Faith That’s Crazy: Bill Sammons
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” -Hebrews 11:6
ONE OF THE guys I admire most is my friend, Bill Sammons. Bill makes his home in Delaware and has always been one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. This is his story.
MY BEST FRIEND Rick and I had a low-budget radio show. We were twelve years old, and his bedroom was our studio. We had no trans- mitter—or even real microphones—but we had a state-of-the-art, portable cassette-tape recorder and plenty of energy, creativity, and time. Those were the days.
Rick and I did “improv” before we knew what it was. We’d listen to Bill Cosby doing the voices of God and Noah on the record player, and then we’d make up our own sketches doing multiple voices. If we needed a little reverb, no problem. I’d put Rick’s metal trashcan on my head, hold the recorder, and voila! Instant reverb. We learned that if you recorded with batteries that were almost dead and then played it back with new batteries, you could sound like a chipmunk. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was preparing us for our future careers. Rick now pastors the largest church in our region, and I’m in my fortieth year of broadcasting.
I remember the first time we went to a real radio station. Rick and I were part of a singing group—a quartet—and were invited to appear on a local station to sing and do an interview. I was sixteen and mesmerized. I was in electronics heaven with turntables and cart machines and reel-to-reel tape players and VU meters dancing to the pulsing sounds coming from the studio speakers. I have no memory of what we sang or what we said, but I do remember thinking this was perhaps the coolest place I had ever been.
Four years later, I graduated from the local community college with a degree in Journalism and embarked on a career as news director at that very radio station. I made ninety dollars per week with no benefits, but I had a confident feeling that I was doing what I was made to do. As is common in the broadcast business, I’d move onward and upward to bigger and better radio and TV stations over the next several years, but there was a feeling inside I couldn’t shake.
I wanted to program a Christian radio station in my hometown. Not like the ones I had heard before, with old preachers and organ music. I wanted to program a Christian radio station that sounded as good as the mainstream stations, with nothing but contemporary Christian music twenty-four hours a day. I could hear it in my head. Amy Grant. Andraé Crouch. Randy Matthews and Larry Norman. The artists would change over the years, but I played this radio station in my head and dreamed about one day providing Christian radio to my community.
Also bouncing around in my head was the fact that I was living paycheck to paycheck and driving a 1972 Gremlin. Radio stations were for millionaires, and I wasn’t in the game. I eventually got married, had a couple of sons, and left broadcasting to work in marketing so I could better provide for my family.
But the dream wouldn’t go away. I remember interviewing for a job once, and the interviewer asked me what I would be doing five years from now if I could do anything, and I said “operating my own Christian radio station.” We both laughed knowingly. Like that’s going to happen. Still, the dream wouldn’t go away.
One day in the mid-1980s, I was reading our community newspaper, and an article caught my attention. It said the Federal Communi- cations Commission (FCC) had allocated a new FM frequency to Milford, Delaware and they were accepting applications. The problem was the deadline was only a week away. The rest of that night, I argued with myself. This was from God! My chance to start a Christian radio station! Then I heard, “You don’t have enough money! You don’t know how to run a radio station!”
The next day, I tracked down a communications attorney and got the details. It would take about $7,000 to apply. I’d need to hire an engineer, find a place to put a 328-foot broadcast tower, and certify that I had access to the funds to build the radio station, if I was awarded the license. A quick budget for equipment, legal fees, land, studio, etc. put the budget at about $250,000. Which … after paying the $7,000 application fee … was $250,000 more than I had. We had been saving money to build a house, and when I asked my wife if we could spend the money on a radio station application instead, she didn’t hesitate.
The next day, I found a tower site, hired the lawyer and an engineer, and we got the application filed before the deadline.
I shared my vision with my dad, and he suggested I talk to one of his friends to see if they would be interested in being a partner with me in the radio station venture. Sonny Reed graduated from high school with my father, and he was a very successful businessman. When I told him what I wanted to do and how much it would cost, he agreed to borrow the money against his home. When the FCC finally approved our application, we started the construction process. But … not so fast.
I quickly learned that not everybody in the community was as excited about our project as I was. At our first zoning hearing to get approval to build the 328-foot tower, I was surprised to see some of the neighbors had been rallied to protest our plans.
Is there anything big God is calling you to do?
Are you ready to trust Him?
What is He saying to you?
In the next post, we will share the rest of the story of Bill Sammon’s vision for a radio station.