Episode 67: The Expert
August 4, 2017, at 4:00 in the morning, Ian Bultman woke up from a fitful sleep with the idea for a new episode. He decided he should probably write the idea down so he wouldn’t forget it by morning. Ian opened his laptop and saw a message in his inbox. Jared DePasquale had sent a new piece of music he had written that night for Season 6, Dutch Underground Part 2. After listening to the music, Ian wrote back to Jared and decided to include the episode idea in that email as Jared would be writing the score if it ever came to be. Below are portions of that email and the seed idea for The Expert.
“Just listened… Brilliant! Love it. I just ended up getting the flu my family is fighting, but I think the Lord may have given me a new R-D episode. I’ll pitch it to you. It’s a Pennington episode. We bring out his backstory. (He’s a former NASA engineer. A legend who disappeared.) I’ve wanted to get R-D into space. Pennington, Ian & R-D crack the nut of getting drones into space and back. Eventually, black SUVs show up at the house, and we reveal Pennington’s backstory. We could take it lots of directions from there. Maybe it pays to get the flu. Or I’m hallucinating and need to go back to sleep…”
The idea didn’t take hold in Season 7. But two years later, Ian, his son Josh, Jim Reith (Mr. Pennington), and family friend Eric Rathke met at the studio for two evenings to outline what would later become the first episode found on Season 8. To confirm the plausibility and science of the idea, they consulted with a real expert – former Stanford Professor and father of the modern CubeSat, Bob Twiggs. Professor Twiggs walked through the scenario with them, answering questions, and even making suggestions.
Later, when writing the script, Ian worked with John Pfannerstill, who played Dave Anderson in Season 1. John is also very knowledgeable about the space program and helped craft portions of the story. A big thanks to both John Pfannerstill and Professor Twiggs for their help!
To the best of our knowledge, launching a personal drone into orbit and flying it home is yet to be accomplished. Perhaps one of our listeners will be the first to do so, and one day make history!
The top-secret Vanguard project did happen. While today, the cause is known, our fictional character Mr. Pennington was not responsible for that disastrous launch attempt on December 6, 1957.
Click here to watch the Vanguard explosion on YouTube.
The message of this episode is simple – Pride is bad! Proverbs 16:18 says it this way: Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. James 4:6 says: But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
With pride comes the feeling that we are always right. When we are prideful, we have a hard time listening to others and learning. By the end of the episode, Mr. Pennington realizes his mistake of always needing to be right. He apologizes to Leon Rogers and later listens to Ian when it looks like R-D is returning too fast. The closing scene shows him admitting to Miss Bernice that she was right, and he was wrong about the desk – a big step for Mr. Pennington!
The Expert is an excellent episode for listeners who have a love for science, and features a total of four rocket launches, three drone flights, a weather balloon launch, space travel, and a home-made robot. From the brainstormers to the writer, composer, sound designers, and actors, everyone involved would probably agree: creating The Expert was an absolute blast! We hope this episode both entertains and encourages humility.
Episode 68: Wild Boys & Water Tigers
When Brinkman Adventures began around 2010, we became aware of the Wild family living in Papua, Indonesia. At the time, they served with New Tribes Mission (Ethnos 360) and were translating the Bible for the Wano people group. They produced a video series called Growing Up Wild, and the Bultman family watched several episodes.
Fast forward several years. The boys took over the video project and began partnering with Answers in Genesis. They named their new series The Wild Brothers. One day, a Brinkman listener wrote to us and suggested we do a story on the Wild family. The rest is history!
The Wilds were very involved in the process of writing and creating these stories. Not only did they provide content, and work with us to improve the scripts, they also played themselves as the actors in these episodes.
Ian Bultman and his daughter Grace traveled to Indonesia to record the Wild family along with some local Wano people. They created a make-shift recording studio in a helicopter hangar and nicknamed it “Bee Happy Studio” because of the happy bees on the mattresses that soundproofed the room. Pu, a Papuan childhood friend of the Wild brothers, voiced Kelig and also posed for the cover shot. When he saw the happy bees, he thought it was so funny and couldn’t stop laughing.
We wanted to do a story that highlighted the scientific work of the Wild Brothers while also showing the value of trusting God even when our endeavor ends in apparent failure. In their DVD entitled Tiger Trail, the Wild Brothers attempted to discover the identity of an elusive species of wild dogs living in the jungle highlands. These mysterious dogs, called the mbakngge (pronounced mbawk-nggey) by the local people, could be the New Guinea singing dog or possibly even the extinct Tasmanian tiger.
To prove that the mbakngge is either a thylacine or a New Guinea singing dog would be an important scientific discovery. For obvious reasons, a live Tasmanian tiger would be a huge discovery. And to prove the presence of the New Guinea singing dog in this area would mean the dog exists in a much wider geographical range than previously believed. At the end of the video Tiger Trail, the Wild Brothers conclude the evidence is inconclusive, and they are unable to positively identify this elusive jungle creature called the mbakngge.
In this episode, we wanted to pick up where their hunt left off and shed new light on recent developments in the search for the identity of the mbakngge. We included the Brinkman boys in the adventure, but in reality, they were not present for the events that make up this story. As you hear in the episode, the Wild brothers learned that one of the village men had caught a mbakngge in a trap, and also reportedly once ate one and left the bones in a cave. The boys want to investigate the bones but still haven’t made the trip. Also, while they made a trap, they never caught a village dog. The bridge in the story exists, and sadly, a local man and his child fell to their death while crossing it at night. They were trying to escape capture from a rival tribe. We created Asher’s near-death experience on that bridge to add to the drama of the episode.
