US broadcaster WMLK, from Bethel, Pennsylvania resumed broadcasting at the end of June 2022 with a new 450 kW transmitter on the frequency of 9275 kHz. In the spring of 2017, the WMLK radio transmitter building caught fire and the transmitter originally built in 1975, and which worked reliably until the fire, was completely destroyed. We take a look at the history of this shortwave station, and the step by step reconstruction after the fire, with exclusive photographs courtesy of WMLK.
By: Martin Butera (LU9EFO – PT2ZDX)
The Beginnings of WMLK (9275 kHz)
WMLK is a shortwave radio station located in Bethel, Pennsylvania, and is owned by the Assemblies of Yahweh organization.
Curiously, its indicative WMLK derives from the consonants of the Hebrew word “malak”, which means “messenger” or angel.
The first Assemblies of Yahweh radio broadcasts began in 1966 and were called “Sacred Name broadcasts.”
Jacob O. Meyer, the president of the Assemblies of Yahweh at the time, wanted to find a way to have his own radio programs without having to resort to expensive rental of free space on commercial radio stations.
It was in this way that after long discussions within the Assemblies of Yahweh, they decided that having their own radio station would be more appropriate.
Its first somewhat experimental transmissions begin in 1981, there is also a public archive of the organization itself, where a photograph of Jacob O Meyer himself is shown making the first transmission in the original 50 KW shortwave equipment, with a marked date. on April 22, 1984.
But it was not until 1985 that they were granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and began their regular broadcasts, then over the years the station was authorized to increase power.
To work on the technical assembly of everything related to the station, both in its beginnings and in the reconstruction after the fire, the deacon (yours truly), Gary McAvin, who after moving to Bethel with his family, worked in the transmitting plant for more than 40 years.
The station’s antenna is a custom curtain array, and is supported by large poles.
The Assemblies of Yahweh itself believes that WMLK’s large antenna reveals a shape of a trumpet or shofar (Jewish liturgical instrument used to accompany sacred texts).
The the large antenna can be easily seen on Interstate 78 (major east-west interstate highway in the northeastern United States), as it approaches Pennsylvania.
Who was Jacob O. Meyer?
Jacob O. Meyer (November 11, 1934 – April 9, 2010) was the founder and president of the Assemblies of Yahweh.
Among his roles he was also a farmer, broadcaster, translator, preacher, counselor and writer.
He was regarded as a scholar, rabbi and spiritual leader. He taught at the Dalet School and the Obadiah School of the Bible, as well as pioneering two monthly magazines, The Narrow Way and The Sacred Name Broadcaster.
Meyer became a full time minister in 1970 of the Assemblies of Yahweh.
The name “Assemblies of Yahweh” comes from the Hebrew name for the worshipers of Yahweh, which comes from the Hebrew scriptures, the Quhal Yahweh (Gospel translations into Hebrew).
Meyer was honored on March 21, 2004, for more than 40 years of dedication and strength in sending the ministry’s message to the world.
Meyer served as a board member of the National Association for Shortwave Broadcasting, and was nominated as Philadelphia Township Sheriff, a position he said he had not sought.
Many Dxers around the world have letters written by Jacob O. Meyer, responding to reports received from him, thus demonstrating the great passion and amount of time he spent personally responding to DXers.
Who was Gary A. McAvin?
Gary A. McAvin (October 4, 1944 – January 7, 2022), was the Broadcast Manager and Engineer for WMLK Radio, Bethel, Pennsylvania, for over 40 years.
With an academic background in electricity (master’s), electronics, legal aid, biblical theory, and criminal justice, Gary A. McAvin embraced a wide range of disciplines while pursuing his academic pursuits.
Gary A. McAvin also graduated summa cum laude, focusing on both legal aid and criminal justice. He earned his Bachelor of Science after completing his studies at Quest-Kaplan University in Davenport, Iowa.
A member of the Golden Key International Honor Society, Alpha Beta Kappa and Alpha Phi Sigma, Gary A. McAvin maintains his membership in three exclusive academic societies.
As a curious fact, Gary A. McAvin was also a talented musician, he played the Spanish guitar and liked to interpret classic works by Andrés Segovia, Fernando Sor, among others…
He owned several guitars, including a vintage Amalio Burguet instrument made in Spain, a Samick LaSalle JZ-4 designed by Greg Bennett with Seymour Duncan pickups, a 1983 Ibanez Electric, and an Alvarez 12-string acoustic guitar.
Returning to shortwave, Gary A. McAvin played a major role in the rebuilding of the original 50-kilowatt (kW) shortwave transmitter, as well as assisting in the entire build and design of the current transmitter and antenna array.
The Story of the Old and New Transmitters of WMLK
The history of the old WMLK transmitter dates back to 1985, when they began broadcasting on shortwave using an RCA BTA-50G.
These transmitter models were first produced by RCA in 1947. WMLK’s transmitter had to be specially modified to be able to transmit in the station’s allotted shortwave frequency spectrum.
With that old 50 kW transmitter, the station was heard on every continent in the world and in many counties in the United States.
