The Hams For Christ Christian fellowship net began on Saturday, February 9, 1981. Dave Friar, AF8D, and Hugh Wilson, WB0HUP, had been in frequent communication via amateur radio teletype. Both felt led of the Lord to establish a network of Christian hams that would meet regularly for fellowship on amateur radio. Dave suggested a net be established on the 20 meter band. However, due to long skip conditions on 20 meters Hugh could not always hear Dave or other nearby stations. He suggested they use the 40 meter band. They decided to use both bands! On February 9, 1981 at 4:00 P.M., the first "CQ Hams for Christ" calls went out, by Dave on 14.300 MHz., and by Hugh on 7.2285 MHz. Weekly Saturday sessions were scheduled thereafter on both bands. Dave's effort on the 20 meter band had little success and soon was discontinued. However, two to three hams faithfully checked in with Hugh on 40 meters. Their persistence and faithfulness resulted in a Christian fellowship net that has continued for over 19 years.
Early on Bob Monroe K8VCU alternated with Hugh Wilson as net control operator. Other early pioneers of Hams For Christ included By' Usery KA8GZI, Joe McElwain WB9ZOI, John Ryding WW0H, and William M. "Manley" Estes KB4GA. After the first year of operation there were a total of 31 members. Seven more were added in 1982 and nine more in 1983, bringing the total to 47. By 1985 the membership stood at 69 and by 1986 it was 96. Moderate growth during 1986 raised the total to 109. In 1987 growth increased, ending with 139 members. Currently the membership exceeds 585.
In June of 1983 the weekly Saturday net schedule was expanded to include Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It was expanded to six days, Monday through Saturday, in 1989. In July, 1998, Saturday sessions were discontinued for a lack of a net control operator after Leon Priest N4TFK resigned. This was most unfortunate since several who worked Monday through Friday could no longer check in.
In November of 1983 certificates were issued to all members with their member number. A history of the organization and the membership list were included. This practice continues today for new members.
Several members are now "Silent Keys." One of those, Bill Best KA9MOQ who sometimes was referred to as "Mr. Hams For Christ," passed away in December of 1995. Bill became a member in 1984 and a net control operator in 1988. In 1989, President Hugh Wilson named Bill Manager and Secretary of Hams For Christ. Bill served in that dual capacity until May of 1992 when President Hugh appointed Joe Bennett Administrative Vice President. Bill continued to serve as Secretary until he resigned in October, 1993.
Donald Campie WA9CEA became a member in 1982. He encouraged many who checked in throughout the years to become members by sending them his QSL card. Other early contributors to the net were Bill Brown W0OI, Jim KC9LN (now W9LN), John Haskel KF0EI, Joe Buchmann W0ZLE, Al Payne K9EVH, and V. R "Van" Van De Loo N0IDA. More recent contributors include Joe Bennett K9LTO, Milt Poulos, KA9FON, Bob Price, K9BP, Larry Comer KC9NX, Leon Priest N4TFK, Dorsey Crossland WB0BBL, Jack Oyler AA5EM, Floyd Bennett KF9AA, Vance Lochenour W9CNL, and Ted Aynes KI5XN.
The Hams For Christ fellowship net is not appreciated or respected by all amateur radio operators. As it is in our broader society, some of them are openly hostile. Some who claim to be Christians are not always tolerant of the beliefs of others. We have experienced deliberate interference in the form of carriers and noise placed on our operating frequency. Some have engaged in verbal confrontation. Members of Hams For Christ are encouraged to be tolerant and pray for them. In 1991 the Hams For Christ net moved from a frequency that had been used for over 10 years (from 7.2285 MHz. to 7.2335) in order to avoid a conflict with a rather unyielding group in Texas who would began their QSOs early in the afternoon and deliberately overlap our schedule. Recently, another group in Texas has begun using 7.2350, only 1.5 KC above us while our net is in progress. When we have moved down one KC, another group in Texas often starts up on 7.231, only 1.5 KC below us. We can be thankful that most hams are are accommodating and easy to get along with. However, there is no negotiating with foreign broadcast stations. They are becoming more numerous and more and more powerful. During the winter months they make operating on 40 meters a real challenge.
In May of 1992, due to health problems, the late Hugh Wilson WB0HUP was told by his doctor to disengage from all stressful activity. Upon hearing this, Bill Best KA9MOQ, Manager and Secretary, informed Hugh that he did not want to assume the overall administrative responsibilities. Hugh asked Joe Bennett K9LTO to become President. After conferring with both Hugh and Bill, Joe agreed to serve as an "Operations Vice President" until he could ascertain his ability to administrate the net and see how the members would respond to his leadership. Bill remained Secretary until October, 1993 when he resigned. Joe, with President Hugh's approval, appointed Milt Poulos KA9FON to replace Bill as Secretary. Larry Comer KC9NX was appointed Treasurer. On February 9, 1994, the 13th anniversary of Hams For Christ, President Hugh WB0HUP announced his retirement as President and appointed Joe Bennett K9LTO to succeed him. Joe served for six years as President, until February 9, 2000. He named Milt Poulos KA9FON Manager Secretary of Hams For Christ, giving Milt the administrative authority of Hams For Christ. In March, 2000 Milt named Jimmy Cohenour W9LN the Net Manager. Jimmy had served in that capacity when Bill Best KA9MOQ was Manager Secretary.
