Henry Brucks and Henry Poetker
When God led Henry Brucks and Henry Poetker to start a radio ministry, their first challenge was coming up with the $3,000 annual studio fee when they had only $1.98 between them. Both men were Bible College students but they had great faith that God would provide. After fasting and prayer, Henry Brucks declared, “If this call to radio broadcasting is not of the Lord, then neither is my salvation!” He signed the contract and the first radio program of the Gospel Light Hour aired in English on February 23, 1947. The motto in the early years was “to reach the unreached,” and God blessed the ministry to do just that. When the new Gospel Light studios on Henderson Hwy. were completed in 1960, then current Director John Schmidt declared that the past 13 years of effectively proclaiming the Gospel through media were “all proof that Henry Brucks’ salvation was real.”
Lorlie Barkman joined Gospel Light Hour in 1975. He brought his experience as a pastor and cartoonist to the The Third Story, one of the first TV shows produced here. It ran for 15 years. Lorlie loves the way broadcasting Christian programming on television reaches a broader audience than only those who choose to come to church on Sunday. His guiding principle in producing Christian media has always been, “God’s truth applied to ordinary people.” Lorlie became well known for his illustrations and animation, but TV viewers never saw more of him on the screen than his hand drawing. Today Lorlie lives out his passion for sharing God’s truth with ordinary people through his work with the Alzheimer’s Foundation.
Grant Hoeppner has worked with Square One as a broadcast engineer, producer, photographer and videographer since 2001. Grant loves that what he does reaches people for God’s kingdom. He believes that a program needs three things: content, creativity, and technical expertise. Because Square One is a small broadcaster, everyone involved in a project contributes to all parts of it. He finds this a satisfying and inspiring way to work. Grant also loves that Square One is not trying to communicate with the whole world from a North American perspective. “We partner with people from other parts of the world who have the vision and knowledge to communicate with their own people.” Grant believes this makes all the difference in producing an effective product.
In 1997, David Balzer hosted the English radio program, Connecting Points. From 1998 to 2008, he co-hosted GodTalk, a live, interactive radio program where he “fielded a battery of unpredictable calls each Sunday evening.” In 1997, David said, “What attracted me is the clearly evangelistic mission of the agency. It’s a group of people who have taken on the mandate of creatively bringing the hope of Christ to people who need and want it.” David is known for his transparency, compassion and sense of humour in unscripted settings. When he left Square One, he commented on the privilege of working in “this incredible place of creative expression – all I’ve learned, the leaders I got to know, the thousands of guests from paupers to princes… It’s been a very rich experience.”
Mary (Martens) Wiebe
Mary (Martens) Wiebe was a mailroom volunteer for 40 years. She remembers her brother Willy singing with the Gospel Light Quartet in the early years. Her brothers Pete, George and John also sang with various Men’s Ensembles over the years. Her daughters sang in the Gospel Light Children’s Choir in the 1960s. By the time Mary was invited to volunteer in 1975, she and her husband were very familiar with the ministry and believed in its effectiveness. She says, “We liked that it was so far-reaching, with so many languages. And it was significant to us that they included Russian – that’s where my husband came from.” Mary faithfully showed up to stuff envelopes (shown closest to the camera, in purple) until the mailroom volunteers were disbanded in 2015. She remembers enjoyable times with staff and volunteers, the homemade pastry at coffee breaks, and the good feeling of contributing to something significant for the Lord.
Claude Pratte joined Square One as the Director of Church Relations in 2006, a new position that then Executive Director Delbert Enns let him shape in his own way. Claude said, “What FLN was doing – reaching out through language ministries – caught my attention.” In 2008, he became the next Executive Director. He retired in 2016. Claude believes in teamwork and enjoyed what Delbert used to say: “There are no prima donnas here. Leave your ego at the door.” Claude was proud of the ministry and credited its effectiveness to the people he worked with. He described them as “creative, capable and fearless people who are committed to bringing their best to the work.” He loved travelling to the ministry locations to see how God was using the media produced at Square One to transform lives. He would say, “We need our constituency to know: This is what God is doing through us and you can help!”
Eduard Giesbrecht grew up in Paraguay where his family regularly listened to Jacob Funk’s Light of the Gospel in Low German, and Ernesto Pinto’s Encuentro in Spanish. Both ministries of Square One World Media, these radio programs were significant contributors to Eduard’s faith journey. Today Eduard is thrilled to work alongside Jacob and Ernesto, two men he has long admired, in proclaiming the Gospel message. Eduard and his wife Heidi produce a Low German video and radio program, Ekj Ran out of a simple studio in Bolivia.
At Square One World Media’s 50 year celebration (then Mennonite Brethren Communications), Henry Born said, “It’s always a source of amazement to see what has become of the Gospel Light Hour broadcast since it was initiated in 1947.” Henry joined Gospel Light in 1948 as the second tenor of the King’s Four Quartet, along with Ted Epp, Abe Neufeld and Herb Janzen. Henry was the Gospel Light Director from 1949 until he graduated from MBBC in 1950. He remembered that as being a very exciting time. He also reminisced about the 7:35 broadcast slot on Sunday mornings. In his words, it was “hardly a time for voices to be in shape to sing!”
