John Bradshaw - Conversation with John Geli
He is a media evangelist sharing Jesus with literally the entire world. He is John Geli, I'm John Bradshaw. And this is our conversation.
John Bradshaw: John Geli, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.
John Geli: Glad to be here.
John Bradshaw: I've wanted, there's so much I wanna ask you about reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus. That's what you do right now as the manager and director of LifeTalk Radio, a global Christian radio network. Very exciting, at least for me, an old radio guy, but why don't we go back to the beginning? Find out a little bit more about the person John Geli. Tell me where you sprang from, where you spent your early years, and so forth.
John Geli: Absolutely. It's just a privilege to be here. Thank you for inviting me on the show. And it's been interesting as you look back in time to see where God has guided the processes. I would not have imagined things being where they are today.
— Isn't that an interesting thing?
— It's totally amazing.
— Yeah, where you had the benefit of hindsight and you can say, oh, God was really leading. Maybe at the time you felt like God wasn't leading.
— Exactly. Yeah. I mean, I go back to the, you know, back in my college days, went to Pacific Union College out in the Napa Valley. And as I was heading there, there was a friend who knew a friend, you know, one of these connections kind of things.
— And knew the manager of the local station there at PUC. And so they said, hey, would you like me to set something up? And of course, I was really a shy kid. I know it's hard to believe it now. But very shy. And so I was like, radio, oh no, you'll just be turning some, you know, back then it was reel to reels.
— It was taking, you know, tape and then cutting it with the splicers, you know, all these things.
— Does it make you feel old?
— A little bit.
— 'Cause it, that wasn't that long ago. You know?
— It wasn't. No.
— It wasn't. And technology changed just like that.
— Like that.
— You know.
— We were dealing with tapes that you had to splice together. Suddenly, what's this new stuff they bring into the studio? Records were replaced by CDs, and CDs are old hat now.
— The change has been dramatic, but you go all the way back to the old.
— So back to there.
— The old days.
— And so I get the job, I'm working there at the radio station, which was known at that time at as KCDS. And so I'm on the "By Request" show, which happened to be on Friday nights, and we're playing the songs that the people wanna hear on a Friday evening. And so we had those records, you know, back in those days.
— Oh, yeah.
— And so we'd have to get the turntable.
— Oh, yeah.
— Do you remember the turntables?
— Of course. Sure.
— You have to get 'em a little bit backwards.
— And then let it spin up so that it would.
— Stop the turntable. Keep your finger on the recording.
— And just let it roll right on.
— So it would play good.
— And so we started to realize, well, that's a challenge, you know, we need to, you know, have some more help here because we're running down hallways trying to get all this stuff. And so anyways, it was quite an interesting beginning to just getting to know radio. But that progressed as I was through my college years, started to learn more about radio there. And what really developed a passion, 'cause I didn't go in to college going to be a broadcaster.
— What was your intent?
— My intent was I wanted to do something to help somebody. I know it was very vague at that moment in time freshman year.
— It's kinda vague, but...
— I wanna do something that'll help somebody.
— No, but well, well...
— And so, you know, as I was there, I can still remember receiving the phone call from a listener in our broadcast area. And I was just a college student. I didn't have all this training that everybody has, you know, and stuff that are broadcasters. But I answered the phone and the person says, I just want you to know that the song you just played, the messages you just shared, made a difference in my life.
— I was actually heading to commit suicide.
— And so, as a college student, you're like, whoa, you know, and you take a moment and you're like, well, thank you so much. But it just, that incident right there totally captivated how God can use media...
— in a powerful way to connect people that I didn't know that person was out there about to commit suicide, that he would come across the radio dial, and he would hear the message, and the message would be so transformational that he would actually choose to not do what he was going to do. And here I was just looking at it was a job.
— A job in college, you know?
— So that, along with some other steps along the way began to change my trajectory. I was taking more communication classes, more, you know, broadcast emphasis classes. And then my girlfriend at the time, Tammy, she invites me to go as a student missionary. And you know, some of our colleges encourage the young people to go out on student missionaries...
— Oh, yeah.
— all across the world.
— And so...
— I've got a nephew right now who's, it's not exactly SM, but kind of similar. And he's suffering away on Oahu right now.
— Suffering. Yes.
— Yeah. That's just a tough gig. So where'd you go?
— So I had a little bit of a suffering. Maybe it was more suffering than Oahu. I don't know. But we were invited to go to the island of Guam.
— Now, that's a pretty good spot to land.
— That's a great place.
— Do a year's mission service.
— Yes. Exactly.
— Oh, yeah.
— So a beautiful island, you know.
— Oh, yeah.
— Out in the Micronesian Islands, if you know. So just a little bit.
— Japan, Korea, and that zone and territory. Few hours away from there you have this beautiful island of Guam, US territory. And so I was asked to work with "Adventist World Radio".
— Mm. Sure.
— And so, while I'm working there, I'm just working, actually, not with the equipment and all this stuff. I'm working more in the marketing and development and PR area. So each day we're receiving letters from people from China and from other places around the world. And they're telling us how the messages of the gospel being presented and shared are actually transforming their lives. How they snuck Bibles into China. And how they got all these things. So it was just amazing. So again, the passion I had, I wanna do something for God, make a difference in people's lives, started to continue that direction for me of going into the broadcast, you know, field for sure.
— So long in the short of it, we're there in Guam. We finished our term. That was about a year long. And so then I came back to PUC to finish off my education there. And then lo and behold, where I had just come from Guam says, we wanna hire you to come out again to Guam and run our local FM station, which today is known as JOY FM.
— JOY FM.
