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Dan Johnson

Founder/Director, President,  Christian Radio for Russia

New Life Radio Satellite Network-Moscow, Russia

 

     

To contact Dan click here


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan's Career Capsule
Missionary work began in 1982 among Eskimos in Western Alaska; worked in Christian radio in Nome, Alaska; in late 1980s, helped lead efforts to open relations between the Soviet Union and Alaska—which led to visiting the Soviet Far east in 1988, and a number of telecom projects  including broadcasting American television via satellite to various Soviet cities.  With the breakup of the USSR in 1991, Dan moved to Russia and worked on various communication endeavors, and eventually in 1993 began the process to develop Russia’s first Christian FM radio station (Magadan). Later moved to Moscow and initiated nationwide satellite radio broadcasts with 24/7 Christian programming from studios located next to Red Square. 2011, after ten years of satellite radio, Dan continues to oversee a radio network on multiple media formats to reach Russians worldwide for Christ (the New Life Radio Satellite Network).


 

1. Tell us about New Life Radio Moscow... and it's vision?

New Life Radio was created to initiate Christian radio for a nation that had never experienced independent, nor Christian radio. In 1992, the Church in Russia was emerging in a new found freedom to promote the Christian life, unhindered from government control. But Christian media was not part of the equation at that time, so we made the effort to see if we could develop a local FM radio station, which came to fruition in 1996 (in Magadan, Russia, a former gulag prison region in the far east).

Knowing how difficult it was to actually obtain radio frequencies and to finance the building and staffing of a small Christian radio station, it was clear that most Russian cities would continue to be without a local source of Christian programming that could aid the Church in its evangelism and discipleship efforts. 

The question arose after New Life Radio-FM in Magadan went on line: what can we do to find a way around this problem for a nation spanning over 9 time zones, so people in every community in Russia can have access to Christian radio?

The answer: find a way to get a radio signal across the country; lend our expertise to local Christians to show them how to obtain an FM channel and transmitter; give the programming away for free so that small churches could afford to operate a station without personnel, and then pray to the Lord to make it all happen.

So God gave us a way to realize it in a way never experienced before in Russia:  direct to home nationwide satellite radio!

In 1999, the LMI satellite was launched that gave New Life Radio the means to provide digital satellite radio signals into 90% of Russia’s cities, using low cost free to air satellite receivers and small antennas. New Life Radio went online in 2000 from Moscow, becoming a pioneer in the development of this type of radio broadcasting.  While the satellite receiving audience was very small in Russia, NLR provided a 24/7 program schedule that gave Christians across the country the incentive to rebroadcast it locally, and from that point on, NLR worked with cities to develop local Christian FM radio using our satellite signal.

From that beginning, New Life Radio is able to carry out its mission to provide a guarantee of Christian radio programming access to every community in Russia and the former Soviet Union using a variety of media formats (satellite, FM, Internet  radio), and in 2011, with a focus to reach Russian speakers around the globe.

 

2. Describe the market you reach with New Life Radio Moscow?

NEW LIFE RADIO is formatted to reach a youthful Russian-speaking audience (17-45) living in Russia, the former Soviet republics, Europe, the USA, and other nations where there are Slavic communities.  Our audience is one that prefers new media for their listening  (satellite, FM, Internet radio, I-pods, i-Phones, Androids, etc).

 

3. How is New Life Radio Moscow affecting listeners, what is the response from the listeners?

NEW LIFE RADIO is formatted to introduce the Christian life to young people, many of whom have never been exposed to the Gospel; and to disciple young Christians who are the future of the Church.  We give both milk and meat for a variety of listeners who are looking for meaning in life, for direction, for purpose, as well as an understanding of love that can only come from a Savior who died to give them NEW LIFE.

God gives NEW LIFE RADIO the challenge to effectively communicate the Gospel, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit to take that programming, and impact the lives of people who hear it.  Our listeners respond with a gratitude that is very individual in experience. Some write telling us we are their daily companions at work; some tell us of making commitments to Christ after hearing the invitation to faith; others tell us how certain events in their life were impacted because of what they heard on the air. Most letters (or emails and text messages) are simply "thank yous" for making a difference in their life. This is most unusual for a Russian radio station, because New Life Radio is an oasis in a secular media landscape that is lost in materialism, immorality, and without ultimate meaning.  That’s why we draw so many people who experience our station for the first time: they hear something different that they can’t hear on all the other channels.  Listeners respond to what God is saying to them in their hearts, and all of our letters reflect this.

 

4. Christian radio is a very rare thing in Russia, how is the government there helping or hurting the radio ministry?

Christian radio is a rare thing in Russia, because the best time to start a radio station was from 1993 to 1996, but unfortunately, the Church was slow to realize this opportunity.  While a handful of AM and FM stations began during this period, all but ONE FM affiliate of NLR have been shut down by the Russian government under a variety of pretexts.