Cornie & Elfrieda Balzer
Cornie Balzer directed the English and German Gospel Light Choirs from 1951-1958. His wife Elfrieda sang in the choir. (Cornie: front row, far right. Elfrieda: front row, 3rd from left.) Ministry through broadcasting became the couple’s life work, whether with Gospel Light Hour in Winnipeg, Quelle des Lebens in Germany, or eventually HCJB in Ecuador. Called “The Voice of the Andes,” HCJB was the first Christian missionary radio station capable of transmitting around the world. HCJB was also the means of transmitting Gospel Light’s Russian program into the Soviet Union. In a 1958 newsletter, when the Balzers left GLH for studies abroad, they quoted this verse: “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10, KJV).
Juliy Morozov of Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, is a 5th generation Christian, an unusual claim in a former Soviet state. He and his brother Roman are two of the founders of Shelter+, a partner ministry of Square One that helps Ukrainian young people develop their potential. Juliy believes that a real living faith means getting involved and doing something. He says, “I am blessed to not be a perfectionist. I am Mr. 75%. Things don’t need to be perfect… just get in there and do something!” Juliy develops relationships with youth so that it becomes natural to talk about faith. He loves ministry in Ukraine because there is so little happening to meet the many needs. In this setting, Juliy freely exercises his gift of being a starter and sees that small efforts can make a huge impact. He credits all of his success to his praying grandparents.
Mónica Rosas is a secondary school teacher from La Plata, Argentina (pictured here, left, with Marina Pinto). One evening in 2011, she heard the Encuentro program on the radio while she graded papers. She was tremendously blessed by the testimony of a single mom who struggled with life but discovered that God was always faithful. The woman’s experience was so close to her own that she could imagine that one day in the future she would also be thanking God for His faithfulness. The program ended with a big surprise: the woman who gave the testimony turned out to be the mother of Ernesto Pinto, the host of the program. Mónica emailed Encuentro and was invited to edit and proofread some of Ernesto Pinto’s notes. She has been volunteering with the Encuentro ministry ever since. Mónica continues to be blessed by Encuentro and loves that she can offer something in return.
Elaine and Mary: a new and a longtime supporter
Mary, a longtime supporter of Square One, passed away last year. Her neighbour, Elaine, recalls that Mary supported many ministries, including Square One. Elaine grew up in Winnipeg and she remembers Gospel Light Hour from the early years. She says, “I myself sat under the godly teaching of Rev. John Schmidt.” So when an appeal for Nurse Irene’s ministry recently came in the mail (pictured above), Elaine decided to respond. “As a retired nurse myself, I felt led to pray for her and what God has called her to do. I don’t know how often I can send something, but as the Lord supplies, I will take over from Mary, bless her.”
John M. Schmidt
John M. Schmidt became the Director of Gospel Light Hour in 1951, the 5th Director in as many years. He knew very little about broadcasting, but he believed that faith without risk was no faith at all. John stayed until 1963, bringing much needed stability to the ministry. Looking back, John marked two great crossroads of his time at Gospel Light: the opening of CFAM in Altona that brought opportunities at reasonable rates, and the start of the Russian program. “We had the vision that it could be done. We prayed and trusted and it happened. God supplied.” When the new recording studios were dedicated in 1960, John addressed the crowd with thankfulness and humour. He referred to Henry Brucks who had boldly declared in 1946 that: “If this call to radio broadcasting is not of the Lord, then neither is my salvation!” Now, looking at the Gospel Light of 1960, John said, “This is all proof that Henry Brucks’ salvation was real!”
Margaret Peters remembers the start of Gospel Light Hour and how excited her parents were about “this joyous thing we could do for the Lord!” As an adult, Margaret accompanied the Russian choir for many years (middle person, middle row) and this solidified her connection with Square One. Though she doesn’t speak Russian, many others in the choir had come from Russia and Margaret saw “their joy in the Lord in being able to give back.” In recent years, Margaret has twice travelled to Bolivia with Irene Marsch where she had the honor of sharing in Irene’s ministry. In Bolivia, Margaret witnessed how Irene’s listeners recognize her voice from the radio and are eager for her unique message about God and health. About our new name, Margaret comments that Scripture tells us to “remember your first love.” She says the name Square One World Media is a reminder for us to remember our first love of sharing the Gospel.
