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1947 - 1975

Our Origins:  Gospel Light Hour

In 1947, a group of students from Mennonite Brethren Bible College in Winnipeg, Manitoba dreamed of using radio to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with their English-speaking neighbours. The first program aired live on February 23, 1947 on CKRC. The weekly program became known as the Gospel Light Hour and quickly gained support from the college community and beyond.

 

CFAM, a new radio station founded in southern Manitoba in 1957, welcomed Christian programming. Gospel Light responded by producing programs in English, German, Low German and Russian. Print material was added, and even early ventures into television. The Gospel Light era was known for strong preaching and excellence in choral music.

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LISTEN TO THE GOSPEL LIGHT HOUR INTRODUCTION AND THEME SONG

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ABOUT THIS ERA

 
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THE FOUNDERS OF THE MINISTRY
HENRY POETKER AND HENRY BRUCKS
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College roommates Henry Poetker and Henry Brucks both planned to be missionaries. They discussed ways to share the Gospel in China and India and had the idea to use radio. They said, “If it will work there, why wouldn’t it work here in Winnipeg?” Their first challenge was the weekly fee of $54.00 when they had only $1.98 between them. After fasting and prayer, Henry Brucks declared, “If this call to radio broadcasting is not of the Lord, then neither is my salvation!” They signed the contract. Fellow students joined them: Burt Loewen (finance manager), Henry Schroeder (music director), and Margaret Schultz (pianist). Many others from their faith and college community volunteered as musicians, speakers and administrators; and donated so they always had just enough to fund that week’s broadcast.

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THE EARLY YEARS
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 Hour: the founding of CFAM in Altona that brought opportunities at reasonable rates, and the start of the Russian program that was aired into the Soviet Union from a powerful transmitter at HCJB in Ecuador. ”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.”

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MUSIC OF THE
GOSPEL LIGHT HOUR ERA

Music was an important component of the radio broadcasts and the Gospel Light ministry became known for the high quality of its many soloists, small ensembles and choirs. One reason for the excellence in music was the ongoing relationship with Mennonite Brethren Bible College. The college had a strong music program that supplied a steady stream of talented students from across Canada, while Gospel Light Hour offered an exciting venue for young musicians to serve the Lord with their voices. Many talented local Manitoba vocalists were also pleased to serve God in this way. After a permanent studio was built in 1960, Gospel Light was able to provide even higher quality sound recording.

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STUDIO TECHNICIANS
NEIL KLASSEN

Neil Klassen was 15 when he began volunteering as a sound technician at Gospel Light. He remembers how, in 1954, John Pauls and John Schmidt ended the years of recording live in a crowded studio by acquiring a “new fangled machine that could tape programs ahead of time.” More than 10 years later, in 1965, Neil became the ministry’s first paid studio technician. He had always felt called to missions but “the broadcasting thing kept getting in the way”. Then he realized that broadcasting wasn’t a distraction, it was the ministry God had called him to. Neil committed his life to producing cutting-edge media and mentoring others to do the same. When he retired in 2000, he was credited with “changing the landscape of Christian broadcasting literally around the world.”

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1975 - 2000

New Horizons: Mennonite Brethren Communications

The Gospel Light Hour ministry was named after the first English radio program. But that initial program had been replaced by other projects in different languages and under different names. The Gospel Light name no longer reflected what was being produced in the studio.

 

The ministry that began as an independent venture had become an agency of the Manitoba Mennonite Brethren Conference in 1954. The new name, Mennonite Brethren Communications, was chosen because it strongly identified “who we are, who we represent and what we do.” Ironically, the ministry that was now named for a relatively conservative and isolated group became known for its innovative and inclusive programming.

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ABOUT THIS ERA

 
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ANIMATORS & CARTOONISTS
LORLIE BARKMAN

Lorlie Barkman joined M.B. Communications in 1975. He brought his experience as a pastor and cartoonist to The Third Story, one of the first TV shows produced here. The name of the program stood for “your story, my story, and God’s story.” Lorlie remembers, “I walked down the street, picked out a home with a 3rd story, and asked if we could use it. When the granddaughter visited from out of province, she asked, ‘Why does your house look so familiar, Grandma?’ The granddaughter was a regular viewer of The Third Story." The show ran from 1977 to 1990. Lorlie stayed at M.B. Communications as an illustrator and cartoonist for new projects, such as Connecting Points for Kids. His guiding principle for Christian media has always been, “God’s truth applied to ordinary people.”

