Friday, November 11, 2011

Liberia's ELWA burns to the ground

One of Liberia’s oldest radio stations has been destroyed again. The Monrovia-based Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA) burnt to the ground on Tuesday night. Lee Sonius with HCJB Global says, “They lost everything. I’ve already seen some pictures of the building, and the destruction was quite widespread. They lost all of their equipment, programmes, and music.”

The fire started around 9 pm local time. As to its cause, “The cause of the fire has not been completely determined yet, but it doesn’t look like it was due to an electrical problem.” Several reports coming out of Liberia have been hinting at arson connected to political unrest.

After speaking with the station manager, Sonius explains: “The investigation is leading more toward the possibility that it was arson, or that it was intentionally set. Because the run-off election was yesterday, I asked him (the station manager) if he thought it could have anything to do with the election, and he said, ‘Well, I can’t rule that out.’”

The good news is that the transmitter was in a separate building and is unharmed by the fire. Sonius adds that “they actually had a small, emergency portable studio at the site of the transmitter. They are already back on the air in a temporary way.”

Sonius was ELWA’s station manager in 1990 when civil war first destroyed the facility. In 1996, radio ELWA was silenced again during renewed fighting. The staff, with the help of SIM, regrouped and rebuilt. Seven years later, HCJB came on board to help provide most of the resources for short-wave broadcasts from a unique transmitter and antenna, which they developed and installed.

The staff is shell-shocked, says Sonius. “I think the staff at this point must be thinking, ‘Why is all of this happening?’” However, Sonius says they’ve come back from total destruction before. “We have seen their resilience in the past, and the ministry has been going on. So I would be very, very surprised if the staff doesn’t get behind rebuilding and getting the Gospel back on the air.”

Their ministry journey together will continue, says Sonius. “HCJB definitely wants to help, and that’s why I called them this afternoon to just assure them of our intention to help get them back on the air. Obviously, they’ll need to rebuild, and they’ll need all the studio equipment.”

The radio station daily broadcast eight hours of English programming and one and a half hours of Liberian language programming. About three-quarters of the station’s income come from local listeners and churches. Both SIM and HCJB are raising funds to help.
(Source: Mission Network News/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)