Eighty years is a long time in any business, but in the radio business, 80 years makes you a pioneer. The pioneer of Christian radio in Canada, Voice of Adventist Radio (VOAR), wraps up its 80th year of broadcasting with its annual Sharathon fundraising appeal this November.
The theme for this year’s Sharathon is “Shining With Heaven’s Light,” and that’s an appropriate theme for a radio station that has been shining the light of heaven to an ever-wider audience since it was founded in 1929 by Pastor Harold Williams in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Operating under the call letters 8BSL, the station was one of the first to broadcast in Newfoundland and continued to be an outreach ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Newfoundland throughout the twentieth century, increasing its on-air hours and broadcast reach as resources allowed.
When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, Canada’s regulations didn’t permit religious broadcasting, but a “grandfather clause” allowed VOAR and another Newfoundland station to continue broadcasting. By the time the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulations changed to open the way for more religious broadcasting, VOAR was ready to expand across the country with Christian music and Bible-based teaching programs.
The last 20 years have been an exciting time for this once-small, church-owned radio ministry. Now headquartered in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, VOAR is the centre of a growing broadcast network of satellite downlinks and repeater stations, reaching from coast to coast. When station manager Sherry Griffin first started working at VOAR as a student in the 1980s, the station’s transmitter had a power output of only 100 watts. A leap to 10,000 watts was the first step in expansion, along with new studios and a new tower site. Today, VOAR can be heard on the airwaves across Newfoundland, as well as in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and 30 locations in British Columbia. Bell ExpressVu Satellite and live streaming on www.voar.org expand the station’s reach even further.
During this 80th anniversary year, VOAR has celebrated with a series of Christian concerts and other special events, including a cross-Newfoundland tour with Adventist recording artist Karen Ritchie from B.C. “The people we met, the churches that welcomed us, and the friendships we made were such a reassurance of what God is doing in them and through them for this station in our communities,” says Sherry Griffin, who has been station manager since 1999, overseeing VOAR’s rapid expansion plan that began in 2000. “But,” she adds, “we still face challenges along with our new opportunities.” The recent devastation caused by Hurricane Igor in September 2010 didn’t leave VOAR untouched; there has been some damage at the tower site which will need to be repaired. Many of VOAR’s faithful supporters in Newfoundland are coping with damage to their own homes and property after the hurricane, and may not be in a position to support the station financially as much as they have in the past.
Every new opportunity to share God’s Word with a broader audience means new expenses, and VOAR continues to rely on God to supply all its needs. To do that, He uses Christians who care enough about Christian radio that they’re willing to help in its mission of “Shining With Heaven’s Light” all across Canada.