|Radio ICDI staff members pack a car full of equipment that was used to put the station back on the air.|
His second task—or rather the task that his staff in the Central African Republic (CAR) put before him—was restoring the agency’s radio station, Radio ICDI, in Boali. “Is it completely safe and has peace completely returned?” wrote Hocking on a Facebook post that anticipated the likeliest question from his readers. “I would have to say no, but [my staff’s] argument with me is that we really need to get the gospel [programs] back on the air.”
The agency operates two low-power shortwave transmitters in Boali, about an hour from the capital. Additionally, ICDI national staff drill wells for fresh drinking water and hold agricultural training to help their fellow Central Africans support themselves. Hocking closed his message, admonishing friends to “pray for them as they work on this installation—that God would be honored.”
Several weeks of silence on Radio ICDI’s frequencies followed a coup in the CAR after looters had run off with $300,000 worth of equipment and vehicles from the nonprofit, nongovernmental agency. Violence in the country led to the fall of President François Bozizé and brought to power a new leader, Michel Djotodia, who has promised elections in 18 months.
The civil conflict also left CAR, an already-struggling country, reeling from instability. Troubles in CAR had been brewing in the last half of 2012, but a Jan. 11 peace deal would have allowed Bozizé to finish out his term in 2016. However, after it was signed, the Séléka coalition, an alliance of militias in the country, accused the president of reneging on his end of the bargain.
Hocking, based in Warsaw, Ind., arrived in CAR last week bearing laptop computers, iPads, electrical transformers, a printer and cartridges, a studio console and microphones—merely a start to the long list of components that needed to be replaced. What he didn’t take was a modem to connect the station to the Internet. CAR staff didn’t realize that it had been stolen.
“We actually didn’t know our staff had removed it from the radio station, but apparently they had taken it to the main office in Bangui for safekeeping, and it was lost [to looters],” explained Hocking’s son, Jay, who serves as ICDI’s communications director. “So we have no Internet at the station, and getting another modem set up out there is a little tricky. We’re working on it. But until then, we’re a little limited in what we can transmit. Still, we’re on the air again!”
When Jim Hocking posted to social media that “Radio ICDI was on the air for about one hour tonight (May 4),” it broke a lengthy silence. On March 24 as the fighters advanced on the capital, Bangui, ICDI staff members signed off the shortwave station to hustle the equipment to what they thought would be a safer place.
In the ensuing weeks, the staff fed information to Hocking through phone and Internet contacts. He learned, for example, that at least four staff members’ homes were looted and two staff members’ sons were killed by Séléka troops. One of those fathers was Albert Yahimi. His thanks in the Sango language to those who had prayed for him was recorded by Hocking, then posted to Facebook.
In the message Yahimi says, “I want to give much thanks to everyone who’s agreed to give me a hand in the way of prayers as I went through each of the three trials in the last three years.” Less than three years ago, Yahimi’s wife died, after which he remarried. Eighteen months later, that wife died too. Then a few weeks ago, his son died after being shot by Séléka fighters.
Hocking has anticipated a return to CAR, where he grew up as a son of missionaries and later went on to found and lead the nongovernmental organization. He wanted to help his Central African staff to rebuild, but the unrest forced him to delay a planned April 23 trip, going a week later instead.
Much of the equipment he took with him was supplied by the HCJB Global Technology Center in Elkhart, Ind., including some $10,000 worth of gear to help get the station going again. A partnership between the two agencies signed in 2005 resulted in establishing Radio ICDI two years later. The station not only shares the gospel, but helps the needy people of CAR with information about community development and agricultural initiatives.
“Now to gear back up with the radio team,” anticipated Hocking, adding the word “awesome” to describe the staff at the shortwave facility. He specified that Boniface Lacpezion and Roger Kossi had skillfully assembled the equipment he’d brought from the U.S.
Hocking’s visit marks the first Western assistance to ICDI since HCJB Global machinist Stephen Peacock of Indiana left the CAR on Thursday, March 21, shortly before the weekend coup. At Hocking’s Mercy Care Center in Bangui, he finished a two week visit by working on a community development project, installing two prototype water well pumps. The following Monday the agency’s main compound in downtown Bangui was looted.
Source: HCJB Global