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Employees find happiness at Christian radio station

By Dustin Duncan The Southern illinoisian

AVA, Ill. - Apparently, working at a Christian radio station is like being part of a big family.

At least that is what 103.9 WXAN Christian Radio General Manager Will Stephens said.

"I don't know if there is any better place (to be) than here," Stephens said. "We are a family here. There is no corporate structure that is going to send down a command to change our format. We work through any problem together."

The small radio station on Ava Road in Ava employs six people; four are full-time employees.

Stephens, who doubles as mayor of Murphysboro, Ill., said although the number of employees is small, the number of listeners is big.

He said there is no dead air on WXAN, because the station streams music from the Solid Gospel Network out of Nashville, Tennessee, when there is no live programming at the station.

There are also several nationwide preachers streamed on air at the station along with Stephens' own radio show, "The Will Stephens Show," airing from 12:10 to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Stephens said one of the interesting things about WXAN's on-air programs is that some feature preachers who passed away several years ago but are still widely popular.

"Such as Jay Vernon McGee," he said. "This man died in 1986, and though he has been dead for more than 20 years, he is still on more than 400 Christian radio stations across the country," Stephens said. "That is the power of the gospel. It truly is about the message and not necessarily about the individual delivering it."

WXAN's signal reaches from Mount Vernon to Harrisburg, and as far west as Cape Girardeau. Stephens said there are several other people listening to the station online, which he knows because of the requests he has received from Paducah, Chicago and other places around the country.

WXAN owner Harold Lawder is 86, and he still works five days a week at the station. "The message we try to give out is similar to the ones in the Bible and to have good programming," Lawder said.

He said he has received many calls and letters from listeners saying how much the station has been a blessing to them, and how it has helped people through problems in their lives.

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