Passion, boldness, courage…what keeps these traits alive and well after 75 years of ministry? Hear about the life and legacy of FEBC founder, Dr. Bob Bowman and his urgency to share the Gospel…Until All Have Heard.
[Wayne]: This is “Until All Have Heard.” I’m Wayne Shepherd. I’m with Ed Cannon, the current president of the Far East Broadcasting Company. Ed, you’re filling some pretty big shoes.
[Ed]: You know, it was a real pleasure, Wayne, for me to have the privilege of meeting Dr. Bob Bowman (founder of FEBC) when I took this job. He would’ve been in his early 90s when I first came to FEBC, living alone in a senior living facility. I used to go frequently and have dinner with him there. I was always amazed at his passion to know about what was going on, “Tell me, Ed, what are the men in China doing? What about the broadcast in Russia?” You know, we have a recording of Dr. Bowman and I speaking together. I can remember just being the brand-new president; he and I are sitting together in front of a large gathering of our staff and friends of FEBC. I asked him, I said, “Dr. Bowman, you know, what advice would you give me today stepping in as the new president of the Far East Broadcasting Company?” He said, “Well, you know, Ed, we have always patterned ourselves after the motto, ‘Take Christ to the world by radio’ so if I were speaking to you as the new president today of FEBC, I would say, ‘Take Christ to the world by radio and new media.’” So, what he meant by that was, essentially, it doesn’t matter the platform. What matters is the message, taking Christ to the world, and he meant that Christ’s message, and that’s what we’re still doing.
[Wayne]: The Lord called him home when he’s over 100, right?
[Ed]: Well, he wasn’t quite 100. He was just shy of his 100th birthday, and the last time I spoke with him, he was laying in a hospital bed in the nursing home and the doctors were saying, “Well, he doesn’t have much longer to live,” but there was an urgency on his mind, and he kept saying to me, “Now, what about China? What about Indonesia?” So, even in his dying breaths, he was not concerned about the things of this world, he was concerned about how FEBC was ministering to people. What I read at his memorial service in front of old staff, retired board members, and many long-time friends of the ministry comes from Romans 10:14, “How then can they call on one that they have not believed in? How can they believe in one of whom they have not heard? How can they hear without someone preaching to them? How can they preach unless they’re sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news.” I think about Dr. Bowman and how so many people when he reunites with them in heaven, and they find out who he worked for, they’ll say, “Oh, how beautiful are your feet to have brought the good news to those of us around the world who have never had the opportunity to hear, who never heard of a church in our neighborhood, never had a pastor, never opened a Bible, but yet we heard the broadcast on the radio.”
[Wayne]: I know that keeps you anchored because your job is the ministry. There’s no question about that, and yet it is a very large organization.
[Ed]: You know what really keeps me anchored, Wayne, is when we have the privilege to meet with people and look into their eyes and have them say, “Without your broadcasts, I would not know the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, we have no pastors, and we have no Bibles, and we depend on your broadcasts for the Word of God.” Our favorite, Wayne, and you and I have talked about this verse so many times, “We hunger for God’s Word more than anything in this world,” and that’s what keeps me going. I only wish that I had such a pure love for God’s Word that nothing else in this world would matter. The only thing is a hunger for His Word. That’s what FEBC radio tries to offer to our listeners is as they have that hunger, we want to make absolutely sure that there’s nothing holding them back from hearing God’s Word, from hearing His message, and having availability to that very opportunity.
[Wayne]: Well, let’s reach back into the archive to hear Dr. Bowman’s voice again. This comes from the little radio program he did called “The Bowman Report,” and he’s reading a listener’s comment.
[Bob Bowman]: “I enjoy every day now since receiving Jesus Christ as my Savior. Before, I did not know who Jesus Christ was, but after listening, I received Him. I will never forget that it was you who introduced Jesus Christ to me.” It’s the thousands of letters like this that have come from scores of nations that keep us moving on for Christ and His world evangelism goal. Letters from mainland China are more numerous now than in the first 30 years of China broadcasting, some do risk writing. Here’s a beautiful letter from China, “It is a quiet night. I’m listening on an old radio. In our society, freedom of religion is only on paper. Even though Bibles and handbooks were burned long ago, nothing can stop the message of the gospel carried by the airwaves. The messages and testimonies always give us the courage to live. Oh, my friend, it is worthwhile. Pray for all who are hearing at home and overseas.”
[Ed]: I think Dr. Bowman’s ability to broadcast and convey his heart was far more sophisticated than mine. I only wish I could talk with the same passion and emotion that he does. Once again, speaking about Dr. Bowman and his career, I’d like to tell a quick story about when he retired from the Far East Broadcasting Company. He would’ve been about 75 years old, and he was stepping down after running this ministry for many, many, many years. The local television station here in Los Angeles decided, “You know, this man has really started a big ministry, and we’re going to do a little special television program about him to put on the air.” So, they listened to his stories. He’d tell these very colorful stories about spending weeks on boats traveling across the Pacific and what it was like to be a white person going into China at that point in time and no one having seen anyone with features like he had. It’s just wonderful listening to the interesting stories he would tell, and they went on, and on, and on. It was a beautiful program, but at the very end, the moderator said to Dr. Bowman, “Well, Dr. Bowman, you know, now after all these years, you’re retiring, how would you like to be remembered in your ministry?” Dr. Bowman said, “Oh, well, you see, young man, this is a ministry about Jesus Christ. I want to point to Him and not be remembered at all,”
and I love telling that story because it is that humility and that dedication to the purpose of the ministry, not about personal success, that he was interested in. He was happy to step off into the sidelines and have the ministry continue without focusing on his name.
[Wayne]: Just think about what he accomplished. Our theme this month on our website is emerging technology shortwave radio, and just having any radio at all was really emerging technology in his day. He was very visionary.
[Ed]: The trouble that they had to go through to get the shortwave radio up and started in those days is also an amazing story, thinking about fighting tropical storms and diseases and not enough money in the Philippines, building these shortwave stations.
[Wayne]: Well, it’s such a great story, and yet the bottom line is that you got to change with the time. This digital technology, this emerging technology, Dr. Bowman, himself, would be very excited about.
[Ed]: He would. You know, the fundamental strategic pillars of our organization are that we’re going to broadcast the Gospel. We’re going to use media, and he doesn’t describe what that looks like. It doesn’t have to be shortwave, but that we’re going to use indigenous voices who speak the local language, who are integrated with the local culture in a local church, and we’re broadcasting to the least reached people. So, our target are people that have never heard, in an indigenous voice, that’s speaking their native language, and who they can meet, is part of the community, and integrated the local church. That strategy is absolutely timeless. It doesn’t matter what platform we’re broadcasting on. Today, we hold every one of those strategic pillars as we do the work of Christ through FEBC.
[Wayne]: A lot has changed, but our core mission is the same and, Lord willing, will remain the same until His return. So, Ed, thank you for this conversation. We just want to pay homage to Dr. Bob Bowman, such a great man, such a visionary leader. Do us a favor. Would you write a review and leave it at Apple Podcasts or Google Play so that other listeners will be attracted to the podcast to tell the story of God at work through the Far East Broadcasting Company and pass the word. Use social media yourself to let people know about this podcast, “Until All Have Heard,” with Ed Cannon. There’s more information on our website FEBC.org.