After the 1997 law on religion, the Russian state took upon itself the right to regulate spiritual activity in the country, and in alliance with the Russian Orthodox church, a new era of restrictions on the evangelical church and Christian media began. Christians who had been organizing in various cities to obtain FM frequencies were denied their applications (many after years of effort), and unhindered development of Christian TV and radio was basically at a standstill.  While this is my own opinion, I can say in general that the Russian government  is wary of mission efforts that result in a spiritually strong and free peoples, who place their ultimate allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom, rather than the Russian state.  Restricting the ability of Christians to input their voice and the Word of God in the nation’s mass media is just another chapter in a long history of Russia suppressing the voice of the Church, and right out of the Soviet playbook to control people by controlling the content they hear.  When great crises hit the Russian people, and the wisdom of God is needed to lead the nation, the last thing you will hear on Russian TV or radio is a Scriptural response that can lead them on to the right decisions.

Over the last 10 years, only a few FM channels have been granted in Russia, and the Christian leadership knows that they missed their opportunity to develop radio on a nationwide scale. In this vacuum, where over 90% of Russian cities have no local Christian radio station, NEW LIFE RADIO provides a guarantee that there will be some kind of media signal that anyone can access to hear the Word of God, 24/7 in digital stereo.

 

5. Tell us about the New Life Radio Moscow format, how is it unique?

NEW LIFE RADIO is a contemporary radio format that is 70 percent Christian music (in Russian, English, Ukrainian), featuring GODSPOTS that are short dramatic presentations of issues surrounding the Christian life, and of course, Christ-centered Biblical teaching, preaching, and news.  It is non-denominational in orientation, and you cannot get a sense that NLR is Baptist, Orthodox, Lutheran, Catholic, etc:  you simply are exposed to CHRISTIANITY, and all programming flows from an emphasis on the Scriptures. 

NLR is known for its great variety of music, and we even play jazz at the end of every music hour. The station staff is outstanding in presenting creative programming that takes the deepest issues of life, and presents alternatives based on Christ’s call in our lives.  Many people say NLR is the best station in Russia, and while I don’t make any claim on that, it sure is satisfying to have a station sound and format that is exciting all day long and very easy to listen to. Even other secular radio stations have copied aspects of our format. Judging from the responses we get from listeners all over the world, God is obviously using our programming for his purposes.

Because of our format, we are able to effectively work with a wide cross section of Christians, and this is important in our task to help build the Church.

In this land beset by so many troubles--because it has been a society that has left God out, with the worst consequences—New Life Radio has a great challenge to bring Russia and her people to a knowledge of the Savior who can give them perfect freedom and eternal life.

 

6. Are you able to get out and meet the listeners?

NEW LIFE RADIO is a global media operation with THREE ON AIR STAFF, plus myself, an accountant, and a web master. Its impossible for us to get out there physically. But NLR has a wonderful daily presence and two way communication with our listeners, no matter if they call or write the studio from Seattle or Siberia.

When NLR first went on satellite in 2000, it had few daily contacts, because listeners could not afford the high cost of long distance phone calls. We had letters of course, but not a lot. Within a few years, and the explosion of personal computers and cell phone use, the station had a new way to have cheap daily contact through emails and text messages, in fact much more than our staff could handle.  Today, our listeners can call us, request their favorite songs, ask where a local church or pastor is who can help them, or engage in any number of discussions with staff…as they have time outside their airshifts.

And our listeners contact us through the various social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Russian networks. So it’s a very interactive relationship.

THIS IS WHERE WE NEED HELP:  having one or two more radio missionaries on staff could really make a difference. Perhaps HisAir.Net friends could help us in this.

 

7. Generally speaking what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio in Russia?

As I pointed out earlier, the Russian government shows no interest in promoting the development of Christian radio (save for Orthodox channels), and they do this by not granting radio frequencies.  For those who still want to attempt the process, the pricing for licenses is sky high and the overall costs for stations have risen beyond the means of local Christians to afford. I could have started an FM channel in Moscow in 1993 for $50,000. Today, to buy out an existing channel, it would cost over 5 to 10 millions dollars.  Poor Russian churches don’t have that cash, though I know God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and if the Church organizes, it does have the potential to get on the air, regardless of the government.

For those stations existing, we operate in a political climate where religious and press freedom is on a precipice, and at any moment, government officials can close down stations under any pretext.  There is more opportunity for individuals and churches to find ways to do programming through the Internet, but the government regulated broadcast environment is effectively closed to them today.

 

8. What do you think the future holds for New Life Radio Moscow?

Given the negative environment facing Christian media in Russia, the need to support ministries like NEW LIFE RADIO, with its ability to reach every community, is clear, and we hope Christians in America will see this as a wonderful opportunity to get the Gospel into people’s homes in this land that we once considered our most bitter enemy.  NLR is a true partnership between a small group of Christian supporters here in the states, with a tiny but effective team of broadcasters in Moscow who can impact that nation for Christ.  It’s a wonderful cooperation that shows the Church for what it is: people from around this world who call Christ savior and work together as one body to make him KNOWN.

