- Associated Press - Saturday, August 23, 2014

AVA, Ill. (AP) - Apparently, working at a Christian radio station is like being part of a big family.

At least that is what 103.9 WXAN Christian Radio General Manager Will Stephens said.

“I don’t know if there is any better place (to be) than here,” Stephens said. “We are a family here. There is no corporate structure that is going to send down a command to change our format. We work through any problem together.”

The small radio station on Ava Road in Ava employs six people; four are full-time employees. Stephens said although the number of employees is small, the number of listeners is big.

He said there is no dead air on WXAN, because the station streams music from the Solid Gospel Network out of Nashville, Tennessee, when there is no live programming at the station. There are also several nationwide preachers streamed on air at the station along with Stephens’ own radio show, “The Will Stephens Show,” airing from 12:10 to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Stephens said one of the interesting things about WXAN’s on-air programs is that some feature preachers who passed away several years ago but are still widely popular.

“Such as Jay Vernon McGee,” he said. “This man died in 1986, and through he has been dead for more than 20 years, he is still on more than 400 Christian radio stations across the country,” Stephens said. “That is the power of the gospel. It truly is about the message and not necessarily about the individual delivering it.”

WXAN’s signal reaches from Mount Vernon to Harrisburg, and as far west as Cape Girardeau. Stephens said there are several other people listening to the station online, which he knows because of the requests he has received from Paducah, Chicago and other places around the country.

The station also carries Pinckneyville Panther sports, which Stephens said have a big following.

There are several other Christian radio stations in Southern Illinois. WGGH Monster Radio at 1150 AM has mixed programming of sports, reality talk and religious programming. WVYN The Vine at 90.9 FM can also be heard in Southern Illinois. The Vine is transmitted out of Champaign. WBVN Radio Station in Marion sponsors many local Christian concerts.

WXAN owner Harold Lawder is 86, and he still works five days a week at the station.

Lawder used to own a Grand Tower sand company with his father more than 30 years ago; near the end of his time with the company he began to move coal. He said that’s where he made enough money to start the station without acquiring a large amount of debt.

Lawder said he didn’t always know he wanted to be in the radio business. He said that one day while at the end of his days with sand and coal business, he picked up a copy of the Sword of the Lord newspaper and saw an advertisement about starting a Christian radio station.

“There are situations in life when you know when you have been spoken to,” Lawder said.

He said instead of retiring in his 50s, he found the location in Ava, and, in 1982, WXAN was on the air.

More than 30 years later, the message is the same.

“The message we try to give out is similar to the ones in the Bible and to have good programming,” Lawder said.

He said he has received many calls and letters from listeners saying how much the station has been a blessing to them, and how it has helped people through problems in their lives.

WXAN has several free Bible donation bins around Southern Illinois, which are stored at the station at 9077 Ava Road. Individuals in need can come to the station and pick up a free Bible.

Stephens, who doubles as mayor of Murphysboro, said he was blessed to have this opportunity and couldn’t image being anywhere else.

“I am a Christian,” he said. “And I wanted to work in radio business, and I got an extra reward by being able to work at a Christian radio station.”


Source: The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, https://bit.ly/1qXfEHV


Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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