Wisconsin Christian News: ‘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.
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