MARS HILL NETWORK

Back in 1965 I was the Assistant Manager of WRVB-FM (the Wisconsin Radio Voice of the Bible - From Madison).  The Lord laid upon my heart the need for Christian radio in upstate New York.  There was a Christian station in Buffalo, and another in New York City; but nothing in the hundreds of miles between.

I began investigating the possibility of purchasing a station, and was made aware of an AM station in Ticonderoga that was for sale.  That city is located in the eastern part of Upstate New York, in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, near the southern end of Lake Champlain, with the State of Vermont on the opposite side of the lake.  It was a beautiful area - just the kind of spot needed for the headquarters of an Upstate network of stations.  In addition, there was an unused FM frequency available.  I was a bit familiar with the area, because as a child, our family had taken a car trip through the New England states, coming back into New York, crossing the ferry at Ticonderoga, and visiting the Revolutionary War fort located there.

We made a quick trip, driving straight through from Madison, Wisconsin to Ticonderoga, New York pausing only for gas and rest room stops.  We did make a offer on the station, offering the asking price; but the owner (a New York City major network executive) turned us down.  He was going to have to carry the mortgage on the station, and thought we were too young and did not have enough experience.  

On the way back we made two more stops.  The first was at Little Falls, New York.  It was located along the New York State Thruway, just to the east of Utica.  The AM-FM station there just did not meet our needs.

The next stop was in Utica.  My investigation had turned up an available full-power FM frequency available in that major Upstate city.  We stopped and visited with several pastors in the area to see if there was any interest at all in establishing a Christian station there.  The pastors displayed some interest.  However, when visiting with the pastor of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, he indicated that he was aware of a small group of people in Syracuse, just 60 miles to the west, that were talking about the possibility of building a Christian station there.  He took my phone number and told me he would have one of the men call me.

We drove back to Wisconsin and waited several weeks.  Then one night a man named Norman Hinkle called.  He was one of a group of four or five people (which eventually expanded to a larger number) who were meeting to discuss the possibility of building a Christian station in Syracuse.  For the next few weeks Norm and I talked regularly.  

Before long, the group formed a board and incorporated, using the services of a Christian lawyer who had become a member of the group.  Once that was accomplished, Norm and I spoke five to six times each week.  The two of us filled out the programming portion of the FCC application during hours long telephone calls.  The group also included two General Electric engineers who filled out the technical portion of the application.  An engineering firm in Washington, D.C. was also hired to make sure everything met the FCC requirements.  The application was finally finished and submitted to the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C.

It became obvious that I was too far away from Syracuse and Washington to carry on what was necessary.  About the time we submitted the application, two other applications for the same frequency were also filed.  That meant possibly years of paperwork and hearings before the FCC.  So, I began looking for employment at a Christian station somewhere between Syracuse and Washington.  There were four: one in Baltimore, another in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; one in Boyertown, Pennsylvania; and still another in Montrose, Pennslvania.  It didn't take long to get hired on at WRBS in Baltimore.

WRBS was owned and operated by the Peter and John Radio Fellowship.  These two Scottish brothers, both pastors in the Baltimore area, had begun a daily radio broadcast in the Baltimore area in 1948, on one of the most listened to radio stations in the area.  In 1964, less than two years before I joined the staff, they purchased WRBS, an existing radio station in the city, which covers the Baltimore/Washington Metropolitan Area.  They later purchased an AM station in Baltimore.  The Peter and John Radio Fellowship also operated a children's and teen camp and adult Bible conference called River Valley Ranch just to the Northwest of Baltimore, where they held a full scale rodeo every Saturday afternoon which was used as an evangelistic tool.  It was operated as a western ranch complete with horseback riding, and even a real western type stage coach which gave rides to campers and visitors.  Check it out on the web at: www.rivervalleyranch.com 

I was well aware of the Peter and John Radio Fellowship, because John's son Tom was in my class at Moody Bible Institute, and Tom's older brother Chuck was an evangelist.

I was on the air from 6 pm to midnight Monday through Friday.  I also started taking business classes at the local university each morning.  It was in late 1966 that I made my first trip to Syracuse to meet the rest of the group involved in the radio station.  Together, on the phone, we had decided on the name Mars Hill Broadcasting Company.  That name came from Acts 17:22 where Paul was preaching on Mars Hill at Athens.  Noting the idol to "the unknown god," Paul preached to them about Jesus.  We felt that name encapsulated our mission.
  
During the next two years, my wife and I drove to Syracuse every other weekend, stopping in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to drop off our two daughters at my parents' home.  We would leave just after midnight, as soon as I got off the air Friday night, and drive through to Syracuse.  That was before most the the expressways and interstates were finished.  We would arrive in the morning; work all day long making contacts and taking care of paperwork and arrangements.  We would get some sleep Saturday night.  Then Sunday I would speak in one of the local churches.  We would leave Sunday night arriving back in Baltimore just in time to take a shower and go off to classes at the University of Maryland.  That was a schedule I could not even come close to keeping today.

Finally, at the end of 1968, I gave my notice to WRBS (the Peter and John Radio Fellowship), and moved to a home we had purchased in Syracuse.  My first day at the station in the new offices and studios was January 1, 1969.  The building was nearing completion; but my desk sat on the sub-flooring in an open space.  It would be another two months before the station would come on the air.  We set the first broadcast for Sunday afternoon, so people could be home from church to listen in.  The first sound to come from the station was the great hymn, "To God be the glory, great things He has done."

WMHR (standing for "Mars Hill Radio") still sounds very much like it did back in the beginning and is carrying forward with the original mission.  The main part of the format consists of good sound gospel music.  There are excellent Bible teachers, programs dealing with every day living, news, weather and much more.  You can listen simply by going to www.marshillnetwork.org.

That one station has now grown to six stations:
WMHR, 102.9, Syracuse
WMHI, 94.7, Cape Vincent/Watertown & Kingston, Ontario
WMHN, 89.3, Webster/Rochester
WMHQ, 90.1, Malone/Massena & Cornwall, Ontario
WMHU, 91.1, Utica/Mohawk Valley
WMHY, 88.7, Richfield Springs

In addition there are a number of low powered translator stations located in other communities across the state:
Homer/Cortland - 95.9
Ithaca - 101.7
Lyons Falls/Port Leyden - 90.5
Norwich - 97.7
Oneonta - 90.5
Riverhead, Long Island - 90.9
Greece - 101.9
Hilton - 107.9
Canton/Ogdensburg - 100.5
Gouverneur/Richville - 88.3
Lowville - 91.9
Ogdensburg - 105.9
Long Lake - 97.9
Saranac Lake - 98.7
Little Falls/Herkimer - 100.3

If you live in any of these areas, let me suggest that you make one of these stations your regular radio listening habit.  It will do much for your Christian life.  If you know someone who lives in any of these areas, let them know that Mars Hill Radio is available to them.  And, remember, you can listen of WMHR simply by going to www.MarsHillNetwork.org.

May I also encourage you, if you are helped spiritually by the programs, to become a regular supporter of Mars Hill Network.  My family and I support this worthy ministry on a monthly basis.
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