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THE UK CENTRE INAUGURATED
The chain of events that led to the start of the UK centre of Gospel Recordings started when Arthur Gook, a missionary in Iceland, heard of the work of Gospel Recordings. He was forward looking and probably the first Christian to get the vision for using radio to spread the Gospel. He built the first ever Christian radio station but was unable to operate it, due to the Government refusing it a licence to broadcast. He immediately saw the way he could use the records in Iceland and contacted GR in the USA.
Faced with the technical problems of making the Icelandic recordings he turned to Eric Hogg, an electronic engineer who, as a young man of 20, had built the radio station for him. Eric Hogg, who was involved in the Missionary Technical Fellowship (who provided technical support to serving missionaries) also caught the vision of GR. He invited Joy Ridderhof to England in 1955 and arranged meetings and a press conference in London . It was during this time that the UK headquarters was established. Rev George Scott, then Home Director of China Inland Mission was the first Chairman. He, with Eric Hogg and Gilbert Vinden became the first members of the UK Council.
Initially administration was carried out by Muriel Hogg, Eric's wife, working from their home. Gilbert Vinden, previously a missionary in China, was appointed Treasurer and moved the financial side to his home in Reading. This was all right as a temporary arrangement but eventually it became necessary to have record storage, as well as an office. In 1958 they rented the basement of Hargrave Hall in North London. While Gospel Recordings remained in Hargrave Hall, Mr Vinden travelled from Reading to London (over 30 miles) once or twice every week to deal with problems and pack parcels of records. Eric Hogg's Company was involved in supplying electronic equipment, to the BBC among other organisations. It was through his contacts that some of the very earliest Nagra tape recorders were obtained and became the standard equipment for field use. Miss Elvina Ahier, already twice retired, came full time to look after the paperwork and continued to do so until she finally retired in 1969.
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE 60s
In 1961 Rev. Merold Stern and his wife Margaret, from South Africa, journeyed to Los Angeles where they were oriented in the work before taking the position of leadership of the UK headquarters in 1962. The first person sent out from England was Leslie Walker, a short-term worker, who recorded in Portuguese Guinea in Africa. Several other field recordists, including Bob Waite and Rob Harris followed, all working in African countries.
One of the great contributions of the UK Headquarters was the invaluable help given in technical matters. Eric Hogg made frequent visits to Los Angeles and was made the International Technical Advisor. Another tremendous contribution was arranging the publication of "Faith By Hearing" written by Phyllis Thompson of the O.M.F.
David Chapman (of MTF) joined GR in 1966 and a little over a year later the office and storage were moved from London to premises adjoining his home in Ashbury (near Swindon). "The Kiln" a two hundred year old building, which had been unoccupied for some time, was converted into office and storage space for the records and a small workshop was fitted up.
A NEW CHALLENGE
It became clear that Britain was rapidly becoming a mission field as the immigrant population increased and more foreign seamen were being contacted at the 200 ports around the British Isles. Surveys were conducted and port missionaries encouraged in the use of GR materials.
The number of records distributed annually in Britain increased from 5000 in 50 languages to 45,000 in over 200 languages. This clearly presented a new challenge, especially with the potential of mass distribution by organisations such as Operation Mobilisation.
HIGH SPEED PRODUCTION
In the late 60's the UK headquarters was offered a high-speed press for producing flexible records by GR Australia, who were at that time overloaded with work. This press proved to be inadequate and after three years of experimental work a new 125 ton hydraulic press was installed, this time with success. In 1973 the work moved to Gloucester and the name changed to Gospel Recordings Fellowship. Production began in 1975 and by mid-1976 around 200,000 records had been produced.
A NEW ERA
The flexible records produced in the UK were suitable for playing on electric hi-fi record players but not suitable for the hand wind players used in the Developing world. In 1980 the decision was made for the flexidisc operation to be separated from GRF so that the mission could concentrate on it's main aim of reaching language groups who had no other means of hearing the Gospel. This involved concentrating on the production of cassettes.
Upon the resignation of David Chapman, Stewart Mill of Australia helped manage the work for a few months. The Council then appointed Dick Greenfield, Chairman of the Council for a number of years, to the position of Acting Executive Secretary as an interim measure. He held this position until May 1987 when John and Pat Burman from Language Recordings Canada were loaned to what became Language Recordings International, UK .
LANGUAGE RECORDINGS INTERNATIONAL
In the late 1980s a number of the Centres which were in the GR world fellowship changed their name to Language Recordings It was felt that the word Gospel was a disadvantage in some countries, including many where cassettes were invaluable as evangelism was not readily accepted. Also in Britain the increase in recorded Christian music led to misunderstanding about the purpose of an organisation called Gospel Recordings. After much prayer the UK Centre decided it was right to change their name.
The Burmans were called back to Canada in 1990 and Geoffrey Garrick took over as Director. The office was moved from Gloucester to the Wycliffe Centre near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire in 1991. Shortly after this move, Geoffrey Garrick left the work and the mission was without a Director. The following three years were difficult years indeed with no full-time staff. Dick Greenfield took over the correspondance and another Board member prepared prayer materials. Eric and Muriel Hogg's daughter, Jill Procter, and her husband Arthur, came in one day per week to fill orders and keep the work going. During this period the word International was dropped from our name and we became known as Language Recordings U.K. In early 1995 the Procters turned the maintenance of the ministry over to John Taylor, who had been a previous staff member from 1978-1991, and now rejoined the work.
Later in 1995 many prayers were answered when Ed and Judy Young arrived in the UK on loan from GR-USA, and Ed took on the role of UK Director. Ed and Judy were no strangers to Britain. They first came here in 1969 when LRI (then known as GRF) was at Ashbury near Swindon. They worked there for several years. During this time Ed took time out to attend Capernwray Bible School. They then returned to the USA with the intention of taking up a field-ministry. They subsequently worked for many years in Mexico, where Ed was director as well as working as a field recordist. Under Ed's direction the work in the UK turned around and began to grow again.
In 1998 Ed passed over the Director's responsibilities to Jim Mckechnie. Jim & Irene McKechnie had originally applied to work with the mission in 1985 and became the representatives of the work in Scotland. They were subsequently involved in church planting in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. Many from the Fellowships they set up are in full time service all over the world. The McKechnies had renewed their links with LR in 1996 and in 1998 agreed to come to England and take over the work in the UK. Jim took on the role of Director and Irene manages the office and finances. During the time the McKechnies have been in post the work has continued to develop in both vision and scope. Two couples, David and Jenny McKechnie and Kenny and Joan McKee, joined the staff. David and Kenny were able to travel to Nepal to train as recordists.
David and Jenny now work in Thailand were David's administrative and recording skills have been used in setting up a centre in Chang Mai and in the work based there. David and Jenny had previously worked in China for a number of years and their ability to speak Mandarin is also valuable. Kenny was able to do some recording work in Europe before he and Joan went to Papua/New Guinea for over two years. While there they were able to support national staff and record many new languages.
As well as the work in the UK LR (UK) has been involved for a number of years in supporting other centres, through prayer and financial aid. Recently this international role has expanded with the appointment of Jim McKechnie to the Executive Council of GRN. He has been given a specific brief to develop pastoral care within GRN.