For just over a year and a half Ravi Raccoon has been growing in my imagination as I written his stories. He started off as an experiment out of boredom really. I was struggling to come up with new ideas for the devotions that we were writing for the kids ministry at Southland (it’s never good when you find your own writing humdrum) and so I decided to try writing a story using animals as characters. I have no idea if it was a hit or not, but I have to admit, I had a great time and so I wrote a few more!
The hero of the story was an old raccoon name Ravi who came to love a group of young animals from his forest. He loved to tell them stories about his life and a group of friends he had who formed a secret security force called the Animal Underground. I had fun creating Ravi, giving him a personality and then watching what he did in different situations. Those stories were all written but I wondered if we couldn’t give Ravi more than just life on a page.
So we flirted with a challenging idea – what if we could turn these stories into an audio series for camp. Bird River has a local radio station that can be broadcast over the property which we had used in the past and Ravi was the perfect story-teller for kids getting settled down for night.
That started a year-long experiment as we developed characters, stories, producers, writers and voice actors. I like to think that one day down the road we’ll listen to those first episodes and find ourselves somewhere between a cringe and a smile. September will mark the start of season two of what call the Animal Underground audio series.
But why do an audio series in the first place? Is there a real purpose or is this just a fun side project? Well, it is fun, but it isn’t a silly side project. I firmly believe that Ravi Raccoon and the Animal Underground stories are tools that God is teaching us to help our kids learn the kind of character they are going to need as life becomes increasingly challenging for Christians.
God spoke to me about this purpose one day when a friend of mine was telling me about “story time with Papa.” This family spent every Sunday at their parents house and at some point during the meal or afterwards, Grandpa would tell a story to his grandkids about his life growing up. It would be a story with a faith lesson attached. What a beautiful idea – I just felt all warm and fuzzy – until I thought about the many, many kids who do not have a Papa alive, or those whose Papa’s were not leaving a legacy worth following.
Who could tell stories from the past that would prepare our precious kids for the future? Well Ravi could of course, and this is why every Animal Underground episode is a flashback of sorts with “Old Ravi” telling a story about the first Animal Underground. I hope the stories are entertaining but that the lessons are clear!
I had a moment last spring when I felt that if we were going to continue writing and telling Animal Underground stories that we would need to get more intentional in their purpose and so this year along with the audio stories, we will have a 7-day devotional booklet that can be downloaded based on that month’s episode. Our hope is that for kids who struggle with devotions that a booklet like this will get them to just start having devotions – even if it’s only 7 days out of the month.
I think the quality of our storytelling will get better this year. We have four writers now, including myself and they are absolutely dynamite. We also have five producers (up from one!), 3 musicians ready to put a soundtrack to the stories and a whole host of voice actors (plus a few artists to boot!) This year we will start right at the beginning of the Animal Underground when a dangerous enemy enters the South Forest and makes life unbearable for the animals. There will be many characters from last year and many, many new characters both good and, well, every story needs a bad guy.
Last year we didn’t advertise our episodes because we really were learning the ropes but I hope that this year you will help us get the word out so that we can turn a writing experiment into a ministry that helps to teach our kids the values of God’s Kingdom!
Episode ONE of Season TWO is called “Animal Underground Origins” and it launches in…
To catch up on the first written stories of the Animal Underground click here.
To listen to the first season of audio episodes click here.