Saturday, April 26, 2014

Our Hands-Down Favorite Christian Audio Drama {A Review}

It's a good thing we do not have audio media limits in our house, because if we did, we would have surpassed them time and time again since we received The Brinkman Adventures  Season 2: Episodes 13-24 in exchange for an honest review.

  Brinkman Adventures Review

I don't think a day has gone by without someone in our house listening to a portion of these exciting, often humorous, sometimes moving, and always faith-centered missionary stories.  In fact, since the first day we listened to 4-CD set of The Brinkman Adventures Season 2: Episodes 13-24 we have rarely listened to just one of the 26-minute episodes at a time.  Instead, we often find ourselves enjoying mini-marathons of episode after episode.

What are The Brinkman Adventures?

The Brinkman Adventures are awesome, faith-based audio adventures that take listeners around the globe with a large family of missionaries.  

In Season 2, there is:  

  • Episode 1:  In The Mystery Ring, the Brinkman boys learn about honesty and integrity as a lost ring they find ends up providing for missionaries in another country. 

  • Episode 2:  In the Blue Hat and T-Shirt Bible, a true memoir of a missionary to China keeps listeners riveted, discovering how God (and ingenuity!) miraculously provided for some missionaries.

  • Episodes 3 and 4:  In the 2-part story How Big Is Your God, missionaries find themselves learning to truly trust God for to take care of the details so the big plan of a church being planted in an unlikely place can come to fruition.  The title of these two episodes reverberates in listeners brains long after listening.  (Listen to the 4-CD set and you'll know why!) 

  • Episode 5:  In Mexico By Bus, humor through mishaps and adventures entertains listeners as a message of praise even through trials shines through. 

  • Episode 6: The Treehouse Academy brings true stories of real-life missionaries in Belize to life as the Brinkmans visit the missionaries to deliver a bus and curriculum as well as a full helping of continued adventure. 

  • Episode 7:  The Pirates of Mayan Island (one of my older son's favorite stories) follows the Brinkman boys as they go exploring with new friends in order to find treasure on an old pirate island, but instead find that treasures in Heaven are what is important. 

  • Episodes 8 and 9:  The Sapphire Slaves brings to light that slavery still exists in portions of the world and that some Christian missionaries are going to great ends to stop such injustice.  Powerful, sometimes intense, and definitely engaging, these stories were a favorite of all my children and me. 

  • Episode 10: Hadi’s Choice (which was my daughter's favorite) is inspired by a true story with names and details changed for the protection of those involved.  In it, listeners hear how one missionary family shares their faith, resulting in the conversion of a Muslim friend. 

  • Episode 11:  The Castle of Secrets (my three-year-old's favorite) follows the Brinkmans to a retreat in a castle in France where they unravel a mystery and extend friendship to a hurting friend. 

  • Episode 12On the Run ends the season with a powerful conclusion to the story of the missionaries involved in Hadi's choice.  In doing so, it leaves listeners inspired and encouraged, fortified to be a part of sharing God's love daily.

How Did We Use the Brinkman Adventures and Would We Recommend Them?

Shortly after we received The Brinkman Adventures, I used the audio drama as distraction during a tedious home tidying job.  I told my children that if they would help me sort and clean their manipulative toys I would let them preview the new audio drama CD's I had just received for review.

Much like a spoonful of sugar helps medicine go down, a CD player, The Brinkman Adventures and a bowl  of popcorn helped the sorting and cleaning happen in our house without complaint!

I was admittedly a bit concerned when early in the stories the loss of the Brinkman moms baby twins was mentioned.  We had recently faced a sad and unexpected loss in our extended family and my children were quite sensitive to such things.  Luckily, all unintended upset was quickly quelled as my children became riveted by the mystery and adventure of the rest of the initial Brinkman stories.  In fact, after the popcorn was done and the toys tidied, the kids and I  found ourselves snuggling together to listen to episode after episode and, when my children went to bed that night, the CD player went with them!

From that day forth, The Brinkman Adventures Season 2: Episodes 13-24 became background to crafting and cleaning, focused listening when on the road, and bedtime listening on many nights.  It also was the catalyst for discussions on faith, my prior travels, what missionaries do, how we can be missionaries in our everyday life, etc. 

Essentially, the stories of the Brinkmans and the missionaries they came to know became familiar favorites of our family.  We found ourselves listening to the adventures often and referring to them just as often.  

As we waited for an activity to begin one chilly spring afternoon, my son curled up like a cat in the sunshine on our dashboard and asked, "Mom, can we listen to more until it is time?"

Without question, The Brinkman Adventures Season 2: Episodes 13-24 has been a hit here, so I would recommend the CD-set to others with no hesitation, but with a few caveats

  1. The stories are unabashedly Christian.  If you don't like Christian stories, you won't like The Brinkman Adventures.  If you do, you will likely love them as much as we do.
  2. Many of the stories are real.  That means they contain some danger and violence.  Our family (ages 3+) listened to all the episodes with no problem, but families with sensitive children may want to head the narrator's suggestion before certain episodes that children under 10 listen with mom and dad since some portions do get intense.
  3. Children are behind much of the creation of these stories.  The audio dramas weave real-life stories of one large Christian family and  the missionaries they come to know with fiction.  The children's roles in the adventures are played by the children of the family itself.  They do an excellent job in my opinion, as do the professionals playing the adult characters.  However, some might feel that brief portions of the stories are "hokey".  My children and I did not.  In fact, my children loved not only the stories, but hearing about how the children who act the parts drew inspiration for them.  They want to create their own adventure series! 
A Word to Fellow Catholic Christians

In our home, we take a Philippians 4:8 approach to most things and feel that the Brinkman Adventures contains much that is praiseworthy.  That said, I would feel remiss if I did not share that The Brinkman Adventures is unabashedly Christian, but not Catholic.  

As such, the content of the audio drama episodes support the Doctrinal Statement on the Brinkman Adventure site.  For me and mine, this was not a problem.  It actually opened up countless spontaneous observations and discussions about what makes all Christians similar and how Catholic Christians like our family differ from other Christians.

These discussions began when one of the characters in the audio was describing how a building in Hong Kong would be perfect for a church and school.  My oldest, who was keenly listening to the description and who had recently received the sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time, asked, "Why didn't he mention the confessional?"  And so began a discussion about how different Christians practice faith in different ways.

In the weeks since, such discussions have continued with me pausing the The Brinkman Adventures  audio drama at different times to answer questions and to explain doctrinal differences and with my children randomly coming to me during other activities to share observations and ask questions.

During Holy Week, the discussion climaxed when my children approached me to ask if they could become missionaries, Catholic missionaries, teaching people about the fullness of truth.  Wow!  

Their question was unexpected and powerfully moving to me as an example of how the Spirit worked in them through example of the mission family in The Brinkman Adventures.   Thinking back on it, I pray with honest fervor that all Christians who listen to the The Brinkman Adventures, and of course non-Christians who do as well, are moved as children and I have been moved to live and share God's wonderful love with increased intention!

Inspired by The Brinkman Adventures, my children added a new element to their Easter "egging" adventures this year.  After deciding who they wanted to share their annual secret reminder of God's love with this year, they asked me if I knew if each family was Christians or not.  The children then chose Bible verses they felt would best draw the families into a greater relationship with God, creating scrolls to leave at the door under our "egging" poem.  Witnessing my children hand-picking verses in an effort to be local missionaries was beautiful!

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