18 Years – Look What God Has Done!

This month marks a milestone in the ministry work of Wisconsin Christian News.  It was April of 2000, when I released the first edition of the newspaper, so we are now beginning our 18th year of publication.  This alone is a miracle of God, because there were countless times throughout the years that, “on paper,” there was no way that this ministry would ever be able to continue one more day, much less one more month, or one more edition….  yet God has always made a way, and He always accomplishes His work.

I’ve always been a hard worker, and I have always done my best to follow what the Bible says in Ephesians about “serving as unto the Lord and not to men….” and 1st Corinthians 10:31, “….whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  I wish I had the time and space here to tell you more about my entire work history, because in retrospect, every job I have ever held has served to lead me to this place of service in God’s kingdom.  I worked at many jobs as a young person, including a radio station and a newspaper.   With each one, I learned a little bit more, and a few more skills that would be needed when God finally called me to His service in ministry.

In the late 1980s, when I was about 23 years old, I opened my own photography studio.  I was self-taught and up against some stiff competition.  There were two other studios in town at the time, both of which were well established, having been in business for more than fifty years.  But the Lord prospered my studio; we did excellent work, not only in the studio, locally outside the studio for weddings and special events, but also on the road with a traveling studio, eventually working in nine states.

At the time, I had several employees, but I still did a lot of traveling myself too, and while I was driving, I would listen to Christian radio and conservative talk programs.  I especially enjoyed the “Crosstalk” program hosted by Vic Eliason on VCY America.  It was so informative that my heart was truly moved to share this information — which literally, you could not get ANYWHERE ELSE.   During my spare time, traveling in other cities and states, I would also check out the local Christian bookstores (yes, there used to BE such things, once upon a time).  In many of them, I would find a local Christian newspaper.  I found those very interesting as well, but usually found they were not very professionally done.  Surely their heart was in the right place, but I knew it could be done so much better.

Then one day, in about the mid 1990s, the Lord spoke to me and said, “You’re right, Rob, they CAN be done much better.  YOU should start a Christian newspaper in Wisconsin!”  Throughout my life,  I have found that when the Holy Spirit speaks to you, quite often, the enemy immediately speaks next, planting thoughts of doubt in your mind.  “Oh, sure,” I scoffed, “in my spare time, I suppose!”  Obviously, I HAD no spare time.  I was a young husband and father with small children, and I worked very hard, six days a week.  When or how would I ever be able to start a Christian newspaper?

But the Lord was relentless.  He did not give up on the idea.  I kept coming across Christian newspapers in other states.  I continued listening to “Crosstalk” wherever I could pick it up on the road, and thought, “If only we could get information like this out to a wider audience in PRINT FORM, so people could read it and share it more easily with others.”  And God kept speaking in my ear: “When are you going to start that Christian newspaper, Rob?”

“I’m NOT, God!  How can I?  You see how busy I am!”  But my attitude was about to change, because as we all know, you can run from God when He calls you, but you cannot hide.  Things were going great at the studio.  I was at the height of my creativity.   We had a vibrant, busy business.  I was making a very good living.  But then, with each passing day, I began to enjoy my work there less and less.  There was no explanation for it.  I had no reason to be unhappy with my work.  It was going great.  But before long, I began to dread going to work. “When are you going to start that Christian newspaper, Rob?  Are you willling to TRULY follow ME?”  God continued to ask.

Finally, after several years of running from God, I gave up and gave in.  “Ok, Lord, if that is what you want me to do, I will do it, but you will have to help me sell my photography studio first, because there is no way I can do both things at once.”  I thought I was “safe.”  Selling a business takes time;  ours was also a very specialized business, not something just anyone could do.  It would take a very special buyer.   But being obedient to the Lord, I put a few ads in a few newspapers, and within a week or so, received a phone call.  And the first person who came to look at the studio bought it — for the price I was asking.  I trained the new owner to be ready to take over by the end of the year, and on December 31st, 1999, my business was sold.  Then, on New Year’s Day of 2000, I found myself unemployed for the first time in my life.

