With global membership exceeding 20 million, it may be difficult for some readers to recall a time when the Seventh-day Adventist Church was not as large, or as well-known. One of the people who can be credited with putting a friendly face on that then-unknown movement, Del Delker, passed to her rest Jan. 31, 2018, in Porterville, California, her retirement home.
Delker was 93 and had spent 55 years singing for the Voice of Prophecy, Adventism’s first broadcast ministry.
“I can remember as a child growing up in Cairo, Egypt, where my mother would have a record of Del Delker playing and my mother would harmonize with Del’s singing,” world church president Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson recalled in a Facebook post. “When we get to heaven, we will meet many people who were not only blessed by Del’s voice but were influenced by her Christ-centered singing to make a decision to follow Jesus,” he added.
Before Facebook, before Twitter and well before YouTube, radio was the medium of choice to spread the Three Angel’s message. Radio sermons, delivered in a low-key, heartfelt manner by H.M.S. Richards, Sr., a Los Angeles pastor whose first broadcasts were from a converted chicken coop, attracted a following and the “Voice of Prophecy” grew into a national broadcast ministry.
Recognizing that a straight sermon wouldn’t always attract listeners, Richards had a quartet, the King’s Heralds, introduce and close the program. By 1947, Delker had joined the ministry’s team, at first singing occasionally on radio programs. Within a short time, her music was a regular VOP feature.
Delker’s talent, and the global popularity of the Voice of Prophecy ministry, took her around the world, often singing her signature song, “The Love of God,” in one of 15 different languages. Her recordings—as noted in Pastor Wilson’s recollection—had a loyal following. (In a nod to modern media streams, many of Delker’s songs are available via YouTube.)
“The highlights of a career like mine are watching people come to Christ because He used you,” Delker told Stephen Chavez of the Adventist Review in a 2009 interview. “I can’t convert anyone; but the gospel does. And I’ve seen many people who have been influenced by gospel music.”
In a ministry statement, Voice of Prophecy Speaker/Director Shawn Boonstra said, “Del had the ability to preach a sermon through a song. Her face was radiant with the love of Christ, and over and over, I heard people say that listening to her was a taste of heaven!”
The format and style of gospel music may be different today from that of Delker’s prime, but the hope remains: that Christian music, well presented, would be used to reach hearts for Jesus.