Strength for the Journey
History of Pilgrim Radio
It all started with a businessman named Art Storrs and a desire God placed in his heart to reach people in the Reno area with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Nevada was an unlikely place for a Christian radio station. It’s one of the least-churched states in the country, has a 24-hour casino industry and entertainment lifestyle, and legalized prostitution in some areas of the state. Obviously, Nevada wasn’t a Bible-Belt state, but Art was convinced God had a plan, and he never wavered in the belief “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:20.
In 1958, Art, along with two other men, began praying regularly for God to provide a Christian radio ministry to reach their community. Back then, Christian radio stations were rare anywhere in the country, and these men had no broadcasting experience nor did they have the means to fund such an enterprise. But they believed God would provide a way to bring the Christian community together for such a purpose.
They began spreading their vision to others and studying the IRS rules for establishing a non-profit organization, as well as the FCC rules for creating a listener-supported commercial-free radio station. The organization, Western Inspirational Broadcasters, Inc. (now dba Pilgrim Radio) was formed in 1962. They were on their way!
Raising needed funds became the next challenge. That process took eight long years from incorporation until KNIS-FM signed on the air as Nevada’s first Christian radio station on Thanksgiving, 1970. During the long wait, there were many who were skeptical that it would happen at all—especially in a place like this. But Art never doubted God would bring it about in His time.
The station began its operation in a trailer home with one employee, General Manager Cliff Denney.
Cliff gathered a host of volunteers to assist in operating the station. During the early years, KNIS-FM had to sign off the air overnights, due to a lack of staffing/funding. But then a retired pharmacist from Reno, George Lind, offered to volunteer his time, sacrificing six nights a week to be at his post at the station so Christian programming could stay on the air 24 hours a day.
That volunteer tradition has continued to this day. Our small staff is supported by many volunteers serving on the Board of Trustees, in our program department, buildings and grounds, assisting with monthly mailings, and providing engineering services.
During the 1970s, the KNIS signal grew to cover several communities in Nevada and Eastern California through the use of FM translators. In 1980, Tom Hesse, who had formerly been Program Director, became General Manager and held that position for several decades. Under his leadership, the coverage area expanded into Wyoming in 1990, when Casper’s 100,000 watt KCSP-FM signed on as the first non-commercial Christian FM radio station in that state. Throughout the 1990s, a network of translators sprang up across Wyoming and into Billings, Montana, extending the signal even further.
Today, the ministry operates nine FM radio stations and 28 FM translators (repeaters), located in parts of Nevada, California, Wyoming, and Montana. Programming is also streamed on our website, as well as on Pilgrim Radio apps for smartphones and tablets, and Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices. These technologies allow people far beyond the signal of our FM stations to enjoy commercial-free Christian teaching, Bible reading, and music no matter where they live. Indeed, we have streaming listeners from coast to coast in the United States in addition to a growing list of international countries such as Malta, France, Madagascar, Hungary, Brazil, Germany, Nigeria and elsewhere.
From the beginning our intention has been to faithfully and carefully declare God’s Word and explain its meaning. We continue to pursue that goal wherever, whenever, and however the Lord leads.
Our founder, Art Storrs, never would have imagined the little radio station he initiated in 1970 would ever have the ability to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ via the internet. He would be the first one to give God the glory and the praise for the great things He has done!