News Sowing Seeds until the Lord’s Return

June 11th, 2018

Sowing Seeds until the Lord’s Return

Interview with Jim and Carol Munger – RTM USA

To prepare for my interview with Jim and Carol Munger, I spoke to Elisa Keefe, who was Jim’s assistant for 5 years and who is now stepping into his shoes as his successor. I asked her how she would describe Jim’s work with TWR.

She answered, “For Jim, prayer matters more than anything. Ministry to people is more important than what his department would gain from it. Jim has always been led by faith.  It is on faith that he founded Spanish ministry in the US.

From her words, I clearly sensed how God has done great things through Jim’s work with TWR. I met up with newly retired Jim and Carol as they were preparing for their move to Miami.

Jim was born in November 1945, the fourth of six children in a Christian family. His parents were very active in their church and as Jim grew up he was involved in many aspects of the church ministry. Jim began his walk of faith at a young age and was baptized at the age of six.

As Jim grew up, he had two interests; technology and working for the Lord in Ministry. It was while he was studying electrical science that his mother heard a presentation by a missionary on deputation with TWR who visited their church. Knowing of her son’s interest, she put Jim on the TWR mailing list.

TWR-Bonaire in 1964
In 1964, Jim went to the Urbana Missions Conference where more than 17,000 college students were in attendance. He specifically looked for the TWR booth and once he got there, he found out that TWR was looking for staff on Bonaire. Bonaire was a new venture for TWR, as the Super-powered radio station had just gone on the air in August of that year.

Jim approached TWR to see if it would be possible for him to alternate work with the studies that he was still completing. Initially they had been looking for full-time workers, but by the time they met Jim, they were in such a great need that Bill Mial agreed to let him take time for his studies. So, after serving on Bonaire for six months he resumed his studies in the United States for another 6 months, before returning to Bonaire. While on Bonaire, Jim worked doing maintenance and operational work on the transmitter.  

Jim recounts; ‘I knew this was what God wanted me to do. Although the work was mainly technical, we knew from listener letters read in staff meetings that our work had an impact. Years later I spoke personally with many people whose lives were changed by the broadcasts they heard during the time that I worked at TWR-Bonaire. One of them was Alberto González, who listened while interned in a work camp in Cuba. He now heads up TWR’s ministry in Cuba. Another was a Peruvian man who found the Lord as a child while listening with his family in the interior of Peru. He is now a missionary pastor among the Ticuna Indians in the Amazon.’

TWR love story
After the three years on Bonaire Jim was transferred to the TWR office in Chatham, New Jersey, where he purchased parts and supplies for shipment to the Bonaire station. There he noticed a cute girl who had just started working in the Finance department, Carol!

Carol tells of her own journey, ‘My first contact with TWR was when I was 16. A TWR missionary family visited our home and told about the ministry. While in Bible college, that same family visited the campus and extended an invitation for me to go to Bonaire as a summer worker. I was hesitant, and upon graduation began to work for a local company that did government contracts. I struggled with God’s leading, knowing that it might mean being a single missionary for the rest of my life, a thought that prevented me from being obedient to God’s call. While working there, I felt God calling me to TWR. Then one afternoon, coming home from work, I walked in the front door of my house and heard “Towers To Eternity” being read on the radio. That was the confirmation I needed to contact TWR. God opened the door for me to work at the TWR Headquarters in Chatham, New Jersey and later go to Bonaire as a summer worker. While in Chatham, I met Jim who also worked in the headquarters, and we began dating. Our relationship continued by correspondence as I went to Bonaire for the summer and Jim was transferred to Monte Carlo. In May of 1971 we were married and began serving with TWR together in Monte Carlo.’

Their calling from God to work for TWR was henceforth as a three-fold cord that cannot easily be broken.

While in Monte Carlo, Carol did secretarial work and Jim did maintenance work at the studio. Sometimes they received guests in their home for dinner from behind the iron curtain. Jim recounts, ‘one of them was very afraid. Afraid of saying the wrong thing, of being heard, or of putting someone else in jeopardy.’ TWR’s signal reached behind the Iron Curtain with God’s Word, impacting many lives for eternity.

Tough times build character
After one year of marriage, Jim and Carol were asked to move to Spain. Franco, the Spanish military dictator, was still in power but a measure of freedom of religion had been granted. Miguel Valbuena, who previously headed up the Spanish ministry of TWR in Tangier, had moved back to Spain and had a small studio where he recorded the Spanish programs that were then being broadcast from Monaco. Jim’s responsibility was to operate and maintain the recording equipment. Although there was more religious liberty, they still had to be very cautious.

Moving to Spain in this season in their lives was a challenge. Carol said that, ‘Going to Spain, without speaking Spanish was very hard. For about a year, we went to Spanish class every day for two hours. We didn’t have many English-speaking friends. Because speaking English in front of Spaniards was considered rude, we were forced to practice speaking every day. Now we are thankful for this added incentive to learn Spanish quickly.’

Jim also recounts that time, ‘The ten years in Spain taught us patience and humility. We learned how to live as immigrants and were reminded that we were not the heroes. At that time the US was celebrating their 200 years of independence. The Spanish laughed at us, reminding us that the Spanish city of Zaragoza was celebrating 2,000 years since its founding.’

After working for seven years in Barcelona, Jim and Carol moved to Madrid where they worked with Evangelism in Action, a TWR partner. There they produced programs for local FM stations and had a cassette ministry.

