He was aware of my involvement in various church radio projects and had called to ask if I could possibly find a radio licence in the Barossa Valley area of South Australia. He shared with me his burden for the souls in that region, and expressed his concern about the alcohol obsession that was prevalent in what is perhaps Australia's most famous wine-growing area.
I promptly surveyed the towns in the area, looking for a vacancy for a Low-Power (LP) FM radio licence. While I found some potential openings, none of them were to eventuate in successful applications at the time. Toward the end of 2007, I discovered a small broadcasting company had disappeared off the landscape and their licences had all lapsed. This defunct company owned several licences in the Barossa Valley region.
I began to see the Lord's hand had not been slack in His response to the prayers of myself and Pastor Kent, which were now going to be answered in a manner far beyond what either of us had previously imagined. With the removal of these licences, it was now possible to acquire a Local Area Network on a common frequency that would completely cover the Barossa area.
The strategic value of this configuration was not lost on the two churches in the region, who recognised that many of Adelaide's residents often visited the area on weekend getaways. Knowing they had conference backing, the Gawler and Barossa Valley (Nuriootpa) churches resolved to support my applications specifically for those licences located on church premises.
The application for Gawler was contested by a rival application. The government authority would handle this situation by conducting an auction between competing applications, with the highest bidder being awarded the licence at their chosen location. The Gawler church, in partnership with the South Australian Conference, found as much money as they could and were determined to back me. In the end, I won the auction for what was then a record-breaking price of $7600.
The Adventist Church in Australia can now boast significant LP-FM radio network in the Barossa Valley, where there are three active stations operating on 88.0 FM from the Gawler, Nuriootpa and Birdwood churches, as well as some in Adelaide.
I believe it was in answer to my prayers, Pastor Kent's prayers and probably the prayers of other people that the strongholds of the Barossa Valley were opened by the hand of God. In this way, the Adventist churches could gain a commanding radio presence in the important, highly-populated zone around Adelaide in South Australia.
It has been an amazing journey for me over the past few years, helping the Adventist radio network to expand across every conference in Australia. We can rejoice in the faithfulness of humble yet visionary church pastors like Pastor Kent, who could appreciate the potential for outreach through this most basic of media. Sadly, he did not live to see the fulfilment of his dream. He passed to his rest in our Lord in mid 2007 but from his vision to see just one station in the Barossa Valley area, there are now many more broadcasting the gospel around the clock to anyone who has an ear to listen to the words of life.
And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then, finally, the end will come. Matthew 24:14.
Phillip Smith is a radio producer and media researcher. Now based in Perth, Western Australia, he operates as an independent freelance media consultant and assists Adventist churches across Australia explore their opportunities to start new radio and internet ministries.