Career Capsule: After earning a Masters Degree in Hotel & Food Service Mgmt and a long career in the hospitality industry, The Lord allowed the events following September 11th to shift my career totally. I have been a professional communicator/public speaker and helped run a successful business for a combined 20 years, but there was a longing for more. In 2010, God divinely intervene with an opportunity to serve at Food For The Poor.
Paul, tell us what’s new at Food For The Poor… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
After more than four decades of serving children and families in Latin America and the Caribbean, Food For The Poor is charting the course for 2023 and beyond the next four decades. Through trusted partnerships and effective programs, FFTP is engaged in building lives, not just building things. FFTP is energized by successful projects benefitting families and as a learning organization, we are capitalizing on lessons from our first 41 years of transforming livelihoods and ensuring effectiveness in everything we do. None of this is done alone, so we have been growing our number of engaged donor-base like GenX/Millennial and GenZ donors through our growing digital expansion. Also, we are engaging the Hispanic diasporas across the country with a new Spanish-language television program with our new spokesperson, Emmy-Award winning Latin television anchor Elizabeth Perez.
Finally, we are excited to announce that Food For The Poor will be launching our new Podcast, ‘Journey of Transformation’, hosted by me. This new podcast series spotlights donors, FFTP staff, the families we serve and how all of our lives have been transformed. Podcast listeners may become part of this transformation as they are inspired to join our mission and may even be part of a future podcast where they tell their story of transformation. As you listen you will be transported to the most remote places Food For The Poor works to hear emotional, real-life stories that will create a movement of transformation! Stay Tuned for the launch of our pilot episode!
I have never been more excited to share with listeners across the country the needs of families in Latin America and the Caribbean who are dreaming for a better future with the ability to feed their children, have access to safe water and have the emergency relief resources needed in the event of a natural disaster. I love my career as a radio fundraiser. It’s a very intimate medium where we share stories from families that struggle in the Caribbean and Central America just like families here on Main Street, America.
I recently travelled to Honduras and Guatemala to meet with families and ministry partners on the ground, seeing the work being done and the needs of those still struggling with the basics of life. I met a mom who works to support all her family’s needs since her husband became permanently disabled on the job. Her face couldn’t hide her emotional pain to see her family suffering. But her story of resilience is what drives me to do everything I do!
Tell us about Food For The Poor, it’s history, mission?
Food For The Poor began in 1982 in Jamaica. Today, our interdenominational Christian ministry serves the poor in primarily 17 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Thanks to our faithful donors, we are able to provide food, housing, healthcare, education, fresh water, emergency relief, micro-enterprise solutions and much more.
We are proud to have fed millions of people and provided more than 15.7 billion dollars in aid. Our faith inspires us to be an organization built on compassion, and motivated by love. Our mission is to bring relief to the poorest of the poor in the countries where we serve.
We strive to reflect God’s unconditional love. It’s a sacrificial love that embraces all people regardless of race or religion. We believe that we can show His love by serving the “least of these” on this earth as Christ challenged us to do in Matthew 25. We pray that by God’s grace, and with your support, we can continue to bring relief to the suffering and hope to the hopeless.
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, our trusted partners and faithful donors.
What is the overall impact that you see from Christian Radio when it teams up with Food For The Poor?
There is the Great CO-mission taking place. FFTP President/CEO Ed Raine coined that term because it is mission critical that FFTP and the Body of Christ work in harmony to bring the solutions to the needs of our families that we serve. There is no better way to reach ‘the Church’ than through Christian Radio. This is where the Body of Christ comes for ministry, worship and influence in how to live-out their faith in a practical ways. I believe the scripture in James 2, when The Word says how we cannot see a brother or sister in need and only offer prayer. No, our needs are met and our faith is lived out when we respond practically and tangibly to the needs of those dreaming for a better life. When FFTP shares the needs, then listeners overwhelmingly respond and often remind us that this is what they must be doing as Christians. Many listeners thank us for the reminder of how good God has been and this is an opportunity to show God– not FFTP or Christian Radio– their appreciation.
For example, here are a couple of quotes from listeners who gave to provided life-saving resources to family’s needs;
Michelle – As a Mother I can’t imagine my children starving and going to bed hungry. That would be heart wrenching. God has put on the hearts of others to bless me in times of need. And now I am in a position to give back to those in need.
Anonymous – God moved me to give this time around. Normally, I change the station on giving days because I feel guilty if I can’t help. God reminded me just how blessed my family and I am. I’m glad I listened with my heart today.