— JOY FM, and great friend of mine, Matt Dodd, who's the manager there.
— He's still doing great work.
— He's still doing great work.
— So it was JOY 92 back in those days, 'cause we just had one station, 91.9. And so we were broadcasting the gospel. And when I first got there, it was mostly just classical music.
— And so the people of the island, well, you know, some like, but most, you know, weren't really enthusiastic about the programming. So we made a change January 1 of 1995 to change it all over to Christian broadcast music programs, all designed to help people connect with Jesus.
— Yeah. Amen. Now you're talking.
— And when we did that, it was like a complete, I mean, dynamite change.
— Now did the listening audience meltdown, or did they light up?
— It totally lit up.
— I've worked on radio stations where we changed the format before.
— And you can get it both ways.
— You're right. You're right. It can go the other way. But in this case it totally went. We had the supporters from not only the local churches there excited about the station, but we really had people. I would invite people say, hey, come, let's study the Bible on a Saturday morning. Come here, join us at 9:30. And we'll just have some fun studying God's Word.
— It'll be great. If you're in the Northern part of the island, or the Southern part, just show up. So then the churches start calling, and people, hey, we're having people just showing up here.
— Hey, yeah.
— They said they were invited by the radio.
— So it was just so exciting. We actually started a Bible school there, we called it New Life Bible School, and where we were giving, like, "It Is Written" bible studies. We had Bible studies...
— from other organizations...
— that were being given there. Free materials for people. And it was just, it was fantastic.
— I wanna ask you.
— Let's go back even even further.
— I know your dad's a pastor, retired pastor now.
— That's right.
— Did you ever feel like you were gonna follow in your dad's footsteps and get into pastoral ministry? Or was that never God's calling in your life? You didn't feel like that was the way to go.
— You know, the interesting thing is I never thought of myself as being a pastor. I was almost more the behind-the-scenes. I love to help do stuff. I never wanted the, I don't know, the limelight, or to be in front of people necessarily all the time.
— So instead he ends up on radio in front of thousands of people.
— In one shot.
— More people now.
— And the funny thing now is we'll bring a pastor on the radio. Sometimes they get nervous.
— Isn't it the funniest thing?
— They say, well, all these people are listening to me.
— And I'm like, you know, it's okay.
— So what's happening when you're standing in the pulpit, Pastor, they, oh, maybe they're not listening to you. Yeah.
— Exactly. Exactly. So, you know, there I was on Guam for about a couple years there. We got this station going, it was going great. And then the Lord, as you know, sometimes from time to time, he'll call us to another place.
— Oh, yeah.
— And so this time the Lord called me then over to Modesto, California, to a station called KADV, that was playing some great programming there. Very similar to what we were doing on the island of Guam. And so we started working there, and again, making the emphasis of using the Model of Christ. If Christ was successful with what he did, how did he do it?
— Yeah. Right.
— He met people where they were at. He tried to meet their needs. He tried to provide programs and different things that were, you know, that were designed to meet where they were at. And so what we did with the radio is, we tried to incorporate that same thing. So we need to have programs on finance. We need to have programs on Bible study to dig deeper. We need to have stuff for kids.
— We need to have prayer time. We need to have counseling time. We need all kinds of things so that people can be reached. And so we started that. We changed the programming a little bit, just adjusted it, 'cause they already had a great program there. And little bit by little bit, the community, everybody, just started to rally behind. Things started to grow and grow and grow and grow. So it's just amazing as each step goes.
— You know, how God continues to guide.
— And what I'm interested in is this, you know, your calling wasn't to pastoral ministry, but it was very clearly to ministry and broadcast ministry and media ministry. You mentioned going to Guam where the Christian radio session played classical music, which, you know, I find hilarious and tragical at the same time.
— And there's some good pieces. I enjoy some of the, you know, "Boston Pops" and some other ones that are great.
— Man. I love classical music.
— Yeah. Yes.
— But if I have, if I have a tower broadcasting for the world, I wanna share the gospel.
— But the challenge we found, and it's not to knock, because I know there's some beautiful pieces of classical and I always try to stress that with listeners, or the viewers.
— Oh, sure. No doubt.
— Wonderful pieces that God definitely, I mean, helped the composers to put together.
— Yeah. Yeah.
— But when I'm trying to use it as a broadcaster to bring people to Jesus.
— Oh, sure.
— I never found that to really connect.
— No, you gotta go after people with the gospel.
— You know, you have to...
— Give them something to respond to.
— Which is exactly back to what the Bible says, when Jesus is lifted up...
— he draws people to himself.
— So this is my question for you.
— So you weren't the pastoral minister. You go to the classical music Christian station, and you flip it and you started doing something overtly evangelistic.
— Where'd that come from? There was something within you that said, I see a radio station, I see a population. We're gonna use the one to reach the other. Where was that drive born?
— I think, probably, just growing up, I guess, as a pastor's kid, and just seeing Jesus as, you know, my true friend. And that he's really there not to keep us out of heaven. He's trying to draw us in.
— Oh, sure.
— And he's working so hard to do everything. And then you look at the opportunities that God's provided that, I mean, our grandparents, great-grandparents, could have only wished the technologies that are available today.
— Oh, yeah.
— You know, from all the stuff we have. From smartphones to satellites, to you name it. And to utilize and harness that for the gospel. You know? So the passion was growing, I think, as I was growing up as a child, I just didn't know where God was focusing it, you know, in there. So when I get to college and I start to dabble in this area of radio, which I had no idea. Now, mind you, my dad had done some television work before and he'd done some other things, but that was him.
— You see, that was him.
— Something in the DNA there.