WATCH THE INTRO TO
THE THIRD STORY

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AUTHENTIC PROGRAMMING
FOR MULTIPLE LANGUAGES

By the 1980s, the ministry had outgrown the studio building on Henderson. What had seemed so spacious in 1960 was now overcrowded, and fundraising began for a new studio building at 225 Riverton. Many people donated money, time, skill, and material so that the building was debt free when it was finished in 1986. With more space and multiple recording studios, it was possible to expand into other languages. Rather than translating English programs made for a North American audience into other languages, we looked for partners from other parts of the world who had the vision and the knowledge to communicate with their own people. Authentic communication, in a language people can understand! 

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MUSIC PROJECTS
THE GOSPEL LIGHT SINGERS

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 the music ministry here until their retirement in 1999. Bertha accompanied soloists, ensembles and choirs, while John sang wherever needed, translated and transcribed music, and was the head of computer services. Together they revived the Gospel Light Singers in 1995. One of the singers, Henry Wedel, recalls, “Bertha played the introduction to the next song without knowing that we had changed the program. Without missing a beat, Bertha improvised a beautiful transition into an entirely different rhythm and key.” Henry also remembers the joy of honoring God through music. Other members of the Gospel Light Singers were Neil Matthies, John Ens, Ernie Enns, and Alfred Dick.

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LISTEN TO A LIVE PERFORMANCE BY THE GOSPEL LIGHT SINGERS

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ENGLISH RADIO
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SPIN 180

Spin 180, our 1 hour contemporary Christian music program, launched in 1987. Hosted by David Heide with sound engineer Steve Harder, it connected with young people in a language they could understand – the language of rock music.

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CONNECTING POINTS

Connecting Points with Herb Hamm began in 1991 as a 15-minute interview and comment style program where Canadian Christians told their faith stories of struggle, victory, and encouragement.

GOD TALK
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David Balzer was hired to produce Connecting Points in 1997. He was soon also co-hosting God Talk, a new live phone-in talk show. God Talk aired every week from 1998 to 2009 on secular Winnipeg station CJOB. David was known for his transparency, compassion and sense of humour in unscripted settings.

 
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2000 - 2014

Branching Out:
Family Life Network

Though the ministry legally remained Mennonite Brethren Communications until 2000, it began using the name of Family Life Network in 1996. Communication technology was changing rapidly as the new millennium approached, and the agency chose to “uncouple its mission from technology and base its mission instead on a more fundamental pillar.” That pillar was family. The new name reflected the focus on providing resources for the family, promoting values for a strong family, and speaking with relevance to all generations. Also, by removing the Mennonite Brethren connection from the name, Family Life Network was better able to branch out by creating strategic alliances and support with other cultural groups and denominations.

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ABOUT THIS ERA

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TOURING PROJECTS
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BEAUTIFUL
UNIQUE GIRL

Amanda (Falk) Cook began recording and touring with Avante Records in 2003. The cross-Canada 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, the cross-Canada touring ministry of Pajama Parties and Beach Parties that lasted from 2005 to 2013 and shared the BUgirl message with teen girls that “you are beautiful, you were created for a purpose, and God loves you right now – just as you are.” The Beautiful Unique Girl television program, hosted by Heather Boersma and produced by David Miller, launched in 2016, and became a series for YouTube with host Kaylyn Holmes from 2017 to 2019.

VIEW AN ALBUM OF PHOTOS FROM THE VARIOUS BEAUTIFUL UNIQUE GIRL TOURS AND LIVE EVENTS

 
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STUDIO TECHNICIANS
DAN KLAUE

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.”

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FAMILY CONNECTIONS AT FAMILY LIFE NETWORK

Siblings, spouses and multiple generations have always drawn each other into the ministry. In the early 1950s, Neil Klassen was a teenager when he tagged along with his brother John to see how a live broadcast was made. He saw the red “ON AIR” light go on and was hooked on broadcasting for life. Abe and Irene Neufeld sang on the first broadcast in 1947. In 1974, their son Garry sang in a folk band on Plain Folk, our first TV program for youth. Don Falk was also a member of Plain Folk. His daughter, Amanda (Falk) Cook, recorded at our studios, toured with the first Beautiful Unique Girl interns, and even won a Juno during her time here!

