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David Mainse: "100 huntley Street".


A helicopter climbedslowly above a barren African plateau. David Mainse, the big man in the copilot's seat, checked his watch. In just 12 minutes the craft would land with the last shipment of the day--another ton and a half of gran for a starving tribe in central Sudan. The trip over jagged terrain would have taken three days by truck.

Mainse relaxed. He hadcome a third of the way around the world to make sure his promise to television viewers was being kept. For three months, he had invoked prayer for African drought victims over his hour-long television show, "100 Huntley Street" (the address of his studio in Toronto).

At first, he had not asked his viewersfor money (he almost never does), but money began coming in anyway--enough eventually to provide two helicopters and a crew to fly and maintain them as well as to fund projects in four countries--Angola, Burkina Faso, the Sudan, and Mozambique.

This time was not the first DavidMainse' regular viewers had responded, unbidden, to a distant catastrophe. When a major earthquake devastated the Italian hill town of Lioni in 1981, a video team from Crossroads Christian Communications, Inc. (CCCI, the parent company for "Huntley Street"), happened to be taping in the vicinity for a weekly Italian-language telecast. The film crew's coverage of the earthquake scene, shared with news departments around the world, moved the hearts of viewers everywhere. To the astonishment of all at 100 Huntley Street, money started pouring in--so much money that David Mainse pledged on the air every dollar would go directly to the relief of the victims. As a result, 38 prefabricated homes were sent to the town along with volunteer crews to erect them.

Regular viewers of "100Huntley Street" are not surprised at Mainse' instinctive benevolence. They have come to trust his instincts and to take him at his word, for Mainse is a country pastor at heart. Raised on an uncle's farm in the Ottawa Valley (his clergyman father was a missionary in Egypt), young David was a bit of a rebel in his teen-age years. A varsity tackle in high school, the only thing he enjoyed as much as crashing through the line to grab a ball carrier was opening up his 100-mph Harley Davidson 74--until he met Christ.

After that things changed rapidly. Upongraduation, he started work as an interim teacher in Chalk River, a northern Ontario railroad town. The job had one drawback: Some local boys were content to remain in the middle grades until they reached 17, when they would no longer be required to attend school. A rowdy lot, they had just chucked the principal out the window, and the district school inspector was counting on young Mainse to be a "settling influence."

Entering his classroom forthe first time, he found himself ignored by the older boys, intent on an arm-wrestling contest in the back of the room. Walking up to them, "Mr. Mainse" took off his coat and challenged the victor to a similar duel. The boy, the son of a freight-yard boss, grinned and winked at his friends. He was at least as large as the new teacher.

As Mainse gripped the boy'shand, he said a silent prayer of gratitude for every 80-pound bale he had thrown, every tree he had felled, every blocking sled he had hit. The boy, cheered on by his friends, applied maximum pressure for a quick put-down.

Sweat beaded on Mainse' brow ashe held the boy off. The young teacher soon realized he would win, but instead of quickly forcing the boy's arm back, he allowed the battle to continue for a time. Only Mainse' opponent was aware that his teacher had secretly allowed him to save face. Mainse had no trouble with discipline after that.

The best thing about that semester,however, happened outside school when 25 young people came to the Sunday school Mainse had started. Mainse' success as a teacher and a preacher persuaded him to go to Bible college. There he met a petite brunette, Norma-Jean Rutledge. They were married in 1958, while he was still in college. After his ordination, their first assignment was to build a church in another Ontario town even farther north: Deep River.

In 1962, television was makingits way into northern Ontario; Mainse belived he could use this new medium in his ministry. The nearest studio, in Pembroke, 42 miles south, agreed to give him 15 minutes on Saturday night, after the eleven o'clock news from Toronto. It would cost him $55--more than two weeks salary! Nevertheless, certain of God's guidance, he decide to take the risk.

A trio called the King's Men (twoof whom were Norma-Jean's brothers) started off the first show. They were followed by a brief but powerful presentation of the gospel. Afterward, the station received so many calls in praise of the program that it was made a regular feature. By far the most gratifying response, however, was a phone call that awakened the young preacher at 5:00 a.m. Sunday. He knew the caller, a Deep River man named Harry with a drinking problem about to destroy his marriage and break up his family. Harry, his voice cracking with emotion, said he had watched the program and given his life to Christ. He would be in church that morning to tell people what had happened.

That call was the beginning ofDavid Mainse' television ministry. It long remained secondary to his pastoring, but it continued to grow, first to two half-hour programs a week--"Crossroads" and a new program for children, "Circle Square." Finally, in 1976, Mainse decided to risk everything and to go into full-time daily Christian television. The show's format--guests, musicians, and a phone bank for two-way communication--would resemble the "700 Club" in the States, but it would have its own distinct personality.

