NOME, AK (December 30, 2009) – Luda Kinok’s uncle admonished her not to let anyone else know he was listening to KICY radio. Tuning into the gospel programs broadcast by the American station was a crime in the Soviet Union.
Kinok was five years old at the time, living in the tiny Eskimo village of Sireniki, located just across the Bering Strait from Alaska. Now 31, she works at the station and broadcasts deep into Russia from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. every weeknight.
The programming includes weather, news, and worship music. She frequently preaches between songs. Kinok also plays programs that are sent to the station.
A woman of strong faith, even she is amazed by where God has brought her. “I never even dreamt it,” she says. “It’s very exciting.”
The station is owned by the Arctic Broadcasting Association, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit affiliated corporation of the Evangelical Covenant Church. It is the only commercial radio station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast into another country in that nation’s own language.
Kinok says her life is a testimony to the influence of KICY, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2010.
As a child, Kinok says, “I knew nothing of the gospel or the Bible. No one else ever spoke of prayer, Jesus, or the Bible.”
When Kinok was a teenager, she came across a Christian television broadcast and gave her life to Christ. Although she still was unfamiliar with the theological language, Kinok says the words were powerful.
Still, no one else in Sireniki spoke of Jesus. Kinok regularly prayed, “If there is a God at all, I’d like to find someone in my village who knows about Jesus.”
One day, her friend brought to school a comic book that told the story of Christ’s life and death. Kinok asked to borrow the book, but was told the girl’s mother would have to give her permission.
With trepidation, Kinok knocked on the door to her friend’s house and asked the mother if she could borrow the book. “My hunger was more than my fear.”
“I really thought she would go to punch me for saying Jesus Christ in her house, but she held me and started crying,” Kinok recalls. “It was weird.”
The two studied together, and soon as many as 100 people would join them. Later, a missionary brought Bibles to them – Kinok about wore hers out in two weeks.
She suffered persecution from some villagers. Her parents wanted nothing to do with her faith and another relative tried to kill her twice.
Alcoholic: “I understand I could be different. There is a different kind of life. I don’t want to drink myself to death.”
Kinok was 19 when she moved to another village to help a missionary evangelize among people who had never heard the gospel. She was excited that the principal of the local school gave them a room in which to meet, but he doubted anyone would show up.
Thirty-two people attended the first service, Kinok recalls. Later she met another person whose life was being changed by KICY.
An alcoholic man attended one of the services and told Kinok afterward that he had been searching his radio for a station that would come in clearly and came across KICY. The station was playing gospel music at the time, and the man had never heard anything like it.
The man told Kinok, “I understand I could be different. There is a different kind of life. I don’t want to drink myself to death.”
Kinok lived in the village of 200 people for five years. In 2006, her pastor received a call from KICY’s general manager, Dennis Weidler, who was asking if he knew someone who would volunteer to broadcast programming in Russian. (Weidler had met the pastor during a visit by the Russian minister to Alaska).
The pastor immediately thought of Kinok, but she first rejected the idea. She explained that she did not know English, never worked a computer, and certainly had no experience with radio station equipment.
Kinok relented, however, and moved to Nome in August 2004. She planned to spend only six months at the station. Those plans changed when she had little trouble learning English and quickly became comfortable working at the station.
The station’s 50,000-watt directional signal enables her to evangelize Russians across thousands of miles of tundra. A missionary told Kinok he came across reindeer herders in a remote area who listened to the station on a solar-powered radio.
She makes her phone number public and frequently receives calls from listeners in Russia. They also email her to say how the broadcast has impacted their lives or to share their struggles.
“Most of the people are calling from places where there are no churches,” she says.
Kinok is surprised at how her show has influenced people. When she returned to Russia to renew her visa, people recognized her and they shared how her program had touched their lives.
Kinok will be giving up the microphone next year, however. She wants to work in the local church again and will move back to Russia in September.
Who knows? Thanks to her work, maybe the person who replaces her will be a reindeer herder.