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HUSBAND & WIFE TEAMS
HELEN AND
JACOB FUNK

In 1995, Jacob Funk became the director of the German radio ministry and the speaker on the High and Low German versions of Light of the Gospel. Helen began creating radio programs for women and children in 2004. Jacob and Helen produced a wide variety of recorded and print materials. With Dan Klaue, they recorded the Low German New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs onto portable, solar powered Gospel Players. Their radio programs 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 hundreds of thousands. It’s not about being big, but about being most effective.”

 
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2014 - PRESENT

Looking Forward:  Square One
World Media

In 2014, the ministry name changed to Square One World Media to clearly identify us as a media production company with a global reach.  Going back to Square One: to Jesus, the source of hope and healing; to a moment of decision when a relationship with God begins; and to the origins of our ministry that was founded to share the Gospel in the most effective way with the greatest number of people. With partner studios in multiple countries, and with most of our media content available through online platforms, the media of the Square One era is literally going out into all the world to preach the Gospel.  

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ABOUT THIS ERA

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HUSBAND & WIFE TEAMS
ERNESTO AND
MARINA PINTO

Pastor couple Ernesto and Marina Pinto lead our Spanish media projects. Their first radio program, Encuentro (Encounter), began with Ernesto as the speaker in 1994. The popularity of the radio program led to a speaking ministry for Ernesto. Marina soon joined him as a co-speaker and counsellor. The television program, 180 Grados (180 Degrees) was added in 2008, and Marina began producing her own radio program, Encuentro Familiar (Family Encounter), in 2014. Ernesto and Marina regularly travel to Spanish communities to visit radio stations, record interviews for their programs, and speak and counsel at live events. Connecting with their audiences in diverse locations means their media is impactful and relevant to audiences wherever Spanish is spoken.

 
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LOW GERMAN MEDIA IN THE SQUARE ONE ERA

When the talk began of producing a Low German radio program, some people felt it was a foolish idea: Low German was a dying and mostly unwritten language. Undaunted, J.J. Neufeld began producing the Low German program, Light of the Gospel, in 1959. In order to teach from the Bible, he had to translate it first. J.J.’s Low German New Testament was published in 1987, shortly after his retirement. Gerhard Friesen, the next Low German producer, applied biblical teaching to everyday struggles like depression, abuse and alcoholism. In 1995, Jacob Funk took over the Low German radio projects. Under Jacob’s direction, the Low German media team grew to include multiple producers.  

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ANIMATORS & CARTOONISTS
GIRISH MANUEL

Girish Manuel first came to Square One in 2011 to illustrate Helen Funk’s Low German Bible Story books for children. The books were a great success: children and their parents loved how accessible the stories and pictures were. The idea to produce a cartoon seemed like the next logical step. Girish went to work. In 2014, he created Micah’s Super Vlog, a cartoon that uses humour and the everyday situations kids face to teach sound biblical principles for families. With help from cartoonist Stu Hunnable, voice actor Eric Boorman, songwriter and studio technician David Miller, and a small cast of talented volunteers, the project quickly became a world-class cartoon. Micah’s Super Vlog became a production of Minno in 2021. 

WATCH THE INTRODUCTION VIDEO FOR MICAH'S SUPER VLOG

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PUPPET-VIDEO PROJECTS
ELLA'S BACKYARD VLOG

Ella’s Backyard was created in 2000 at the Moscow studio by Julia and friends. Initially a radio program, it expanded into television, live events, festivals, and even a pen pal club. When others couldn’t keep up with Julia’s creativity and energy, she replied, “I only tell you about 10% of what is in my head!” They were thankful for the 10% limit! The religious freedom enjoyed in the 1990s soon waned and it was harder to get Christian programs on television. Since 2015, all Ella’s Backyard programs can be viewed on YouTube, a platform that makes them accessible anywhere Russian is spoken. In 2019, the Russian project relocated to Winnipeg, and Ella’s Backyard Vlog launched on YouTube in 2020.

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