What’s something you’ve learned about Christian Radio due to the pandemic, that you didn’t know before?
God will ALWAYS find a way! At the start of the pandemic we were seeing radio campaigns either canceling or postponing (since we were only supposed to be home for ‘two weeks’ while this blows over, right? Imagine that!) But we took our broadcasting audio equipment that we had purchased—Pre-Pandemic—and set-up a make-shift studio in a small conference room at FFTP headquarters. The FFTP Radio team quickly saw the wisdom of God, as well as the provision of God, when a radio partner in New York told us, even though NYC is completely on lockdown, pastors are saying that they want to help and respond to the needs of the less fortunate in other parts of the world. It was that one act of faith and trust that God would provide, it set us on a course of unprecedented success and the number of listeners around the country who were themselves going through lockdowns, losing their jobs and risk of contagion… they were listening to their radios and God opened their hearts wide!
God found a way!
What impact do the fundraisers that you have done, have on you personally?
It has always been personal. I see in the face of every child– whether in Haiti, Guatemala or Honduras– as the same faces of the children in my own family. I see the struggle on the faces of young parents doing whatever it takes to care for their children and it’s a similar look in the faces of my own parents when they struggled, early in my life. On one trip to Haiti, I remember a father whose wife and youngest child died within months of each other, and the dad was heart-broken. But then I looked in the eyes of his oldest son who was barely in his teens, I quickly realized that his childhood was over if someone didn’t intervene soon. The reality is that this young boy would have to immediately go to work and help provide for their family because Dad could not do it alone. When I saw the look in that young boy’s eyes, it made me resolute to do whatever it takes—for however look it takes—to the best of my ability so that families like his could put their dreams back on track!
So, when the on-air light illuminates, the on-air talent resets our ‘WHY’ and when the airtime is mine to speak… I erupt every time jubilantly to share my heart, tell their stories and do my best to be a voice for the voiceless.
What preparation is necessary by you, before doing a fundraiser?
OK, now this is truly a great question and I don’t recall being asked this before. People just assume that I have my stories all written out and that I have my field-audio clips organized by subject matter and country of need. They even think that it’s the GRANDE BLONDE ROAST COFFEE that is my pre-campaign routine… those things are part of it. But you asked, for preparation that is ‘NECESSARY’…
PRAYER has been necessary. I always have my time before The Lord before the campaign day starts. I cannot get on-air without asking Him to direct my words, the on-air talent’s ability to connect with their audience and most of all touch the hearts of the listener. How could I ever raise $1 without The Lord Jesus already building the faith in that mom-on-the-go or busy individual to choose to give some of their hard-earned money to someone they have never heard before to a child or family they might never meet this side of Heaven… That’s Faith!
Since the start of my career with Food For The Poor, fundraising on-air to help families eat, have safe water or recover from a natural disaster… I have always recognized that this is a ‘faith walk’. WHY? Because it’s not my voice, ability to tell a story or even the powerful format of a top-rated station… it’s trusting that The Lord has heard our prayers, touched the hearts of those who listen, and they give generously. Sometime, God gives us a ‘wink’ and we will see a comment from the listener was not in a position to hear us on the radio that day, then they ‘just happen’ to listen and we were sharing a story and it reminded them of something they heard from God earlier… That’s Faith.
But, I must be clear. My faith and prayer are directed to The Lord Jesus and I am totally confident in Him with each and every campaign. So, I am never unprepared because I have Him!
Generally speaking what are the biggest obstacles in fundraising on Christian radio?
One of the biggest obstacles is ‘noise’. I was recently listening to an expert on social media share we are the most distracted generation. Not younger people, I mean the time and generation we are living in right now. When I mention, ‘noise’, these aren’t negative things in our life, but they are attention-grabbing and loud in our daily routine. So many things are vying for our attention. Not just on the radio, but on our phones (text notifications, Social Media notifications, News push notifications… and your personal alarm schedule notifications) and even within our homes and personal lives there is ‘noise’ distracting us. (Even as I write this, I have gotten several emails and been interrupted a couple of times while working in my home office.) Then you compound that ‘noise’ with the incredibly busy lives of working household parents with children active in school… active roles at church… and a lot of noise cluttering our meager 24-hours a day we are allotted, to name a few. So, then a guy from Food For The Poor wants to add one more story and one more responsibility to your already noisy life… what do you do?
