A Presenter with one of our FM Networks live on air
As the world battles the effects brought about by Covid-19, here in Kenya there’s no doubt we have our story since the first case of Covid-19 was reported on 13th March 2020. Life has never been the same again. The disease has taken everyone by storm and rural Kenya where all Sifa FM Stations are located is slowly coming to terms with the reality of the disease.
Setting the pace for our listeners
Most of our listeners started taking the call to maintain social distance seriously when the stations made an announcement for change of programming schedule. The stations were also not going to have studio guests until further notice. Immediately after the announcement, one listener in Lamu sent the following text message.
“…If Sifa FM is not allowing visitors in the studio and they are a radio station, then who am I to continue welcoming guests to my house? I will now ask them to excuse me for now we are all meant to stay safe in our houses and maintain social distance…”
Most counties far from Nairobi, which is currently the epicentre of covid-19 took long to implement the government directives. The government through Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) made it mandatory for all media channels to air a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on the dangers of Covid-19 and how to stop it from spreading. To drive the message home our stations in Marsabit and Turkana translated the PSA in Borana and Turkana language for ease of understanding for the rural audience and took another extra mile to visit hospitals and interview County Executives of Medical Services, Public Health and doctors. This was effective. As a result, The Ministry of Health in Lamu promised support SIFA FM Lamu with disinfectants to fumigate the studios.
The Rural Church in Kenya is in a dilemma- This is an extremely difficult time for the Church in rural Kenya. The government stopped the gathering of congregations for Church services and with this came a myriad number of calls from Pastors within our area of coverage, most of them requesting for free airtime to reach their congregations. Not many rural pastors were able to neatly switch to social media to reach out to their congregation as has been the case for the urban Churches.
Sifa FM Stations Management response was to waive airtime charges to allow as many Pastors as possible within the area of our coverage to bring their messages for airing and in return only ask for an offering to the station. This was the best that Sifa FM Stations could do to help Pastors in the marginalized areas of Kenya as well as saturate the airwaves with messages of hope, especially when most of the media houses worldwide are knowingly or unknowing instilling fear in their listeners by bombarding them with too much bad news of Covid-19. We decided to be the alternative media and to sound different by offering hope in the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The management also reckoned that if there was a time to be the real arm of the Church, it is now. The station Managers were asked to consult with the Pastors Fellowships in Lamu, Voi, Lodwar, Marsabit, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera The principle of maintaining social distance was also to be maintained. Due to the small size of our live studios, a two meters’ distance between the presenter and the studio Preacher was not going to be possible, yet it’s not also practical to talk over radio with a mask over the mouth. We therefore, resolved to only air ready recorded messages from the various Churches and avoid hosting them in the studios even if it meant lowering the broadcast sound quality because of the different circumstances they could be in.
Pastor James Karichu of Rugendo (TTB Gikuyu) with a listener in the Studio
Shockingly out of a Pastors Fellowship of about 20 members in Lamu island, only two Pastors availed their messages. Others complained of not being able to record themselves and needed help from their younger Church members who are now currently trying to confine in themselves in their homes following the government directive. This is a clear indicator that even though they desired to avail their messages of hope for airing, most of them are technologically unable to get a message recorded and send to the Station for airing. Yet for those who have been able to make use of our offer to the Churches, the results have been overwhelming. Here is a testimony from Reverend Lole
My name is Rev. Lole Said Bila of Evangelical Lutheran Church and Chairman of NCCK Marsabit County and also a member of Marsabit Pastors Fellowship and Marsabit Interfaith Council. Two days ago I travelled to Ethiopia at a place called Idi Lola, right interior where there are not many Churches, except one small Church. I found them listening to Sifa FM and wondered that this programme has spread all the way up to Ethiopia. We thank God Sifa FM has extended their arm to assist us, members of NCCK and the Marsabit Pastors Fellowship to help us encourage our listeners and Church members through radio broadcast.
Our congregations were worried, wondering what will happen when they heard the government had stopped Churches from congregating. I have been privileged to be one of the Pastors who have aired my messages through Sifa FM Station to our listeners who are now confined their homes. The result has been amazing. The Word of God is received even more than when preached in the Church buildings. Am not able to contain the messages and the number of calls that I have received, from Moyale, Ethiopia, and all Marsabit sub counties. The studio live line and my phone were jammed with calls and messages that overwhelmed me.
I have no words to express the joy that the Church in Marsabit is feeling right now during this Covid-19 crisis. My sincere prayer is that God blesses Sifa FM with a piece of land where they can build their radio station and continue with this wonderful Ministry. I plead with anybody, any Church that has land to bless the Ministry of Sifa FM Stations because this station has helped us beyond human imagination. There are many radio stations in Marsabit, but they can’t do what Sifa FM has done for us. This station is part of us and is our radio in Marsabit County. We thank God for the relationship we have with you”.
On behalf of Trans World Radio Kenya and SIFA FM we would like to say thank to all our listeners, Pastors, friends and partners for your prayers, support and words of encouragement as we join hands to battle this Covid 19 pandemic.
Listen to the Messages of Hope on SIFA 101.1 FM Marsabit & Lamu, Voi 107.7 FM, Maata Radio 101.9 FM Lodwar, 101.7 Wajir, 100.7 Mandera, and 101.1 FM Garissa
By Pamela Omwodo –General Manager, Sifa FM Stations