— So for me, I was more of a shy person at the time, you know, coming up to the point of college, I would say my girlfriend and then wife helped me to become less shy. And of course now, she's usually waiting on me to finish, you know, talking sometimes. But that's all good. But it was just a passion, I think, that developed, especially there I think at the college radio station, under the leadership that was there at the time, the management. You may know the gentleman that, Steve Vistaunet, he was our general manager...
— Oh, is that so?
— of the station at the time.
— Very godly man.
— Has worked in various parts of the country.
— That's right. That's right.
— Broadcasting and done a fantastic job. And so seeing things through his lens and what he was showing, and we were just students learning, it developed a passion for radios, not just radio, but radio for evangelism.
— Radio that can touch hearts with answers today. You know, if you're stressed, if you're feeling afraid, if you're going through some terrible challenge in your life. And just to realize that God already has the answer for you.
— If you're just willing to open the pages. If you're willing to listen to the music, or listen to the speaker, or watch the program. You know, whatever it is, that if you can just allow yourself to be captivated by what God has to offer for you, your whole life can be transformed.
— And now you find yourself leading, running a radio network, called LifeTalk Radio, which has a global reach, thanks to the wonders of technology. Quickly, how did you wind up at LifeTalk Radio?
— Well, our founder, Paul Moore, had started LifeTalk back in the early days of 1992 in a little town, or little area...
— Yakima, Washington.
— called Yakima Washington. I don't know if you've been there.
— But far from where we are currently sitting here...
— Mm-hmm. Yup.
— in this chair. But he had a vision very similar in some ways of harnessing technology, using this technology to actually grow and be able to go out and reach people. So he started this station in KSOH in Yakima, Washington, with the goal, really, of just reaching that local area. But he started to talk it up with people. And soon family members and others started to hear in other states. So they said, well, if we get a station, how can we get what you're playing?
— So then they had a challenge. How do we get it there? So they said, we'll have to go satellite. Ooh, sound like big stuff.
— You know, of course back then it was, you know...
— It was pretty big stuff.
— it was big stuff, and it still can be big stuff today. But they went ahead with God's providing, they stepped forward in faith, and God opened the doors for them to get onto satellite. So they were able to then reach another station in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
— So then they had KSOH. They had another one in Ellensburg, Washington. And then of course, Albuquerque. And those were some of the beginning stations that formed what we know of today as LifeTalk Radio.
— And notice this, too. It took vision.
— Somebody who said, didn't wait for a church leader to say, we need to do this. Someone with vision said, we're gonna make this happen. And then, there were other people, other people, other people. And so there are numerous churches today who've found frequencies and said, we gotta reach our community. It's about this vision that God place on people's hearts, people responding to say, let's do something evangelistic and really meaningful here.
— And I smile at what you're saying. Vision. Because back when I was a college student, I was hearing about that very thing. Wouldn't it be something if there was a satellite and we had the ability to have a network of stations that would share the gospel message?
— And that was back when I was in college. And so it's interesting how the Lord takes us through different pathways. And then suddenly, I'm called to join LifeTalk Radio in 2001. So Paul Moore had been, he says, I want you to be here. I want you to help us out. And at the time it was for helping with training. 'Cause if you remember in the past, the FCC opened up some windows, the Federal Communication Commission, some application windows to allow community groups and others to be able to actually file for a free license in their community.
— For their community.
— And you know there's only so many licenses available. So they were starting to get ready for that process to happen in early 2001 and 2002. So all of a sudden I'm brought in to be a trainer. Why? Because all of a sudden people from church groups all across the country, community groups, are saying, hey, I'm into, I'm a ham operator. I'm a doctor. I'm a this. I'm a that. But I love Jesus. And I wanna have something in my community. So if I go and put this money down for a station, I don't have 168 hours to fill it all. Can you guys provide the programming?
— Mm. Mm, mm.
— Tell me how to do this. So then there was this area of we needed training. So I came in and basically I was a teacher. So then we had people that were actually coming at that time and you actually visited our studios and recorded in there.
— In Vonore, Tennessee at the time. And we had people that came and actually would come for the training sessions. And so, we would go from everything. Now, we had all kinds of people, people who had never worked with computers very much, you know. But we felt like with the power of God, if there's a willingness, we would work and we would help them learn. And so we actually did that with a lot of groups. People would fly in, we would do the training. We would, from announcers, spot recording, you know, your PSAs, Public Service Announcements. Your, you know, your legal IDs that you're required by the FCC for the station. And then, okay, so you have this automation system. Now what? You know? You know, this play, you know, the carts that play.
— And what's gonna go, how is it gonna interact with LifeTalk the network? And what do we need to do as the local people here in our area? And even getting fancy later with doing weather forecasts. And you know, maybe traffic and other stuff. But we tried to stick to the whole goal was to be this light of Jesus Christ in your community, from the tower where you were.
— Absolutely exciting. You know, I love media evangelism and I love radio. That's where I cut my teeth. And to hear this story of how a radio network was unfolding to take Christ to the nation and the world. Wonderful. We'll be back with more in just a second. He is John Geli and I'm John Bradshaw. This is our conversation. Thank you for being part of it. We'll be right back.
John Bradshaw: Welcome back to "Conversations". My guest is John Geli. He is the manager and the director of LifeTalk Radio, a Christian radio network sharing Jesus across these United States and around the world. A few moments ago, John, you were in Vonore, Tennessee, training, bringing people up to speed, as folks were hatching radio stations from sea to shining sea.
John Geli: That's right.
John Bradshaw: It had to have been something that happened between then and now, so. Catch us up.
