By Marilyn Tinnin
WJXC 97.9—A Faith-full Calling
While many look forward to retirement as a time to slow down and take it easy, Roger Venable chose to take on a fresh challenge.
He is a Believer, a man who has a huge heart for Jesus, and a devoted Catholic who has a great desire to grow in his faith. For years, he had dreamed of a Catholic radio station that would broadcast solid teachings and biblical perspectives to strengthen and encourage members of his church.
He had mentioned his dream to others in passing, and he had several “friends of friends” contact him from time to time who had stations to sell. The only problem was the selling price was somewhere north of the stratosphere! Even so, he continued to research the idea educating himself on exactly what it would cost to start from scratch.
When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened up new low-power frequencies on the dial, he felt like he would never get a better chance even though the licensing stipulated that the stations could only exist as non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations. Roger dove into the mound of government paperwork required to register as a non-profit and never looked back.
Never mind that he knew almost as little about running a non-profit as he knew about the technology of radio. Such details were irrelevant to this natural entrepreneur who never graduated from high school, worked his way up to managerial and supervisory positions everywhere he ever worked, and also established his own highly successful and respected business (Venable Glass) with locations in Ridgeland and Brandon. What he lacked in immediate knowledge of the broadcast business, he more than made up with passion, determination, and a willingness to roll up his sleeves and do whatever it took—which was a lot!
He took out a $25,000 personal loan and began the process.
His inspiration for such a critical leap of faith was a Franciscan nun, Mother Angelica, who began a radio ministry out of a converted garage in Birmingham, Alabama in 1981. A number of experts said she could not possibly jump through the FCC hoops, raise the money, or even receive a functional station signal through the hard stone and rock surrounding the area she had chosen as the home for her dream. Her response was this: “It’s spiritual warfare up there, and I want the name of Jesus broadcast out into the atmosphere.”
Today, her EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) is the largest religious media network in the world transmitting programming 24 hours a day in 144 countries. Legends about Mother Angelica’s diligence to her calling abound. Roger had a happenstance meeting with her years ago in an airport. He sees that meeting as another prod from the Lord that he was supposed to do this! He had already been mulling over the idea of getting a Catholic station started in Mississippi, but he was still busy making a living to support his family. With four children and a business, he could only dream at that point, but he could barely believe Mother Angelica was right there at the same gate.
When he summoned the courage to go over and introduce himself to her and to tell her how much he admired what she had done, her humility and Christlike reception left a lasting impression. If anything, he thought about that Mississippi Catholic station even more. Her dogged determination against all odds was his inspiration and something he thought about all the time in his decade-long journey of this unusual calling.
There were many naysayers along the way, including one of his very smart and tech-savvy sons, Luke. “Dad, people go to school to learn how to do what you want to do. I respect what you want to do, but it’s not going to happen. You simply don’t know what you are doing.” Even as he was helping his dad unpack boxes of equipment, he was shaking his head.
Roger had an answer. “If God wants me to do this, it will happen.”
Just when he would hit a roadblock and feel like quitting, God would meet a specific need in an unexpected way. Someone would appear to advise, encourage, or share the expertise needed to push this dream a little farther down the road.
St Dominic’s Hospital, and particularly Sister Dorothea, allowed him to place his tower atop the hospital and rented him space at a bargain basement price. He ran into someone at Mass one very regular day that had read something about his endeavor and offered to pay his rent for one whole year. This was not Roger Venable. It was God, and it was awesome.
And in 2016, after a full decade of perseverance, many a federal regulation to fulfill—some forms requiring several submissions—and more than a few roadblocks, Roger’s station, WJXC 97.9 FM began to broadcast. Because it is low-power, the best signal is within the city of Jackson although there have been clear days when he picked up the signal as far north as Gluckstadt.
EWTN provides content that is free, outstanding, and is streamed all over the world. Renowned teachers and theologians are heard around the clock. The message is filled with grace and love. Anyone who accuses Christians of being “haters” needs to tune into this station. Roger says the truth is preached unapologetically but with a big dose of kindness and unconditional love.
Roger is hoping in days to come, that he will be able to increase his power and offer some local programming, too. He has several projects in the works and is polishing his skills as a radio host! In the meantime, St. Joseph High School has been able to broadcast their football games and will be broadcasting some of their basketball games in coming months. What an opportunity this has been for students to get hands-on experience in the basics of broadcast.
Thus far, he has taken one step at a time finding God faithful. Like a little boy at Christmas, he has much bigger dreams for WJXC, but he has seen God open doors and do far beyond what he could ask, dream, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). And therefore, he is content to get ready and to let God open the doors to more.
For now, no matter your church affiliation, do check out 97.9. And be blessed.
If you would like to know more or if you would like to offer support, contact Roger Venable at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact this editor Marilyn@mschristianliving.com for more information.