WEST MONROE, La. — A large wall map hangs in Kenneth Bolden’s office, little flags marking numerous cities in South America, Africa and more.
Though these towns are spread across different continents, they share a connection to West Monroe through World Radio, an international ministry based at White’s Ferry Road church.
Since 1963, World Radio has aimed to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people at every corner of the Earth, currently broadcasting programs in 100 nations through 47 different languages, said Bolden, the director of the ministry.
“Our motto here is, ‘To every person on Earth in his or her own language,'” Bolden said. “If everybody listened in our region, 500 million people would hear our programs every week.”
The ministry was the inspiration of three men looking for a way to tell the world about Jesus. Their names were Alton Howard, Bill Smith and Leon Telford.
“Back in 1963, these guys were just dreaming,” Bolden said. “They were out fishing, and they said, ‘How are we going to get the gospel out to the whole world?’
“They thought about radio, and they said, ‘Let’s try it.'”
The project began with short-wave broadcasts, and workers continued to broadcast through the Iron Curtain days, reaching places such as East Germany, Romania and Poland, Bolden said.
“Today our real focal place is in Africa and Southeast Asia,” Bolden said. “That’s what we call the hot spots.”
Initially, broadcasts were recorded at the church studio in West Monroe and mailed out to different countries, but things have changed with the advancement of technology and the growth of the ministry.
These days, the Louisiana headquarters is used for administrative duties, and the recording happens all over the world.
World Radio has been able to find natives in each country to coordinate and lead broadcasts through the radio program.
“We have a few missionaries, but almost all of our speakers are nationals who are speaking to their own people in their own language,” Bolden said. “Our most successful programs are where missionaries had been for 25-30 years, but now the missionaries have left and have left that work in the hands of the nationals.
“It’s a real tool to help those nationals continue their work of evangelism and church development,” he said.
In order for people to get connected to start a World Radio program, they must fill out an application form and express their strategy, need for the radio and go through a screening process.
“Once they’re approved, they’re required to send us regular reports, and we communicate,” Bolden said. “They write and tell me how radio is benefiting their ministry.”
Presenting the gospel through radio isn’t limited to preaching sermons over the airwaves.
“There is a variety, but what’s really working is where it’s a discussion program, where we have two or three guys talking about an idea,” Bolden said. “People really like to hear three people give their opinions and hear their ideas, and they respond to that by telephone or e-mail.”
One of the most visible results from these programs is church growth in the area. Another benefit is the ability to pass along church news through the program, Bolden said.
“We encourage them to use 10 minutes of a 30 minute program to share news,” Bolden said. “It’s a great ministry, it really is.”
The director of World Radio for more than 25 years was Norman Rhodes. The project and its continued presence at White’s Ferry Road have also served to encourage the congregation, said Alan Robertson, co-pastor of the church.
“World Radio has opened so many doors for the gospel that it is a real inspiration to our local members,” Robertson said.
Along with opening up the name and ministry of White’s Ferry Road to people all over the world, World Radio has simply opened the minds of people who learn about it and see its continued success.
“To think about the worldwide impact of this ministry on a daily basis really excites our members to remember the Great Commission in their daily walk here in Ouachita Parish,” Robertson said. “The biggest impact World Radio has had on our local family is the constant reminder about how big the world is and how much people need the gospel of Christ.”