The Kings Four Quartet
The Kings Four male quartet was a regular part of The Hour in the early years. A 1961 report says, “This quartet had presence. Whenever they sang, a hush would fall over the assembly as the strains of ‘Tis a Glad and Glorious Gospel’ would segue to the listener.” The quartet was made up of various male voices during its time, including Ted Epp, Abe Neufeld, Henry Schroeder, Herb Janzen, Henry Schroeder, Aaron Warkentin, John Klassen, Pete Martens, Willy Martens, and George Ewert. In 1997, George Ewert recalled: “There was this initial euphoria of being involved in spreading the Gospel. The downside was getting up early mornings for the live broadcasts.” He also recalled the glitches of live broadcasting, particularly the time they were singing ‘Dare to be a Daniel’ and Ted Epp was the only one to come in on time.
Delbert Enns (No, Not a Men’s Music Ensemble)
Delbert Enns was first the Assistant and then the Executive Director of Square One from 1994 to 2007. During his time, the agency’s name changed from MB Communications to Family Life Network (FLN). Also during his time, Ukrainian, Arabic and Spanish ministry programs were added to the existing English, German and Russian ministries. For a short time, FLN also produced Tartar, Darfur and Quechua programs. During a trip to Egypt, Delbert said he heard God speak through the prophet Isaiah. “See, I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it? I am opening a new way in the desert and rivers in the wilderness.” Delbert realized “it’s not about what we do but what God is pleased to do through us.” Delbert (far left) is shown here in 2000 with Program Producers L. (Russian Partner), Ernesto Pinto (Spanish), Samir Youssef (Arabic Partner), Jacob Funk (High & Low German), and David Balzer (English).
In 2016, Monika Soliman began hosting and producing The New Eve, an Arabic TV talk show for women. In many ways, Monika understands the alienation immigrant and refugee women feel; she lives in Winnipeg but her heart is still in her homeland of Egypt. A highlight for Monika (pictured left, on The New Eve set) was learning from her guest speakers during filming. One guest explained why Arab women were being displaced into other countries where they feel insecure. “God must away you from your comfort zone to feel the hand of God in every step.” Monika and her team have the dream and the compassion to share the story of salvation, grace and hope with all Arab-speaking women; to tell women who are experiencing alienation that, “You are precious, you are very important, you are loved and you always have been in the eyes of God.”
The founding of CFAM in Altona in 1957 was significant for “The Hour.” Says an early report by George Derksen, “At last Mennonite people had a radio station where they could broadcast the Gospel with great freedom.” No longer limited to broadcasting once a week, GLH immediately created 3 new programs to reach the different people groups within the station’s range: Morgan Andacht, a daily German devotional with Dr. Abraham Unruh; Evening Devotions, a daily English program with Rev. John Schmidt; and a Children’s Gospel Light Hour with Toby Voth as Director and a children’s choir with Frieda Derksen as the choir director and Bertha Klassen as pianist. CFAM is now part of Golden West Broadcasting.
Neil Klassen was 15 years old when he began volunteering as a sound technician at Gospel Light Hour. More than 10 year later, in 1965, he was hired as the first paid studio technician. He remembers how, in 1954, John Pauls (the first volunteer technician) and John Schmidt ended the years of recording live in a crowded studio when they acquired a “new-fangled machine that could tape programs ahead of time.” Neil was the Executive Director in the early ‘70s, and then again from 1978 to 1986 when the ministry outgrew its former home and built the current studios at 225 Riverton. At the dedication in 1986, he commented, “We want to always be prepared to provide a ministry as the Lord calls and enables us… and we hope that, with this new building, the effectiveness of the ministry will continue.” He considered the generosity of God’s people to be the backbone of the ministry. When he retired from FLN in 2000, he was credited with “changing the landscape of Christian broadcasting literally around the world.” Neil is pictured, right, with Toby Voth in the early 1960’s.
Abe Neufeld, a founding quartet member, told of “The Ten Cent Answer to Prayer.” He recalled being in a prayer meeting because of a sizeable debt for airtime when they received 10 cents from Eunice Wiebe, a girl tithing on a $1 birthday gift. By the end of the prayer time, they had received enough money to pay the entire debt. Almost 70 years later, the Square One ministry is thriving because of a long legacy of supporters who give sacrificially and pray faithfully. Supporters like Nettie and Henry from Chilliwack who recently wrote that they pray for us 5 days a week. Or Sara from Abbotsford who, at 92, can no longer afford her long-time monthly donation but promises to keep praying. Or like the unnamed women in this archival photo from 2000, simply labelled, “Prayer Warriors.”
Faithful at Fifty
An undated report in our archives defines Christian radio broadcasting as “Life at the speed of light and light with the power of life.” When MB Communications celebrated 50 years of “broadcasting life at the speed of light,” Burton Buller (then the Executive Director) reflected on what makes an agency last for the long term. He referred to the collective experience of staff and volunteers over 50 years of ministry, calling it “a reservoir of wisdom that keeps MBC on track.” But he also commended the risk taking and energy of youth that force an agency to look to the future. “An intergenerational agency is a strong agency,” he said. The Faithful at Fifty logo, designed by Lorlie Barkman, shows the ministry moving along a track that suggests both where we have come from and where we are going to… all with Christ at the center.
