Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a version that first appeared in the Alaska Conference’s newsletter the Sinew.
NOME, AK (June 22, 2017) — When Patty Burchell was a schoolteacher in California in 1998, she began receiving KICY’s newsletter. She was not sure how she came to be on the mailing list of this seemingly obscure radio ministry of the Arctic, and little did she know that God was beginning a journey with her that would ultimately lead to serving as the general manager almost twenty years later.
Burchell began her new position as general manager on May 15, 2017. She succeeds Dennis Weidler, who retired this year.
“I first came to Nome in 1999. I needed a break from teaching,” she said. “After seeing in every KICY newsletter the words, ‘If you can give us a year, we can teach you radio,’ I decided to contact KICY. Dave Oslund, (who was general manager at the time), graciously accepted me, though I had no previous radio experience.”
Her one-year commitment turned to two as she served as the music director until 2001. Burchell subsequently returned to California, but she left her heart in Alaska. Between 2001 and 2014, she made regular trips back to volunteer for short-term stints.
During that time, Burchell filled in for vacationing on-air staff, brought teams for KICY work projects and helped with vacation Bible school at Nome Covenant Church. She produced remote Iditarod reports for on-air use during the 2011-2015 races. She also joined the Board of Trustees in 2011.
The KICY fiftieth anniversary celebration in April 2010 marked a turning point in Burchell’s life.
“At that closing worship service, I had an overwhelming sensation,” she recalls. “I borrowed a pencil and piece of paper from Candace Weidler (Dennis’s wife), who was sitting next to me. I wrote down what I sensed God was telling me: ‘Nome was home, Sonora—where I was living—was my mission field, and one day I’d get to come home.’”
Five years later, in 2015, Burchell returned to the radio station, where she has since been volunteering full-time as the AM and FM program director.
If you can give us a year, we can teach you radio.
“As Dennis’s retirement drew near, I was encouraged to apply for the position. Daily I would walk the Nome beach on my lunch break and pray that God would call a leader—if it was me, great; if not that was fine too,” she says. “Dennis knew that if it wasn’t me, I’d be the one to train the next person, so he began teaching me various aspects of his job a little at a time.”
After a several-month process, the search committee chose Burchell to be the station manager. In addition to the new financial management responsibilities, she continues to her on-air work. She also produces the newsletter, engages in fundraising for the station, recruits volunteers, and coordinates summer work groups.
“Radio can be such an anonymous ministry, so talking to listeners who call in or going to villages to record ‘get-togethers’ and conferences are my favorite part of this job,” Burchell says. “When you do hear from one or two who have been encouraged or comforted from KICY’s ministry, I receive it as an expression of the many, and it gives me joy. It is that human contact that I really appreciate.”
Weidler was thrilled that the committee chose Burchell. “Seasons change, but the work of the Lord remains steadfast,” he said. “I remember as we looked forward to our last months in Nome and at KICY, I had great confidence that Patty Burchell was a true gift of God.”
He added, “She has known, understood, and appreciated the vision and scope of service to our listeners and the community for over 18 years. Her heart was right, and I applaud the decision of Arctic Broadcasting Association to name her as the new general manager.”
With one less person at the station since Weidler’s departure, the current staff is being stretched to cover all the needs, so Burchell finds herself now issuing the call for more volunteers: “If you can give us a year, we can teach you radio.”