John Geli: Lots of exciting things. So just looking at that. So right at the beginning, when the FCC was opening up those windows for those new station opportunities, LifeTalk Radio had grown from the one station of KSOH, all the way to 12 stations, okay. And so there was a, that was included, some that we owned and some that were just affiliates. And so at that point, we begin with low-power stations. Now, 2001, 2, 3, 4, 5, okay, are starting to add in. So we start to have 50 stations. And then soon there's 75 stations. And so then we get up to the point where in 2011, we're now up to 70 stations, okay. The affiliate stations around the country and outside the US as well. We have places like Northern England, or Northern London area.
— We have...
— I remember that station.
— Places in Australia that are picking up some programs from us. We also have other places in Africa, okay, also picking up, in some of the English territories, picking up some signals. Because we're hearing from them, they're calling us, say, hey, we found this free signal...
— where your station is on here broadcasting in Africa. So what began as just a local station, then grows to a small group of stations, then that grows completely around the world. And so today we have over 200 plus stations.
— That's fantastic.
— That are carrying the gospel message 24 hours a day. And it's just been exciting. So different things we've been doing when I started in 2011, we basically just had a website with a web stream, you know, and we were broadcasting. We were on satellite, of course, on Galaxy 19. And we started to realize that technology, just like all of us are realizing, is advancing and changing constantly.
— Oh, yeah.
— And so we needed to not only think of going in the direction of just over-the-air broadcast by satellite, but how could we continue to reach people where they're at with the tools and the devices they want to use?
— So you begin to see the whole influx. And I know you guys at "It Is Written" did the same thing, where we start to have apps coming up.
— So we have our mobile apps created for LifeTalk for both the iPhone, the Android, that was really exciting. Getting onto Roku, which had 20 million, you know, distribution at the time. And then got one of those radio newspapers came through and I was reading through the newspaper and it was telling me that the smartspeaker systems, you know, these are the Google homes that we know of now. And Alexa.
— Alexa, and so forth.
— And all those kinds of things.
— By 2022, we're gonna be in 94 million households. And of course I was reading this about seven years ago. So I said, oh, we need to be there.
— So immediately, we launched into getting those apps created, all those kinds of things. And it has just been amazing to see the stages at which we've been able to grow things. Continuing with the same programming that we're doing, but just getting out to more people in various ways.
— Yeah. You know, I'm hearing you talk about you gotta create an app and you wanna catch up with this technology. And one thing about it is none of it's free.
— So true.
— And every time you wanna take advantage of a ministry opportunity, you gotta write a check, you know. Flip out that credit card. And it's ministry money.
— So, how's LifeTalk Radio funded? And if somebody wants to be part of this, what do they do?
— Well, LifeTalk Radio is funded through joint effort with listeners, the church, and also we have people who sponsor programs. And altogether the Lord blesses it and makes it go forward. And that's how we've been able to be on the air all these years. From the first moments of 1992, I don't think all those folks then could realize all that LifeTalk would become.
— The growth has been fantastic.
— It has.
— But have we plateaued?
— Are we growing? What do you see coming?
— We see the distribution over all places, all sources. So we see people still listening to traditional radio.
— Some people will ask me that. So we actually went and checked on the research. And George Barna, okay, who's this wonderful researcher...
— who comes out with these things. He is still saying as of last year that more people are listening to radio than any other medium.
— Isn't that a funny thing? Because now, of course, people who listen to music, they're getting it from their streaming services, many. But all of the statistics say that radio is still not just a thing, but a big thing. And maybe even a growing thing.
— It is.
— Why do you think that radio has retained this place in the media landscape? When, I mean, seriously, there's so much more competition now for radio-type services. Podcasts are just radio.
— You know, it's just radio by another name.
— In the good old days when people gathered around the radio they listened to podcast...
— is really what they were, it's a radio program. But radio has held its place. It's held its own.
— Why is that?
— I think it's the personal. It's the words that you use that describe things that allows the imagination to grow. One of the things I'll be mentioning in, well, I'll mention it right now. We started the Kids Network. Okay.
— So we have not only our regular primary LifeTalk network, but we kept having listeners asking. You know, the times for the kids is at the time when my kid is still in school, 'cause we're a network, you know?
— So there's all these times zones.
— And around the world there's you know, while we're sleeping, somebody's awake on the other side of the earth. They want something for their kids. So we eventually worked and teamed and partnered together with a lot of groups. And we have not only our regular website, lifetalk.net, but we also have lifetalkkids.net.
— Yeah. Fantastic.
— And what do we have on stuff for kids? We have all kinds of stuff. We have your story, you know, "Your Story Hour".
— Yeah, "Your Story Hour".
— We have "The Bible in Living Sound.
— We have programs on science, on nature, on all kinds of stuff. Stuff I would've wished I could have had when I was a kid.
— Oh, yeah.
— You know.
— And I'll say this. You know, any Christian family that's smart will get their kids stories to listen to.
— You know, come on. What's the? Anyway, there's these great. "Your Story Hour", for example...
— is one good example of that. Because what it does is instead of looking at some dumb computer cartoon, they're not all dumb, but the dumb ones are dumb. You're involving a child's imagination.
— That's the key.
— They're seeing. They're listening. They're thinking. They're processing. They're inquiring. It's just good for them. We would drive to church when we lived in North Carolina many years ago and listen to, I dunno, some Christian radio network. And they would have the kids songs on. It was perfect for driving to church. Some of those songs, we may still remember today. And the kids are engaged, they're not just zoning out. I'm not saying radio is the be all and the end all, but boy, it's a great thing.
— So you get your kids plugged into lifetalkkids.net and give them something wholesome.
— Character building.
— Character building.
— Points you to Christ, but comes at it from different angles.
