MONROVIA—The Free Presbyterian Church of North America (FPCNA) Mission Board voted last night to approve the launch of an FM radio station in Monrovia, Liberia, where the board has two missionaries stationed, and two mission churches.
The mission board’s NGO in the country, the Free Presbyterian Mission Church of Liberia, applied to the Liberian government’s Ministry of Information in 2015 for a permit to operate a non-commercial radio station on the mission compound property in Duazon. The Ministry assessed the property and granted the mission a permit to erect a tower and use the existing one-room apartment for a studio.
“You are advised to remain within the scope of your stated objectives,” the permit reads. “Providing quality Christian programs, Bible Sermons, Children’s Programs, Radio Dramas, and Bible Call-in Question Programs.”
That permit was then submitted to the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, the government agency in charge of licensing frequencies.
“We applied to them in 2015, but they were unable to grant frequencies because of some challenges they were facing with radio frequency interference, or at least that is how we understood it,” Mr. DiCanio, the FPCNA Missionary in Liberia, said. “So, we just kept renewing the permit from the Ministry of Information both in 2016 and again in 2017, hoping that there might be an opening.”
That opening came two weeks ago when an official called Mr. DiCanio and said they were approved to test 92.5 FM, and that if all went well, they would be granted the frequency.
During that same week the mission was informed that a 150-foot, used guy-wired radio tower was available for purchase near the mission compound.
“I’ve priced towers for over three years and knew that they were prohibitive in price,” Mr. DiCanio said. “When I arrived to see what was for sale, I could not believe how cheaply they were selling it.”
“The tower was a Rohn 55G, priced new at $30,000 USD, once you factor in shipping and import duty,” Mr. DiCanio said. “This man was selling it for $6500.”
Rumor has it that there are a handful of these towers on the used market in Liberia because either the UN or other agencies took down several towers before they left the country. Rather than pay the demolition team in cash, they paid in towers.
“I’ve seen a few of them and tried to see if we could buy them, but they kept getting snatched up,” Mr. DiCanio said. “This was by far the best one I had seen, and so we made a plea to the mission board to consider this.”
Having already budgeted its funds for the year, and having the expense of other mission works, the mission board said they were unable to do anything at this time, although they were very encouraged by the prospects of such a ministry.
“When I heard that news I just got on my knees and pled with the Lord to make a way,” Mr. DiCanio said. “As I was praying an email came in from a person who was informed about the progress of the permit, and wanted to know if I knew if any funds were available to do it.
Mr. DiCanio emailed back to say that there just were no funds, to which the man replied that he and his wife had been praying for the Lord’s guidance about £8000.00 that they were looking to give to God’s work.
“The man then said that he felt clear that the radio station was the project,” DiCanio said. “Of course I was overcome.”
That gift was seen as a token from the Lord by the mission board, and they decided to set a date to meet and vote.
“I was struggling because there were other people in Liberia who were looking at the tower and were trying to get the funds to buy it,” Mr. DiCanio said. “And we had the funds, but not the board’s approval.”
The board needed to consider the long term, financial ramifications of the project—maintenance costs, especially on the oceanfront. This was relatively easy to determine with the help of missionary Randy Cornelius from Granada who operates Harbour Light of the Windwards, a radio station that also sits along the coast.
“He told us that his tower gets coated with salt,” Mr. DiCanio said. “But, he said if you keep up with painting, which is minimal because of the narrow size of the tower, maybe ten gallons a year, it will last a long time.”
Mr. Cornelius said that he changes his cables (“guy-wires”) every five to seven years for safety, at a price of $1500 USD.
“To me that was reasonable, and well worth the cost, when you consider the efficiency of radio,” Mr. DiCanio said. “The amount of communication you could accomplish with a few missionaries is staggering when you have a computer and microphone.”
Although the government has not finalized the paperwork, they have committed to give the frequency, and committed to find other available frequencies if the station has interference issues.
Mr. DiCanio said that, in the will of the Lord, the station will be fully automated, run by a laptop with RadioLogik software, and that Mr. Cornelius has kindly offered to aid the station with much of the programming to get them started.
“Of course we are planning to air Let the Bible Speak, but naturally we can’t just run those programs back to back,” Mr. DiCanio said. “We will need other preaching programs from our ministers.” Let the Bible Speak is the radio ministry of the FPCNA’s sister denomination, the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster (Northern Ireland).
Mr. DiCanio said that it is simple for ministers to have their own programs, as they can just upload their sermons onto the prospective ftp site.
“The computer will download the program automatically, ‘top and tail’ it with the intro and exit music, and then place it into the time slot and play it on air,” DiCanio said. “All this would be done automatically.”
Mr. DiCanio requested that people really pray that the Lord would continue to make a way for this project to come to completion.
“The radio tower could be sold fairly easily, if things don’t work out,” Mr. DiCanio said. “But we have had many tokens from the Lord, and we believe it to be His will. The fact that we were absolutely unable to afford the tower, and also the fact that there was a real interest in the tower by others, made our acquiring of it, after a week of waiting, a great token from the Lord.”
“I pled with the Lord to have someone else buy it, if we were not to have it,” DiCanio said. “But the Lord gave it to us. We are now looking for a transmitter, antenna, and cable.”