My only job now, was the Christian newspaper the Lord had told me to start.  To say I thought it would be much easier would be a gross understatement;  after all, I was following the Lord’s call.  Certainly, I believed, He would bless and prosper my every move now… I thought every church was going to be “on board” with us;  I thought every Christian radio station would want to be a part of it.  I thought every Christian bookstore would be eager to stock our paper.  And I envisioned our newspaper out there as a shining beacon of hope for those who didn’t know Jesus.  I envisioned our paper on the racks at the supermarket checkouts, right next to the trashy sex and gossip magazines, giving people a choice between light and darkness.  How foolish and ignorant of me!

Needless to say things did not go as I thought they would.   My family and I lived off the proceeds from the sale of my studio for a few months while I remodeled the basement of my house into a newspaper office.  I got my first edition of Wisconsin Christian News put together and released in April of 2000 — just about the time all our funds were completely exhausted.  Now, I had to rely on God COMPLETELY for our survival as I came to the realization that I had plunged my family into utter poverty.  And contrary to what I had believed was going to happen, there was LITERALLY NO SUPPORT from ANYONE for our newspaper.  We needed advertisers to financially support the paper.  But imagine trying to sell ads for a paper that doesn’t actually EXIST yet.

Then, I quickly found out that churches wanted nothing to do with us, if it did not come from their denomination.  One pastor actually told me, “I have no use for you, please go away and don’t come back.”  Most simply had their secretaries keep me away from them.  Virtually NONE would take or return my phone calls.

Nearly every single Christian bookstore I contacted refused to let me put a rack in their stores because Wisconsin Christian News was given away free, and they would not give up any counter or floor space for something they were not getting paid for.  Radio stations considered us “competition.”  And other distribution points, like grocery stores and the like, didn’t want to be bothered with it.  What’s more, I discovered that those trashy gossip magazines at the supermarket checkouts pay a LOT of money to be located there.  There was no way we could ever afford to do that.  In fact, there was no way we could ever afford to produce a second issue, if the truth be told.

I remember sitting at the dinner table one night with my wife and family, three young children, the youngest just four years old, eating what I believed was our last meal, because there was literally no money to buy even one more meal, not even a can of soup.  WHAT HAD I DONE?!  In four short months we went from having a good business with a comfortable, steady income to having literally NO income at all.  I had followed God’s voice and now I had to wonder:  was it REALLY God’s voice?  Or had I just made the worst mistake of my life?

What followed was a wilderness experience and a “character cleansing.”  I sought God with all my heart like never before, searching for answers, yet He seemed to remain silent to me.  We only made it through those early days by the very grace of God Himself.  But SOMEHOW, He provided.  It was a lot like “manna,” never enough to store up or save for “tomorrow,” but always just enough for the necessities of “today.”

When we began in April of 2000, there were about 120 Christian newspapers throughout North America, of various sizes, kinds and with a variety of styles and mission statements.  Today, we are one of only about 14 left.  I believe we are still here for only one reason:  because we have told the TRUTH, and because, rather than being just another “entertainment-based” “Christian” publication, we have sought to bring something of great SUBSTANCE to a lost and dying sin-filled world, OUTSIDE the four walls of a church building…. and because I have sought CONSTANTLY the direction God would have me to go, and the work He would have me to do through the ministry He has charged me with.

It is only by the grace of God and the direction of the HOLY SPIRIT that this ministry has continued — and He has greatly used our friends and supporters to keep this work going as well.  Friends, please know, your prayers on our behalf have been a tremendous encouragement, and the Lord has heard you, and lifted us up MANY TIMES when it looked as if we would not be able to continue.  A few years ago, we had to change from a mostly advertiser-supported publication to one primarily supported by donations from selfless, God-honoring, faithful individuals who minister alongside, and with us.  To those of you who support this ministry, I say THANK YOU.  Your sacrifice of financial assistance and monthly commitments has DIRECTLY made it possible for Wisconsin Christian News to keep operating.

