By Rob Hall
PORTLAND, OR (June 27, 2009) – “KICY is the only station that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allowed to broadcast in a foreign language to a foreign country.”
Those words, spoken by past KICY Board President Ted Haney, reminded the 112 people gathered for a dinner honoring the station of the uniqueness of the ministry of KICY. Started on April 17, 1960 in Nome, Alaska, on the shores of the Bering Sea, KICY is in the middle of a year-long celebration of 50 years of faithful service to the Evangelical Covenant Church and to Western Alaska and the Russian Far East.
“At 11:00 p.m. each night we flip a switch and the KICY signal is directed entirely toward Russia,” Haney said. “When a 50,000-watt signal is focused in one direction, it has the power equivalent to 200,000 watts. We call it the Gospel Flame Thrower,” joked Dennis Weidler who has served as general manager of KICY for the last 10 years.
Luda Kinok, a Russian Eskimo who heads up KICY’s Russian language programming, shared with the group that she grew up listening to KICY and its Russian language programming. She never dreamed of serving at the station, but now does and is responsible for five hours each night of Russian language programming meant to encourage and challenge its Russian listeners with the good news of Jesus Christ.
As the attendees enjoyed a dinner of salmon caught in Alaska and sent to Portland by current KICY Board President Margaret “Sister” Olson, they saw a video chronicling the 50-year history of KICY. Before and following the dinner, people had opportunity to interact with Ralph and Gert Fondell who were part of KICY from the beginning and served the station faithfully for more than 25 years.
Ernie Hanson, a past station manager was also in attendance, as were Jim and Lola Engwall who served the station during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Jim—or “Country Jimmy” as he was known during his time in Nome—also holds the distinction of being one of the first volunteers at the station, traveling to serve one summer during his college years.
Attendees also learned of the contributions of H. Roald Amundsen, who served the Covenant as a missionary to Alaska and who dreamed of a radio station, which would link the far flung Covenant mission stations together, and Fred Savok, an Alaska Native who was an ordained Covenant minster who served both the Nome Covenant Church and also produced the Eskimo Hour for KICY. Both Fred and Roald died this past year and will be missed at the 50th anniversary celebration that will take place in April 2010 in Nome to further celebrate this milestone.
One of the many highlights of the evening was an original poem written and presented by Greg Asimakoupoulos, who served at KICY and is the author of the book Ptarmigan Telegraph, which is the written history of KICY.
Weidler closed the evening by reminding people that this was just the first 50 years of KICY’s ministry. “Keep praying for us as we look forward to serving the people of Western Alaska and the Russian Far East for another 50 years.”
Editor’s note: the dinner was held on the dock of the Red Lion where the 124th Annual Meeting was held. Well-known Mt. Hood can be seen in the background.