On January 1, 2012, New Life Radio will add a second satellite radio service, this time, on the TRICOLOR network, Russia’s largest (and secular) direct to home satellite network with an estimated 10 million subscribers at the end of this year.  So with our channel on the HOTBIRD satellite (Europe’s most popular satellite with over 100 million homes getting TV/radio signals from it), coupled with TRICOLOR and the NLR Internet radio network worldwide, the station is positioned to be an effective global outreach to Russian-speaking peoples everywhere.

NOT BAD, considering we do this for the same price as supporting one small church in America, or four US missionary families to Russia:  Our budget is $20,000 a month.

 

9. What is the most memorable event that has happened since you've been involved with New Life Radio Moscow?

In 1999, I was in Moscow trying to figure out how to develop a satellite operation there. Didn’t have any money for it, no staff, and no place to operate from in order to connect to the LMI satellite that had just been launched. It was simply a dream of mine with no idea how it would work out. I asked God, where can I do this ministry from?  No building I was aware of in Moscow had a fiber optic line that could connect to the satellite earth station that was linked to LMI, and without it, there could be no nationwide broadcasting.  Then a friend named Andre told me about a restricted access government communication facility on Red Square next to the Kremlin that in the past had controlled all radio communications in the Soviet Union, and still had a KGB control center to monitor all radio in Russia.  Andre worked there, and he said the building had a fiber optic line, and there were a few rooms on the top floor that might be used to build a radio studio.  Perhaps if I contacted the director of the facility, I might be granted access to it.

I thought to myself this was impossible. Why would a secretive Russian government communications facility let some crazy American kid inside their building to broadcast an independent, Christian radio service nationwide without any kind of control, and to what benefit would it give them in return for granting this permission and access to their fiber optic lines.

But seeing the opportunity as perhaps the ONLY way this ministry could start, I timidly sought an appointment with the director of the facility. The first shock came when he agreed to see me. I simply told him what I had been doing in Russia, what I wanted to do now in providing Christian radio for all of Russia using this new satellite, and perhaps he would be willing to rent me a small room and use their fiber optic line.  Here was a hardened Soviet official, previously charged by the authorities to protect and control all radio channels, including Soviet propaganda by the Communist party, listening to some American missionary tell him of his dreams of ministry and how the radio could help the Russian people.

The second shock came when he said YES!  ONLY God could have accomplished this.  Within a month, I had three young Christian men ready to serve as the nucleus of the new station, bringing building supplies into this restricted government control center. We built studios on the third floor that looked like a sauna with speakers, just down the hallway from the KGB directorate office.  And by the end of the year,  NEW LIFE RADIO began nationwide Christian broadcasting, 50 yards from the Kremlin, from a building that Stalin had used to deny the Christian faith via Soviet government radio broadcasts.  And who would know that our young team was making a great impression on the KGB officials who liked them and their attitudes.

That was my first memorable moment in seeing how the Lord works to ensure that the Word of God gets out as we carry out the Great Commission.  And with New Life Radio’s satellite signals, we were literally reaching the ends of the earth with the Gospel.

 

10. Where do you see Dan Johnson in 5 years?

After 30 years of being led through this life experience culminating in my role of founding NEW LIFE RADIO, I see this mission work as the ultimate fulfillment of my professional and ministry aspirations.  I can’t think of having any better job in life than serving Christ through running a communications service that has its sole focus in proclaiming the Gospel!  I work for the king of the universe…not a bad job prospect!

In 5 years, I hope to be leading New Life Radio in an effort to be on every single media format used by Russian-speakers, communicating the Gospel day in day out effectively, in a cooperative effort between Russian Christians and Christians across America. Who knows, perhaps in 5 years a new type of media will be introduced to the world, and if it is applicable to the Christian endeavor, I will do my best to access it, so everyone in the world can hear about the life of Jesus and the message of eternal life he gives us. 

 

Listen in at www.NLRadio.net  or check out our English site at www.CRFR.org.

And we sure could use a little help to keep our radio network going. If you can help sponsor a radio missionary, please contact me in New York  at CRFR@juno.com

NEW LIFE RADIO expenses needing support from American Christians:

Hotbird satellite channel  $2200/month

TRICOLOR satellite channel  $1500/month

NLR fiber optic line to earth station   $500/month

NLR Internet streaming costs:  $900/month

NLR station rent:  $900/month

Sponsor a radio missionary in this most expensive city in the world

$2000/month.

Our staff is way overworked, stretched to the limit, and need some relief with new people joining them. But they are the best in Christian radio today in Russia and I sure love them and want to help equip them in any way I can. Perhaps you can help me do this!

In Christ,

Dan Johnson

 

 

 

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