A Ministry that Counts
By Laura Poff
When Regina McGraw started working for The Salvation Army THQ in 1982, she was a newlywed just looking for a temporary job while she got settled in Atlanta. She started out in the Community Relations Department under the direction of Major Leon Ferraez, who told her she would spend some time each week working with the Radio Ministry Department as well.
“I found the job to be wonderful,” McGraw said. “It was very intriguing for me because it gave me an opportunity to be a part of something that got the gospel out around the world.”
As the ministry grew, Regina joined the Radio Ministries Department full time. Soon after, her husband Mike, who was working as a music teacher, joined the department as well, heading up production while Regina managed the marketing and business.
The pair, who soon became synonymous with Salvation Army radio, retired earlier this month after more than 30 years of service for Regina and 28 for Mike.
“In the beginning with radio ministries we had just a few stations on reel-to-reel tape and it was just Regina and I and the secretary,” Mike said.
“Wonderful Words of Life” (WWOL), the most popular program of the department, began in 1955 and became national in 1975. For many years, this 15-minute (confirm) program was the entirety of radio ministries until in the early 1990s, when the culture and technology shifted dramatically, prompting many changes under their leadership.
In 1992, a Spanish language version of WWOL was created, called “Maravillosas Palabras de Vida.” Then in 1996, a one-minute program called “Heartbeat” was created in response to the need for short soundbites and lowered attention spans among radio listeners. In 2000, a Spanish language version of this program, “Latido” was also created.
In 2001, WWOL moved online and in 2003, all of the programs soon joined it. In 2005, WWOL was awarded the NRB milestone award for 50 consecutive years of broadcasting. In 2013, the Soundcast app was launched, from which all programs can be streamed on mobile devices.
Even as the technology has changed, the work has remained consistent.
“We are continuing to get out the unchanging gospel,” Regina said. “Everything else changes, but the essence of the gospel does not.”
Over the years, Mike and Regina have received countless letters from listeners around the world who were touched by their programming and ministry. The radio programs reach remote areas of the world where many other media cannot. After all of these years, many of these notes have faded or been misplaced, but some signs of the scope of their work have remained. Regina turned to the filing cabinet behind her desk and retrieved a worn cassette tape, sent in to her in 1993, more than 20 years ago.
“We received this little cassette tape in the mail from a listener in Thailand,” she recalled. “After he made the cassette tape, he talked about how much he was ministered to by the program and how much he appreciated the program. Being blind and living in Bangkok, he couldn’t get out much. His whole contact with the outside world seemed to be through the radio.”
Listener mail and testimonies reflect the driving force of the McGraws combined 50-plus years of service: to advance the mission of The Salvation Army around the world and to serve others.
“I think if you can do everything that you do with The Salvation Army’s mission statement in mind then you will be successful in The Salvation Army,” Regina said. “It’s been thrilling; it’s been a great ride. Our passion for the ministry has not waned at all. If you’re going to live your life, you’ve got to live it for something that counts, and we believe that this counts.”