Posted by: calloftheandes | January 13, 2017

Thousands of Ecuadorians Make Pledges, Attend Open Houses at Local FM Stations

by Theresa With

Thousands of listeners descended on Christian radio stations in the Ecuadorian cities of Quito and Guayaquil in early December to visit the studios, meet the staff, pledge their support for the broadcasts and tell about the impact of the programs on their lives.

The 16th annual Misión Compartida (Sharing the Mission) raised nearly $400,000 in gifts and pledges for HCJB-FM in Quito and HCJB2 in Guayaquil. The two stations, along with FM repeaters in the provinces of Pichincha, Manabí, Tungurahua, Cotopaxi and Esmeraldas, are now operated by an Ecuadorian foundation called HCJB Ecuador.

Folkloric dance in Larson Center at the Reach Beyond campus where Radio Station HCJB has its studios and administrative offices.

Folkloric dance in Larson Center at the Reach Beyond campus where Radio Station HCJB has its studios and administrative offices.

3,000 Attend Event in Quito

At the event in Quito, a record 45 hours of live programming aired from the early-morning hours until late at night Friday-Sunday, Dec. 9-11. Most of the programming was in Spanish but some was in Quichua, a language spoken by over 4 million Ecuadorians.

More than 3,000 people came to the open house in Quito. Areas set up for both children and adults offered activities and presentations which included drama, concerts, seminars and prayer times. In addition, booths and tents were set up where home-grown fruits and vegetables, animals, handmade clothing and other personal items—many supplied by the Quichua people—were on sale to raise money for the broadcasts.

“In Quito we reached $300,000 the day after the event ended—an amount higher than last year,” said Anabella Cabezas, director of media for the Latin America Region and a Reach Beyond board member. “We are confident that the $400,000 goal for Quito will be met this year. Typically another 20 percent above what is pledged actually comes in throughout the year. We praise God for His provision.”

“The people who called to pledge support, make donations and visit the campus shared how God, through the message on the broadcasts, performed miracles of all kinds in their lives whether material, spiritual, physical or emotional,” Cabezas noted. “God is powerful!”

A majority of the people attending the open house came from Quito, but some also traveled from neighboring provinces. It’s not uncommon for attendees to travel for hours by foot or by bus.

As can be imagined, events such as the annual sharathon do not happen easily or without help. This year more than 200 volunteers provided help with participants including local church members, families of employees and past missionaries.

Cabezas maintains that “with God’s help and the participation of a creative team passionate about the gospel,” through radio and digital media, the goal to reach 1 million people is becoming a possibility.

Programming Attracts Younger Listeners

According to Geoff Kooistra, director of services, the programming on the FM station in Quito has focused on the theme, “Hope for the Family,” in the past year. A listenership survey taken last November indicated that HCJB-FM ranked seventh among 50 FM stations broadcasting in Quito, up from the previous ranking of 12th.

“We have more women than men, and 40 and up is the biggest age segment, although we have been attracting increasing numbers of younger people in the last year,” Kooistra said.

Cabezas said this was evidenced by the many younger couples who came with their children to visit the facilities during December’s sharathon. “There is a new generation of listeners supporting the station,” she said. “God is fulfilling our longing to connect families with God.”

As part of the station’s social media outreach, Internet broadcast are also available on Control Z (http://controlz.fm) with music and topics geared to teenagers.

Guayaquil Station Meets Goal

In the coastal city of Guayaquil, just over 240 miles southwest of Quito, listeners to HCJB2 gave gifts and pledges of $90,211, surpassing the goal of $90,000. “Congratulations to the entire HCJB2 team,” Cabezas said. “God is faithful!”

The station can be heard in much of Ecuador’s coastal region and extends into northern Peru. Both FM stations do live streaming of their programming via the Internet.

Volunteers answer pledge calls at HCJB2 in Guayaquil during the 2016 sharathon, Misión Compartida.

Volunteers answer pledge calls at HCJB2 in Guayaquil during the 2016 sharathon, Misión Compartida.

HCJB2 held its sharathon Wednesday-Friday, Dec. 7-9, reaching its goal on the final day. As with the Quito station, the ranking of the Guayaquil station has improved in the past year.

The station recently hired a new director. Other staff members include an office administrator, two program producers and a co-producer. The station also depends heavily on volunteers, including many to help with the sharathon.

Hearing the listeners’ experiences was a highlight for Reach Beyond missionary Allen Graham who helped lead HCJB2 in 2016 and assisted with the Guayaquil sharathon.

“That’s a really exciting time,” he said, adding that listeners often called the station to make comments such as, “You’re always with me when I’m by myself.” From stay-at-home moms to nightshift workers, people called in with stories describing the impact that the programming has had on their lives.

Graham explained that some of the programs have resulted in restored families and marriages. “Women especially would say, ‘I tune in to the programs because my husband isn’t a believer yet, but I want him to hear.’ If the women tune in, the rest of the family gets to hear,” he said.

HCJB2’s content is geared toward a generic 32-year-old woman, named “Jessica,” Graham related. Calling the programming “Jessica-centric,” he explained that the music and programs are analyzed with this theoretical listener in mind.

“The station program producers ask the question, ‘Can we produce a program so “Jessica” will understand it?’ They try to have a lot of fun on the air. It seems to be working!” he said.

As Graham prepared to board the bus to help at the station’s Saturday-morning open house, he realized he didn’t have his metro card. Planning to take a taxi instead, he began to negotiate the price when the driver noticed the HCJB2 logo on Graham’s shirt.

He said to Graham, “Are you the crazy gringo?” (He is known in the area as the Gringo Alegre or Gringo Loco.) When Graham responded affirmatively, the driver said, “Come on, get in,” and he didn’t charge Graham a cent, saving him $2.50.

“A lot of taxi drivers and some of the bus drivers listen to our station,” Graham noted. As one listener to the Guayaquil station stated in previous years, “We can see that there is really an aim in all of this. We know that this aim is eternal.”

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