Since the first broadcast of “Wonderful Words of Life” (WWL) went out on the airwaves in 1955, The Salvation Army USA Southern Territory has had an uninterrupted broadcast ministry. The radio broadcast was the only expression until later the Spanish language version of it was introduced in the late 1990s. Since that time under the umbrella of Soundcast, the mainstays have remained but have been supplemented by language versions of “Heartbeat,” “Words of Life,” “Holiness Podcast” and the newest effort, “Storytellers.” Sharing has not been restricted to radio airwaves only but also through podcasts, social media and the Soundcast website. Combined, Soundcast ministries are reaching over 1900 stations in 65 countries. The wide ranging programs are described below:
Wonderful Words of Life is the flagship program, fifteen minutes in length. The traditional program in the past featured music and a short Bible message. But in an attempt to be more relevant to today’s audiences, the format was changed to an unscripted discussion format that deals with relevant topics from a biblical perspective, especially appealing to its target age group of 30 somethings.
Maravillosas Palabras de Vida boasts a devoted following not only in the United States but in all of Latin America. Although it is name is the Spanish equivalent to WWL and there is often overlap in topics covered, more often the subjects addressed are those more relevant to Spanish speaking people. “There is far more response on social media to the Spanish broadcasts than English ones,” relates Chris Benjamin who serves as the Director of Production and Operations for Soundcast. “You can scroll past comment after comment every time we share an episode. The episodes are often shared by the audience with their friends so a true estimate of the number of listeners is difficult to calculate.”
Heartbeat, available in both English and Spanish, is a one minute broadcast, also topical in nature but using different subject matter than the longer WWL. The shorter length is particularly appealing to younger audiences whose attention span is notably shorter than those who are older. Whereas WWL is heard mostly on Christian stations, “Heartbeat” is heard on a wide variety of stations including rock, country, hip hop, R&B, etc.
Words of Life is a more biblically focused broadcast, currently featuring Captains Rob and Heather Dolby. The Spanish version, Palabras de Viva, features Major Mario Maldonado. The length of each program varies but generally they are less than ten minutes. As with the other broadcasts, the teaching and subject matter between the English and Spanish is appropriate for their particular audiences.
The Holiness Podcast, available only in English, is a new venture that is just getting off the ground. In cooperation with the Florida Division and with Lt. Colonel Vern Jewett as the teacher, the podcast is far more in depth than any of those listed above. Up to 45 minutes in length, Jewett dives deep by sharing the biblical standard of holiness and its application in the believer’s life. It includes a downloadable study guide available through the Soundcast website – salvationarmysoundcast.org.
The Storytellers Series, launched this past December as solely a reading of Gospel of Luke. Done as an experiment, the staff was pleasantly surprised by the extremely positive feedback they received. The next series will start on Easter Sunday as a reading through of the book of Acts.
The Soundcast ministries have enjoyed an average 20% increase in measurable outreach each of the past several years. Listenership would undoubtedly increase even more if the broadcasts were offered in additional languages – the next obvious one being Korean. And a larger marketing budget would allow the word to get out more effectively so that people are aware of what is offered. There is also a need for additional writers for “Heartbeat.”
With the almost universal access allowed by the internet, Salvation Army programs are able to reach far beyond the broadcast range of individual radio stations as in times past. People living in countries that would outright block access to the gospel let alone The Salvation Army, are listening every day around the clock to hear what God can do in their lives.
We pray God’s fullest blessing on this exciting ministry. Only Heaven will be able to fully bear witness to those who have received Christ as Savior, been built up in their faith, or received invaluable instruction at a critical time because of the ministry of Soundcast.