— From different stories. You know, some are dramas, some are, you know, stories that are, you know, designed for the really young kids. And then there's other ones that are more for adults. You know, we have, I mean, "Lamplighter Theater".
— Yeah, yeah.
— We have "Adventures in Odyssey". Some of these that are just fantastic. They've been around, but they're still being created.
— They're growing.
— And I gotta say this.
— And people love them.
— At "It Is Written" we're big on children's ministries. We have "My Place With Jesus"...
— Mm-hmm. our children's ministry. We've written Bible studies for kids. We've just developed "Buried Treasure", a children's evangelism program. But why? Several reasons. The main reason is 'cause you gotta introduce kids to Jesus.
— And so you're at home and you may or may not have a whole lot of resources on hand for kids. I would say, read good books to your kids, read the Bible with your kids. But in those other moments, man, why are you letting your kids rot their brains watching that for, when they could be listening to lifetalkkids.net? It's a great resource.
— The studies are out there. And you know, I'm not a, I don't pretend to be a doctor, but there's research that is out there if you just take the time as a parent to show the hours that a child spends watching TV. The cartoons.
— Oh, yeah.
— Especially those that don't do anything for you.
— Oh, yeah. Ban them.
— There's some good TV and there's others.
— Yeah, but that's garbage.
— And you just spend that. Sometimes it's babysitting time.
— People so busy and you know, there may not be a lot of options. We're trying to say there are options.
— There's great options.
— There's 24 hours a day lifetalkkids.net. You just go there and you don't have to be worried about profanity.
— You don't have to be worried about some innuendo. Your kids gonna learn something that's really strange, or whatever. It's all about Jesus, character building, but real stories that you and I would enjoy. Now, I say it's true, because I have a 10-year-old son.
— You see? So he's sort of our test, you know?
— Yeah, he's the canary in the coal mine.
— If he says, dad, you know, I don't, you know, this isn't flying, you know?
— I appreciate you, but it's not. No, he's on there, like, every morning. Before I even come out of, you know, can we listen? Or he's already turned it on. He turns it on Alexa.
— That tells you something.
— And he turns it on and he listens.
— Turns it on Alexa?
— You can say Alexa, life talk radio kids. And it pops up.
— So you would would say, Alexa, play LifeTalk Kids.
— No kidding.
— And it comes right up.
— And Alexa will play it.
— And it'll start playing. Exactly. And the same for LifeTalk Radio, the regular channel, Alexa, play LifeTalk Radio. And it comes right on. And of course you can add the Skill, you know, on your cell phones to make it work. But you were talking about what is it about radio?
— And that it's not dying.
— Well it's because it's really morphing, okay. People still wanna be connected to their radio voice. They still wanna hear all these good things. But they may not wanna hear it, or they aren't able to because of where they're located, to hear it off the radio tower. So what you've done by radio. radio's still there, but radio's just much more. It's over the internet. It's satellite. It's through your phone. It's through a web thing. It's podcast. It's all of these things. All of the above.
— You know what I learned? What I learned years ago in some little Southern town, I was conducting an evangelistic meeting. I'd never seen this before. I'd visit in somebody's home. It's two o'clock in the afternoon. And they've got this, you know, this television, by now probably pretty old-fashioned, but a mile wide and half a mile high, this gigantic thing. And there's no, they're playing the radio on their TV. I mean, it's just the speakers, you know. It's just the outlet. But in the middle of the day, I'm seeing here. Yeah. People would do this. It's radio. They're just using a different technology mechanism to play their radio. So whether it's on a smartphone, or on a laptop, or via Alexa, the medium is powerful. Here's what I believe, John. I believe that there are a lot of people, even Christians, who undervalue, or fail to recognize the power of radio. And the power and the effectiveness of Christian radio. Something like LifeTalk Radio. Maybe because their mind is not in that game. Maybe because they don't consume the radio. It's outta sight outta mind. But I think it's really important to remind people it's a great resource.
— And lives are being changed and people are being touched. And I think this might be an opportunity for me to ask you about this. With LifeTalk Radio, what are you seeing? It's one thing to send it out.
— You could broadcast all day long until you're blue in the face. And the question is, so what? LifeTalk Radio doesn't exist so that you can play stuff on the radio, it exists so that people can meet Jesus.
— So walk us through that. What are you experiencing? What are you hearing back from the listeners?
— I mean, it just, year after year we receive emails. We receive letters, we receive texts, okay. Messages of people so thankful that they found us.
— And that's one of the biggest challenges. And I hope that your viewers can help us out as well, is just the awareness, to take the opportunity to let people know about "It Is Written" and about LifeTalk Radio.
— Let them know about these wonderful resources, our LifeTalk Kids. Because half the challenge is that, as you know, it costs a lot of money.
— To pierce the ceiling, if you will, of all the media that's out there, you know. And if it's a political year, or if it's another time, some of those other good things are getting squashed...
— Oh, yeah.
— under all of that kind of news. And yet it's what the people need the most. When they're feeling distressed during this time we've had with COVID.
— And other challenges. You know, knowing that it's gonna be okay, that God is working with you. That God has plan and that there's hope. And so, we've seen a lot of testimonies. We've actually enjoyed baptisms, as well.
— Yeah. Amen.
— It's coming in.
— I just pulled my phone out to look at a text that I got yesterday.
— Google searches for "hope" and "prayer" peak, while "party" and "festival" slump. I dunno where that's from. There's an article attached that I've not looked at yet, but that what a friend sent me, a colleague. People are now searching for hope, searching for about prayer. That's the official thing. And here is a media ministry circling the globe with tons of hope.
— And tons of news.
