Ian Mackie’s story

As a young man I left my home in Scotland to move to New Zealand. If I’m honest, I chose New Zealand because it was about as far away from the UK as it was possible to get. While I was there I was on a search for truth, for some real meaning in my life and I ended up getting heavily involved in Eastern mysticism and New Age philosophies. I was about as distant from God as it was possible to get, and yet did not realise it. 

And then in 1980, through a series of different circumstances, God became real in my life and I became a Christian. I was full of fire and passion and desperate to share this great news with everyone I met. Someone happened to tell me there was a Christian radio station based in Christchurch, about 100 miles up the road from where my wife and I lived. As I heard this, I remember that a thought entered my head: ‘What a great way to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to the masses.’ 

I was really intrigued, so I rang up the guys at this station in Christchurch and ended up speaking to a guy called Richard Berry who was in charge – the station was called Radio Rhema. I said to him, ‘So tell me, why do you have Christian radio up there and we don’t have it here?’  The answer, said Richard, was quite simple. ‘No one is interested in setting it up.’

So, I put my hand up and said, ‘Well I’m interested.’ And a few weeks later, I made the trip up to see Richard at Rhema. As we chatted, I shared my theory that setting up radio must be pretty easy. I had an electrical engineering background and I explained all I would need would be a big field, a radio mast, a shed with a transmitter, and then I added, ‘you just plug in the wires and switch it on.’  

Richard Berry was so gracious with me, put a hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Well Ian, it’s a little bit more complicated than that, but if you will join us and allow us to train you, we’ll show you how to do it.’

And true to his word, within three years, Radio Rhema had provided full training and we had set up Christian radio in our home town. Friends from the UK would sometimes visit us and they would say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had Christian radio like this in the UK?’ 

So once again, I found myself putting up my hand! After much prayer and feeling sure this was the direction God had planned for us, my wife and I sold our house, and with two children under the age of five, we flew back to the UK with a vision and a passion to see Christian broadcasting established in the UK. 

We arrived in October 1986, headlong into the worst winter for 25 years. It was quite a shock to my wife, to experience her first winter out of sunny New Zealand. We soon had meetings with government officials and were told categorically there was no opportunity whatsoever for religious broadcasters to get access to radio licences. In short, we were told: ‘It is not going to happen. It will never happen’. 

By this point, we were both so despondent. I remember spending time with God and saying, ‘God, we have obviously misheard You. We thought you wanted Christian broadcasting in the UK and obviously we got it wrong. We might as well pack up and go back to New Zealand and get back to normal family life.’ But during that prayer time, God spoke to me so clearly and told me that though there may not be the legislation in place, though there may not be enough frequencies for religious broadcasters, though many Christians would not even understand what we were trying to do, this was God’s plan and His will.  

I felt God tell me clearly: ‘I love the people of the UK and I want to move in revival power.  And this revival is going to be so big, so vast, so all-encompassing that it’s going to transform the nation. There will be so many new believers that the churches will struggle to cope, and when those new believers are anxious or doubting, I want Christian broadcasting there so that they can tune in, whether it’s 3am or 3pm. When they listen, their fear will be replaced with love, their anxiety will be replaced with joy, so that they pick themselves up, dust themselves down and begin walking in faith once again. That is why I want Christian broadcasting here in the UK.

And so, from that moment, I said, ‘God we will stick with this until You bring this vision to pass.’ And just as He promised, on 1st December 2009, we saw our breakthrough. UCB went national across the UK on DAB radio.  

But the story doesn’t end there, because we were given two promises. The first was that God wanted the UK to have Christian radio and the second was that He would move in revival power across our nation.

So, if He has fulfilled the first promise, He will also fulfil the second promise. Today, as UCB continues to grow, that remains our guiding principle, to trust and wait for God to fulfil the second promise. That’s our heart, that’s our passion and that’s our vision.

Ian Mackie