- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

Home-schoolers may wish to use unusual methods to pursue their history studies. Resources are being produced that enable us to study using more than the textbooks and work sheets of the past.

There is a new resource for those who enjoy learning through listening. Focus on the Family has a new Radio Theatre series of biographical dramas created for radio audiences.

The “Amazing Grace” series, captured on five hourlong CDs, collects the stories of three persons, each of whom was central to the debate on the slave trade in England and in one way or another led to England’s renunciation of commerce in human lives in the early 1800s.

The first person profiled is John Newton, who was impressed into the British navy as a young man and lived the first part of his life in bitterness, resentment and avarice. He eventually was put into service on ships transporting slaves from Africa to the West Indies and willingly became a party to the wholesale commerce to gain wealth for himself.

His own life was one of betrayal and hardship, as he was tricked, enslaved, beaten and starved. Instead of creating compassion in him, this steeled him to increased callousness. He sank to terrible levels of depravity, ignoring his parents’ Christian faith.

Only when a storm at sea threatened his life did he call out to God to save him, beginning a walk of faith that eventually led him out of the slave trade and toward becoming a minister. He penned the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Another person profiled is Olaudah Equiano, who was captured by slavers in 1745, sold to a plantation and later to a British naval officer. Taken to England, he was forced to serve in the British navy for years. Eventually, he founded the Sons of Africa and worked for abolition in London. His story is told in the form of testimony before Parliament, interspersed with dramatized scenes.

William Wilberforce is the subject of the third story. Once mentored by John Newton during his years of ministry, Mr. Wilberforce led a dissolute life in his young adult years, only to find himself confronted in later years by the question of spiritual truth. Converted to Christianity, he eventually became convinced that slavery must be opposed, and he used his position as a member of Parliament for 45 years to fight for abolition.

The stories are very well-acted, and the sound quality and effects are excellent. Listeners can envision the circumstances of each protagonist’s story quite readily. The historical and biographical notes included in the set explain the context of the time.

This series teaches European and African history as well as exploring one of the most tragic failures of America’s past. It is unabashedly Christian in orientation, bringing the issue of personal wrongs and repentance and transformation squarely into the story of the life of each of the main characters.

In addition to the stories themselves, a CD sampler is included of other Radio Theatre productions, including “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “At the Back of the North Wind,” “Little Women” and “The Hiding Place.”

The “Amazing Grace” trilogy can be requested for a $40 donation directly from the Web site (www.radiotheatre.org).

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer living in Maryland.

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