a whole new world of opportunities for those who will pray and work. END
Article reprinted from Moody Monthly , Vol. 59, June, 1959, pg. 59-63