Long distances, disparate people, even governments can be barriers to the physical presence of gospel workers. Broadcasts however, are not inhibited in the same way.
The large cities of pre-Communist China provided plenty of opportunities for privately owned radio broadcasting. Chinese Christian and wealthy businessman, Mr Lee, owned a Shanghai station known as XMHD which provided Chinese and English Christian broadcasts. The CIM missionary Revd. George A Scott produced the English language content, including a 30-minute programme called ‘Young People’s Hour’.
He frequently received letters from his Chinese listeners who often referred to him as Uncle George.
The Communists arrested Mr Lee in the late 1940s.
He died before his trial but not before he managed to send $20,000 to the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC). This funded the construction of the radio station KSBU in Japan, which was able to continue broadcasting the gospel into China. As technologies developed, countries changed and new ministry opportunities emerged, broadcasting has remained a great way of reaching the unreached across East Asia.
Much of the island of Hokkaido, Japan, consists of bare volcanic plateau and thickly forested mountain slopes. The island is roughly the size of Switzerland and Denmark combined, with a population of 5.46 million people, a third of whom live in the largest city of Sapporo. There are around 400 Protestant churches with an average attendance of only 32. Sixty-two per cent of towns and villages have no church at all.
In the light of such vast need, the ministry of the Hokkaido Gospel Broadcast seems miniscule. It is a major financial struggle to host just two weekly evangelistic programmes: Lifeline TV (30 minutes) and the radio show Light of the World (15 minutes.)
But spiritually, their impact is immeasurable, reaching many who would not otherwise be reached on the island of Hokkaido:
Mr Ueki stood on a railway bridge full of despair. He saw a train in a distant station and decided ‘When the train gets near, I’ll jump’. He waited and waited but the train showed no signs of moving so he eventually gave up and left. The next day he discovered someone had jumped in front of the very train he had thought to end his own life with. Not long afterwards, early one Sunday morning, following a sleepless night, Mr Ueki found himself inadvertently watching a Christian TV programme called Lifeline TV. This programme was the spiritual lifeline he so desperately needed. Through Lifeline TV he discovered a local church and in time became a Christian together with his wife.
And Mr Ueki’s story is not the only one. A 62-year-old businesswoman wrote that she had been watching Lifeline for two years.
‘One Sunday I was feeling upset and restless at heart,’ she wrote in January 2014. ‘I was wondering if I should find out more about Christianity. As I watched, I felt as though I were being given a push of encouragement from behind. I talked to my husband and then took the step of contacting a pastor.’
What an encouragement it was to hear later that she had been baptised on Easter Sunday 2014.
Mr Maruyama wrote:
‘I was 28 when my mother died very suddenly at the age of 53 of a brain haemorrhage. I was overwhelmed with grief, shock and guilt for not having been in touch with her more. I drank and smoked heavily, kept changing jobs and got into severe debt. I was like a sail flapping in the wind with no rope to hold it down, blown wherever the wind took me in a completely abandoned, indulgent fashion. I was a bundle of anxiety and loneliness. Physically and emotionally at the end of my tether, I came across the TV programme Lifeline one Sunday morning. Usually I would be sleeping like the dead but that morning the smiling face and heartfelt words of the Christian pastor brought a ray of light and warmth to my heart.’ (From the January 2015 Japanese Hokkaido Gospel Broadcast Newsletter.) Subsequently, Mr Maruyama also started attending church and was baptised.
These are just a few stories of how broadcasting has been used, and is being used to share the good news of Jesus Christ in areas scarcely touched by physical means. In China after 1951, radio was used to help support the growth of the Church without a foreign presence. In Japan, bringing the gospel into the privacy of someone’s home is a rare privilege.
Yet broadcasting through TV, radio and the internet has provided unique opportunities to connect with Japanese people inside the privacy of their houses. Let’s pray that God would continue to create opportunities to share the gospel through broadcasting.