— It's like, if God positioned us at such a time as this, you know, I think about it. We had no idea that this COVID, you and I.
— Nobody. We had no idea this was coming.
— Couldn't see it coming. Yeah.
— And suddenly we had to pivot and be quick about reaching people, in a way we were already there.
— Of course, you were. You were there.
— People suddenly came to us that, oh, there's programming on how to boost my immune system.
— We have great doctors. In fact, before I forget this, let me share a little card here that I wanted to also share. This is taking off. It's called Take Charge of Your Health. Just like you guys.
— Hey, look at that.
— And many of the people that you guys have had here on the programs here on "It Is Written".
— Oh, yeah. I recognize it.
— Okay, we have Dr. Markham.
— David DeRose.
— David DeRose.
— And Jim Markham. These are our friends.
— It's Dr. Hans Dieh.
— Okay. There's a lifestyle magazine with Roy Gain.
— Okay. All these guys have been presenting wonderful information instead of being fearful with all the health concerns. How about let's boost up with Jesus?
— That's right.
— Let's boost up with exercise.
— The 8 Laws of Health. You know, water, sunshine, all the rest, exercise. And as we incorporate these things in, we feel better. When we feel better, we can move forward. We don't have to live in a prison of fear. You know.
— That's right.
— 'Cause God says "fear not, for I am with you.
— Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
— Be not dismayed".
— It's one of the things that I find very disappointing about the pandemic is that while people are talking about the protective measures, the reactive measures.
— There's been precious little spoken about the proactive measures, which is why we've done Take Charge of Your Health. And I know you air that on LifeTalk Radio.
— Yes. Glad to do so.
— Why don't you, it's bad enough, so why don't you do something to give yourself a better chance?
— Tilt the playing field in your direction and follow these 8 natural laws, and so forth. The sort of things that you're talking about in LifeTalk Radio.
— Yeah, so more people have been tuning in because they're looking for information. So we did some Google ads, okay. The highest ads that are getting reached are the ones dealing with how to boost my immune system, all the health stuff, because people are interested, okay. They want to learn. So practical things. Again, back to God's model. Jesus was so practical. He met people where they were at. So a lot of people have lost their jobs...
— in this past year. So we have programs dealing with finance, what to do, how to deal with a situation where you've lost your job. How to get back engaged in the market. These are all great programs. We have programs, financial programs, like "MoneyWise". We have programs that deal with counseling, okay. When you don't have a job, it's very hard when somebody says, yeah, you should go get some counseling to deal with that.
— Oh, sure.
— And you don't have the money to do some.
— So we have a free program, if you will, from our friends from New Life Live!, New Life Ministries with Steve Arterburn, do a great job with reaching people where they're at, the struggles they're going through, providing them a hope. And then we connect them with other resources that, like Abide Ministry, and some of the other ones that are helping.
— Yeah. You were right. When the pandemic struck and people were looking for answers, LifeTalk Radio was already positioned to share, because it's what you're already doing. I know in recent times your family's had a difficult personal challenge. So in just a moment we'll talk about that. He is John Geli. This is our conversation. Thanks for being here. We'll be right back.
John Bradshaw: Welcome back to "Conversations". My guest is John Geli, who is the manager and the director of LifeTalk Radio, a network of radio stations that is sharing Jesus with the world via good old-fashioned radio, web-based radio, Alexa. I mean, if you can mention it technologically, you can be pretty certain that LifeTalk Radio is there. You can find LifeTalk Radio anywhere online. lifetalkradio.net. Life talk radio kids. Radio kids, or lifetalkkids?
John Geli: lifetalkkids.net.
John Bradshaw: Yeah. There you go. But if you go to lifetalkradio.net, you're gonna find the whole thing there anyway. John, 2, 3, 4 years ago. And I honestly don't even remember how long. Many of us were just, our hearts stopped when we heard that your family had endured one of those personal tragedies that you typically thinks never gonna happen to you. And you hope will never happen to anybody. Why don't you take me to that day and tell me what happened?
John Geli: That's right. Yeah, it was, you know, you always think it's gonna be somebody else, but it was actually November 24 of 2015.
— 2015. Yeah. We were helping our, my in-laws, with a tree that needed to be taken down on a property that was near them. and the tree was close to the house, and so forth. And so my in-laws, they just, you know, loved our, the grandchildren, you know, and they were here and having such a great time. And my daughter's name is Deborah, and my son Caleb, they were both having a great time that day, just like any other kids and helping out. And they wanted to watch, you know, what was going on and taking place with taking down this tree. And my father-in-law, he cleared his land. So if he says the tree should go here, or it should go there, the tree always goes that place.
— I mean, it's just, you know, he's good at what he does.
— And he does a good job with that.
— My father-in-law was the same.
— I mean, he just knew he could cut stuff. You know, I was always one I'd cut and make sure he was there to, you know...
— That's right.
— give me the extra support since I don't do that every day. So we were there and, you know, we saw, you know, the tree, you know, that he was working on, and stuff, and the kids wanted to see stuff. So we said, okay, you know, he built, my father-in-law built this house that was made out of concrete, 'cause he used to live in another part of the country, or the world, where there was typhoons and things that would come through and just destroy your house. So he had built himself a nice, strong house. And so we just had the kids, okay, go around the side of the house where you're protected in a nice, protected area, so that you'll be safe and you can watch from there. So long and the short of it is, is that this particular tree was heading in a certain direction that he was cutting it. It was gonna go in a certain direction. And it didn't. All of a sudden at the last moment there's a pop. And then, it shifts, like 45 degrees.