Early TV Productions
Gospel Light Hour first ventured into television in 1967 when a Churchill TV station ran slides along with the GLH audiocassettes. In the 1970’s, Gospel Light joined with Scripture Union in Toronto to produce 13 children’s TV episodes of Nuts and Bolts. The Third Story, MB Communication’s long running TV show for English speaking children, ran from 1977 to 1990. The name of the program represented “your story, my story, and God’s story.” Also, the original season was set in the third story of a house. Recalls Lorlie Barkman, producer, “I just walked down the street by the MBC studio and saw a home with a 3rd story. I asked the woman if we could use it for the show and she agreed. When her granddaughter came to visit from out of province, she asked, ‘Why does your house look so familiar, Grandma?’ The granddaughter was a regular viewer of the show. Pictured, the kids of The Third Story with host Harry Loewen (circa 1977).
John & Bertha Klassen
As courting singles in the 1950s, John Klassen and Bertha Pauls toured the country as tenor and pianist with the Gospel Light Quartet. They married and remained committed to Gospel Light’s music ministry – in English, German and Russian – until their retirement in 1999. Bertha accompanied soloists, ensembles and choirs while John sang in choirs, quartets and octets. Bertha also conducted the Russian choir from 1987 to 1990, and John became the director of computer services in 1991. Together, they revived the Gospel Light Singers in 1995. Both played and taught a variety of instruments, but Bertha is best known as a pianist and John as a symphony violinist. Their recordings can still be heard on Golden West Radio, especially on Saturday evenings and during the Christmas season. Photo: Bertha at the piano with a 1960s Gospel Light Choir; and John, front, 4th from the left.
Vic and Vanita Schmidt
As the manager of Christian Press from 1976 – 1993, Vic supplied the print needs of MB Communications and often dropped by with treats for the staff. Prior to 1993, the Russian programs had all been recorded in Winnipeg. But with the fall of the Iron Curtain, MBC decided to record in Moscow. But who would go to set up the studio there? Vic and Vanita stopped in with treats for the staff, who said, “Why don’t you go?” Today, Vanita explains, “We had just retired and had prayed, ‘Lord, we still want to be useful in your Kingdom’.” Vic explains, “We just walked in at the wrong time.” They went to Moscow for 14 months. People like Steve Harder and George Ewert came to help, and they worked with L & J, who are still our ministry partners in Moscow. “It was just an avenue of service that opened up and it turned out to be a beautiful experience,” they say. Pictured here in the Square One lunchroom when they recently stopped by with treats for the staff.
Dan Block was hired in 1981 to promote MB Communications in MB churches across Canada with the hope that the ministry – now too large for the Manitoba MB Conference – would be adopted by the Canadian MB Conference. 3 years later, it was decided to keep the ministry within the Manitoba Conference, with the freedom to visit and fundraise in MB churches across Canada. Today Dan remembers this as the best possible outcome: all governance was local, but financial support came from across the country. Dan became the Executive Director in 1987. As the ministry celebrated 40 years, he wrote about the importance of using whatever means – including popular media – to effectively share the Gospel. He said, “I am convinced that if we remain people of vision and integrity, appropriately hitching our God-given creativity to the available means of proclaiming the Gospel… God will glorify Himself by building His church through our efforts.” Dan, shown back row, far left, with Winnipeg staff in 1990.
Ukrainian speaker Alex Morozov, shown right, with producer Nikolai Chernomor, recording The Bible Today in the new Family Life Network (FLN) studio in Zhovti Vody, Ukraine in April, 2000. Before having their own studio, Alex and Nikolai, along with Natalya Chernomor who produced Families in the Bible, traveled to Moscow several times a year to record their programs there. Stan Pauls, a past board member who visited the Ukrainian ministry in 2000, was amazed at their dedication to media ministry in difficult circumstances. “The love for the work was there long before we bought them this new equipment.” Alex has been the speaker of The Bible Today – Ukraine ministry since it began in 1994. He is also a pastor in the neighbouring town of Kryryi Rih.
Els Fenton has a global life history: she was born in the Netherlands, grew up in South Africa, became a follower of Christ in the Philippines, and now makes her home in Canada. She heard of S1WM through her home church in Steinbach. With a background in media and communication, and having lived on more continents than most people have visited, it intrigued her that a ministry could create radio, TV and on-line programs right here in Manitoba that reached out to the whole globe. She was so impressed that she joined the Board in 2010! “I believe in partnering with local missionaries who have their feet on the ground; who are connected with the communities where they serve.” Els does not believe that any one ethnic group has insider information on salvation. Rather, the Gospel is simply “Christ, living in people.”
The First Studio – 188 Henderson Hwy.
