Cuba’s need for gospel broadcasting has claimed the spotlight in TWR’s drive to amplify its radio signal, but that shouldn’t overshadow Venezuelans’ keen hunger to receive the programs again.

Bonaire, the Caribbean island from which the Bible-based programs are broadcast to Latin America, is just off the coast of Venezuela. But when the transmitter power had to be reduced about 16 years ago, the signal to many TWR listeners in this nation of 30 million became spotty or altogether silent.

One listener wrote to TWR’s national partner RTM Venezuela (RTM is the Spanish version of TWR) that “the day came I was no longer able to tune in to RTM. Years later, I heard some RTM programs on an FM station in the city. It was such a joy for me to have heard the programs of RTM, which I had listened to years back. I would like so much to be able to listen to the programming of RTM from Bonaire again.”

Another said, “I have been listening to Radio Trans Mundial for many years, but now I cannot listen like before. … I give thanks to the Lord because my father came to know Christ through Radio Trans Mundial.”

Gabriel Fernandez, director of RTM Venezuela, is a vigorous advocate for the international Power Up campaign, which has raised 69 percent of the $3.8 million necessary to boost the Bonaire transmitter to 450,000 watts. Before the power cutback in 2000, he said, Spanish programs from Bonaire had about 1 million listeners in his country and English programs had about 300,000.

“We’d like to retrieve the audience we had before – mainly young people,” Fernandez said. “Pastors and Christian leaders in the rural countryside need the biblical studies from RTM’s programming to share with their churches later on. In Venezuela it is too expensive to get books. To go to a Christian seminar is so expensive, too.”

Economically and politically troubled Venezuela is certainly not the only country besides Cuba that will benefit from the greater power. Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, the Yucatan Peninsula and a large part of the Caribbean Basin are among the areas where the stronger signal will reach. All told, that’s a potential audience of about 100 million people.

Fernandez said the church in Venezuela, the RTM audience and people who listen to partner radio stations across the country are praying that the Bonaire upgrade will be completed soon. And many have gone a step further: Every quarter, contributions from Venezuelans are forwarded to the TWR international office to be applied to Power Up. More about Power Up and how to support the project is available at twr.org/powerup.

Photo: Many more Venezuelans like this hardworking fisherman will have access to the improved signal.