Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Radio Project in Cubulco

Written by Ken Herfst
With the approval at Synod 2001 of the purchase of a radio frequency, the dream to have a station here in Cubulco is one step closer to being a reality. I would like to summarize some of the pressing reasons for the Radio Station in an effort to raise awareness of the urgent need and to help the Churches share the vision.
The Question of Geography
There is nothing quite like getting up in the morning and seeing the sun's rays dancing on the checkered slopes of the mountains surrounding Cubulco. The rugged beauty of the terrain is truly breathtaking. The mountains serve as a constant reminder of the greatness of our Creator. These mountains have played an important role in the historical development of the Cubulco Ach’. As natural boundaries, the mountains isolated the Cubulco Ach’ from other language groups and today a distinctive dialect is spoken by about 33,000 people. Differences in grammar and vocabulary are sufficiently great to warrant a separate translation of the Bible.

The mountainous terrain has also hindered development. Many of the communities are very isolated and can only be reached on foot. This is changing today with the construction of new roads. At the same time, many of these roads are usable only during the dry season. Some of the communities in which we work are 48 km from town. The new road reduces walking by 20 km, but still leaves 28 km of trail.

The distance from town hinders health care. Most people scrape together a meager existence and going back and forth to town represent major costs for them. Usually, only the very sick are carried into town--and by then it is usually too late. Many still turn to witch doctors for healing. Earlier this year I had a young child on my lap who was seriously ill with parasites. The treatment itself is relatively simple and low cost. However, while the parents lingered, the child died. Two other children from another community are so anemic that it is affecting their mental development. All of this could be prevented. People still drink from the streams with their deceivingly crystal clear--but dangerously contaminated waters. With the coming of pharmacies, many of the herbal remedies used by the Ach’ for generations are being lost. All medicines can be purchases over the counter and unfortunately, not everyone is willing to spend the extra 50 centavos to pay for a doctor's visit. Common diseases like anemia, malnutrition and diarrhea can often be avoided by eating local herbs. When they are not treated, serious complications set in.

We envision a radio station that will address these issues in the Ach’ language and believe we will see the day when children can enjoy childhood because they are not plagued by the lethargy that haunts them like a specter. We envision the day when families are healthier and stronger because of hearing programs giving them ideas about horticulture, care of poultry and other animals. The programs themselves would foster greater confidence in the hospital and encourage people to seek treatment sooner rather than later. Such programs would be done in conjunction with the hospital here in Cubulco.

The Question of Evangelism
The small hamlets or communities are scattered throughout the mountains. The sheer demands of time, travel, follow-up and consistent teaching present major challenges. Regular visits to the mountain churches are made; lay evangelists hold services weekly. Nevertheless, the Radio would allow us to present the gospel in those communities where it is almost impossible to go on a regular basis. We could bring the Word in a consistent manner in the sure hope that God's Word never returns empty.

Although we had initially applied for a municipal station, the government is only authorizing a provincial frequency. At first we were discouraged. Now however, we begin to see the possibilities. As God sovereignly blesses the Word, we envision the day when small churches spring up throughout the area--some 3000 km2. We envision churches where Christians gather to worship the God of the Bible; where they appreciate the reality of the covenant of grace with its promises and obligations; where they seek to live their whole lives governed by the Word of God. We envision people released from the power of alcohol abuse, domestic violence and abuse because God's Word came to them in a language they can understand.

Many families possess a radio. The radio plays a much more important role in Guatemala than it does in North America. Newspapers in the rural communities are nonexistent. With the coming of electricity, some folks are purchasing TVs, but such ÒluxuriesÓ are beyond the reach of the poor. A radio, on the other hand, is often within their means. There are no other sources of information and for a couple batteries, the radio provides news, entertainment and contact with the outside world. The opportunities to inform the communities are amazing!

The Question of Spiritual Growth
How would you fare spiritually if you heard a passage of Scripture read and explained only once a week? In some of our congregations 95% of the members cannot read. That means that they are unable to read the Bible for themselves. Without the steady diet of the Word of God, spiritual growth is very difficult. The radio would enable us to air daily Bible readings in Spanish and Ach’. This, together with Bible Studies, messages and Christian music will be the key to spiritual growth.

During the Congress for Evangelism in Quito, Ecuador, the President of the Latin American Fraternity of Theologians called for a return to the Reformation. "We cannot pretend to be an Acts chapter 2 church," he said. The heritage of the Reformation is one we cherish. It is one that needs to be heard. We envision the day when people come home from their work in the fields and sit beside their radios, Bible in hand, following the lessons. We envision people coming to know, love and serve God with a passion.

The Question of Social Change
The Guatemalan situation is less individualistic than its North American counterpart.Yet, despite the explosive growth of the evangelical church throughout Latin America, church leaders express concern that one doesn't see the expected change in society. There is still so much corruption at all levels. Violence is rampant. The tendency has been to divide life into compartments and divorce one's spiritual life from one's work ethic, from one's family life, etc. Many churches actually forbid their members to be involved in questions of politics.

We envision the day when consistent teaching of the Scriptures on the practical issues will result in real and lasting social change. There can be no change without true repentance. The reformational perspective of applying the Bible to all areas of life is a message that needs to be heard and seen in action. We envision--and long for the day--when people "practice justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God" (Mic.6:8).

Our translation team is currently preparing literacy material. We anticipate using this on the radio as well. Other organizations offer courses via the radio. Education is a key part of the overall development that is just beginning to make its presents felt in our area.

The Way Ahead
The process of acquiring a frequency is a long and involved affair, plagued with red tape and endless paperwork. We have currently begun the formal application process. That includes the deposit to pay for the advertising of the availability of the frequency in our area. Frequencies are now given to the highest bidder. That process can take some time, because once the highest bidder has been accepted, there is still a three-month period in which the other contestants can put in a counter offer. At the moment, we wait for the formal bidding to begin.

Readers should also be aware that we have the support of HCJB "Voice of the Andes". They have a program to help small Radio stations like ourselves with technical support. We can also borrow some Spanish programming from them via satellite. On behalf of the Ach’ people I thank the delegates of Synod for their enthusiastic support of this project and commend it to the churches for prayerful consideration. It is our prayer that Radio K'aslemaal (Radio Life) will be a reality by next year and that many would come to have eternal life in Christ.

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