Beginning in 1954, the Gospel Light programs were pre-recorded at the Gospel Light Chapel (405 Logan Ave.) in Winnipeg by recording engineer John Pauls. The church was old and creaky, and recording had to be done late at night to avoid the heavy traffic on Logan. GLH was accumulating studio equipment. The church congregation was growing and GLH’s space and time requirements were conflicting with church programs. The GLH needed their own studio space. The choir members raised $4000 to buy a lot at 188 Kelvin Street (later Henderson Hwy) and the building project was put into motion. At the dedication of the new studio in 1960, Director John M. Schmidt said, ”Our aim is not to entertain people, but to utilize every minute in spreading the Gospel. We are thankful that God has been pleased to use this broadcast to point lost souls to Christ.” By the 1980s, the Henderson building was bursting at the seams; the new studios at 225 Riverton were dedicated in 1986.
Gospel Light Singers
The Gospel Light Singers (GLS), a men’s sextet, was formed in 1995 with John Klassen, Neil Matthies, John Ens, Ernie Enns, Alfred Dick, Henry Wedel, and pianist Bertha Klassen. The GLS accompanied ministry staff such as Lorlie Barkman, Delbert Enns and Jacob Funk to local churches, across Canada, and on several trips abroad. John Ens remembers one sleepless night in Paraguay. “We were sleeping next to a chicken coop. It was a very bright full moon and the roosters crowed all night because they thought it was morning. The worst was that they were all off pitch!” Henry Wedel remembers their amazing pianist, Bertha Klassen. One time, she played the introduction to the next song without knowing that the singers had changed the program. Someone mouthed the name of the new song. “Without missing a beat, Bertha improvised a beautiful transition into an entirely different rhythm and key.” Henry also remembers the deep friendships that developed within the group, and the joy of honoring God through music.
Jordan Jackiew, sound engineer and music producer, began working out of the S1WM studio in 2004. As a producer with Avante Records and BUgirl, Jordan earned three Juno Awards and one Grammy nomination for Gospel Album of the Year. Jordan is pleased when his work is acknowledged. “Just because we do ministry doesn’t mean our work ethic and our quality should take a back seat.” What he finds unique about Square One is the way it straddles so many worlds that are often considered incompatible: it’s both a ministry and a business; an art and a science. There are volunteers and professionals. And it’s both serious and fun. While Jordan feels humbled and honoured to “be in the studio helping a musician, singer or choir do their best and accomplish their ministry,” he also gets to be the voice of Micah in the Micah’s Super Vlog cartoon. What a place to work! Jordan, shown right, with his alter ego, Micah.
Gospel Light Trio
In 1947, Rose Dyck and Helen Peters (left to right) were students at MBBC in Winnipeg, and Evelyn (Loewen) Enns was married to a college student. Along with pianist Margaret Schulz, the three women formed The Gospel Light Trio as part of the new Gospel Light radio broadcast. Helen, now 94, says, “I did it because I loved singing, and I especially loved singing the Gospel to people. Of course, there wasn’t much TV back then so radio was a big deal.” Helen remembers the many times the GL Trio travelled to churches with a speaker to share about the new ministry. “The people in the churches were so kind. And the food! After eating dorm food for so long, the home-cooked meals at the churches were such a treat.” Helen sang in the trio until she graduated with a Bachelor of Church Music in 1950. She married Abe Klassen, a pastor, and used her musical training throughout their years of ministry together. Rose married Mark Gripp.
Arvid Loewen and “Spoke ’99 – The Extreme Cycling Challenge
In 1999, Arvid Loewen was beginning to make a name for himself as an ultra-marathon cyclist. At a coffeehouse with David Balzer, host of FLN’s Connecting Points, Arvid committed to cycling 2,400 km from Vancouver to Winnipeg in support of the radio ministry. He said, “It’ll be the toughest I’ve ever undertaken!” He completed the trip in record breaking time and raised $30,000 for FLN’s English language programs. An unexpected bonus was the interest of secular radio and television stations who followed his progress and aired his faith testimony along the way. He arrived in Winnipeg with a full police escort. David Balzer, Delbert Enns and Miroslav Peyter were crew members under crew chief Ruth Loewen. In 2006, Arvid began extreme cycling full time to raise awareness and funds for a children’s street rescue in Kenya. He won his age category in Race Across America in 2008, set the current Guinness World Record for fastest cycle across Canada in 2011, and has raised over $4.5 million for children he says are forgotten by society but not by God.
Amanda Falk Cook
Amanda Falk began recording and touring Canada with Avante Records, FLN’s recording studio, in 2003. The cross-country touring soon became The Ultimate Pajama Party for Girls that focused on helping girls develop self-worth. This became the model for Beautiful Unique Girl, a touring ministry that began in 2006 and featured Amanda’s performances along with other young women who shared the BUgirl message that “you are beautiful, you were created for a purpose, and God loves you right now – just as you are.” Amanda won many awards during her time with BUgirl, including a Juno in 2006 for Contemporary Christian / Gospel Album of the Year. She left BUgirl in 2009 and is now an international performing artist (Amanda Cook) with Bethel Music in California. Amanda was not the first in her family to record with Square One. In 1974, her father Don Falk played guitar and sang on our first TV show, Plain Folk, which “shared hope with the hippie generation.” Shown right on tour with other BUgirl interns in 2006.