As I mentioned earlier in the spring of 2017, the WMLK Radio transmitter building caught fire and the old transmitter that worked reliably until the fire was completely destroyed.
In the same summer of 2017, the station began a long project, to rebuild its facilities and buy a new transmitter.
The new shortwave transmitter would now be manufactured by the Ampegon company and would be of high power from 300 to 450 kW.
Ampegon’s state-of-the-art transmitter features a high performance PSM power supply, the latest filtering technology and an intuitive control system, called UCS. which allows the entire transmitter to be operated from a single touch screen, or even remotely over the Internet.
These features provide significant benefits over the traditional generation BBC transmitter, including increased electrical efficiency, significant improvements in reliability, and the ability to quickly re-tune.
The idea was to return the following year, the first stipulated date was for the station to be back on the air in October 2018, but it was not an easy task.
They encountered a great challenge, a powerful transmitter requires truly special installations.
They had to work on a new power supply room to transform power from 13.2 kV to 16.2 kV, also on a cooling system for steam cooling of tubes, as well as another chiller unit for cooling of cabinets and other components.
They also worked on the new 480 power supply to control the older units.
They had to make upgrades to the antenna and balun to handle higher power levels and everything else required to house the additional parts needed for continued operation.
Then there were some delays with some spare parts and some problems were found in the transmitter, which took a long time to make the necessary technical corrections.
Of course, all this added an additional cost to the overall project, which was not easy for the organization to raise the money.
Then they encountered the Covid 19 pandemic, which once again delayed the project.
On January 7, 2022, Gary A. McAvin passed away, who had worked as a broadcast engineer at WMLK for more than 40 years and was always in charge of the technical part of the organization.
Despite the loss of the organization’s technical engineer, he continued to work on the final tests and adjustments, first with a power of 175 kW, then he took the transmitter to 300 kW, to finally bring the transmitter to its final power of 450 kW.
This happened at the end of June 2022, ending a long road of more than 5 years, to return to the air.
WMLK “The Prophecy Fulfilled”
The Assemblies of Yahweh fervently believes that the station has fulfilled the prophecy of their savior Yahshua the Messiah found in Matthew 24:14.
According to the belief of the members of the Assemblies of Yahweh, it is that thanks to the almighty Yahweh, it is that the voice of the messenger is heard flying through the air as if he were an angel.
They say that the station’s signal is a warning voice and is heard in many different places where literature and other media cannot reach. “But now Yahweh gets the glory in all the earth!”
“One of the most exciting things about the shortwave radio signal is that Almighty Yahweh can send the signal anywhere He pleases!”
They believe that they just have to point the antenna in the direction they want to transmit and then the various celestial phenomena will push the signal to different places.
“No one can control where the signal goes! Truly the hand of Yahweh Almighty is at work with this radio signal. He will direct the signal and the great power of him will also make the voice easy to understand, as in the apostolic days”.
The Assemblies of Yahweh is a nonprofit religious organization with international headquarters in Bethel, Pennsylvania, United States. The organization developed independently of a radio ministry started by Jacob O. Meyer in 1966.
During all its years, The Assemblies of Yahweh, was also involved in controversy and was often called a sect, accusing its founder Jacob O. Meyer of having only founded a group of dissidents within the Sacred Name Movement.
The WMLK station, we can say, has been used to broadcast his sermons and Bible studies all over the world.
According to data from the station , the key target areas were always Europe and the Middle East, but as we all know the signal waves are not limited and reach other continents as well.
WMLK Radio has been broadcasting almost full time since 1985 and it was a long way to reach its peak power of 450 kW today.
They started with 25 kW, then 50 kW, then 250 kW and now 300/450 kW.
With the objective very clear, since the creation of the radio, they knew that they had the need to cover larger areas so that a stronger signal could be easily picked up.
For an organization like the Assemblies of Yahweh, the WMLK station was always a very expensive project.
Jacob O. Meyer, the founder of the Assemblies of Yahweh, together with the engineer and chief of operations of the station, Gary A. McAvin (both now deceased), always believed that their message could not be stopped at the border of a given country, Knowing that many people only have access to information via radio, they decided to bet everything on shortwave.
You can tune in to this station on 9275 kHz.
WMLK website: https://wmlkradio.com/
This article was written based on public data provided by the “Assemblies of Yahweh” organization and by the WMLK radio station itself, through its websites, and various promotional material.
The photos shared in this article are courtesy of the WMLK.
On July 21, 2022, the following email and photos were posted to the WOR (World of Radio) mailing list:
I was in the USA in June and put WMLK into operation.73 de Bodo, DF8DX
Currently they only broadcast on 9275kHz in AM (daily except Saturdays, 1300…1800 local time). They are testing something with various settings (DCC, power, etc). In the next few months, the 15150kHz will also be put into operation. The antenna doesn’t allow it at the moment.
More work will probably be done in October (when all the material is there). There should then be a DRM upgrade and a few remaining works to be carried out. WMLK is very interested in reception reports. They would also like to send QSL cards again. This has probably already been done in the past, but they no longer have any cards.