It is why as a fundraiser, I truly focus on centering our every break on-air to answer the needs of the listener. Answer their needs to be encouraged. Answer their needs to be inspired. Answer their needs for spiritual answers. ALSO, answer their needs to know their generous gift is changing lives! That additional ‘noise’ adds to a life and not distracts from an already busy one.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
AT THE RISK OF SOUNDING LIKE A CLICHÉ … ‘there are too many to name’, but it’s true. (There are even a few radio influences prior to giving my life to Christ that will remain nameless too! Ha!)
My first influence is the great KKLA Talk Show Host, Frank Pastore. I didn’t know him that long, but I knew enough from my first 2 years of fundraising with him on-air that he was such a principled man and amazing communicator. Before he went home to be with The Lord, his greatest lesson (to me) came in my first meeting with Frank. He looked at me and my colleague and said, “hey guys, I am a former athlete so I am very coachable. Just tell me when you need me to do…”. Immediately my nerves calmed down and the Broadcaster of the Year and former Major League Baseball phenom was “one of the guys”. Every time I step into to the KKLA studios in Glendale, California, I still think of Frank Pastore and that lesson on being coachable no matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished. To this day, I strive to remain… “very coachable”. Thanks, Frank!
Another influence is closer to home. There are no Marconi Awards named after him or Honorary Studios that bear his name, but I am a living witness to his years of experience and dedication to honing his craft as a professional broadcaster and fundraiser.
My other influence is Todd Chatman. Todd has been more than a colleague and fellow fundraiser for over a decade working together at Food For The Poor. He is a BROTHER. When I started at FFTP, I knew how to communicate as a public speaker, but when that mic was in my face, all bets were off. That’s where Todd stepped in. We started within months of each other, and he taught me so much while we were jetting around the country week-after-week fundraising (LA, San Diego, Portland, Dallas, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Washington DC and more… our schedule was dizzying). One fun story is that Todd knows EVERYBODY in radio! Once, while heading to a meeting at NRB, I whispered to him that Bob Lepine from Family Life Today was walking in our general direction and I always wanted to meet him. Next thing I know, Bob Lepine pops his head up from his cellphone and says… “Hey Todd Chatman, how are you?” Todd knew him too! I just laughed.
Between all those fundraising campaigns we travelled together to Jamaica, Haiti, Guatemala and Nicaragua to meet families and record stories that we would bring back to audiences across the US. His sensitivity and ability to see the story beyond its face-value, helped me greatly to internalize every child and family we met.
I learned the important skills of asking those intimate questions and how to frame them in a story that would touch listeners hearts. From Port-au-Prince to Portland or Managua to Main Street, I watched him do it better than anyone. Another influence from Todd is that he has the patience of Job! He needed it working with me! I observed his cool head in pressure situations that could have made matters worse if it wasn’t for strong belief in what we were doing and the willingness to press through and see a problem to a amicable end. I carry a skillset that will never be taken away and I credit Todd’s willingness to show this inexperienced public speaker how to be honed into a season fundraiser. Thanks, Todd!
Finally, I have one last influence in radio that truly cemented my determination more than anyone. For years, I have been a huge fan of News Talk formats and here in South Florida where I live, there are quite a number of radio personalities that have been longtime voices in the market that we have almost ‘grown-up’ with. This broadcaster is one of them. They are a very well-known name and talent in Miami and their name synonymous with Miami. In fact, before I knew I wanted to have a career in radio, I know this broadcaster’s name. (By now, you get the point that they shall remain nameless.).
So, I once was a volunteer for a Radio Reading Program that offer the service of reading the newspaper to listeners who were sight-impaired and had a special device to hear us volunteers reading to them the entire newspaper. I truly enjoyed every-minute of it! One afternoon, I was leaving, and my fellow volunteer introduced me to the ‘anonymously aforementioned’ broadcaster. I was just AMAZED! You see my fellow volunteer knew that I was interested in broadcasting and that meeting this person would be a treat and maybe lead to something more. Boy were they right!!! I got right to the point, meeting the popular broadcaster for my very first time… in fact, it was the most popular person in radio I had ever met, up until that point in my life.
So, I wasted no time and shared my aspirations and goals…
The broadcaster responded with one salient piece of advice…
“Don’t do it. Find some other career and pursue that.”
That afternoon, I felt like I was in a hot air balloon descending slowly to Earth from thousands of feet up…slower and slower until I finally hit the ground. I pulled into my driveway at home and made up my mind on where my future was headed. That was all I needed to propel me to find my place in this industry and where I belong. Finally on October 25th, 2010, I found myself walking to my desk at Food For The Poor as an On-Air Radio Fundraiser. (BTW, the same desk I sit at to this very day!)
Thanks, anonymous legendary Miami broadcaster!