HCJB in Quito
Because many Mennonites had roots in Russia, the Gospel Light community felt a strong burden for the millions of people behind what was then called “The Iron Curtain.” A Russian language program began in 1957, featuring Rev. D.B. Wiens from Vancouver as the speaker (shown here, inset); and a Russian choir conducted by Cornelius Balzer with pianist Margaret Schulz. The new Russian program was broadcast from HCJB in Ecuador, known as the Voice of the Andes and powerful enough to transmit clearly around the world. Letters immediately began coming from all over – 3,500 annually – that motivated the GLH producers to continue. Listeners from the Soviet Union were especially blessed to hear the Word, and they prayed fervently that many people would listen and be saved.
Dan Klaue was mentored by Neil Klassen before becoming FLN’s sound engineer in 2000. The son of missionary parents at HCJB Radio in Quito, Ecuador, Dan was born with radio ministry (and Yerba Mate) in his blood. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Low and High German. He wrote, translated, arranged, and produced music albums for others as well as himself. When he joined the FLN staff, he said, “This place – international radio and music production – is where worlds come together for me. It’s my heartbeat. When I saw the 32-track recording studio here: Wow! It’s more than a dream come true for me to be able to work here.” And if ever he was tempted to stray from the straight and narrow, his work producing programs for people like Ernesto Pinto, Jacob and Helen Funk, and David Balzer prompted him to say, “I am the most preached at person on the planet!”
John J. Neufeld
John J. Neufeld (J.J.) became the first Low German speaker on Licht Vom Evangelium in 1959. Through almost 30 years of producing the program, he taught a book-by-book study of the New Testament. There was no Low German version of the Bible so, along with producing the program, J.J. Neufeld began a systematic and painstaking translation of his own. Finally, on November 30, 1986, MBC celebrated the completed rough draft of the New Testament in Low German. J.J retired shortly after, and the final edition of his translation was published by Kindred Press in 1988. Gerhard Friesen became the German program producer in 1987 and Jacob Funk took over the ministry in 1995. Pictured: J.J. Neufeld with wife Margaret and the first Low German New Testament off the press.
The Current Studio at 225 Riverton Ave.
In the 1980s, heavy traffic was a problem at the first location on Henderson Hwy. The building was only steps away from the road and, with the studios in the basement, recording had to stop every time a bus or truck rumbled by. Henry Redekopp (shown right with then Board Chair Helmut Huebert) donated land and construction began in the spring of 1985. To avoid past frustrations of traffic and noise problems, the new building included air systems with expansion chambers and a unique “vibration free” floating slab construction. In fact, it is one of the few buildings in Winnipeg where every recommendation of the sound engineers was strictly followed. Built at an extraordinarily low cost with donated material and labour, the S1WM studio on Riverton was a sound engineers dream when it was dedicated in 1986 and is still a world class facility today.
Frank Friesen replaced George Ewert as the maintenance volunteer at Square One after George passed away in 2002. Knowing there was a need, Frank phoned to say, “How can I help?” He has been faithfully showing up to help ever since: installing flooring and shelving and hardware, maintaining the plumbing and electrical, repairing drywall, and building the massive table in the mail room. “I just do what I can,“ he says modestly. He has a long history of volunteering: at his church, in the community, and now here. “You don’t get into heaven by doing some work,” he says, “but I still want to do something for the Lord.” A carpenter by trade, one of his first jobs when he came to Canada from Paraguay was working at the Gospel Light building on Henderson Hwy. Then, in the 1980’s, he also helped build the current studios. From the ground up, his stamp is all over this building!
In 1998, the Arabic world was the largest unevangelized group in the world. With a fast-growing population (50% of it under 18), the region was distrustful of Christians and closed to traditional evangelism. Pastor couple Samir and Lewiza Youssef were already producing a radio program that aired across North Africa and the Middle East and was funded by MBMS International. When MBC brought its production and marketing experience to the partnership, it became The International Arabic Ministries Project that shared the Gospel with Arabic-speakers through radio programs, Bible distribution and evangelistic meetings. People were willing to listen. “You speak my language,” they said. One listener wrote, “There is a need for seekers and new believers to learn the right way. Many join together around one radio, for radios and batteries are too expensive for everyone to have their own.” Samir, shown left, with Director Burton Buller and studio technician Neil Klassen.
Peter Koslowsky was a nationally renowned tenor who sang and competed across Canada and was a frequent guest artist on CBC radio. He was a regular soloist on the English and German GLH broadcasts during the 1950s and 60s. He recorded several record albums at the GLH studio with organist Filmer Hubble. Bertha Klassen, who sometimes accompanied him on the piano, remembers the special sound of his voice. “He was a humble person, but he had a beautiful, sweet sound that no other person had.” Bertha also remembers a story Peter told about practicing for the Winnipeg Music Festival with his voice teacher: The words of the song were, “tread softly for you tread on my dreams,” (from “The Cloths of Heaven” by W.B. Yeats) but Peter accidentally sang, “tread softly for you tread on my feet.”
