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).
Tell us about New Life Radio Moscow... and it's
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
NEW LIFE RADIO expenses
needing support from American Christians:
Hotbird satellite channel
NLR fiber optic line to
earth station $500/month
NLR Internet streaming
NLR station rent:
Sponsor a radio missionary
in this most expensive city in the world
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!