I met Athena and Kevin at my favorite smoothie shop just down the street from the Oregon Conference office. Here in Oregon, Athena is one of those people you will always see tirelessly working behind the scenes––setting up events at the Holden Event Center, maintaining the grounds around the conference office, and coordinating with dozens of different groups that caravan in and out of Gladstone throughout the year.
It was a summer morning when we sat down together. I had reached out to ask if Athena might be willing to share a little bit of her life through a weekly storytelling project we do called “Oregon Adventist Stories,” and although she often tries to stay out of the spotlight, Athena finally agreed. She brought her husband, Kevin, along that day to share as well, and at first, I think none of us really knew where to start. The two shared some of their upbringing with me, taking me through so many experiences before Athena said, ‘I do have one more story I’d love to share with you if we have time.’ What she and Kevin shared next was a story that, unbeknownst to any of us, would carry across the country.
‘My husband grew up in an incredibly abusive home,’ she began, ‘His dad used to line them up, point a pistol at each of them and say, ‘You aren’t worth one thin dime.’ He got to a place where he couldn't figure his life out, and he left my son and I for a while.
At the time we had two vehicles; I had a little Honda and he had this big crazy van. He took the van, and I had the car and our little two-year-old. One day I had a meeting, and he came to pick our son up. He had to take the Honda, so he left me the van. When I got in the van to drive home, the radio and the CB were on. I turned them both off and headed home. He took the van back and he left.
He called me the next day ranting and raving that I had done something to his radio. He said, ‘It’s stuck on that K-Love station!’ He was livid thinking that I had damaged his radio. He’d tried to turn the dial, push buttons, nothing would change the station. It was stuck, and it stayed stuck on K-Love for months and months.
My husband and I worked through things and reconciled, and he came back. A while later, our neighbor convinced him to sell him the van. The next day he was blasting rock music from the van! My husband asked him, ‘What did you do to fix it?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know, I just turned on the radio!’
After a couple of weeks our neighbor decided he couldn’t afford the van, so we took it back. My husband drove it around for about one day before it was stuck on K-Love again! Finally, he gave in. If he wanted to listen to music, he was going to listen to K-Love. Eventually you could hear him start to whistle the tunes. I really felt like that radio station had brought us back together.
Years passed. My husband was rebaptized and we had another baby together. The van finally broke down and he decided to get rid of it, but he kept the radio. When he took it out and started fiddling with it, he saw something lodged inside. Stuck down beneath one of the preset buttons was one thin dime.
My husband’s dad told him he wasn’t worth one thin dime, but God said he was. Same words. From his dad it meant, ‘You aren’t worth anything.’ But from God? It meant, ‘You’re worth everything.’”
A few weeks later, armed with this story and a touching photo of Kevin and Athena sitting on the steps of an old building on the conference grounds, I posted the story to the Oregon Conference Facebook page. Within hours the story began to go viral – new accounts that had never before interacted with our page began to comment and share the story, adding their own thoughts and sharing how it had touched them. It was a modern-day miracle story.
It wasn’t long before someone sent the story to a DJ working at one of K-LOVE’s many stations, and I began to receive messages and emails that it was being read on air! When fundraising season began, the story was read again. Donations poured in from people hearing the story and its impact was clear––people began adding ten cents––a dime––to their donations. Instead of $25 or $150, people were giving $25.10 or $150.10, a reference to how the story of one thin dime had touched them.
The story and photo were added to K-LOVE’s 40th Anniversary website at theklovestory.com and in March of 2023, they sent a film crew to capture the story in person. In the middle of April 2023, Kevin and Athena’s story was brought to life in a short documentary video. The video reached thousands of people in just its first 24 hours.
I still get the chance to talk to Kevin and Athena here in Oregon. They are some of the humblest people I’ve met, and I think they still can’t believe the way God continues to use their story to reach others. But think about what’s happened here – two people were willing to talk about what God had done in their lives. They didn’t do it for recognition or out of pride. It was a simple acknowledgment of the powerful, compassionate, overwhelming ways the love of God had moved in each of their stories.
Like a fingerprint, each one of us carries a story that no one else has ever heard – a testimony of God’s work in our lives and the transformation of our character over time. We never know who our story might touch or how they might begin a journey with Jesus of their own when they hear it, but what we do know is that within every story lives a spark – a spark that just might make all the difference for someone else out there. And it all starts with being willing to share it.