Viktor Hamm and The Bible Today-Russia
Viktor Hamm (left) joined the Russian ministry in 1979. When the Iron Curtain fell in the late 1980s, Viktor began holding crusades in Russia and thousands of people responded. At the same time, L. and J. came from Russia to join the ministry team in Winnipeg. When Viktor left MBC to join the Billy Graham Association in Russia, L. became the Russian director. In 1993, L. and his family returned to Moscow and have been recording the Russian programs there ever since. Viktor and L. share more history than just working at MBC together. Viktor’s father, Gerhard, and L.’s father were both in the Vorkuta prison camp inside the Arctic Circle. The two men talked about their faith in Christ. One day, after cutting a hole in the thick ice, L.’s father was baptized by Gerhard in the river.
Carolyn Friesen has been making the bugs for the BUgirl ministry since 2009. She loves the process of choosing the fabrics and seeing how the bugs develop. She is pleased to be part of a ministry for girls because she remembers struggling with some of the same issues, such as low self-esteem and bullying, that the BUgirl ministry addresses. As she sews each bug, she prays for the girl who will end up receiving it and asks God to bless that girl in a special way. She says this is one small thing she can do, but to the girls who receive the bugs – and the blessings – this can be a pretty big thing. Carolyn remembers her parents listening to the Gospel Light Hour when she was young. Early Directors John Schmidt (1951-63) and William Schmidt (1964-68) were her dad’s cousins.
Jake & Agnes Schmidt
Jake Schmidt was the Executive Director of Gospel Light from 1966 - 72. When he asked for a job description, he was told, “We trust that you’ll see what needs to be done and that will be your job.” He was known as “Uncle Jake” on the Children’s Gospel Light Hour; he worked with Rudy Willms to produce a “Teen’s Broadcast;” and they dabbled with a live TV interview show at CKND. From 1971 – 77, Jake’s wife, Agnes, produced Words for Women, a 15-minute radio program that was started by Louise Willms in 1968 and aired weekly on CFAM. Agnes taught on scripture passages, spoke on topics such as the impact of TV in the home, and interviewed women who shared personal stories of integrating careers and faith. Agnes thought her audience was strictly female until she began hearing from men who listened to CFAM while they were out on their tractors all day. Agnes and Jake, at right, with Rudy and Louise Willms, left.
The children’s puppet series, created by the our Russian ministry team, was translated into Ukrainian in 2016 – 17 by The Bible Today-Ukraine. A network of foster families in Ukraine wrote to say: “We are very happy that your children’s programs bring the light and love of Christ to children who have gone through so much distress in their short lives. Your main character is a favourite with our children because they feel loved; they never get tired of watching her again and again.” Meanwhile, Andrey Chornomor of TBT-Ukraine visits families living with high stress near the conflict zone between Ukraine and Russia. He joins other chaplains to hold family concerts and hand out children’s programming. The families are always eager for team visits and new programs. They say, “Your programs give us strength to live.” Shown here (right) giving the puppet show DVDs and CDs to a soldier for distribution. Andrey is part of the 2nd generation ministering with TBT-Ukraine.
As a 10-year-old girl, Dorothy (Schmidt) Siebert emptied garbage cans and dusted at the GLH offices for her father, John M. Schmidt. She also sang in the Gospel Light Children’s Choir with her sister Linda. From 1999 to 2010, Dorothy was on staff at FLN. She remembers, “everyone was just bursting with ideas and new projects. Though we all raced to meet weekly deadlines, joy flowed out of the offices and through the hallways.” She began by replying to the mail from Spanish listeners; and then moved into publications where she and graphic designer Gwendolyn Penner (shown right, with Dorothy) produced all the print and website material. Observing the ministry today, Dorothy says, “Square One is an agency that never gets old. It continually recreates itself, telling the stories of our grand Creator for each new generation."
Children's Puppet TV Show
Siblings A. and G. grew up in Square One’s Russian ministry. Today, they are both ministry leaders with the children’s TV puppet show their parents started in 2000. In 2016, A. said, “Children are the best missionaries in the world because they can’t hold it in if they have Jesus in their heart. We hope our programs will be a tool for them to share the Gospel with their friends and neighbours.” G. sees God’s hand in the timing. Today, as Russia is becoming more closed to the Gospel, they have already completed 17 years’ worth of programs. He says, “It’s all about screens right now. Even little kids who don’t know how to write already know how to click on their show and watch. I’m so happy that God gave us this vision long beforehand so that now, we are able to be where the kids are.”
