Radio dial discipleship
Cadets at the Salvation Army’s College for Officer Training (CFOT) always bring their unique personalities, experiences, and skills on the path to officership. For instance, Cesar Torres, bandmaster at the Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Guayama, Puerto Rico, will start his officership journey this fall. His love for amateur radio is an activity shared by about three million people all over the world. Ham operators who are thousands of miles apart connect without using the internet or phones. Legal operation requires a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use the radio frequencies allocated by the commission.
“For me, ham radio is a hobby, but it’s also a science,” says Torres. “I’ve learned to build transmitters, antennas, and make good use of spare parts. Even though I am a musician for life, I also enjoy learning the math and engineering aspect of radio.” Torres is also the Guayama Kroc Center’s webmaster.
Torres was introduced to ham radio by a parent of a music student. “He told me, ‘This is a good skill to have when you become a cadet. You might need it for your corps someday,’” says Torres.
Airwaves across Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico, ham radio is a serious survival tool for residents when earthquakes and hurricanes shut down communication across the island when it is needed the most.
“During Hurricane Maria, there were operators all across Puerto Rico who reached out and found people who needed help,” says Torres, who took up ham radio after those events.
Today’s COVID-19 pandemic has made his radio knowledge therapeutic as it allows him to reach people who are feeling the psychological pain of isolation.
“Even if you are healthy and safely distanced, your mind still needs that connection with people. It wants to hear another voice,” says Torres. “I’ve talked to people who have not come out at all during COVID–19. They are living in the highest mountains of the island, away from everyone. Yet, they’re still scared to leave their homes. They feel alone, but use their radio to stay in touch with others.”
A ministry of frequency
It’s common for people to open up emotionally and bond while working on a manual project, such as fixing a car or tending a garden. Operating a ham radio has had a similar effect on Torres. While working on a radio in front of him, Torres creates connections with people over the airwaves and in the room with him.
“As I was working and discussing radio with my student’s dad, we also talked about our lives. I learned about the struggle he was having at home. When we were done, we prayed together,” says Torres. “That’s when I saw this as a ministry and a way to get more into discipleship. It’s a way to connect Christ to people who are far away as well as right where I am.”
Torres says that when his radio crew gets together and listens to each other, he hears some of the best advice he’s ever heard. They’ll also talk to people over the radio who need a listening ear.
“My job doesn’t leave a lot of time to meet new people, and COVID–19 has dispersed a lot of friendships, but we still have our own team of ham radio operators who get together for our radio ministry here in Guayama,” says Torres.
“My friends know that the journey I’ll soon take to become an officer will sometimes be a hard one,” says Torres. “But they always tell me, ‘Even if one day you’re sent to serve far from Puerto Rico, we’ll talk together all the time—through the radio.”
by Hugo Bravo