Westmont Magazine Voices in Panama
One afternoon, missionary Bob Hall ’49 attended the funeral of a long-term listener to HOXO, a Christian radio station in Panama. As he approached the church he heard music he recognized from his station. Perplexed, he asked the pastor if the church had bought a public address system to broadcast the program. The pastor laughed and replied that the woman asked her family to buy new batteries for her portable radio, tune it to HOXO at the highest volume and put it in her coffin when she died. Bob recounts, “All the way to the cemetery, and as they filled in the grave, you could still hear it! I’m hopeful the heavenly choirs sounded much better to her.”
Bob ’49 and Doris Tobias ’50 Hall helped introduce Christian radio to areas of Latin America. Radio wasn’t their intended means of reaching people when they left the United States. But they arrived in Argentina in 1954, when the regime that deposed the Peron government allowed anyone to purchase broadcast time. In 1958, they worked with other missionaries to prepare short programs to reach a wider audience than they had ever thought possible.
“Radio is a means of reaching people by entering places behind locked doors, barred windows, inside fences and guarded gates,” Bob explains. “Most of the high-rise apartments fit this description. With radio, we can get past these obstacles.”
After returning to the United States for the birth of their third child, the Halls went to Panama to help run HOXO. While raising their children, they were able to reach out to students at the local university, teach English classes using the Bible as the text and hold vesper services led by radio talent.
Raising their kids on foreign soil wasn’t nearly as challenging as they expected. In Panama, the three children attended school in the Canal Zone, which allowed Bob and Doris to continue their work as well as be involved with their kids’ education. All three graduated with honors and attended Westmont. Nancy Hall Hurn ’74 and her family live in San Diego, where she is food services administrator for Scripps Hospital. David ’76 and his wife and daughters live in Miami. He is the director of research and statistics at Florida International University. Fifth-grade teacher Shirley Hall Diaz ’81 and her family live in Wheaton, Ill.
During more than 40 years of missionary work in Latin America, the Halls witnessed many changes in the culture and are pleased to see the growth of strong, evangelical Christians in the rising middle class. Churches are expanding, becoming more self-reliant and spreading the Gospel themselves. They are less dependent on American missionaries.
“Radio HOXO is now growing on its own and is self-sufficient financially,” Bob notes. “There are competent Latin people filling all facets of the task at hand. God has blessed and is continuing to bless them as they keep their focus on His word.”
The Halls live in Orange County, Calif., and are enjoying their five grandchildren. Bob currently serves as chaplain at Irvine Regional Hospital.