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New Tower at Hospital-based Radio Station in Congo Culminates 10-Year Dream

May 27, 2016

New Tower at Hospital-based Radio Station in Congo Culminates 10-Year Dream

May 27, 2016
(May 27, 2016 - by Harold Goerzen)  It took 10 years of planning and prayer, but a long-awaited tall tower for a remote hospital-based Christian radio station in the Republic of Congo recently became a reality.

Dubbed the “Tower of Power,” the 300-foot-high column was dedicated at Pioneer Christian Hospital in the remote town of Impfondo on Friday, Feb. 26, significantly boosting the signal and range of Radio Sango Kitoko (Radio Good News). The dedication coincided with the hospital’s 10th anniversary.

A Congolese worker climbs the tall tower.The station, a partner ministry of Reach Beyond and SonSet Solutions (formerly HCJB Global Technology Center), now reaches people in a 60-mile radius, making Christian broadcasts available to thousands of potential new listeners in northeastern Congo and across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“To God be the glory, great things He has done,” wrote the hospital’s director, Dr. Joe Harvey, quoting the lyrics of an old hymn. “Thousands of babies delivered, tens of thousands treated in Jesus’ name, and hundreds of thousands of listeners.”

Sango Kitoko began as a temporary outlet in January 2014, but it would be another two years, overcoming numerous roadblocks, before the tall tower could be installed, replacing the rusty, undersized column that stood atop the hospital’s water storage tank.

“The new radio tower is up,” wrote Drs. Joyce and Henri Samoutou who operate the New Sight Congo eye clinic on the hospital grounds in Impfondo. “We salute SonSet Solutions which sent us the incredible Jean and Ed Muehlfelt who were mesmerizing to watch as they used only minimal equipment, climbed under the blazing sun, wind blowing in smoke and dust from the burning rainforest, and built this wonder in rural Congo.”

Preparing one of the 30 steel tower sections.The Muehlfelts, Reach Beyond retirees on loan to SonSet Solutions, led the team that spent six weeks installing the concrete foundations and 30 steel sections. In all, workers stacked 300 feet of tower and strung out seven levels of guy wires around the hospital compound. This marked the Muehlfelts’ 1,000th radio installation in their lengthy careers.

“Care was taken so that none of the wires would be near any of the paths that ran between the 32 small buildings on the hospital campus,” explained Jean. “The project was completed during the country’s dry season which was conducive to outdoor construction. But the lack of rain meant the clay soil was rock hard, nearly impervious to picks and shovels.

“It wasn’t until the final day of setting the new antenna atop the tall tower that the long-prayed-for rain came at the last possible moment,” she continued. “The clouds opened up with a downpour of rain mixed with hail, forcing the workers to take cover and return the next day to make the final connections to the new transmitter building.”

Recording a program in the studios of Radio Sango Kitoko.The relationship between Reach Beyond and Pioneer Christian Hospital was birthed in 2006 when Harvey attended a consortium in Ghana. The summit was intended to show how radio and medicine could partner together, demonstrating what the “voice and hands” ministry could accomplish in Africa.

“Dr. Joe walked away from that summit with a dream of having a radio station as part of the hospital ministry,” Jean said. “Along that journey the team hit many snags, but God was faithful to honor their hard work and to answer prayer.”

Two co-workers from Sonset Solutions accompanied the Muehlfelts for the first two weeks of the medical and media project. Candice Scatliff (community health liaison) and Erin Wagler (public relations manager and videographer) traveled to Impfondo to assist with various projects.

Completed tall tower on the compound of Pioneer Christian Hospital.“One of the major programs that Dr. Joe has envisioned is providing nourishment for all of the hospital’s inpatients, but it has been financially unable to provide meals,” Jean explained. “The challenges of this goal are many: lack of resources, logistics and know-how.”

By the end of their two weeks, however, the two women had established and implemented a feeding program for displaced persons through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The agency provides food rations for all refugees, including those fleeing across the border into Republic of Congo due to fighting in nearby DRC, giving them nourishment as they try to get back on their feet. The New York Times describes the fighting in DRC as a “never-ending nightmare,” leaving more than 5 million people dead and forcing 2.4 million others to flee their homes since 1996.

However, refugees who are admitted to the mission hospital are unable to access this UNHCR resource. Undaunted, the two ladies lobbied the agency to release these rations to refugee patients and allow staff members to prepare and deliver meals to them.

Local believers present Jean Meuhlfelt with a painting of the new tower and surrounding area.A proposal has also been submitted to the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Congo for funding of a general feeding program for all 60 of the hospital’s inpatients. This proposal, endorsed by the World Food Program’s country director, would provide for the daily dietary needs of the patients and their caregivers.

Scatliff is still working on creating meal plans based on locally available and culturally acceptable foods, supplying patients with their nutritional needs. When the funding is available, the hospital will be operating on a strict daily food budget of just 56 cents per patient.

This means patients will receive care for their entire bodies for the first time in the hospital’s history, fulfilling its purpose to “offer healing to the whole person, integrating physical, social and spiritual treatment,” Jean noted.

Sources: SonSet Solutions, Reach Beyond, The New York Times