Fifty years ago: 1968
In a tiny garage in a back street in Christchurch NZ, Dick Berry began a radio broadcasting ministry that, even as a baby, had to take on the goliath of government to get the law changed.
Broadcasting to a nation from a suburban backyard was no small vision. Private radio didn’t exist in those days and there was no way to even get a broadcasting licence. But his commitment to prayer, along with that of his supporters, established a firm foundation of dependence on God.
Despite repeated rejection, dogged persistence eventually culminated in an official opening ten years later by then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon who said the station promoted a ‘faith that moves mountains’. Radio Rhema became the first permanent Christian station in the British Commonwealth and one of the first Christian broadcasters in the world.
Aspiring Christian broadcasters, especially in the Commonwealth, took note of this Kiwi success as they too began to lobby their governments for a change in local laws. Dick Berry’s vision of reaching an entire nation through radio had become contagious.
His vice-president Hal Short had begun as a volunteer and had gone on to assist other countries wanting to follow in New Zealand’s pioneering footsteps. Australia was the first nation to benefit from the model developed across the Tasman and, through sacrificial hard work and diligent prayer, affiliate operations began to spring up across the globe in the UK, USA, Asia, Oceania, Africa and Europe.
Hal and Dick’s contributions to radio across Australia and New Zealand—as well as around the world—have eternal significance. Hal summarises it all: ‘The heart of what we do is to motivate local people to talk to their community using radio and other media in order to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a relevant way, right where they are.’
Ian Worby, UCB’s Asia Pacific Regional Director, says: ‘Hal has made a quiet but huge contribution to the establishment of Christian media here in Australia. Through reading The Word for Today or listening to a Christian radio station people have come in contact with part of his amazing legacy.’
And, half a century on, you’re part of this history—your generosity and faithful support has been an integral part of this ongoing move of God.