Florida Adventist Congregation’s
Radio Station Yields Baptisms
In Leesburg, population 19,000, local media outreach touches lives (Posted April 18, 2013)
BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor
he mid-Florida town of Leesburg, some 48 miles northwest of Orlando, was once known for its production of watermelons. Today a new kind of “crop” is growing there: people interested in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, thanks to a local, church-owned FM radio station.
Already two people have been baptized as a result of the outreach, and enough interests are present that the North Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church has hired a Bible worker to assist those wanting to learn more about Adventism.
The venture began as the burden of a group of Christian laymen in the area. Raul Ortiz and his group obtained a license for a radio station from the Federal Communications Commission. They received the call letters and frequency WGTT 91.5 FM, and were assigned a broadcast area. Next they needed to find a location, central to the broadcast area, where they could establish their radio station. As Raul stood at the ideal location on Emeralda Island Road in Leesburg, Florida, his dream was fading fast as he viewed nothing but the countryside and a pecan orchard. There was no building to rent, and he had no money to build.
A RADIO STATION, TOO: North Lake Church in the northern region of Lake County, Florida, is home to WGTT 91.5 FM. [PHOTO: Chester Graham]
After some time elapsed, Raul revisited the area and was surprised to find a church built on the site of the pecan orchard. Amazingly, it was home to an Adventist congregation! He was elated and decided to present the possibility of a radio station to North Lake church members.
Members expressed an interest, but they had no available money for the project and no experience operating a radio station or preparing programming. Shawn Lathrom, pastor at the time, remembered a retired physician he met years before. He contacted Linda De Romanett, owner of the Family First Radio Network in Keene, Texas. She was interested in purchasing the station if the church would provide a place for operation.
Engineers determined that the new station could be permanently located at the church with a radiated power of l,600 watts. A room was constructed in the church attic with adequate electricity and an air conditioner. The station began broadcasting in May 2011 with a 24/7 schedule covering a radius of 24 miles.
Family First Radio Network provides the programming with time alloted for locally produced programs and advertising. Speakers are largely well-known Adventist evangelists, and a number of time slots feature health presenters.
“We didn’t know it would get good coverage, but the amazing thing is that it [the signal] reached out farther than we thought it would,” said Obed Graham, the station’s general manager and a retired president of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He added, “We didn’t know, when we built this church, that there was a radio station already available here. They didn’t know we were going to build a church here, but the Lord works things out in mysterious ways, and it’s just kind of amazing to watch how He works.”
One of the ways God worked was in bringing David and Sandra Yandoh to the North Lake church, where they were baptized in December 2012. After a disappointing experience with a secular holiday music broadcast on another Christian station, Sandra, a former cancer patient at Florida Hospital Waterman, was searching for truth.
“After the holidays I looked for another station and found WGTT 91.5 FM, which I later learned broadcasts from North Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church,” she wrote in Florida Focus
, the conference’s quarterly magazine. “This station was different. Rather than music, the format was preaching and teaching, which really appealed to me.”
Sandra contacted Florida Hospital Waterman chaplain Fay Rose, who was happy to help with Bible studies.
“God has orchestrated this whole thing,” Rose recounted in a video report on the radio station. “Having me meet Sandra when I met her, [and] having the church decide to have this wonderful broadcast from their steeple.”
Pastor Ric Pleasants, who has led the North Lake congregation for the past two and a half years, said the station has been part of the church’s growth from 99 members to a current roster of 250.
“This radio station is an impact radio station, from the way I’m viewing it,” Pleasants told Adventist Review in a telephone interview. “It has enhanced not only outreach, but also a sensitivity to new people coming in.” n
—with information from the Florida Conference