Listening for God

Saturday, April 12, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com David Obergoenner, right, and his daughter, Jill Watkins, chatted in the KHIS Radio studio in Obergoenner's Gordonville home. KHIS, which can be heard at 107.9 FM or khisradio.org, is celebrating its first anniversary this month.

Local radio station attracts worldwide audience with contemporary Christian music

By Linda Redeffer

Southeast Missourian

For about 15 years Dave Obergoenner tried to get a contemporary Christian music radio station off the ground in Cape Girardeau.

But after years of trying he gave up.

A self-described "radio guy" and a radio engineer, Obergoenner built a station in his home in Gordonville, always thinking how much he'd love to have a Christian contemporary music station.

"Out of the blue I was driving my car coming back from doing a job for a station in Kansas City," Obergoenner recalled. "The phone rang. It was a fellow asking if I would be interested in a radio station in Cape Girardeau. I'm like, well, sure. He said 'Can you make it a Christian format?' I said 'Absolutely. That's what I'm about.'"

Then he learned about God's sense of timing.

"Then he said 'Can you get it on the air in a hurry? The permit has about run out and we can't build it.' I said 'Yes, I built a station in my house six years ago anticipating maybe someday I would be able to put a Christian station on the air.'"

The man gave him the go-ahead to run the station.

"Out of the blue. He did not know me at all," Obergoenner said. "He got my number from a guy we both know."

Ministry of music

A few months later, KHIS at 107.9 FM was on the air. That was a year ago, April 13, 2007. Since then, the all-volunteer staff has raised enough money through listener support and pledges to keep the station on the air, growing and reaching people with a ministry of music.

"Music is the ministry," Obergoenner said. "Research shows nearly half the people who make a decision for Christ start out by listening to contemporary Christian music. I know that much; it's what brought me to Christ in the first place."

The people who first tried to get KHIS on the air had good intentions, he said, but didn't really know what it takes to get a radio station going. Obergoenner was able to step in and make it happen with the help of his family and a lot of volunteers.

"You need an engineer, programming people, accounting people," said his daughter Jill Watkins of Jackson. "There's a lot of paperwork. We had a bunch of folks who could fall right into it."

The first few months were a little shaky, but eventually the station took off, offering contemporary Christian music 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"This area is starving for new contemporary Christian music," Watkins said. "The only thing out there is gospel."

As word of the station spreads, more and more people are responding, calling and asking who artists are and asking for song titles that caught their attention.

A listener named Allyson from Cape Girardeau wrote in on the KHIS Web site's message board: "I listen to KHIS every morning and always get blessed. But, for some reason, today I keep getting Godbumps!! All the songs are speaking to me and I pray they're doing the same for others that are listening. Sometimes I get so excited about what God has in store for me that I can hardly contain myself."

All listeners will hear on KHIS is music and a few announcements related to local churches. The station is an independent ministry.

"We're here to support area churches," Obergoenner said. "We're not in any way affiliated with any denomination. We're completely independent, nonpolitical. It works out better for the radio station if we can be independent."

It works well for the churches, too, his daughter said.

"We can support them all, especially the smaller churches," Watkins said.

There's no agenda to promote any one church over the others; it's all about the music and the message. The KHIS board is choosy about the music it offers, selecting artists who meet the standards it sets for musicianship and professional conduct.

"Tune in any time and all you'll hear are church announcements or songs we just played or are getting ready to play," Watkins said. "That's the only talk you'll ever get."

Far-reaching effects

Listeners support KHIS because it's local. But it's also gaining momentum because it reaches all over the world through the Internet.

"It amazes me when I look at the feedback we get from people listening in Africa, China, Europe and Australia," Obergoenner said.

James, a listener from Oklahoma, left a message on the site's message board: "I just want KHIS to know what a huge part of my day you are. I live and work in Tulsa, OK, and although there are Christian radio stations in our area, KHIS plays the music that fits with my personal preferences. I listen to KHIS throughout the day at my desk via winamp, and it helps me through the day to have a focus on Christ through the day and to have a constant background of encouraging words going on."

Financial support for the station comes from donations. Obergoenner said he can run KHIS for about a tenth of what a commercial station has to spend. In November KHIS held its first Share-a-Thon to raise money to keep going for a year.

"I told the people we would talk about money only one day out of the year," Obergoenner said. "We held to that."

"The only one benefiting from this station is the Kingdom of God," Watkins said.

Actually it took only half a day to raise the money the station needed. That's the last time anything was said on the air about donations, and they won't mention it again until the next Share-a-Thon.

"It was unbelievable," Watkins said of the Share-a-Thon. "People brought food, donors came by. Three phone lines were going. It's unheard of for someone to raise that kind of funds. That was an amazing day."

Obergoenner spends the most time with KHIS, and now works part-time as a radio engineer instead of full time. His wife Marietta, known on the air as "Mo in the Morning," is part of KHIS. Other volunteers are either on the air or behind the scenes. All have shared their testimonies about why they are involved on KHIS' Web site, www.khisradio.org.

Future plans include adding technology so more people can tune in on the Internet. Some cars are equipped with radios that will show information about what song just played and the name of the artist, and KHIS is the first station in the area to offer this. The staff hopes to be able to play more local artists. Mostly they just want to keep going.

"It's been a lot of fun, for him in particular," Watkins said.

"We've made a difference in our community," Obergoenner said. "It's been a blessing to us as much as it is a blessing to others."

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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