— It had literally moves and shifts. So then the tree begins to come down and it was the outer branches of that tree that struck both my kids, just struck 'em down to the ground. And in that moment all I could say was, kids run, you know. In hindsight, you think, wow, I wish I could have said this. Or I could have said that.
— Something else, you know. You wish you could run fast enough because what are, what is a parent supposed to do? You're supposed to be there, you know, to save your kids and help them, protect them. And they were in a place that should have been protected. And yet the tall branches that went way far out of the tree were enough to reach the kids and smack 'em down. So I rush over there and I see that my son is moving a little bit. So I figured, well, I'd let him be. And go directly to my daughter, Deborah, because she wasn't moving. So I start to call her and I said, Deborah, you know, I'm here, Daddy's here, you know. And I realize that I'm not hearing any response back. And so, I immediately lifted her up and carried her into the house and had my wife call 911 immediately. And she still had her eyes sort of open, but there was just not much response. And so in the shortness of time, the ambulance came, really not too, wasn't much time before they came. And then, a helicopter was summoned because they said her situation was so grave that they would have to fly her out. That putting her in an ambulance to take her all the way into Knoxville, Tennessee would not work out the best. So they quickly rushed my son off. And then my daughter was actually, for a little portion of time, carried from the house there to the nearby elementary school where they could actually land a helicopter.
— 'Cause it's all woods where we were. And in that area they put her inside the helicopter and they flew her. And then we were just driving behind the ambulance where our son was all the way to the hospital. And of course, just praying and praying, you know? And that's when our world just totally was changing. We were hoping against hope. We got to the hospital, they did everything they could. But then, as these things sometimes happen, they came and they said, you know, we have to let you know that we've done everything we can, but we can't bring her back. And so we have to get the permission to turn off the machines that are keeping her going.
— And we were just a month away from my dad, who had been studying with my daughter for many months, was gonna baptize her in our local church. And she was just excited because she had just really realized who Jesus was.
— That Jesus was her best friend. That Jesus loved her so much. And she was excited that grandpa was gonna baptize her.
— So we're there and we, the machines have stopped. My dad has arrived with my mom who had Parkinson's, and she's in a wheelchair at that point in time. And so they invite us to come up to the room where she's at to say goodbye, you know? And so we get up there and my dad says, you know, could we have a prayer? And so we, all the medical staff around, everybody, we surrounded the bed there with Deborah. And he had this amazing prayer. And I said later on to dad, I said, Dad, do you realize that it was almost like a baptismal prayer or something?
— Oh, yeah.
— Because you blessed her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, you know. And boy, that was just a tough day for us, you know. The memorial service was just a few days later, we actually traveled over to where my son was. He was at Children's Hospital at that point.
— Because after my daughter's passing at UT Medical Center, we went over to...
— Was Caleb always gonna be okay? Or was there some real danger there?
— Caleb had been struck so hard that he was having a hard time breathing. And he had some ribs that had cracked.
— That were near where the lungs were. And so, they were wanting to make sure that he was gonna be okay. So he was doing better, much better, but they had to keep him there for a few days at Children's Hospital. And this was during the Thanksgiving. So it was quite an amazing time, though, to see how our time there with, at the hospital, was quite amazing. The testimony, I guess, that our church members and people who came to visit, left an impact on the lives...
— Mm. Mm.
— of our healthcare workers there at the hospital. We had many of them come up to us and say, you know, we've not seen this kind of level of support and love, you know, for someone in this way, you know, for your son and stuff. And are all these people, you know, are just friends? And I said, oh yes, friends, church members, people all over. And so they were just amazed at, you know, at the support that our church gave to us. And they saw how much, you know, love we had for each other, you know.
— I don't mean to intimate that it hasn't been difficult. And one thing I find that challenges me with people who grieve is that there's tendency to say, I'm doing bad because I'm crying, or I'm doing really well. I haven't fallen apart in a day or two. And of course, that's screwy thinking, because the fact that your stoic doesn't necessarily mean you're doing well. It may mean that you're dysfunctional. But what's truly astonishing is, at least it appears from my limited vantage point, that you and Tammy, your faith has never wavered. You've never given any inkling that you've had anything but a settled and abiding faith in God. Now, I don't know if that is so, but I suspect that's so. So my question is, what kept you up? What held you up? What held you together? Where something like this will destroy some families, you know?
— Just destroy families.
— But the Geli family. I mean, who knows, but as strong as ever, maybe stronger. I know the pithy answer. Well, God was our strength. That's not a bad answer. It's a good answer. But it's an easy throwaway answer. Where'd all the strength come from? And the dumb question, how do you get through this? Because this is what...
— How does anyone get through this?
— No, it's not a dumb question. And you know, before I lost Deborah, I didn't understand the level of grief and pain people go through when you lose a child. Frankly, I didn't know how I was gonna be able to continue to work.
— Yeah. I didn't know.
— It was...
— I didn't know that either how you were gonna be able to continue.
— It was so overwhelming. You know, I'm still running, you know, LifeTalk Radio.
— We're a small staff. I remember the pastor saying, well John, is there someone else who can take care of your duties? And at that time we didn't, we have a few more people now, but at that time we didn't have a lot of people. And I said, Pastor, it's me.
— I can't.
— There's no one else to turn to here.
— There's no one else.
— It's me. But you know, that was also a blessing to still be useful and do things.
— Yeah. Sure.
— So I wasn't just sitting at home in total despair.
— But I remember turning to my wife, and part of me just wanted to, you know, run in the closet, or something, and just hunker down and not go out and see anybody, you know, just, this is terrible.