On January 20, 1993 Joe mailed out a news letter to all the members of Hams For Christ, several responded with contributions toward the expense and asked him to continue it. It became a quarterly publication and was named "The Amateur Radio Beacon." On April 1, 1994 Milt Poulos was named Vice President of Publications of Hams For Christ and Editor of the Amateur Radio Beacon. The publication soon grew from about 80 subscribers to approximately 200 and by mid 1995 had become a bi-monthly publication. For personal reasons Milt was forced to resign as Editor. However, he continued to serve as Secretary. After a six month interruption of the newsletter, Mark Zoeller KB9LHW volunteered to become the Editor. He suddenly resigned after producing only one issue. President Joe K9LTO assumed the responsibility of temporary editor and began advertising for a volunteer. After two years no one had volunteered and Joe discontinued publication with the January 1999 issue. The last few issues of the Beacon had also been placed on an internet web page. It was continued there until April 1999. Some of the contents were moved to the Hams For Christ web page. Other features of the Beacon was placed on the family web page of Joe K9LTO with a link from the Hams For Christ web page until after Joe resigned the office of President.
Jim Norman KF9TK who passed away suddenly in March of 1996 had researched how Hams For Christ could make use of the Internet and Packet Radio. He posted the Hams For Christ net schedule and some of the articles from the Beacon on a Chicago packet bulletin board. In July, 1998 the first Hams For Christ Internet web site was designed by Leon Priest N4TFK. This demonstrated how a web page for Hams For Christ could be linked to a Prayer Watch page and one of the Amateur Radio Beacon.
The first membership meeting of Hams For Christ was held on June 12, 1993 in Granite City, Illinois. Approximately 40 people attended. It was coordinated by Jack Oyler AA5EM and was held in the facilities of the Central Baptist Church. Hugh Wilson WB0HUP was honored and presented a certificate of appreciation for his long and faithful service to Hams For Christ. Bill Best KA9MOQ, though not present, was also honored. A certificate of appreciation was mailed to him. John Anderson W0GEE flew down from Minneapolis, Minnesota with his violin and provided special music. The meeting consisted of prayers, hymn singing, introductions, and testimonies by those in attendance. Marvis Woodworth shared her poetry with group. A gospel message was presented by the local pastor. Several who attended suggested that another meeting be scheduled in 1994.
The second membership meeting was held on June 4, 1994 in Springfield, Missouri in the facilities of the Bible Baptist College. It was well attended and followed the format of the first meeting. While in session, President Joe K9LTO asked for recommendations of the members present. It was discussed how contact could be maintained with those who had stopped checking in for no known reason. Joe asked Burney Choate WB0RNO to take a leading role in communicating to them by telephone or letter. Glenn Elkins KB0JZU provided special music throughout the day. Rev. Floyd Bennett KF9AA brought a gospel message during the morning session. It was followed in the afternoon by a message from a local pastor.
On June 17, 1995, the third meeting of Hams For Christ returned to Central Baptist Church in Granite City, Illinois. John Anderson W0GEE also returned with his violin and again provided special music. Although attendance was less than at previous meetings, those who did attend certainly enjoyed the fellowship. Interest was expressed in scheduling another meeting in 1996, but Jack Oyler AA5EM suggested we defer scheduling until it could be ascertained that more members could attend. Several have recently asked when another meeting will be scheduled, but when a distant location is mentioned, interest seems fade.
Although the Hams For Christ fellowship net is not a public broadcast, short-wave listeners often listen in. Five persons who are not ham operators have been made honorary members of the fellowship. The first two were husband and wife, Marlin and Marvis Woodworth. Marvis has written many poems that have been read on the net and published in the Amateur Radio Beacon.
October 1993, President Joe asked Bob Price K9BP to coordinate the many prayer requests that were being made on the net. Bob organized a "Prayer Watch" group of members who would commit to pray daily for the many prayer requests. Bob began sending updated lists of prayer requests to them and reported how God had answered their prayers. In July, 1998, Milt KA9FON, established an "e-Groups" web page where the prayer requests and reports are posted. Brother Joe Bennett and Bob Price have since been called home by our Lord and Savior. But their wonderful works for His Name will always be remembered.
In this new millennium, we can only guess what the future may hold. As it is with amateur radio in general, many of the members of Hams For Christ are entering their twilight years of life. Changes in technology continue to come at a rapid pace, but the purpose of Hams For Christ remains unchanged--to share the unchanging gospel in a changing world. As we review our history we remember many blessings of yesterday. As we look ahead we must work while it is still day, for night comes when no man can work. May Hams For Christ always be faithful to teach the Word, encourage the saints, praise our Lord and Savior, and be a blessing to all who participate in the fellowship.