It was a phone call that began like hundreds, if not thousands, of others. This one would change my life.
I began working for the Bible Broadcasting Network in 1989 in Charleston, South Carolina. I read the daily weather forecast, prepared church announcements that aired throughout the day and produced the few local programs that we aired, since almost everything on BBN was delivered by satellite from the network. In addition, I chatted with listeners who called or visited, and preached in area churches from time to time. My next stop was north Florida, managing the station there for 4 years. All I had to do was keep it on the air (with the help of a terrific engineer), visit listeners and find ways to keep the station in the eye of the public. There were a lot of county fairs and even more church services. We made friends there that we still have to this day.
I was sitting in my office at the station one morning when the phone rang. I answered it in the usual, professional way and heard, “Hey, buddy. It’s Lowell.” Lowell Davey was the founder and president of BBN. In my eyes, he was BBN. It was impossible to think of one without thinking of the other. Lowell’s spirit infused everything about the ministry and operation of the network. Likewise, the ministry of BBN was almost the only focus of his life. It was impossible to spend more than 10 minutes with him and not have the conversation return to the subject of ministry in general, radio ministry in particular, and BBN, specifically. If I knew anything for certain, he was not calling to check on the weather in north Florida. Still, his next question surprised me.
“Do you speak any foreign languages?”
I assured him that I did not. My high school German had been lost years earlier, and while I can struggle through a Greek New Testament, I don’t think it would be accurate to describe my skills in that language as “conversational.”
At some point in the conversation I asked him why he wanted to know. Surely, something was behind such a random inquiry. He said he was just “noodling”, trying to think his way through a problem, or an opportunity, if you will. He was thinking about moving BBN from a US radio network, to a ministry with an international reach. And he needed someone to assign to that task.
Over the years at BBN other opportunities (and potential opportunities) had presented themselves. The ministry was always growing. Stations were constantly being bought and built, so there was a regular movement of managers from one facility to the next. Every time I had been approached about the possibility of moving, my answer was always the same: “Just put me wherever you think that I’ll be of the best service.” That’s the answer that got me sent to Florida (instead of Charlotte, Jacksonville and at least one other city that was in view at the time). That’s the answer that I gave Lowell that day, too.
But unlike those other conversations, I couldn’t escape this one. The rest of the day and all through that night I thought about the implications of other languages, and continents, and people groups. I fretted over the fact that I knew nothing about other languages, or people groups, or satellite delivery of radio signals, or international broadcasting laws. But I still couldn’t stop thinking about the potential of reaching people with the Gospel in a way that (up to that time) had never been done before. So the next morning I wrote a two page letter, asking to be considered for the opportunity.
A few days after that, I got another “Hey, buddy” call.
It was my privilege to spend 8 years developing BBN’s Spanish-language network. I learned a great deal about satellite delivery and international broadcasting laws and cultures in 17 different countries and musical genres I had never heard of and hiring people who I couldn’t even understand. They were years of learning, and building, and stretching. God blessed in ways that I could never have expected. I used to tell people that Lord was doing a miracle, and that I had the best seat in the house. I watched as he opened door after door of opportunity for more and more stations, provided resources, built an incredible team across two continents (many of whom continue to serve there faithfully to this day), saved souls and edified believers by the thousands. I met hundreds of listeners through the years who had been blessed by the Word of God through the medium of BBN.
And along the way I got to know Lowell Davey. There were countless hours in his office or mine, sharing road trips, eating breakfast, and staying up to the wee hours of the morning in hotels in South America talking about theology and ministry. It was my privilege to learn from his wisdom and by his example. He was passionate about three things: his walk with the Lord, his family and the work of BBN. Somehow he made the balance between those three things seem easy and natural. He encouraged and inspired the rest of us in those same areas, never demanding of us what he was not willing to do himself. Yet never letting any of us settle for less than the very best for the Lord.
I thought I would serve at BBN until the Lord called me home. In spite of the long hours that were sometimes required and the amount of time spent on airplanes and in foreign hotels, BBN never felt like work to me. It was as natural as breathing. I was blessed to serve with an outstanding staff, I had a “boss” that I loved, and we were literally reaching a continent with the Gospel. Our potential listening audience was in the tens of millions. Why would I ever want to leave that?
But somewhere along the way, it became clear to me that leaving it is exactly what the Lord intended. BBN, as it turns out, was a school for me. I learned about Latin America. I learned about foreign cultures. I leaned about churches in those countries, and their pastors and their ministries. I saw first-hand some of their struggles. I learned about my own aptitudes (and weaknesses) in ministry. But a great deal of what I learned, I learned from Lowell Davey. God used him in my life, not only at BBN, but to change the course of my life to the direction that it has taken to this day.
Every morning at 6:00 AM BBN plays their “theme song”, To God be the Glory. It expresses the mindset of that ministry in so many ways. When we began programming in Spanish, we followed the same tradition. Every morning, all across Latin America, listeners sing along to Alabad al Gran Rey, the Spanish translation of To God be the Glory. To this day I cannot hear the song in either language without thinking of BBN, Lowell Davey, and my gratitude for what the Lord taught me there.
I thought of all of that again this past Saturday evening. Earlier that morning, February 18, 2016, I received word that Lowell Davey had left this life and entered into the presence of his Lord. He had been ill for some time. That night I preached in a Spanish-speaking church in North Carolina. The service opened with Alabad al Gran Rey. I immediately thought of Lowell, his grieving family, and the thousands who will miss him. Then I thought of the goodness of God, who used Lowell in a way that he could not have anticipated to change the course of my life. Here I was, singing in a language that just a few years before I did not even understand, preaching to a group of people for whom God has given me a great love, in circumstances that I could have never imagined minutes before my phone rang way back when in north Florida.
I have always been aware of the fact that whatever I have, whatever I may be and whatever I am privileged to do is a result of the grace of God, the fruit of others who have come before me, and the influence of those that the Lord has sent into my life. I thank the Lord for all of them, knowing that – to a very large degree – my ministry at Global Baptist Schools was first made possible that morning when my phone rang. To God be the Glory!