CHVN is Winnipeg's only faith-based radio station and it all began with a trip to South Dakota.
Wade Kehler says he and his wife, Lorraine, were visiting the Black Hills in 1986 when they fell in love with a Christian radio station playing in the area.
"In 1986, I said, 'One day, we're going to start one in Manitoba,'" Kehler says, remembering his wife chuckling at the time and hesitantly agreeing.
Upon returning home, Kehler contacted the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and Industry Canada.
"They also politely laughed and said, 'No, that cannot be done in Canada at this time,'" Kehler says.
"There was no way of opening up a Christian radio station in Canada back then."
But the idea remained in the back of Kehler's mind. More than 10 years later, in 1997, Kehler heard from a friend that a faith-based radio station had opened somewhere on the west coast.
"That's when we started working on the CHVN project."
Kehler says he's always had a passion for music in general, but especially Christian music.
"There's so much good in it and there's so much that it can do," Kehler says. "We'd always buy albums and I'd think, 'I wonder if other people could hear this.'
"When that door [for CHVN] opened up, it was like, 'Okay, I think God is calling.'"
Three years of preparation, setbacks
In January of 2000, CHVN finally received CRTC approval and went live on-air for the first time eight months later in September.
"It was an interesting three years [leading up to going live]," Kehler says. "That was a test in patience for me."
Kehler and his team needed to create a business plan that included a seven-year projection and financial considerations -- something Kehler's background in accounting came in handy for.
During this time, Kehler says he experienced many ups and downs, but always felt God called him back to the project.
"We saw God work in so many ways while we were setting up the station," he recalls.
On days where he would question whether or not the project was even meant to be completed, Kehler says God would always show up in some way and renew his passion.
"It was a good growth time."
Lights, camera, radio!
1111 Chevrier Boulevard was CHVN's first physical studio location and where CHVN first made it's debut on the airwaves on Sept. 12, 2000.
Kehler describes that moment as surreal.
"It was so exciting, we had so many friends involved and supporting and standing behind us ... and it was just, when that first song went on the air ... it was just a tremendous feeling, just seeing the fruit of the labour come together and work in the end."
The first song played on CHVN ever? Kehler's a bit fuzzy, but he believes it was Steven Curtis Chapman's "Heaven in the Real World."
The song's title was also what Kehler's team initially intended to be the station's official tag line.
"It was a huge deal, we were the first 100,000-watt Christian station in Canada. Up to that point, most other stations were of smaller power, so we got to reach such a large base in Manitoba and that was kind of our goal," says Kehler.
"We wanted to reach as far as we could."
The early days
Kehler says the beginning of CHVN was "something else.
"I remember going back to the station often at three in the morning or something like that because something would be out, something wouldn't be working ... I got to do everything," Kehler laughed.
He even debuted on-air for two days at one point, which Kehler says he hated.
"That was not for me," Kehler says with a laugh.
But he remembers an "incredible" response to CHVN's launch.
"People across Manitoba, from Winnipeg to southern Manitoba and as far as we could reach to the west, the response was really good ... I don't know how I can explain it, it was very heartwarming."
The first promotion CHVN ever hosted was to give away a car, Kehler recalls. The promotion happened in Landmark, MB and CHVN was given a Grand Am to present to one blessed listener.
"Oh, we had fun with that promotion. I think the t-shirts are still at the station," Kehler says.
But the best part of CHVN's first days for Kehler was exactly the reason he had wanted to start the station: the music.
"For me, that was the biggest thing, was just getting this music out there. It was uplifting, it was encouraging, it was theologically solid and just getting that out there, I think, was the biggest highlight."
Kehler also cherished the chance to learn radio and meet the loyal listeners who made the station's launch such a success back in 2000.
CHVN loves to partner with local ministries today and that was no different when station first launched. Kehler remembers being involved with Compassion Canada and taking trips with the ministry, as well as providing exposure to the cause on-air.
There were also funny moments. "We laughed a lot at ourselves and with others," Kehler remembers.
He heard about a biker group who accidentally turned on CHVN -- and then came to Christ through the station.
He even recalls a young band called Starfield first starting out, which CHVN was one of the first to play on radio.
"It was just a tremendous experience," Kehler says.