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Voice of the Church Presents Hope to the People of eSwatini

By Zeke Hanson
Africa, Eswatini, S&E Africa
22 July 2022

TWR and The Voice of the Church celebrates the dedication of the addition of their English channel.
TWR and Voice of the Church celebrate the dedication of the addition of VOC’s English channel. [Image courtesy of TWR Africa] 

MANZINI, Eswatini — “As Paul says, ‘I can do all things by Christ who gives me strength.’”

Abel Vilikati is the programme manager at Voice of the Church (VOC) and has served at the radio station since prior to its official launch back in 1997. For VOC, TWR’s national partner in this southern African country of about 1.2 million people, the mission has always remained the same, “to develop and broadcast programs that build communities in Eswatini and beyond with biblical principles.”

Broadcasting on FM waves to the Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, the station hosts around 50 programmes regularly that keep the station on air 24/7. Some programs are directed towards older listeners, some are directed towards couples and others speak solely to women.

But another demographic VOC is especially trying to reach is the youth.

“As things are changing, we are wanting more focus on the youth, because if the youth get the gospel – the sound gospel – things will change,” Vilikati said, “but if the youth are left out, things will change for the worse.”

One of the methods by which VOC has adapted to connect more with youth is by the addition of an English channel to go along with the native-language siSwati channel. VOC has slowly grown more in that direction, as now 15% of their programmes are in English, with the rest being in siSwati.

Along with programmes that are directed towards certain groups, there are programmes that focus on important topics. Perhaps none is more important than that of HIV and AIDS.

Shiya Incabhayi (which translates as Leave a Legacy) is a programme dedicated entirely to that topic, enabling adults and young people to obtain help on issues regarding HIV and AIDS. To a nation that ranks worst in the world in its HIV rate, with 28% of the population found to have been infected with the virus in 2020 (the most recent year in which data was collected), the program preaches abstinence and faithfulness.

Having been produced since 2008, Shiya Incabhayi has already left a long legacy in Eswatini, a legacy that has possibly aided in the reversal of the HIV/AIDS epidemic here, with there being a 68% decrease in new infections between 2008 and 2020. But the impact of VOC does not stop at HIV and AIDS prevention. The radio station’s staff have seen their work used by the Lord in many ways.

“There are people who are about to kill themselves, but now they are saved,” said Vilikati. “There are couples that were separated, but now they have reconciled.”

VOC impacts the entire nation, and it does not go unnoticed by the government, either.

“The police … come here, and they tell us that the presence of VOC in this country is making a great impact. A lot of people are giving their lives to Christ, so we are reducing even the crime rate.”

The radio programmes are not the only way in which VOC ministers to the people of Eswatini. Another way is through counseling, a service in which Vilikati is currently the only staff member working.

“I counsel a lot of people almost every day. They come here. Some are brought by their parents. Some, they hear us on air, then they will come here and request our counseling, and some just come here to give themselves to the Lord.

“Our ministry, our work here and counseling, it has to go together, because they hear us touching the things, the problems where they are, and they want to voice it out. They want to be guided on some of the things.”

VOC’s work has not been easy, however, and having been at the station for over 25 years, Vilikati has been through several difficult times, but those are the times that often provide him with perspective.

“There were times I was thinking of just leaving the station, but I would hear the voice of God saying, ‘It’s me who called you here, not you. You chose to be here, but it’s me who called you.’”

VOC now looks towards its future. One of its main goals is to further reach people where they are. Currently, the FM radio station's signal reaches 70% of Eswatini geographically with 2% spillage into South Africa, but VOC intends to reach the entire nation through its increasing online presence, which includes the upcoming Voice of the Church app.

Another desire for the station is to have offices in each of the four regions of Eswatini: Hhohho, Lubombo, Manzini and Shiselweni. This will enable VOC to be able to speak directly with the people and not just those from Manzini.

The steps VOC will take in the future, the ones they are taking now and the ones they have already taken are all a part of the radio station’s desire to fulfil the Great Commission, as stated in Matthew 28:19-20:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

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