The Jammer Turned Broadcaster
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the small FEBC-shortwave radio station on Saipan has been broadcasting Gospel messages to people thousands of miles away for decades, as far as the reaches of Siberia. Yet, the city of Khabarovsk on the far-eastern edge of the former Soviet Union’s frontier had been continually jamming the Saipan-based broadcasts, keeping the Gospel from reaching the ears of millions of rural and urban Russians alike.
Rudi Wiens, a young, energetic broadcaster based in Saipan, had always felt he would be a martyr ever since hearing an impassioned preacher give a call to live radically for Christ, when he was in his early 20s living in Siberia.
From the island of Saipan, Wiens continued to produce and distribute broadcasts in his local Russian language, hoping they would get through to those who needed to hear them.
In the mid-80s the Soviet jamming station in Khabarovsk stopped blocking FEBC’s shortwave broadcasts, as Communism began to disintegrate. In March of 1992, approximately 2,000 miles from the tropical FEBC station in Saipan, the site of the newest Russian-based FEBC station was complete. In a dramatic reversal of roles, the site of the jamming towers in the city of Khabarovsk became the new location of one of FEBC’s Russian offices.
“The same pace, the same spot, and the same person who jammed us, he started to assist us,” says Wiens. It took over 10 years, but in 2002, the same technician who had followed the orders to jam FEBC’s broadcasts became a Christian, and was given the job of broadcasting Gospel messages to the same Russian people he had prevented from hearing the Gospel for years.
From Saipan to Central Asia
Wiens has had many roles since getting involved in FEBC in the 70s, almost 40 years ago. Before working in Saipan as the only broadcaster to produce live broadcasts in the Russian language, Wiens had first listened to FEBC’s Russian language broadcasts in the 60s.
When Communism started to fall and emigration became possible, the Wiens family left Siberia for Estonia, on the far Western border of the Soviet Union. A few years later in 1975, the family then moved to Germany, where their ancestors were originally from. After working in various roles for FEBC in the United States, Saipan, and as the coordinator for FEBC-Russia, Wiens is now the Regional Coordinator for Eurasia. Wiens now oversees new developments in the central asian countries of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan; two hubs of varying people groups, and languages.
“About the Family and For the Family”
Wiens started work on getting a station in Kazakhstan first, it being the largest country, when, “Out of the blue we got an offer to obtain an FM station in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan,” says Wiens. The station in Kazakhstan was established in 2005, and a new station in Kyrgyzstan is as new as May of 2012.
Wiens splits his time between working in La Mirada, CA, at FEBC’s headquarters, fundraising in Germany, and traveling to central asia to supervise developments in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Similar to the programs broadcasted in Russia overseen by Victor Akhterov, FEBC’s broadcasts in Central Asia address social issues through the lens of the Gospel.
“We reason about healthy families, of course with scripture and Christ,” says Wiens, “We have lots to offer there, about relationships, marriages, raising kids.” Wiens explains that these social relationships are the main avenues to share the Gospel over radio. As a result of the positive effects that FEBC’s broadcasts have on people in the two countries, both governments are in favor of the initiatives of FEBC and their broadcasts, which operate under the slogan “About the family and for the family.”
Religious Extremism & Finding Good Communicators
Opposition to Christianity is less from the government, and more from extreme religious groups, mainly Islamic, which the government is also opposed to.
“The laws written against religion in general in Kazakhstan,” Wiens says, “are from extreme, almost militant religions, that also end up affecting FEBC.”
The biggest challenge in Kyrgyzstan, where FEBC has been able to expand more rapidly, is to is to find great, local communicators. Wiens describes the Kyrgyz church as a first-generation church.
“There were a few believers prior to the 90s, but not very many,” he says. Now there is a small contingent that have become followers of Christ in the late 90s. This new generation of Christians creates a dilemma for finding believers who are mature enough in their faith to produce local Gospel broadcasts that are true to scripture and theologically sound.
The Leaders of FEBC in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
Nurlan Kananbaev, is the National Director of FEBC-Kazakhstan. In the mid-90s he almost lost his family. He lost meaning in life, turned to alcohol, and nearly lost his family. In desperation Nurlan saw a hotline which connected him with a Christian Kazakh woman who talked to him about Issa (Jesus).
“Pastor Nurlan” stopped drinking, reconciled with his wife and his son, and had two more daughters. After attending a local Bible school in Kazakhstan, Nurlan met Wiens, who was able to connect him with FEBC, and now provides sermons online for local believers.
Ulaanbek used to be the head of the National Television division in Kyrgyzstan. After becoming a believer, he started to speak his beliefs on air more freely. This got him in trouble with the new government–which frequently was changing hands, due to multiple revolutions–which asked him to be quiet, or leave. Now in the states, he has a strong vision to share the Gospel.
Enthusiastic about the proposal from Wiens about doing a talk show in Kyrgyz, Ulaanbek is still unable to broadcast and return, due to his alienated political status. However, Ulaanbek’s brother now is the station chief in Kyrgyzstan for FEBC.
1. The raising up of local communicators in the countries of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, who are able to produce content in the local languages.
2. Overcoming the terrible alcoholism that plagues all of the former Soviet Union, including Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
3. Continuing freedom from the government to allow FEBC to operate without restrictions based on religion.