— I can't understand this. The level of grief was such a depth that I had never experienced, or even knew I could experience. And so at that moment, when I was talking to my wife, I said, well, honey, I said, I feel like, you know, this coming Sabbath, we just need to be, we need to go to church. Of course, it was the Memorial Service that Sabbath, but we actually went to church that morning. And we kept going each week to church. Why? Because our church was so loving. It was so, so supportive. And that's where I felt I had a lot of strength. You know...
— God was giving me strength, but God uses people, tangible people...
— to strengthen you. He doesn't, you know, he gives his Word that can strengthen us. And then he gives flesh, you know, real people to come alongside you. And we had many people that wrote to us, that called us on the phone, that reached out to us. And all of that helped us in our quote, "making it through" this crazy, terrible tragedy. And so, yeah, we just basically put one foot in front of the other. And try to rely on the Bible was true yesterday, the Bible's still true today.
— And it's still true tomorrow,
— God is gonna carry us through. And we aren't the only ones that have lost a child. We're feeling very rotten right now and very devastated. But look, we just start looking around and there's countless thousands of people who have lost a child.
— Lost a husband or a wife to some cancer, or something else. And so, what it, looking at it from now, John. I feel like I can understand people more who are going through things...
— that are very difficult...
— in those areas. Especially when Tammy and I, my wife and I, we hear of something happening to a child. It instantly hits a spot right there in the heart.
— I mean, it just, it's like, what can we do to help?
— How can we help you through this process? Because we know how bad it is, you know. And little bit by little bit, God started to use this to form another little, if you will, side ministry, because the part of the process of me getting help was also realizing what I had and not just trying to power on through. You know, as men, we sometimes...
— well, we're just gonna, you know...
— Yep. Stiff upper lip.
— you know, put up a stiff upper lip and we're gonna just challenge through this and we're gonna make. No, you can't just challenge through this. And it's not a weekend event that's gonna solve your problem. It's just saying, Lord, I need your help.
— And so I cried and my wife cried. And we had days that were just blue and dark. But through all of that, there was still the glow of God still being there. He's with us. I will never leave you, nor forsake you. And he would show his ways through a beautiful sunshine, or the rainbow, or a card would come in the mail. Or somebody would say something, you know, at church, or I'd hear a message on LifeTalk Radio, as I'm working there.
— Be blessed by somebody's message. And so, the ministry that we were able to start on the side was also a grief sharing ministry. 'Cause we got involved with one that really helped us. The people just loved on us, took care of it. So we eventually actually started that in our local church at Knoxville.
— Fantastic. Fantastic.
— And so, God blessed. Blessed in doing that. And so now, we go and we help others who have lost children, lost a spouse. We're involved in doing that. COVID has put a little bit of a wrench, but we even have done some of that with virtual stuff through Zoom and other means.
— You know. I don't know, where do you find the right words? You have given your life to sharing Jesus with others and when you needed him, he was there for you.
— Every time. Every time.
— Which I find very powerful. And every day you go to work and it's all about sharing the same hope with others that got you through what has to be life's, I don't know, most challenging experience, I would think.
— Yeah, one of the texts in the Bible I really, I just love, and I keep it now, because I visualize seeing my daughter in her mortal body coming back to life.
— And all of our loved ones. Think of a person that you have lost. That you love so much.
— And you wanna see 'em again.
— Oh, yeah.
— On Resurrection Morning. And I think of 1 Thessalonians 4, you know, 13 through 18 there, where it talks about the dead in Christ shall rise.
— And then we who are alive are caught up to meet them in the air. And there's this glorious time where we're gonna be there. So yes, we have a lot of nasty that we're gonna still go through between today and when Jesus comes.
— But I would like to just let everybody know that the programming on LifeTalk Radio and the programming on "It Is Written" that you're doing, is all designed to help people connect with Jesus.
— You know, and so, before I forget, just to remind people again.
— I'm not gonna let you forget.
— Of our kids network, lifetalkkids.net.
— We have all kinds of great programs. We have stuff for coloring books. We have stickers. We have sharing cards that are great, too. Sharing cards for encouraging people to actually witness.
— Yeah. Yeah. So somebody can share that...
— We have witnessing tools.
— with somebody else.
— How can people get 'em?
— They're free on our website.
— You just go to lifetalk.net. There's all kinds of choices. You matter to God with a scripture. There's other ones like right now, with a cross.
— You find stickers that are just great for kids. Little stickers.
— Bigger stickers. You find pictures of kids. what's on the backside...
— tells you 24/7 streaming of LifeTalk Radio.
— And all kinds of stuff. One of the special ones we just created here for the springtime. Philippians 3:1, "may the Lord give you joy".
— Amen. Amen.
— And so, all of these are available free. And why do we do it? Because we want our listeners and our viewers to be active. This is not a time to sit at home and say, I hope somebody, I hope Pastor John here, or that John Geli from LifeTalk will do all the work and share the gospel. No, this is a time to partner.
— That's right.
— Partner together.
— That's right.
— Where we can actually use these tools, witnessing tools, to let people know about Jesus.
— LifeTalk Radio is a fabulous ministry, a global media ministry, a radio ministry. And today, radio means more than it's ever meant before. The more people who are blessed by it and tell others about it, the better off the world will be. We wanna share the gospel. Hasten the return of Jesus. He's coming back soon. We're gonna get outta here. We're gonna go home. And on that day, what a reunion it's gonna be.
— That's right.
— John Geli. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
— Thank you for having me.
— It's been a blessing. Appreciate you and your time. Thanks so much. I hope you have been encouraged. Remember, lifetalkkids.net. lifetalkradio.net. From LifeTalk Radio, the manager and the director. He was John Geli. I'm John Bradshaw. This was our conversation.