Each morning before the sun rises, WIS News 10 Anchor Mary King is up and ready to bring the latest news to television viewers across the Midlands of South Carolina.
While she reports on anything from new jobs coming to the area to the impact of devastating floods to the brave fight of a cancer patient, Mary’s focus is always the same — to be a voice for those who do not have one.
God sharpened that focus during Mary’s first reporting job in Hagerstown, Maryland. She felt God call her to that specific television station, but being hundreds of miles away from home, family and friends left her feeling miserable. “I called my mom every morning crying as I drove to work,” Mary recalls. “I began to pray earnestly to ask God to reveal to me if I had missed something in His plan.”
Finding her Voice…for Others
As she prayed, the Lord continually led Mary to the same verse, Proverbs 31:8-9. In the New Living Translation it says,
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice.”
Not long after that, while on a story, Mary met the family of 9-year-old Christopher Lewis. Christopher, who was dying from cancer, could not walk or talk when Mary went to cover his birthday party for the news. During the party, Christopher’s family played a video of him speaking to his church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) the year before. In the video, he talked about his treatments and hospital visits, and how God is good all the time. The video ended with Christopher leading the group in the song, “God is Good, All the Time.” The moment moved Mary to tears. As she left his house, God brought to mind Proverbs 31:8-9 once again.
“I knew Christopher could no longer speak for himself, but I could be his voice. God used Christopher’s incredible life to reveal the mission He had put on mine,” remembers Mary.
The reminder of that mission is never far away. Mary keeps a plaque on her desk with the same phrase Christopher shared at VBS. The fact that God is good all the time helps Mary when she must cover difficult or disturbing stories. She also relies on prayer because sometimes telling other peoples’ stories can be painful.
“To be honest, there are some times that, as much as I try, I can’t contain my emotions on air. I know that isn’t necessarily what’s expected of a newscaster, but before I am an anchor, I am a human. My heart grieves, and often I think about how God’s heart must be breaking, too. I know, especially in the difficult stories, there are family members and loved ones’ lives that have changed forever,” Mary explains.
A Life-Changing Tragedy
One example stands out. On June 17, 2015, countless lives, families, a community and an entire state were changed forever when a man shot and killed nine members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, during a Wednesday night Bible study. Thirty-six hours after the attack, Mary, along with journalists from across the country, reported near the church.
“My heart was heavy,” Mary says. “There were so many media outside the church and yet everything was so still. I just couldn’t understand or process the kind of hate it would take to do such an evil attack.” While Mary wrestled with why, she also thought about how the victims’ family members had already extended forgiveness to the man who killed their loved ones.
During the morning news coverage, police asked the media to move their equipment to a different location near the church. Once set up in a new spot, Mary did another live report, but this time the backdrop seemed perfectly ordained by God. Back in the studio, the anchor commented on the remarkable sight appearing behind Mary. After the segment ended, she turned around to fully take in what the anchor was describing. What she saw is something she will never forget — the bright sun coming up over the horizon, shining its light on Emanuel AME Church and a wooden cross that stood just outside the building.
Light in the Darkness
In that moment, Mary said she experienced John 1:5, which says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” “It was the physical representation of the spiritual witness the people of that church were bringing to the world,” Mary remembers.The sunrise outside Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston just days after a shooting killed the Emmanuel Nine.
“It was as if God was shouting through the sunrise, ‘I know there’s so much darkness and pain. My heart is breaking too, but I’m still here. Love will win.’”
Mary knows it doesn’t always take a tragedy for truth to be made known. While she often covers difficult stories, she also has the privilege of telling incredible stories about people who do amazing things for others. Many times, the people behind these stories give hope and build better futures, but few know of the good they do. Mary uses the stories to be their voice and demonstrate how love wins through people making a difference in the lives of others.
“How amazing that no matter what field of work we’re in, God has given us all the directive to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). I’m encouraged that whatever the role He calls us to, our mission is the same,” says Mary.
The mission, whether anchor or not, is for every believer to deliver the most important news of all — the story of Jesus and how His light overcomes the darkness. For Mary, that script is written on her heart. It’s the story she can’t help but tell.
Kelly Coakley, a former news anchor, is a proud preacher’s wife and mother. She loves interviewing people and telling stories about lives changed by the Gospel.