Focus on the Family created Adventures in Odyssey to provide Christian families with high-quality entertainment. But the show's lovable characters and engaging stories are not simply meant to entertain. There's something bigger happening behind the scenes. Let's drop in on the Odyssey characters for a closer look at what's really going on....
On a sunny morning in the small town of Odyssey, a Victorian-mansion-turned-ice-cream-shop called Whit's End has just opened for the day. Behind the soda fountain is a grandfatherly mustached man with a twinkle in his eye. His name is John Avery Whittaker, but his friends call him Whit.
WHIT: (smiling to himself) I love this time of the day. It’s so peaceful.
Whit has barely spoken the words when he sees two people approaching: Connie Kendall and Eugene Meltsner, two employees at Whit's End.
CONNIE: (calling) Whit! Will you set Eugene straight before he destroys the minds of every kid in Odyssey?
Connie is an outspoken college student who loves few things more than being around kids ... and a good argument with her co-worker.
EUGENE: Please, Miss Kendall, curb your hyperbole! A Kids' Radio script is hardly the cause for such sensationalism.
Eugene is a 20-something college professor who knows everything about everything ... or at least he thinks he does.
WHIT: All right, calm down, you two. So this ... uh, discussion ... is about the radio drama you're putting together?
CONNIE: Yes. The one about Jesus walking on the water. And if Eugene has his way, it'll be a geography class.
EUGENE: You say that with such a negative implication. Geography class is quite stimulating. Besides, if you have your preference, the children will hear nothing but a banal lesson.
CONNIE: Eugene wants the show to be all about facts and figures.
EUGENE: I merely think it important for listeners to know that the Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel and the lowest freshwater lake on earth! I'm certain they will find such information fascinating.
CONNIE: I'm certain they'll find it tedious and boring....
WHIT: (interrupting) Let’s stay focused. Connie, how would you approach the radio show differently?
CONNIE: Well, the whole reason we’re doing this is so they'll learn, right? So, we have to have a faith lesson. We have to talk about how important it is to trust in Jesus. That's what the disciples learned.
EUGENE: But must the lesson be repeated on every line and page of the script? Must we truly bludgeon our listeners —
CONNIE: (interrupting) So, Whit, who's right? It's me, isn't it?
WHIT: (chuckling warmly) You both are.
EUGENE/CONNIE: We are?
WHIT: And you're both not. Facts and lessons are both necessary when we're putting together these Kids' Radio dramas. You can't tell a story — whether it's true or fictional — without facts. On the other hand, we don't broadcast programs if they aren't teaching something. But there's another part in this puzzle that I'm hoping you don’t miss.
EUGENE: And that is?
WHIT: The very story itself. Stories are more than facts and lessons. They're also about people and emotions. The Bible shows us the importance of good stories again and again. Remember how God sent Nathan to confront King David? The prophet didn't start out by just telling David the facts of what he did wrong. And he didn't just give David a lesson, either. Instead, Nathan wove a story about a poor man and a lamb ... and it got just the kind of emotional reaction Nathan wanted. It immediately convinced David of his guilt.
EUGENE: That's a good example.
WHIT: Or think about how Jesus taught. Matthew 13 says that He used parables — stories — when He spoke to the crowds. And when we read His parables, we see they're emotional and personal.
CONNIE: That's true.
WHIT: The point is that stories are powerful. God created us in such a way that stories can cut through us and shake us to our very souls. Stories can move us and shape us in ways that lessons and facts can't. So keep the story in mind as you're putting together the Kids' Radio presentation. What did it feel like to be in a storm on the Sea of Galilee and then in the presence of Jesus? After you have that foundation, adding your facts can make the story more interesting, Eugene. And the lesson will help the kids apply the story to their lives, Connie.
CONNIE: How come you always know the right thing to say, Whit?
EUGENE: Indeed. God has gifted you with extraordinary eloquence.
WHIT: (smiling) If you keep working at it, I'm sure you both will figure out the right things to say in your radio show, too.
Whit, Connie and Eugene’s discussion about creating radio programs sounds a lot like the discussions here at Focus on the Family when we're creating Adventures in Odyssey audio dramas. Odyssey debuted in 1987, and for 30 years now, we've always tried to find the right blend of facts, lessons and stories. And the first 30 years are just the beginning — we can't wait to see what God has in store for Odyssey and our listeners in the next 30 years! Nathan Hoobler is a longtime writer and producer with Adventures in Odyssey, as well as a lifelong fan of the show.Nathan Hoobler is a longtime writer and producer with Adventures in Odyssey, as well as a lifelong fan of the show.
Odyssey Through the Years
- The first Adventures in Odyssey episode aired Nov. 21, 1987, on 202 radio stations. Odyssey soon became the fastest-growing Christian radio broadcast in history. Today, the program airs on more than 1,550 stations in North America and 250 additional outlets worldwide.
- The series was originally called Odyssey USA, but the name was changed to make the show more appealing to listeners around the world.
- Hal Smith, best known for playing the town drunk Otis on "The Andy Griffith Show," was the original voice of Mr. Whittaker. After Smith's death in 1994, the role of Whit transferred to Paul Herlinger in 1996 and then to Andre Stojka in 2010. Before taking over the role of Mr. Whitaker, Stojka had already stepped into Smith's shoes once before as the voice of Owl on Winnie the Pooh.