Twenty-five years ago, Rita El-Mounayer was standing at a crossroads, unsure where God was calling her. In this special reflection, SAT-7’s CEO remembers how a chance encounter with Dr Terence Ascott and his team from SAT-7 opened a door –– a door she was hesitant to walk through, but one that led to a rich journey of service and faith.

Rita first met the SAT-7 team when she was asked to give a tour of a studio in Beirut. They were looking for talent and challenged Rita to apply as a writer and presenter for their children’s program.  

On the set of Bedtime Stories: Rita’s heart for children led her to SAT-7

Conflicted, Rita prayed in earnest about whether to apply. Then, she says: “I felt God give me a vision: the call of serving the children of the Middle East and North Africa through SAT-7. As I was praying, I saw children in the streets, children barefoot, children eating ice-cream with it dripping on their clothes. I saw children in their school uniforms going off to school, and I saw lots of children having fun. And I felt love for them all! It was the kind of love that feels so strong that you cannot take it anymore; it is too much to bear because you love so much that it hurts. God gave me this huge love, and, in my heart, I heard Him tell me, ‘Rita, I don’t need your skills and I don’t need you to look good in front of the camera. All I need is for you to be a channel taking My love to these children. Human love often ends or changes, but My love is unfailing. It is always there.’” 

Rita El-Mounayer and Dr Terence Ascott at SAT-7 TÜRK AGM, Istanbul, Turkey, in May 2019

That moment was 25 years ago. Today, Rita has been SAT-7’s CEO for the past two years, bringing her wisdom from decades of serving in this unique media ministry – her expertise in production; broadcasting excellence; effective, culturally sensitive witness; and working with partners – to her visionary leadership today. This wealth of experience, along with Rita’s commitment to oneness and working together across the ministry, is particularly important as SAT-7 now looks ahead. 

Over the past two years, Rita has created reporting and working structures to ensure different voices and experiences are regularly brought to the table. “This is especially crucial at times of reflection and evaluation and something we are keen to prioritise after 25 years of working around the clock,” shares Rita. 

Currently, a reflection and learning process on “Holistic Mission” is underway to ensure SAT-7 is equipped, energised, and unified to faithfully respond to the mission of God. Key strategy discussions are also underway for SAT-7’s new three-year strategy, which will be launched in 2023.  

“With the new strategy, our aim is to continue to build on flagship programs, investing in people – those we have, and those we would like to attract to the ministry – and to continue to nurture our video-on-demand and social media platforms. These are foundational components to our next strategy as we build the vision for the next 25 years!” shares Rita. 

Rita speaks at SAT-7’s Europe Vision Meeting in Copenhagen, September 2020 

Whatever unfolds over the next 25 years, Rita is clear about two things: across SAT-7’s ministry, content is king – and Jesus will always lead the way. “We are working hard on our strategy and visions, and I have dreams for SAT-7. But if there is one thing that 2020 has shown me, it is that we can plan all we want, but we never know what is going to happen. It has also reminded me that the most important thing we need to do is focus on God and what He is calling us to do. To continue to create relevant, hopeful, and encouraging content to bring His message to the Middle East and North Africa. Whatever technological advancements may come that will lead to the continued growth of the ministry, it is the content we need to continue to focus on across all platforms, and we will need to invest in talented people to do that,” she shares.   

During these first years as CEO, prayer has been the cornerstone of building oneness between the people who make up the ministry. Ironically, as the world became more isolated, the pandemic offered an opportunity for deeper connection. Rita instigated a weekly prayer call for all staff and those connected to the ministry, to share devotions, worship, and prayer across the globe. “It was extraordinary for me to not be on a plane, but instead, to be able to connect on a different level with staff and supporters from across the world,” she reflects.  

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Contemplating Romans 8:35-39, her most cherished Bible verse, Rita adds: “To feel this connection we have as the Body of Christ in this way was a beautiful way to encourage each other that Christ never leaves us. That nothing can separate us from Him no matter what happens. I believe we all needed this message.” 

There are busy days ahead, and there is so much to be grateful for and to pray for. This year, prayer will be key to commemorating 25 years since SAT-7’s first broadcast. Prayer to thank God for His provision, prayer for protection over our viewers, Partners, supporters, friends, and staff, and prayer for the children of the Middle East and North Africa.  

Filming with schoolchildren for Ears of Wheat in Morocco, 2001

Looking back 25 years to the early days of writing Ears of Wheat, the first program that launched Rita’s SAT-7 career as a writer, Producer, Presenter, Channel Director, and now CEO, it has been a rich and rewarding journey so far for Rita.  

Twenty-five years on, SAT-7 is a trusted media ministry, celebrating record-high audience engagement. It has launched the first Christian video-on-demand platform in three languages and has developed social media and audience engagement strategies to nurture an authentic and dynamic online community of believers. It maintains strong and faithful partnerships and, not least, has a passionate CEO planted firmly in the hope of our Lord Jesus, in His Mercy and His Grace – where she has been rooted for the past 25 years.

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