Wednesday, April 24, 2019, is Founder’s Day at American Family Association (AFA) and is the middle day of the American Family Radio’s (AFR) spring 2019 Share-a-thon. Founder’s Day here honors Reverend Don Wildmon and his wife Lynda for the ministry they started in 1977. They will celebrate 58 years of marriage in June of this year.
Lynda Wildmon shared how one evening the family was trying to find something on TV which was decent and suitable. Unable to do so, Bro. Don turned off the TV and pulled out board games to entertain them. Soon after this, according to Mrs. Wildmon, Bro. Don challenged his congregation in Southaven, MS, to turn off the TV for a week. He then reached out to the media in the nearby Memphis, TN, and “the story went viral,” she said.
American Family Association (AFA), originally called the National Federation for Decency, has grown over 40 years thanks to the diligence, courage, and faithfulness of Don Wildmon (and his family) along with the support of readers and listeners. Over the years AFA has become the parent ministry of:
- AFA Action
- AFA Foundation
- AFA Journal
- American Family Radio
- American Family Studios
- Engage Magazine
- One Million Moms
- One Millions Dads
- One News Now
- The Stand
- Urban Family Communications
Through these ministries, AFA has been both the salt to slow, prevent, or stop the decay of the moral culture of America and the light to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Regardless of which ministry people most easily connect with, they all work in unison to support AFA’s overall mission and action statement.
AFA exists to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission.
56th Share-a-thon 2019 roots
Buddy Smith, AFA’s Senior Vice President, says, “In November of 1991, American Family Radio had one station in Tupelo, Mississippi. Bro. Don reported that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) had just opened a new group of radio frequencies for adding translator stations, and he cast the vision to expand the reach of AFR across the nation.” The board didn’t understand the link at first.
According to Smith, Bro. Don began to make his case, “Since I started AFA in the late 1970’s we’ve had to depend on the mainstream media to get our message out, and the message is lost after they put their spin on it. But we will own the AFR microphones, and they cannot filter or change the message.”
J.J. Jasper and John Riley were brought on for that first station and continue today on some stations with a morning show filled with fun stories, jokes, and great Christian music. Jasper remembers how important it was for the second station to be built in Jackson/Milan, TN. These two stations in different states meant AFR was a network.
“AFR grew faster than any other format in broadcasting history,” said Jasper. How fast? Jasper said it is documented AFR grew over 100 stations within ten years. Currently, with 182 stations nationwide, AFR continues to support and promote AFA’s mission.
Durick Hayden, Vice President of Human Resources, shared how the first Share-a-thon had a couple of tables with phones and four to six volunteers. Two individuals have volunteered for each of the 56 Share-a-thons with one driving early in the morning before work, and the other being found for multiple hours throughout each day.
Volunteers have come from all over the U.S. at their own expense, to be part of Share-a-thon, and those two tables have grown to a large room with multiple tables, up to 25 people answering phones, a phone overflow service, and all the technology and people behind-the-scenes to support it. The current location is where the AFA staff normally holds their daily devotions and prayer requests.
Originally volunteers would have to write the pledges by hand on “Pledge Sheets,” and they would be taken to data processing for entry. Over the years AFA/AFR transferred to computers and eventually coded or built from scratch the current software for its unique needs. This increased efficiency and decreased errors while offering more protection to donors according to Jim Stanley, General Manager Radio/AFR.
While this Share-a-thon ends Thursday at 7:00 p.m., the next day the wheels keep moving so things keep improving. Jim Shempert, Director of Information Technology, meets with other AFA staff so improvements and changes can continue. Like many employees hired for their unique talents at AFA, Shempert shares, “It’s a blessing to work with so many talented people who love the Lord and want to spread of the gospel.”
It’s My Turn
For many years Bro. Don could be heard sharing folksy stories with moral meanings as part of “It’s My Turn.” Those still play between programs during the day on AFR or can be heard online.
With mainstream media having more and more of their turn distorting the news, listeners and readers of AFA’s work through the ministries appreciate, share, and support AFA with prayers and pledges year round.
That sharing started with the first Share-a-thon when AFR was only one station, according to Jasper, who recalls pledges being around $60,000. Increased stations and listeners help AFR easily pass that within the first few hours early in the morning of day one. Hayden shared Bro. Don often said, "I'm trusting the Lord to provide. I'm relying on the Lord to bring in the harvest." AFA as the salt and light helps protect, plant, water, and grow the good seed of the gospel.
“Because of the vision of Bro. Don Wildmon, the unfettered gospel of Jesus Christ is shared every hour of every day on 182 AFR stations,” Smith said. “Lost souls are saved, believer grow more like Christ as they are fed the Scriptures, marriages and families are fortified, the great moral foundations of our nation are defended and promoted, and believers are equipped to carry out the Great Commission.
Standing in the Gap
“Bro. Don’s vision is still advancing through AFA today," said Smith, "because of God’s calling and under the steadfast leadership of AFA President Tim Wildmon. Billy Graham said, ‘Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.’ Thank you, Bro. Don and Lynda Wildmon.”
Share-a-thon’s theme for spring 2019 is “Standing in the Gap” based on Ezekiel 22:30. Listeners or readers who’ve been blessed by the ministry, who are alarmed by the increasing ungodliness and depravity in our nation, and who are tired of cursing the darkness are invited to stand with AFA. This Share-a-thon started Tuesday, April 23 and goes through Thursday, April 25. It runs with live phone lines from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST (1-877-616-2396) or donations can be made online at www.afr.net anytime.