TWR's powerful AM station in the Caribbean is at the center of a far-flung collaboration working to encourage and inform survivors of Hurricane Irma.
Located outside the path of the Category 5 storm, TWR Bonaire staff members immediately sought ways to use the 100,000-watt transmitter to reach hard-hit areas like St. Maarten, Barbuda, and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Multisite, multilingual broadcasts that were the first of their kind for Bonaire were rushed onto the air Sept. 6, 2017, the day that Irma first struck. Later, TWR Bonaire joined with Mission Aviation Fellowship and Caribbean commercial radio stations to help get communication flowing again in the area where infrastructure was severely damaged.
“Normally, people are getting news reports and helpful information from their local radio stations, but many of these stations were off the air,” said Steve Shantz, TWR vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean. “And so we thought, ‘We’re in a safe area – the hurricane wasn’t affecting Bonaire – so we should broadcast to those affected by the hurricane.’”
Live From … All Over!
Pre-empting only part of TWR Bonaire’s regular evening schedule of gospel programming, the live broadcasts Sept. 6-13 (skipping Sept. 10) featured speakers from multiple locations – Chicago, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Miami, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad. The audio feeds were transmitted via a web-conferencing service to Bonaire, where they were merged by staff into English and Spanish broadcasts and beamed to the battered islands.
TWR missionaries Scott Hollinger and Bill Early hosted the English broadcasts, while TWR staff member Annabel Muscarella and Jehiel Ortiz, who is on the staff of the ministry’s national partner in the Dominican Republic, presided over the Spanish broadcasts.
Listen to clips from the live broadcasts
The wide-ranging live broadcasts had a spontaneous feel, with news and weather updates, tips about what to do after disaster strikes, Caribbean gospel music, reminiscences about other disaster experiences and prayer. Citing the Bible story about Jesus calming the Sea of Galilee, Caribbean evangelical leader Emerson Boyce reminded listeners that the Lord reigns over all – even the weather.
Aviation ministry flies in to assist
Cooperating with Easy FM Curacao, TWR began rebroadcasting the signal of Laser 101.1 FM on St. Maarten, more than 500 miles from Bonaire. That link got a boost when TWR, through a Bonaire staff member who used to serve with Mission Aviation Fellowship’s disaster response team, contacted MAF for help. Within hours, the Idaho-based ministry had deployed a staff member to Bonaire with a satellite communication system, which soon was transported to St. Maarten.
“Arriving on St. Maarten, the priority had shifted and the MAF satellite equipment was deployed with the public-safety authorities,” said Dave Pedersen, a missionary serving with TWR Bonaire. “Once operational, the system can be expanded to provide emergency communications for other aid agencies.”
The teamwork of MAF and TWR, Pedersen said, was greatly facilitated by agencies on St. Maarten, Bonaire and Curacao and by the Dutch military. The three islands are former colonies of the Netherlands.
To read more about TWR’s post-hurricane response, and to hear Steve Shantz’s comments in an audio newscast, check out this feature on Mission Network News.