Career Capsule: When I was first approached about doing the Morning Show with ReachFM, Calvary Chapel’s radio network in Florida, my initial reaction was to say, “No thank you!” As a speaker, I loved the immediate feedback of an audience. As a writer, I was able to craft my words to accomplish just what I wanted. I agreed to a trial run and as you can imagine, I quickly discovered the incredible intensity of the connection possible with listeners.
Meeting the artists whose music inspired me, the authors whose words strengthened my love for God, working with an on-air team that became family, and having listeners trust me with their most personal stories, made me realize being on-air was one of those good works in Ephesians 2:10 for which God had created me. Suddenly my ability to read a book in an hour was useful!
When the ReachFM network was sold, I became a part of the on-air fundraising team at Food For The Poor, which daily provides me a front-row seat to see His miracles and provision.
Anitra, tell us what’s new at Food For The Poor … any news, changes etc. … and what’s new with YOU?
One of the things I so respect about Food For The Poor (FFTP) is that we are encouraged to marry innovation with wisdom gained over the decades. As one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the United States, this year FFTP is celebrating its 40th anniversary! To stop to consider the impact of providing millions of nutritious meals, building tens of thousands of homes, providing more than $17 billion in aid and completing nearly 3,000 water projects with words of hope from Jesus across 17 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, takes my breath away every day!
Even with such a storied history, we are blazing new trails from accepting bitcoin to utilizing artificial intelligence. We are leveraging the most cutting-edge technology while ever mindful that from the beginning, God has instructed us to reach out to desperate children and families in need.
I have reveled in the chance to launch Text to Donate as a response vehicle as well as expand and strengthen our digital footprint. Through podcasters, influencers, social media and digital, what was radio has become so much more than what comes out of your car speakers or kitchen radio but the hunger for community, inspiration and the chance to hear from a friend, remains the same. We’re excited to tell incredible stories of impact and lives changed (on both sides of the gift!) on every platform available to us.
What is the mission of Food For The Poor?
FFTP’s Mission Statement: Our mission is to link the church of the First World with the church of the Developing World in a manner that helps both the materially poor and the poor in spirit. The materially poor are served by local churches, clergy and lay leaders who have been empowered and supplied with goods by Food For The Poor. The poor in spirit are renewed by their relationship with and service to the poor through our direct ministry of teaching, encouragement and prayer. Ultimately, we seek to bring both benefactors and recipients to a closer union with our Lord.
Generally speaking, what impact does Christian radio have when it teams up with Food For The Poor?
We’ve recently launched a donation platform that allows us to easily collect listeners’ comments. So often, listeners express such a deep sense of gratitude when they give, not just for all that God has lavished on them but that their friends at their favorite station have provided them a highly impactful way to share their blessings with our impoverished brothers and sisters.
Every year, we invite on-air staff to travel with us to see and hear for themselves the stories at our projects. No one returns unchanged.
Whether it is an outreach to a community in one of the primarily 17 countries we serve in the Caribbean and Latin America or in response to the need in Ukraine or right here in Florida after Hurricane Ian, Christian Radio allows us to share the simple story of the need and to invite listeners to be a part of the story of rescue and redemption God is telling. Because we partner with local churches, behind the millions of meals, tens of thousands of houses and thousands of water projects, are lives changed for eternity.
What’s something you’ve learned about Christian radio due to the pandemic, that you didn’t know before?
I think so many of us count among the lessons of COVID-19 the realization that when the busyness and tyranny of the urgent is burned away, what remains is priceless. When your only connection with your tribe is by Zoom, when you can only offer your prayers for a friend battling for their life, or when the people you serve are facing famine, you rediscover what is truly important.
A wise man once sang, “Love God. Love People.” As we used Zoom, Facetime, Comrex, CleanFeed, and QGoLive to connect to listeners, the generosity of their response blew us away. In the middle of such uncertainty, their willingness to look beyond their own circumstances and – like the Good Samaritan – to stop and interact with someone in need, has thrilled me.
What impact do the fundraisers that you have done, have on you personally?
It is not hyperbole to say that it has radically changed my view of God. I am so fortunate to count the hosts that I work with as friends, so in between breaks and campaigns, we share our spiritual discoveries, lives and prayers. Since I am in a different station every week, they become my spiritual community and I count myself as very fortunate!
I had heard in so many sermons about the sheer number of times money is mentioned in the Bible but now find myself proclaiming, “Oh! You meant that!” God’s economy of generosity, the Abrahamic covenant that we have been blessed to be a blessing, the stories of people giving out of their own need, have all changed my faith for the better.
When I was doing Share-a-Thons with ReachFM, we had coaches come in who talked about the honor that it is to give and not an obligation. I think the sheer repetition of getting to invite people to participate during one, if not two, air shifts a day has allowed the truth to really sink in for me. It’s like when we are compelled to shout, “God, You love me! You really love me!” I get it now.
What preparation is necessary by you, before doing a fundraiser?
As a speaker and occasional ghost writer, I love reading the room. With fundraisers, it seems simplistic to say that each is unique because of the air staff, the station location and even the national experience, but I love being intentional about constructing my words for this campaign and this season. And my parents are happy that degree in Psychology from Duke University isn’t going to waste!
I also try to practice the pronunciation of the cities! Whether I am in Pittsburgh or Hawaii, there is little that will mark me as an outsider as quickly as mispronouncing Duquesne or Waipahu. I don’t want there to be any obstacles to their gift.
I’ve had the chance to sit with friends and mentors like Lisa Williams, Big Wave Dave (David James) and Brant Hansen, and talk about avoiding the trap of seeing listeners’ responses as a causal relationship. Each has told me in their own way that my responsibility is to do good radio – to be honest, authentic and engaging, and let God do what He is going to do.
If you see me before a shift, I’m probably dancing to my favorite Christian hype songs and filling up with joy because joy is always attractive and winsome. Each formal and informal coach has challenged me to center myself in God so that benchmarks, goal shortfalls and even the faint sound of crickets don’t distract me from doing the next great break.
Generally speaking to the industry, what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
I have poured over these responses in past interviews because I think it is essential that we see not just 10 feet down the road when it comes to radio, but that we keep looking miles ahead. Radio is going through seismic changes, but truly nothing can thwart God’s plans. Revelation reminds us that the enemy is defeated by the blood of the lamb, because we count our lives not worthy to be saved and by the word of our testimony. Whatever the platform or delivery method, the story of God’s love for and ransom of us drags the Kingdom into our everyday lives.
Who are your radio heroes and influences and why?
I’ve been honest to report that radio was not a career path that I was actively pursuing but truly, everyone who opens the mic is my hero and someone I can learn from. There’s a famous quote about writing that Google won’t confirm who penned, but it is certainly true in my life, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
At least for me, radio is like that, so I applaud everyone with the sheer courage (or in my instance, innocence) who pots up their mic and talks to invisible people. I’ll never forget the look on Pablo from WAYFM’s face when I told him I was doing a morning show shift as my first experience in radio. Talk about self-control!
I am gobsmacked by the listeners willing to treat me as a trusted friend and the people behind the scenes making the decisions that allow me do what I love. So … in short, I’m watching and learning from everyone and I hope to never stop.