On June 15, 1977, live from a studioin an old gymnasium, under lighting that came on less than two minutes before air time, the first telecast of "100 Huntley Street" went on the air. Mainse winces when he sees re-runs of that first attempt. Everything that could go wrong, did, including a stagehand backing slowly into the range of the only camera still functioning. At one point, the shooting script became such a shambles that Mainse called out to his wife, scheduled to sing later: "Wing it, Norma-Jean!"

Today, "100 Huntley Street" productionsare among the smoothest and most innovative done anywhere, and its programing for young people has won numerous awards. (One thing has not changed: Every morning at five, David Mainse keeps the promise he made to God at the outset. For each minute he spends on camera, he devotes a minute beforehand to solitary prayer in his private office.)

Initially, some Canadian pastorswere skpetical of this home-grown television evangelist. But few are today: The program's 56 phone-counseling centers in Canada and its nationwide center for the United States in Rockford, Illinois, have received more than a million calls. Countless lives have been renewed, marriages saved, and families restored. Indeed, almost every pastor within viewing range can point to at least one or two new families in his congregation as a result of "100 Huntley Street."

Yet Mainse still receives criticism,especially from the secular media. Recently, during a guest appearance on a Canadian Broadcasting Company talk show, he was accused of paying himself a huge salary and of accepting lavish corporation perquisites--a house, a fancy car, and so forth.

But his adversary had madea mistake in trying to blindside this former lineman. Mainse calmly declared that he lives in a modest apartment, drives a five-year-old car, and earns less than the cameramen who film him. And he offered to produce his most recent tax return to prove it.

CCCI is supported solely bycontributions, yet few ministries in Canada (or in the States, for that matter) deliver more bang for the buck. The corporation has developed multilingual shows in 15 languages besides English. They include "Signs of the Times" for the deaf.

The most widely seen are, ofcourse, the French "Au 100 Tuple" and the Italian "Vivere Al 100 Per Cento." The latter, meaning "100 Percent Living," was originally intended for Toronto's Italian-Canadians, whose numbers surpass the combined populations of Pisa and Venice. Today the show is broadcast to more than 60 Italian cities, including the two mentioned.

No one guessed, at first, the eventualramifications of foreign-language programing--until Mainse became concerned about modern Europe's desperate need for a strong affirmation of moral, family-oriented values. He was stunned to learn that only 5 Europeans in 100 go to church and that even fewer have a personal relationship with God.

Television evangelism was an obvioussolution, but Mainse chose not to simply buy air time and export old "100 Huntley Street" telecasts. CCCI's multilingual programing experience had taught him and his broadcasting associates that what might be suitable for English, Canadians, and Americans might be decidedly unsuitable for other ethnic groups; indeed, it might turn viewers against religious programing in any form whatsoever.

It would be better, they decided, tohave Christian groups in each European country originate their own television programing.

And so, for the past threeyears, dozens of young European trainees have been coming to 100 Huntley Street to receive a six-month crash course in everything from basic production to lighting to electronic maintenance. The result: Christian production centers are now in place in Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, West Germany, and Austria, and more countries are on the way.

Although the EuropeanChristian television groups are grateful for the help of "100 Huntley Street," they are most pleased that the Toronto headquarters have made no attempt to control them. When CCCI recently donated a mobile television production unit and a master control center for satellite up-link, it stipulated only that the unit be made available to the Danes, the Swedes, the Germans, or whoever else might have urgent need of it.

Being the catalyst for EuropeanChristian television is hardly the first new ground Mainse has broken. Five years ago, reacting to separatist movements threatening to splinter Canada, he once again took a huge risk to do something experts said was impossible. He literally got his show on the road. Using a mobile stage, a control room, and an up-link system in a 23-vehicle caravan, he broadcast "100 Huntley Street" live every day (except Sundays) from 25 different Canadian cities while he traveled coast to coast all through the month of June.

His most daring endeavor by farwill come this summer, at Expo '86, the world's fair in Vancouver, British Columbia. There, CCCI is erecting the "Pavilion of Promise," the first major pavilion with an evangelical theme ever built for a world's fair (see sidebar).

As those who know David Mainseconfirm enthusiastically, success has not gone to his head. His demeanor after a day's broadcast is evidence. Instead of disappearing the moment the studio lights come down at the end of his daily show, he asks the audience if anyone with a particular need would like to pray with him. No matter how pressing his schedule, he always asks, and he treats those who respond not as a necessary nuisance, but as a congregation of friends. For despite all the trappings of fame, he is still a country pastor at heart.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Manuel, David
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1986
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