Seventy years ago, a Kalamazoo, Michigan pastor scanned his radio dial in vain for a solid, biblical Christian broadcast. His decision to create such a radio program launched what would become Words of Hope. Please explore this section to follow our journey through these first six decades. Learn what anchors and propels our organization as we pursue our mission to share the gospel in some of the most remote and hostile regions of the world.
The Early Days
In 1944, the Rev. Howard Teusink, then pastor of the Trinity Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan, remained at home one Sunday morning too ill to preach. From his bed he tuned his radio dial, searching for gospel broadcasts. After listening carefully, he became convinced of the need for a radio broadcast with a sound, well-balanced biblical witness to the evangelical Christian faith.
The consistory of his congregation overtured the Classis of Kalamazoo with respect to such an outreach, and the ministry of Words of Hope officially began under the name Temple Time. The original articles of incorporation provided a firm foundation for the organization with the following statement of purpose: “to preach through broadcasting Jesus Christ as the only Savior”.
The first broadcast of the new ministry aired July 22, 1945, “live” from the Central Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. William Goulooze, then Professor of Church History at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, presented a message entitled “Consider Christ Jesus.” Within months of this first broadcast, the gospel proclaiming work of Temple Time was soon adopted by three regional synods as their official broadcast.
A number of other Reformed Church ministers spoke on the program in its early years. The Rev. Harland Steele served as Temple Time radio minister from 1950-1952. Dr. Henry Bast, pastor of Bethany Reformed Church in Grand Rapids and later Professor of Preaching at Western Theological Seminary, served as radio minister from 1952-1972.
During Dr. Bast’s time of service, Temple Time launched its first foreign language broadcasts: Japanese (1953), Chinese (1955), Russian (1958) and Spanish (1959). Temple Time also began production of a devotional booklet in 1952, entitled Prayer Time.
Glenn LePard, after a career in secular radio, became the Executive Vice President of the ministry and the announcer on its broadcasts in 1963.
In September 1972, when Dr. Bast’s health was declining, Dr. William Brownson, then Professor of Preaching at Western Theological Seminary, became the Temple Time radio minister. His first broadcast was aired at Christmas-time, 1972.
The name of the broadcast ministry was changed in 1974 from Temple Time to Words of Hope. As foreign language ministries became more prominent, it was realized that the word “temple” in many cultures is customarily associated with non-Christian faiths. The staff and board decided upon Words of Hope as a title, which both avoided this difficulty and also pointed to the nature of the Christian message.
Also in 1974, production of Words of Hope television programs began with Dr. Brownson as speaker. These programs were originally presented on several national cable systems at no charge. Eventually, however, television time became so costly that in 1982, it was decided to stop production of Words of Hope telecasts. The staff and board had faced this decision: shall we, as a ministry with modest resources, become chiefly a North American television program, or shall we specialize in missionary radio? The unanimous choice of the Words of Hope staff and board was to do the latter. This proved to be a momentous decision.
Throughout these years, the devotional booklet, Prayer Time, continued to grow in popularity. Along with the ministry, its title was also changed to Words of Hope in 1975. Currently, more than 100,000 copies of each quarterly edition are distributed worldwide.
In 1981, Dr. and Mrs. Brownson traveled around the world, visiting key broadcast facilities of Trans World Radio, Far East Broadcasting Company and the World Radio Missionary Fellowship (HCJB). The aim was to discover what the greatest needs were in missionary broadcasting and what overall strategy was in place to meet those needs. This was a rich and fruitful trip, but it became clear that the various broadcast agencies were operating independently with no shared plan for world evangelization. Words of Hope began to work with these broadcast partners toward closer cooperation. Since 1982, Words of Hope has experienced an unparalleled advance in missionary broadcasting. Over 25 new foreign language programs have since been launched.
The major Christian broadcast agencies covenanted together in 1985 to form the World by 2000 initiative, a cooperative effort to produce gospel broadcasts in all the world’s remaining major languages (about 150 of them at the time) by the end of the century. Words of Hope has been active in this movement from the beginning and now holds a place on the World by 2000 (now called World by Radio) Steering Committee. Approximately 80 megalanguages (a language with a million or more speakers) remain unreached with the gospel.
In 1985, Lee DeYoung joined the Words of Hope team after a career in secular radio to become the Executive Director. He has since become the Vice President for Broadcasting.
Words of Hope embraced the age of computers and learned how to further the message of the gospel with tools like fax machines, email, and websites. During this decade, the foreign language outreach of Words of Hope grew spectacularly, with more than 23 new broadcasts launched, more than in all four previous decades combined.
In 1994, Bill Brownson retired and was succeeded by Rev. David Bast as Words of Hope’s new President and Broadcast Minister.
In 1995, Words of Hope celebrated its 50th anniversary in ministry. Throughout the rest of the decade, exciting new advances continued to be made. An overseas manager was appointed to provide on-site supervisions and coordination with the broadcasts in South Asia and India. Words of Hope began a partnership with the Back to God Hour and Middle East Reformed Fellowship to expand Arabic broadcasts into the Muslim world of the Middle East. In 1999, Specialized English broadcasts were launched to target the more than half a billion people worldwide learning to speak English as a second language.
Ministry opportunities continued to expand in the new century through a number of strategic partnerships. In 2006, a new studio and production center were dedicated in Maradi, Niger. This marked the beginning of our Niger ministry with broadcasts in French and Hausa that could be heard on local stations throughout the country. Words of Hope Uganda officially launched its ministry of radio programs in 2007, and a new production building with offices and studios was set up at the campus of Uganda Christian University in 2008. Partnerships formed with the Middle East Reformed Fellowship, Back to God Ministries International, TWR-Canada, and Good Books Educational Trust in India allowed us to expand daily programming in Arabic and Persian, as well as expand our entire ministry in South Asia and our Spotlight Special English broadcasts.
The World by 2000 partnership begun in the 80’s was renamed World by Radio, and is continuing to reach new people groups. Our goal is to always work in tandem with other radio ministries, never in competition. In this way we hope to reach the most people groups possible without duplicating Christian broadcasts in a region.
Words of Hope also began pursuing a new strategy of moving closer to broadcast audiences by producing programs, whenever possible, in the midst of our target audiences, then airing the programs from local stations and partnering with local churches to provide listener follow-up. We provide staff salaries for local broadcasters in our ministry regions, help them set up broadcast studios, and bring them broadcasting equipment. We also provide theological training to ensure our local broadcasters have firm theological foundations from which to begin their local ministries.
2010s and Beyond
Words of Hope and Back to God Ministries International have now partnered in a new, jointly-produced program called “Groundwork,” which can be heard on radio stations as well as online. This new program has helped to promote partnership between the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, in keeping with our goal to work together with others in order to reach the greatest number of people with the good news.
Today, Words of Hope broadcasts in more than 35 languages on five continents. We are able to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus by radio, teaching conferences, internet, and printed materials to a potential audience of staggering size. Together with our broadcast partners, we are closing in on our goal to build the church in the hardest places in the world.