I also KNOW that the Holy Spirit has GUIDED me, day by day, minute by minute, and even WORD BY WORD as I meticulously assemble each issue of the newspaper.  WCN has changed over the years, to what I believe is, today, one of the most power-packed, Spirit-led information sources in the world.   I do not say that to be boastful or proud, not in any way.  None of this was “my” doing — GOD did this!

I never could have imagined we would be where we are today.  I could NEVER have accomplished ANY of this if it were just my own doing.  But I have, instead, tried my best to be obedient to the Lord’s call, and not only are we still here but He has graciously provided for this ministry, for me, my wife and family, all our needs, day by day, ONE DAY AT A TIME — and not only that, but I have witnessed Him do MIRACLES through the work we are doing here on a regular basis!

Our newspaper goes out to THOUSANDS of readers in print, with every issue.  We now distribute throughout ALL the major areas of Wisconsin in public places.  Several years ago, God opened another door, providing me with the opportunity to do a twice-weekly radio program on the VCY America network, which goes out nationwide on more than 100 radio stations.  Because of that, we now have subscribers in nearly all fifty states, AND Puerto Rico!  (They hear the radio program and then become interested in learning and studying more, and subscribe to the paper).

What’s more, through the miracle of the internet, WCN is now reaching the ENTIRE WORLD, and I regularly hear from readers in places like England, Ireland, Spain, various African countries, New Zealand, Panama, Brazil… the list goes on.  WE EVEN HAVE A GROUP IN PAKISTAN that takes our articles, translates them into their own language and then studies with them in secret home churches!

A few years ago, we began using Facebook to keep our readers updated on a DAILY basis, and to use as another form of outreach, in addition to our printed paper and website.  TODAY we have thousands more people following us on Facebook.  People are HUNGRY for the TRUTH, and God has BLESSED ME with the ability to help provide it through this ministry.  We receive COUNTLESS testimonies on a regular basis from those who have been personally and ETERNALLY blessed and transformed through the work we’re doing here.  (I haven’t even mentioned our VIBRANT jail ministry, or many other aspects of this work!)

ALL THIS, from a TINY one-room office with one working computer.  God TRULY does miracles when we are obedient to His call and seek NOT OUR OWN GLORY, but to glorify and praise HIM — and to do His work by boldly declaring the TRUTH that is so hidden from so many today.

We have always been about: “Information, Education and Inspiration,” rather than the “fluff” and nonsense that goes around in so many silly publications that tickle itching ears.  But now we have added more to our basic mission:  “COURAGEOUS CHRISTIANITY.”  It is my prayer that through WCN, we will be able to disciple more and more followers of Christ to be BOLD, to stand up, unashamedly for Jesus and be witnesses for Him, PREACHING THE GOSPEL to even the hardest people of all to witness to:  those closest to us, our friends, families and co-workers — AND those in our own home towns, TELLING THE TRUTH about controversial topics that most are too fearful to ever speak about — and teaching the lost world to obey all Jesus has commanded.

As I write this, God is once again leading me to do even more.  There are things “in the works” right now that will help us to minister to even MORE people with things of ETERNAL SIGNIFICANCE!   And He is accomplishing these things, (despite my own silly doubts and fears), MIRACULOUSLY and quickly.  I believe He is in the process, RIGHT NOW of directing me through yet another open door that, when this comes to fruition, will leave EVERYONE standing amazed (once again) at what God has done!

Lord willing, I will share the WHOLE STORY of this latest work with you very soon.  For now, I ask you to pray for His guidance and His provision to bring this expansion soon, because I DO feel the need is urgent.   THANK YOU for standing with us as we move forward, during these dark days of the world.  Please continue to stand, support and pray for us and this ministry.  Though I have given 18 years of my life to this work, I claim NONE of the credit.  It is all BY GOD’S’ GRACE!  May His perfect will be done!

Audio CDs and transcripts of this message are available when you call me at Wisconsin Christian News, (715) 486-8066.  Or email [email protected] and ask for message number 195.

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