I grew up in England in a place called Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield which is in the Midlands. I have been living and working (along with my wife) in Southern French speaking Belgium now for over 20 years, first with the Belgian Evangelical Mission on various different projects and for 10 years and then as pastor in Philippeville but now I work in the Belgian Reformed Church, l’Eglise Unie de Belgique in the towns of Ransart and Farciennes.
My wife Heike is German and grew up in a town called Siegen, which is between Cologne and Frankfurt. She later studied archaeology in Giessen for ten years and obtained her doctorate. Heike, also a member of the Free Evangelical Church in Giessen decided to also study theology but in Germany at the Free Evangelical Faculty. After we got married in the England first and then our church ceremony in Giessen, she joined me in England for our last year of studies. Our three boys, David, Thomas and Sébastien were all born here in Belgium. We actually met in Antwerp in 1993 while helping on a project between the different churches there. I stayed for a couple of weeks on the two barges of the Belgian Evangelical Mission and that’s where we met. As we are living sort of midway between parents in England and Germany this is where we decided to stay and call home, we took the plunge to become Belgian citizens some years ago now which simplified our lives a lot.
When we arrived in Belgium one of the first things that I wanted to do was to find some new friends and not just people connected to my work.
I had always had an interest in radio when I was living in England from my early teens onwards and did attend the Sutton Coldfield Radio Society many years ago with a friend. I followed the radio amateurs course and later tried for my licence but unfortunately I didn’t pass the exam, though I was only 14 or 15 at the time. My uncle who had an old valve receiver in his garden shed had been a real influence on me, I think. My radio interests switched later to CB which was a really big thing where I lived at the time and I constructed my own antennas and stuff. Though this came to an end after a few years when I left school and started work. I studied to be an electrician at Matthew Bolton Technical College in Birmingham before then working as an electrician. Later I would study theology and after quite a bizarre path would end up in Belgium.
In Belgium we settles in a place called Wavre while I did language study and my pastoral training. I wanted to make friends outside of the church so I got myself a CB, started talking to people which led to me, along with my new friends, joining the “Radio Club de Bruxelles” where I followed the radio licence course again but this time in French. I guess I concentrated harder this time because of the language and passed my technical licence (ON1) and couple of years afterwards I took my Morse exam and obtained the full licence (We were some of the last to take the Morse exam in Belgium). My first call was ON1MGM (which was then the technical licence VHF/UHF), after this I became ON4XN (full licence) but after sometime I decided to choose a new more personalised call, ON5REV…
I took short break from the hobby a few years back as I got quite bored with SSB and digital. It was always the same thing. However after a couple of years of looking at my unused shack I decided it was time to get things in order. First starting with my antennas and then getting the shack back together.
I had become interested in WWII code breaking and radio during this time and it seemed like a good idea to once and for all learn CW properly. After starting to learn with various files and web sites and getting increasingly frustrated, I found a book called, ‘Zen and the Art of Radio Telegraphy’ on the FISTS web site. I don’t know much about the Zen part (though I’m sure it’s very beneficial) but the structured daily lessons were really helpful and I made progress at a steady rate. It has been said to me that this is a very old way of learning but I made good progress when other ways of learning the code left me frustrated. In the shack I have a Yaesu ft920 and an Icom 706mkII and run about 50w into a G5RV, nothing special but for cw it works fine for me.
My interest in CW led to an interest in portable qrp and kit building. A while back now I got myself a You Kits HB-1B and at the radio rally in La Louvère I was just too tempted by the Yaesu FT817. I also built a couple of MFJ Cubs, for 40m and 80m which I regularly use in the shack. I would also like to build the 30m and 20m versions but that’s a future project. I often go out and activate SOTA here in Belgium and in Northern France when I have time, like my day off. I’m working through all the Belgian summits quite nicely. Belgium does not have any really difficult mountains now does it? I’m now thinking about when I could tackle a relatively easy mountain.
Other hobbies include motorbikes, photography, music and reading… oh, and beer, why do you think I love Belgium? 🙂 I’m also a member of the World Association of Christian Radio Amateurs and Listeners N° 1461, Fists N°17492 and SKCC N°15652
73s de Stephen ON5REV