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In the World's Rural Outposts, A Shortwave Channel to God


McGee's reach is unmatched, even though he has been dead since 1988.

"Thru the Bible" is funded by McGee's followers and listeners, who have donated everything from dollar bills to multimillion-dollar inheritances to keep his legacy alive, according to officials at the program's Pasadena, Calif., headquarters.

What Matsimbe actually hears most nights is a Mozambican preacher who has translated McGee's sermons into local African dialects. It is the only program on the shortwave dial in the Xitshwa language and the only one Matsimbe listens to.

He sat rapt, nodding, listening to the preacher's words about Saint Paul, which stressed the importance of living by Christian values every day, not just at Sunday services. "It makes me feel good," Matsimbe said. "I liked it when Paul was talking about being a servant of Jesus. I want to be like Paul myself."

Matsimbe was born Catholic but converted to the Methodist Church as an adult, partly, he said, because of the influence of Christian radio. He now walks an hour to attend church in Homoine each Sunday. He feels that the nightly radio broadcasts "complete" the pastor's Sunday sermons.

"It explains things well," he said, holding his young granddaughter in his lap. "It gives us more than the Bible. It talks about how to live. It adds to what we are taught by our parents and our pastors. I learn about forgiveness. It teaches us to live better."

Matsimbe said the radio program has helped him raise children and settle disputes with neighbors. That kind of help is hard to come by in the woods of Mozambique, he said.

In the glow of brilliant sparkling starlight, Matsimbe said the messages beamed in on the radio have made him a more faithful Christian and a more regular churchgoer. As he looked off into darkness, broken only by the dim light of cooking fires here and there, many of his neighbors were also gathered around their radios out there in the African night, listening.

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