Sowing seed on rocky ground
Doing radio ministry in Spain was like sowing seed in very hard soil. It took time, and the Roman Catholic Church had a tight grip on the country. Spain was a dark country spiritually speaking and less than one percent was evangelical Christians. Especially during the Franco years, people were forced to be Catholic. For many Spaniards, if you were not Catholic, you were not Spanish.

Carol speaks of these difficulties; ‘During one of our furloughs in the States, I struggled with going back to Spain.  I did not want to go back. At that time, we had two small children. Because the work in Spain was so hard, I asked God again where He wanted me. God spoke through my mother and another missionary to go back and not give up. I was reminded that even when it was hard, He would give me the strength.”

Jim adds, ‘The time in Spain was not easy, but we did it because God sent us and there was a need. Looking back, those years were important for our own development. God worked in us.’

Venezuela, like an oasis
In July 1982 the Mungers, along with their children 8 and 6 years of age, left Spain. TWR asked them to establish an office in Venezuela, Latin America. For several months they resided on Bonaire while waiting for their visa which, after five months was granted. In January 1983, Jim, Carol and family arrived in Maracay, Venezuela where they started working in an office located on the grounds of the Associated Evangelical Seminary of El Limon, Venezuela.

‘What became obvious was the impact of TWR Bonaire. Everywhere I went, I found listeners. I met many people who said they became believers while listening to the broadcasts from Bonaire’, Jim says. ‘From the time we went on air in 1964 till 1990, we built an audience so large that there was probably not one adult in Venezuela that had not heard Bonaire at least once! When people were driving in their cars at night along country roads they often listened to TWR Bonaire because that was the only station with a strong signal.’

Venezuelans receptive to the gospel
This was a great contrast to the situation in Spain. In Spain the seed of the Word of God sown by TWR fell on hard soil, but in Venezuela the seed fell on good ground, took root and produced much fruit! But there was still much work to do. Even today, spiritism and witchcraft are very real in Venezuela. The ministry of TWR in Venezuela was fruitful, not merely because of the strength of the signal, but because of the receptivity of the people.

It is obvious that Jim was fond of this time in their lives; ‘God in his grace gave us seven years in Venezuela, where we could see the impact of the Bonaire station. In Venezuela, our children also did very well, and it was during that time that our third child was born. My reports to the head office about the impact from Bonaire made many curious and they wanted to see it for themselves. With every guest, I went to a different place and everywhere we met listeners. Dr. Paul Freed and his wife, Betty Jane, visited us in Venezuela. We went on a trip to the interior of the country and visited churches that were founded directly as a result of TWR Bonaire.’

‘Eventually, the RTM office in Venezuela moved to a permanent location in the center of Maracay. RTM Venezuela was established as a national partner with its own board of directors and it soon became the main producer of Spanish programs in Latin America.

‘When we left Venezuela in 1990, the country had begun to deteriorate, and the economy was getting worse. After having been robbed four times, it was becoming less safe for us to live there.’

Serving Hispanics, part of who we are
In 1990 Jim, Carol and family moved back to the United States and opened a TWR regional office in Miami. About three years later, due to funding difficulties, the Miami office was forced to close. Jim and Carol decided to stay in Miami to provide stability for their children. The Lord opened a new door of service for them at a local church/Christian school where Jim served as Administrator and Carol as Coordinator of music.

When they were asked in 1998 to return to TWR, Jim didn’t hesitate. He contacted Spanish speaking Christian radio stations in the US, and thanks to his contacts, began distributing Spanish speaking programs all over the United States. Today the RTM USA department is speaking Hope to an estimated 55 million Hispanics that live in the USA through more than 80 different stations. TWR’s US Spanish Department is in the main office in Cary, North Carolina where the team responds to listeners who contact them through letters, phone, email, and social media, seeking counsel, prayer, and spiritual guidance. Their focus is to nurture, encourage, and listen to those who are hurting and share the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. Appreciative listeners also have contributed to the cost of operation of the ministry as well. Today, much of the budget for the Spanish ministry comes from Hispanic donors.

Carol enjoys meeting Latino immigrants in the States who know about the programming of TWR because they listened to it growing up in their home country.  Carol shares, ‘My hairdresser here in Apex, NC, is from Guatemala. I asked her, ‘while growing up in Guatemala, did you ever listen to Radio Cultural, one of TWR’s Central American Partners? She says, “Yes”, with a smile! It brings back wonderful memories from her youth. Every time I go in there, we talk. I have shared with her about our Spanish web page, and told her about ‘Thru the Bible’ and other programs. Here she is from Guatemala but working in Apex, NC and we have been able to really connect. Wow! It makes me feel so blessed. God has put us through years of preparation to get to this place. Serving the Hispanics is part of who we are.  It is hard for us to not be part of Spanish ministry somehow. Even though we are retired we hope to continue doing ministry in Spanish both with TWR and wherever else the Lord may call us.’

Jim looks at me and his eyes are shining as he says, ‘many of the immigrants that enter the US from Latin America are the fruits of the TWR ministry from Bonaire. I marvel, when listeners tell me, ‘When I was little, we would sit around the table and listen’. Now they are here in America as the fruit of seeds that were once sown through the Bonaire station.

Praise God for the seed that was once sown, and that needs to continue to be sown until the Lord comes back.

Mariette Oosterhoff
TWR Marcom Director Latin America & the Caribbean