“When I got this job, it was like…I’ve arrived! I can say ‘Jesus’ on the air,” said the southeast Michigan native. The first Christian formatted station on her resume, she shares the weekday morning JQ-99 microphone with co-host Ace McKay. The newly-paired team began in April.
Although she can now freely share about God and matters of faith with radio listeners, she testifies that her faith carried her through challenging times at previous jobs.
RIDING THE RADIO (AIR) WAVESSabrina Fairchild (her name comes from a 1954 Audrey Hepburn movie) is a graduate of Hope College in Holland, where she studied communications. She likely is best known for her 11 year run teaming with morning show co-host Steve Kelly, first on WSNX-FM and then on the former WOOD-FM (105.7).
“Our job was to make people laugh – take their minds off their business,” she recalled.
“But my motto going into the studio each day was that someone was hurting about something today….I wanted to know hearts.”
During her days at ‘SNX, a station that targets female teens and young adults, Sabrina would receive up to 100 e-mails a day from listeners – some who were very despairing.
Sensing a need, she set up her own website to offer guidance, and would occasionally meet personally with listeners, hearing their stories.
“I would tell them I was going to talk about Jesus with them, and asked if they wanted me to continue,” she said. “And over the years I had that website, not one person said no.”
She would agonize over some of the edgy material she and her morning-show partner would discuss on the air, and said she had to put her job on the line in refusing to discuss some subjects.
That improved in 2005 when the team moved to sister station WOOD-FM, which included a more adult-oriented audience. She even started a Sunday morning faith-based music program there.
FINDING NEW GRACE
Despite her success, less than three years later the radio veteran found herself out of a job after a corporate round of budget cuts. Ironically, she said God had been preparing her for a change.
“Three weeks before, my sister and I had started praying for something different, and I prayed that he would give me a good feeling if I was in his will, and a bad feeling if I wasn’t.”
Sabrina, who is single, was able to find peace in her job loss, but wondered if a return radio was in her future.
The years following her dismissal she refers to as her “grace period.” God, in his grace, had to work on her. But he would provide.
It was during that time that Sabrina completed her book "Faith and the S.T.O.P. Principle - Learning to Surrender, Trust, Obey, and Patiently wait upon the Lord," published in 2010.
There are a variety of topics in the book, some written out of her life experience. “There are all sorts of layers God peels away when you seek him,” she said.
“This will be for the rest of your life – he is refining you like gold. When that doesn’t dawn on you, you ask why and a lot of people give up. I wanted to get it.”
She went back to school to update her computer and audio production skills, began working a syndicated program to different markets across the country, and did “voice tracking” for out-of-town radio stations.
Then it was back into local radio last year - mid-days on hit station 95.7 FM. But the newly-formatted station was still finding itself, its music mix and its audience, and she was another casualty in a succession of station-wide changes.
“We hired Sabrina based on her experience, genuine love for God, and she was well known in the market,” said JQ-99 program director and afternoon drive host Troy West.
“Not only is she a real pro on the air with high standards, she has become one of the spiritual leaders of our ministry.”
She admits that she’s still getting her feet on the ground with her new roles: a new station, new co-host, and new listeners who may not be familiar with her.
McKay has appreciated the approach of his co-host.
“Sabrina is one of the most spirited people I know. She has a tender heart for people and a great love for the Lord,” he said.
Sabrina is now finding a new on-air balance. To be part of an entertaining, informative and fun morning show, yet also to engage in ministry with listeners through encouraging interaction, uplifting music, and well-chosen words and topics.
“You can’t be serious all the time, but you can’t deny that we live in tough times and people are bombarded with so much,” she added.
“So how to be ministering in all of that…I take that very seriously.”