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Last updated November 24.

March 8, 2010 issue

Virginia quartet led move into radio

Book remembers Crusader musical journey 60 years ago

By Rachel Bowman Harrisonburg Daily News-Record

Once together, Kreider said the men followed a practice that was to play out throughout their entire lives: They would open each practice with prayer, that opportunities would arise for them to sing, that they’d be stretched and strengthened in their spiritual lives, that the four of them would be bonded in ministry and personal lives.

The Crusaders Quartet in 1947: Roy Kreider, Eugene Souder, Paul Swarr and Aaron King. — Photo provided by Eugene Souder

The Crusaders Quartet in 1947: Roy Kreider, Eugene Souder, Paul Swarr and Aaron King. — Photo provided by Eugene Souder

And God acted, opening abundant and unexpected doors, Krei­der said. He Keeps Me Sing­ing tells of the tent meetings, church plantings and the travel they did.

More important, Kreider writes about the people: the people from the coves and hollers of Kentucky who were poor, yet gave graciously and received the gospel; the folks from Hannibal, Mo., and Richmond who responded to their music and personal testimonies; and the people who flocked eagerly to street meetings in New York City.

“No classes were preparing us for that,” Kreider said.

Nor did EMC have a class to prepare them to stretch their ministry into radio. The Crusader Men’s Quartet had been asked to sing for radio programs in the summer of 1950 as they did street missions in New York City. Radio seemed like a creative way to share the gospel with more people, the four reasoned. Was this yet another opportunity from God? So they prayed and decided to ask for free airtime on Harrisonburg radio station WSVA, Souder said.

In September 1950, WSVA offered 15 minutes of free airtime once a week to the group, which they used to present songs and personal testimony. Norman Derstine served as announcer and program director, and the program seemed well received by listeners, Souder said.

At the same time, though, the men knew Virginia Mennonite Conference frowned on radio ministry.

Listeners were asking for the show to expand to half an hour; Mennonite business owners indicated their willingness to sponsor the show if the conference would signal its approval.

Eventually, in summer 1951, Virginia Conference approved the move to radio. The show that started with 15 minutes of free airtime evolved until it became The Mennonite Hour, which, at its height, was carried on 150 stations and reached the world via shortwave radio.

“I think it was an idea whose time had come,” Souder said. “We were pushing, but pushing gent­ly.”

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