“The living presence of Jesus awakened joy and set people free.”
– Brennan Manning, “The Ragamuffin Gospel”
“Is it really that easy?”
The caller on the other end was noticeably angry.
No volunteering required? No minimum donation needed? No mandatory acts of service?
He had spent his whole life believing that salvation was something to be earned, not a gift to be accepted.
“Yes, it is.”
Life FM DJ Jon Engen, who happens to be a former pastor, reassured the man and encouraged him to go to church. There, he could learn more about how Jesus died on the cross to forgive the sins of the world and give everlasting life to anyone who believed. That’s it.
That elementary premise is the message behind 88.3 Life FM, Bakersfield’s only local Christian radio station that began more than 25 years ago on South Montclair Street. Listeners have tuned in over the years for inspiration or a quick pick-me-up between errands. One of the most popular programs on KAXL is “The Afternoon Joy Ride” with Matt Pelishek and Aaron Perlman from 2 to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
Pelishek is the baseball-hat-sporting, martial arts enthusiast half of the AJR duo who is in charge of the station’s programming. Perlman is its church-worship-leading, equally comic-book-loving director of music. Together, they test out weird food over the airwaves, play silly games with their listeners, and put on faith and family events throughout the community.
But don’t write them off just yet.
Their wacky and unpredictable on-air formula is actually a well-balanced and intelligent creation that takes years of friendship, immense trust and unbridled joy to forge. Their love for radio ministry is palpable.
Pelishek said: “When the phone rings and you hear, ‘Hey, I had a crappy day today. You guys just made me laugh and I needed that.’ The way it brings joy into people’s lives is big.”
Local viewers will recognize Eyewitness News weather forecaster Perlman, the squeaky-clean John Travolta look-alike sans hair. He’s been a DJ for six years now, a dream that he and his twin brother had been working toward since they were kids.
“I’m humbled that I get to do this, seeing how people are changed and affected by the songs we play,” said Perlman.
Pelishek, Perlman and the rest of the Life FM family recently held a banquet to raise much-needed funds. After a quarter of a century serving Kern County, transmitters die, equipment fails and microphones need replacing. The station is also in desperate need of a new building where safety, especially for female staffers at night, isn’t an issue.
While they’ve raised $50,000 for a new transmitter so their signal doesn’t go down each time it rains, the need is still great.
“The buttons on the soundboard will stick,” Pelishek said. “Sometimes, we’ll get a short in the studio monitor. Our mics aren’t operating at full capacity. When your content is how you sound, that’s not a good thing.”
Perlman added, “We need new equipment to give the best joy possible.”
The station’s website, www.883lifefm.com, features online streaming, information on how to support their endeavor and even a prayer room for anyone who needs extra spiritual help.
As for the caller who just couldn’t believe faith could be that simple, he asked questions, prayed and by the end of the call, had accepted the gift of Christ.
Through a small Christian radio station in Bakersfield, he found forgiveness, salvation and a little bit of joy. ￼
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Nina Ha.