RUSSIAN BROADCASTING 25 YEARS OLD
On January 3, 1958 the first Russian Language program produced by the Manitoba Mennonite Brethren Conference in their Gospel Light Hour (today M.B. Communications) studio was beamed into the Soviet Union. Taking their cues from positive listener response to their German program, Licht des Evangeliums, which since 1955 was beamed into the Soviet Union, the decision was made to produce a similar program in Russian, Swetlyj Lutsch Evangelija, for the brothers and sisters “behind the Iron Curtain.”
Preparations for the program began in mid-August 1957. The first half-hour program was put together with Russian music by an immigrant choir, directed by Corny Balzer, a Gospel message by Rev. David B. Wiens and an announcer, Rev. C.C. Penner.
The goal was to begin beaming the programs from HCJB in Quito, Ecuador. Since the station only aired programs of which they had a two-month supply of tapes in hand, much work went into the program before the first one was aired.
The Gospel Light Hour was at this time already producing six regular programs and could not take on another program without additional financial help. Sensing the unique evangelism opportunity the M.B. Board of Missions (BOMAS) began, and continues, to help finance these Russian programs.
What is of historical interest is that during the first 25 years the original speaker, Rev. David B. Wiens, stayed with the program until his death, February 28, 1981. He had recorded enough programs in advance so that his last one was aired in April, 1982.
From the very first program, letters from the Soviet Union indicated that it was meeting the spiritual needs of its listeners. Rev. Wiens became for many listeners the unseen pastor whose influence, love and warmth was felt in spite of the distance between them.
The story of David Wiens and the beginning of this Russian ministry is told in a soon to be published book, written by Erich Ratzlaff of Clearbrook, British Columbia.