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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

Place kHZ Day/Time
British Columbia    
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 
Alberta     
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 
Saskatchewan     
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 
Manitoba     
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 
Ontario     
CKOT Tillsonburg  1510  Sunday 12:30 pm
CHYR Leamington  96.7 FM  Sunday  7:00 am 
Outside Canada     
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
While some radio stations, like CFAM, have hosted Gospel Message for many decades, others have hosted the broadcasts for only a short time. Mexico, with a large Low German speaking population, has been a problem area since the Mexican Government did not permit religious broadcasting. However, some short 1.5 minute spots were permitted in the 2010s and found beneficial. In Mexico the messages have been distributed in the communities as sound recordings. 

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.

Bibliography

"John D. Friesen Papers." Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan Archives.

Additional Information

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

MLA style

Wiebe, Victor G. "Gospel Message (Radio Program)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2013. Web. 1 Oct 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gospel_Message_(Radio_Program)&oldid=81313.

APA style

Wiebe, Victor G. (April 2013). Gospel Message (Radio Program). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 October 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gospel_Message_(Radio_Program)&oldid=81313.




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