Paul & Katie Wiebe
Paul Wiebe was taking evening classes at MBBC in Winnipeg when he was asked to sing in the GLH English choir. He remembers recording in the old church on Logan – the beautiful building and the acoustics made it feel very exciting. Even more exciting was when Katie Froese, a day student and soloist at MBBC, joined the choir. Paul and Katie soon became a dynamic duo, both in music and in life: they married in 1963. They sang in various GLH choirs and small groups, they recorded German duet albums at both the Henderson and Riverton studios, and they often performed together in churches. Regular accompanists for Paul and Katie were Violet Rademaker (pianist) and Mary Kasper (organist). Paul took voice lessons from John Klassen; he and Katie also sang in a trio with John, while Bertha accompanied them. Paul, shown back row far left, with the German choir he conducted and sang in; Katie, shown front row, 2nd from left. The pianist in the photo is Mary Poetker.
MBBC in Winnipeg
The Mennonite Brethren Bible College (MBBC) was founded in Winnipeg in 1944 to offer training for ministers, missionaries, and congregations. It had a strong music program. Right from the start, MBBC and GLH had a mutually beneficial arrangement. College students were forward thinking and eager to implement their training, while GLH provided exciting opportunities to serve God and develop skills within a cutting-edge ministry. Many of GLH’s early speakers, directors and musicians were MBBC students who served whole-heartedly during their college years, and then left for their chosen fields of ministry. Years later, Lorlie Barkman commented that much of the success of The Third Story TV program in the 1970s to 90s came from talented college students who were in touch with pop culture and eager to use what they were learning for the Lord. MBBC became Concord College in 1992, and then became part of Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in 2000. Shown here: GLH co-founders Henry Brucks & Henry Poetker as MBBC students in 1946.
Waldo Neufeld was the Executive Director from 1973 to 1978. His time as director included the name change to MB Communications. “We weathered the storm, but I never again wanted to be part of the name change of an institution.” Cultural changes of the 1970s meant that religious broadcasting was changing too. The first TV program in 1974, Plain Folk, was an experiment with contemporary Christian music. Soon after, Waldo travelled across Canada with Lorlie Barkman to market a new TV program, The Third Story. “We were overwhelmed by the media attention to give it free play – at no cost for air time!” Waldo also remembers an adventurous Board; a choir tour to the Soviet Union; and making sandwiches together with the staff every day with deli meat from the local butcher. And, of course, jovial times with John J. Neufeld, the Low German producer and Bible translator. “Sometimes we’d hear a roar of laughter from J.J.’s office, and we’d know he had discovered a new Low German word.”
Jacob & Helen Funk
Jacob Funk became the director of the German radio ministry in 1995 after Gerhardt Friesen resigned. Helen began creating radio programs for women and children in 2004. Jacob and Helen produced a wide variety of recorded and print materials: from cookbooks and illustrated Bible story books to sermons and teaching material. With Dan Klaue, they recorded the Low German New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs onto portable, solar powered Gospel Players; along with 50 of “Tante Helen’s” dramatized children’s stories and 34 of Jacob’s messages. Their produced material opened doors for them to preach and teach in every region of the Americas, as well as in Germany and Siberia. Jacob says, “I’ve had requests to pastor churches, but I knew my audience on the radio was 100s of thousands. It’s not about being big, but about being most effective.” Many people came to know Jesus through their ministry. The Funks retired in 2013, but Jacob still directs the Low German ministry and produces a weekly radio program.
Natalya & Nikolay
In 1995, Nikolay (seated, 2nd from left) and Natalya (seated, far right) Chernomor began producing The Pages of the Bible in Zhovti Vody, Ukraine. From 1997 to ‘99, they regularly drove 1,095 km with Alex Morozov (host of the Ukrainian radio program, The Bible Today) to record their programs at Square One’s studio in Moscow. In 2000, a studio in Ukraine was built and The Bible Today-Ukraine was officially registered as a ministry. The end of the Soviet era meant a lack of infrastructure and high unemployment for the people of Zhovti Vody. Crime and divorce rates soared as despair and instability set in. Oleg Sulima, local radio station director, was not a believer but he welcomed the programs of The Bible Today-Ukraine. “I hope the church has something to say that will help us,” he said. “Whatever will pull people from their despair and return hope to their lives.” More than 20 years later, Nikolay and Natalya work with a full staff in Zhovti Vody to produce programs that offer hope by sharing the Gospel of Christ.
Margaret Schultz and other pianists
Pianists are the unsung heroes of sacred music – always present and indispensable, but unnoticed unless they make a mistake. Margaret Schulz accompanied the first Gospel Light Choirs, male quartets and women’s trios. Together with the speaker, choir director, and all the vocalists, Margaret crowded into a small studio to record the programs live. Almost everyone on the broadcast sat on the floor or leaned against the wall, but as the pianist, Margaret was one of the few in the room to have a seat. She accompanied the choir and ensembles, and also played over any rough spots of commotion or confusion in the studio. Bertha Klassen was the longest running pianist with the ministry – from the 1950s until 1999. Other pianists include Violet Rademaker (with Paul & Katie Wiebe), Margaret Peters (with the Russian choir), and Elaine Hiebert. Also shown, Miriam Janzen in the 1950s, and Mary Poetker in the 1960s.