Reactions came pouring in like streams of refreshing water when TWR Bonaire’s program manager pushed the button Wednesday and broadcast Shine 800 AM’s live share-a-thon to an international audience.
Soon after Brad Swanson launched Shine the Light Bonaire on the airwaves, listeners from many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean joined in the fundraising event. Many sent their thoughts and prayers via text messages, while the first donation came from economically challenged Haiti – 500 gourdes, or about 6 U.S. dollars.
During the first week of May, well-known TWR radio hosts Annabel Torrealba, originally from Venezuela and now living in the United States; Jehiel Ortiz of the Dominican Republic; Esteban Larrosa of Uruguay; Ricardo Kroskinsque of Brazil; and Maralina Alfonso of Paraguay converged on Bonaire to take part in the Spanish and Portuguese portions of the Shine the Light fundraising campaign.
Torrealba, TWR’s director for Hispanic ministry in northern and central Latin America and the Caribbean, explained that the on-air speakers asked listeners “to participate in our radio live shows and take up the challenge with us to continue bringing the gospel to more people. With their financial support we can continue doing ministry in Cuba, Venezuela and many other places.”
Audiences across the region and beyond were invited to tune in May 8 and 9 on Shine 800 AM and on Facebook Live. Spanish, Portuguese and English broadcast blocks were aired live both mornings and evenings.
Generosity despite hardship
The campaign was encouraging, energizing and, at times, moving. Listeners from Venezuela, whose coast lies less than 100 miles from Bonaire, tuned in and donated 54,000 bolivars. Although the rocky economic situation in Venezuela makes it difficult to equate that total to U.S. dollars, it’s a generous gift from a country where severe food and medicine shortages have been widely reported.
The hosts of Shine the Light took time on the air to pray for Venezuela, where Trans World Radio is translated Radio Trans Mundial. A WhatsApp text response read, “Thanks for your very beautiful prayers for our country, Venezuela. I will continue to join you in prayer as the Lord allows me. A faithful Radio Trans Mundial listener in Carabobo state, Venezuela.”
“The signal is good!” another Venezuelan wrote. “Trans Mundial has been a school for my spiritual growth. Thru the Bible is one of my favorite programs. I always remember RTM in my prayers. My offering is 7,000 bolivars.”
Messages also came in via WhatsApp and other social media from Brazil, French Guiana, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
A woman from Cuba left a voice message telling of challenging time in her life when she had to make difficult decisions. A song played on Shine 800 changed her whole perspective on her situation and turned her life around. Later she wrote a song about that experience.
Ortiz, a staff member with TWR’s national partner in the Dominican Republic, said, “This story is a confirmation for us that God uses our efforts – which may seem small to us – as instruments to communicate hope to the world.”
Presenting the English block of Shine the Light were TWR leaders Lauren Libby, president; Steve Shantz, vice president for Latin American and the Caribbean; and Jon Fugler, chief content officer. One of the highlights during their time on the air was a long testimony from a pastor in Cuba, who came to faith as a boy listening to TWR.
Shantz said, “I have been with TWR for 38 years and finally ended up doing live radio! Just as thrilling as being able to talk to our audience was receiving feedback from them in direct response to what we were saying. Making a connection with people and reading their words of encouragement and sensing their excitement was very encouraging to us who work to make the broadcasts possible. We could sense that the listeners love of the broadcasts and what Shine Bonaire means to them.”
Jason Helmholdt, a TWR missionary stationed on Bonaire, served as radio-control-board operator and couldn’t understand the language spoken as the hosts of the Spanish broadcast block responded to listeners’ feedback. But that didn’t keep him from sensing that something important was happening.
“Even without understanding what was being said, it was interesting to watch the team react to the different feedback coming in,” Helmholdt said. “There was a palpable excitement in the studio during the live shows. I could almost see the responses fueling the hosts. Their ‘glow’ would increase a little with each response they read.”
Presenting the Portuguese block of Shine the Light, RTM Brazil’s Kroskinsque heard from a listener who shared that he had completed his 10th cycle of listening to Thru the Bible. Each cycle of the program guides listeners through the entire Bible and lasts five years. Pastor Davi Nunes presents the Portuguese translation of the teaching by Dr. J. Vernon McGee, the founder of the celebrated ministry.
An audience member in Camaquã, Brazil, said that he was happy to participate in the share-a-thon and that TWR’s transmissions bless and build up listeners’ lives.
Directors of TWR national partners in Venezuela, Gabriel Fernandez, and Colombia, Antonio Neira, also were tuned in and sent their greetings. “In Venezuela, it was received very well,” Fernandez said. “Congratulations to the Bonaire team.” Neira said, “Hello to the Bonaire team that ‘shined the light’ at 800 AM. It was an excellent show. Expressions of solidarity and congratulations to all who were part of the event.”
The live, on-air portion of the share-a-thon is over, but contributions enabling Shine 800 AM to reach out with gospel programming to 100 million people across a huge swath of Latin America and the Caribbean are still being accepted. If you’d like to learn how you could be a part of this ministry, read more here.