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Chaplain’s Prayers Answered Via Expanding Radio Network

Tom Michaels Zahradnik has done about everything on the air and behind the scenes in radio and TV. Now, as an AG marketplace ministries chaplain, he has found his niche as CEO of Sound of Life Radio Network.

Tom Michaels Zahradnik had been involved in broadcasting for a quarter century when he finally discovered how he could blend his career and ministry.

At the time, Zahradnik had done pretty much everything in front of the camera on television and in front of the microphone on radio, as well as everything behind the scenes in both media.

But he knew God had called him to ministry. He had pastored briefly, but that didn’t seem like a good fit. Then Zahradnik came across the Assemblies of God Chaplaincy Ministries and knew he had found his niche. A visit with Chaplaincy Ministries Director Alvin F. Worthley confirmed his commitment.

Since 2008, Zahradnik has been serving as an endorsed AG marketplace chaplain while chief executive officer of the Sound of Life Radio Network based in Kingston, New York.

“It wasn’t until I became a chaplain that I saw the ministry I’m leading is a chaplaincy ministry,” Zahradnik says. “I’m called to be a pastor outside the church walls.”

Sound of Life has been on the air since 1985, and Zahradnik actually worked at the station in the beginning, serving as Sound of Life’s first full-time overnight announcer. Stints in radio and television elsewhere followed, but in 2004 Zahradnik became the CEO as Sound of Life reformatted its programming.

In March 2014, Sound of Life realized a seven-year vision of reaching the greater Albany area. The station’s studios are based in Kingston in the Hudson Valley. The desire of the board and staff to gain an FM frequency in the capital city seemed unrealistic. The FCC had no more frequencies available in the area and whenever one opened up for sale, the asking price cost ran into millions of dollars.

Zahradnik credits Sound of Life’s engineer with prayerful legal maneuvering in securing a 250-watt signal that, for less than $50,000, covers the Albany area. The Flach family in Ravena — grandchildren of an Assemblies of God missionary to Africa Charles Flach — donated a gift for the purchase of equipment to get the Albany signal on the air.

Consequently, Sound of Life has added 350,000 potential listeners in a vicinity that now stretches to the southern edge of the Adirondack Mountains to just north of New York City. Overall, the potential listener audience numbers 1.8 million in six states.

The non-commercial Sound of Life is sustained by donations from individuals, churches, and businesses. In the retooling under Zahradnik’s watch, the network has moved from preaching and teaching religious programs to seeker-friendly Christian contemporary music.

“We don’t want to have a ‘Christianese’ sound,” Zahradnik says. “Our target is the unbeliever who doesn’t know Christ. We know our message is eternal and it can impact a person’s life forever.”

The listening area certainly is a prime mission field. A 2014 American Bible Society/Barna Research survey found Albany to be the “most post-Christian city” in the United States. The study also labeled Albany as the second least Bible-minded city in the nation.

“People who are listening in the overnight hours typically need the greatest level of ministry,” Zahradnik says. “They are purposely choosing to listen.”

Zahradnik says Sound of Life helps a wide array of people — prisoners, nursing home residents, business owners, soccer moms — connect to God. The network, as with chaplaincy itself, is the ministry of presence.

“We don’t try to give an answer for everything,” Zahradnik says. “People tune in for hope or encouragement. We try to be the stabilizing factor that points them back to God.”

Many of the listeners are commuters, some going 90 minutes or more to work, and that travel time allows them to think about the message in the music they hear.

“Music is the foundational piece of our programming,” Zahradnik says. “Unchurched people don’t gravitate toward preaching and teaching.”

Zahradnik says Sound of Life isn’t the avenue to disciple new Christians. He says the network is a parachurch ministry designed to support local congregations in their mission to help new believers grow in the context of community.

The network partners with various churches in on-the-ground outreaches such as drive-through prayer. Radio station personnel and church members offer free coffee and prayer to drivers who don’t even need to leave the comfort of their car.

“We want people to know that prayer is a part of following God,” Zahradnik says. “There is so much unfamiliarity with the biblical worldview in this region.”

Zahradnik grew up attending a liturgical church but didn’t know God in a personal way. Although as a teen he seemed by all appearances to be a nice, good-looking kid, Zahradnik says he had a foreboding nature. Zahradnik ended up in a psychiatric hospital as the result of a failed suicide attempt by drug overdose. As a youth he suffered from depression for several years.

Sitting on the floor of a hospital room in tears, Zahradnik says he decided to try God one last time. He told God he needed to know if He existed; otherwise, Zahradnik explained, he had no reason to keep living.

“As soon as I said that it was as if heaven broke open,” Zahradnik says. “I saw the condition of my life. The reason I was in that hospital was nobody’s fault but my own. It was the culmination of all choices.”

At the same time, Zahradnik comprehended that if he surrendered his life to Jesus, the Lord would fulfill the purposes for which he had been born. For the next 20 minutes, as he knelt beside his bed, Zahradnik confessed his sinful condition and asked Jesus to take control. He then felt true peace and caring for other human beings for the first time in his life.

Zahradnik and his wife of 28 years, Cathleen, attend Faith Assembly of God in Poughkeepsie, New York. Cathleen, an ordained AG minister, is on staff as pastor of small groups. Tom volunteers as director of men’s ministry. The Zahradniks have three grown children.

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.