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What It Means to Be Family-Friendly
by Ronne Rock
Posted on Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Chris Lemke sits on the steps of the Rainbow School, watching the children of House of Grace teach mission team members from Michigan how to play cricket.  It's a view that never gets old for the Executive Director of Radio for Cornerstone - serving WCSG and Mission Network News. This is Chris' third time to India with Orphan Outreach, and he is more convinced than ever that engaging radio station listeners with ministries that provide tangible hope is the best way to open hearts to the transforming power of God's love.

alvie and the girls

"We say our radio stations are family-friendly. There might be more compelling ways to say it, but we've been "family-friendly & commercial-free" for 11 years. And it's a good slogan to have.

"But we're more than a slogan. We're more than good music and non-offensive language. It's a much deeper thing to me. It's more than being a safe place. It implies family, which implies belonging. It implies community, togetherness. It means we live together through things - good and difficult things. A healthy family cares, honors, respects each other. Jesus believes in family. He calls us His brothers. God calls us His children."


And the children at House of Grace, a children's home hidden in the Himalayan village of Manali, have become part of family he wants to introduce to his listener family back home.

Chris knows all too well the pressures placed on radio stations like WCSG. Even for a listener-supported radio station, traditional metrics are used to define success. And he has seen what happens when tangible metrics are meshed with tangible hope.


"In the radio business, growth is assessed on two things - ratings and revenue. Yes, from a business standpoint, those things are important. But they're not the only things. And I believe we've gotten where we are because we don't make them the end-all. We are there to connect, to listen, to honor. We’re there to bring relationships deeper. We’re not just about the music. We’re engaged with our listeners, and they support us. And because they support us, we’re able to care for them even more and encourage them to join us in loving people more. We're so mindful of what we encourage our listeners to do, and we're careful about which organizations we ask our listeners to support. But we're not afraid to ask. We know they want to be part of our team. They want to be connected in meaningful ways."

When Chris and his team began thinking of ways to connect listeners globally, they looked for ministry partners that were steeped in the same culture and values as the radio station. Trust and transparency were essential. And it was at a national conference that Chris was introduced to the work of Orphan Outreach.

"Because family is about belonging, and because we are educating people to give themselves, when an organization like Orphan Outreach comes along, it’s easy for us to say 'here’s a ministry that gets it – they believe in relationship and they live it out.' We spent time together long before we developed a partnership. There was trust. Working with Orphan Outreach is hand in glove for us."

WCSG first invited listeners to travel to Guatemala and Honduras. Russia was then added to the calendar, followed by Latvia. Soon, teams were traveling to India. And most recently, listeners have been invited to Kenya. The commitment to global orphan care through Orphan Outreach has become personal for Chris, his staff, and the listeners. Team members have adopted from the countries served. WCSG staffers return time and time again to see the children they now sponsor. Listeners have supported projects and have gotten their churches involved. And the radio station now actively promotes child sponsorships on the trips so that listeners can have an even deeper relationship with the children and ministries served.


Chris stops to cheer for the new friends in the courtyard who have given up on explaining wickets and ducks and bowlers and have moved to a fierce game of soccer. He quickly snaps a picture of the moment, and points with a smile to a WCSG team member who is helping younger kids with coloring pages from an afternoon devotional.


"I think most radio stations get that they’re not the end-all. We’re there to inspire people to do good, to love as Jesus loves, to encourage people to walk with integrity. We are there to respond to the needs of our listener family. So when it comes to partnership with Orphan Outreach, we make the introduction through mission trips. But we know things don’t end there. People are introduced to new cultures, issues of injustice. We can do wonderful things in our neighborhoods. But we miss a component – the component of getting to know our world, evangelizing, being Jesus to places that are not our own.


"There’s more to loving our neighbor than loving our neighborhood. And it’s more than simply giving money. We most certainly could take the money used on a mission trip and use it for a project. But it doesn’t get people out to taste and touch and dive deep. We have to get out of our armchairs and into the world. And global mission trips translate into local care. Our eyes are opened, our hearts are opened."

(Photos: Vince Williams, Amy Norton, and Ronne Rock)

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