While Morgan is intent on discovering the identity of the mbakngge in this episode, Asher is more interested in looking for new diving beetles.
The Wild family has worked with several scientists to investigate the insects living in the region. They have discovered several new species, one fact that we wanted to highlight in this episode.
To see the official website where the E. tomhansi sp. n is registered click here.
At the end of this episode, Mike Wild and their helicopter pilot Tom rescue Morgan and Ian out of a river during a flash flood. A similar situation happened to the Wild brothers. Tom was able to save them just in time with the helicopter. The Wild brothers did name a new species of diving beetle after him; E. tomhansi.
Scientists really do extract the blood from leeches and look at the DNA to discover which animals are present in the area. Read more about this process here. Morgan has not yet used this technique in his search for mbakngge.
Be sure to check out the Wild Brothers DVD series at Answers in Genesis by clicking here.
We hope this episode encourages people to trust God when unforeseen events thwart their efforts. We also hope that, like Morgan, they will be willing to help others succeed even while dealing with disappointments.
We also hope this episode inspires people to pursue science and the study of nature. When we study creation, we uniquely experience God’s glory and introduce his magnificent handiwork to others. Psalm 19:1-2 says: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
Making it work
Josh and David Bultman have never visited the Wild family in Indonesia, but their sister Grace did make the trip with her dad, where they worked with the family to record these episodes. While doing so, they experienced the beauty of Kri Island, the current home for the Wild family. To read more about the trip, click here.
Episode 69: The Wild Way
This episode came about as a result of several interviews between Sarah Bultman, Shannon Zorn, and Mike Wild. Mike relayed so many amazing stories about their family’s ministry to the Wano people that it was hard to choose which ones to share.
Mike Wild outlined four essential elements necessary for successful mission work. We built this episode around those elements:
- Ask and then trust God to prove Himself to be the One and True Living God through Truth found in his word and even through a demonstration of His power. Mike said that when they went into a new village, God often allowed something to happen that would powerfully demonstrate to the people that He was real. Through this, villagers would often then understand that the message of the Bible was true. We featured two of these accounts in the episode – God protecting someone falling from a tree, and someone bitten by a deadly snake.
- Live in close proximity to the people you are reaching.
- Stay with the tribe (or target people) for a significant amount of time.
The Wild family lived among the people in Wanoland for 14 years. Doing so has allowed the Wilds to be a tangible demonstration of the Gospel through love and good works.
This has also allowed Mike to carefully teach the Word of God using language his listeners could genuinely understand. Without careful and accurate Bible teaching, the villagers could have easily mixed ideas from the Bible with evil customs from their tribal religions; a practice called synchronism. Synchronism can result in a person who, on the one hand, says they believe in Jesus, but on the other hand, does something terrible like killing a woman they might consider to be a witch.
The villager named Dugwiru is a real person, but the events that happen to him in this episode occurred in the lives of three different Believers. We assigned the events to one person to make the story easier to follow.
As in the episode, a local village leader falsely accused a man of using sorcery and chased him from his village warning him that if he ever returned, the people would kill him. Later, this man became one of Mike’s Bible students. One day, after he had graduated, he heard reports from his old village that the community was still lost in the darkness. He decided to go back to his village and share the gospel with his people. Mike accompanied this man and helped the people understand the man had not come to practice sorcery, but rather to teach the Word of God. In the episode, you hear that a death adder bit the village big man, Lugu, and he survived. In reality, the snake bit one of the young men who had been listening to the Bible teaching. Everyone in the village expected him to die. When after prayer from the Bible teacher, the young man miraculously survived, the people realized the Bible teacher’s God must have protected him from the snake bite; therefore, his God must be real along with His Word, the Bible. God used a similar situation in the life of the Apostle Paul in the Bible. (See Acts 28:5)
Another time a different Bible teacher fell from a very tall tree while attempting to clear a garden plot in a new village. As he fell, he grabbed onto a vine which was not tied to anything, and somehow it held him just long enough to break his fall. Then the vine fell to the ground all around him. The people watching felt they had just witnessed a miracle, which helped them understand there was something powerful and real about this man’s God.
Another time, a giant fireball fell from the sky and lit up the night so brightly it looked like daylight. It was so bright that some even saw a rainbow. This event occurred on the very night Mike taught about how God came in fire and smoke to talk to the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. God used this event to confirm His existence and the truth of the Bible.
Sadly, the story of a village accusing Dee of practicing witchcraft and then trying to kill her is also a true story. Without the liberating teachings of the Bible, fear and superstition hold many people captive. As God occasionally uses miracles to confirm his existence, the devil attempts to deceive people with signs and wonders. For instance, if a man dies, the village assumes this is the result of a spell placed on him by one of the women practicing witchcraft. The villagers then attempt to find the identity of this supposed ‘witch’ by cooking special divination leaves, assigning one to each woman in the village. Sometimes the leaf assigned to a particular woman will not wilt when cooked like all the other leaves in the pot. When repeated, this demonic exercise sometimes yields the same result, pointing to the same woman. When this happens, the village attempts to capture and kill the woman. Sadly, many have died because of this and other incorrect beliefs.
A beautiful turning point occurred when the first Jesus follower decided not to credit witchcraft for the death of his daughter. Instead, he told everyone that God had called her home. As faith in God and His Word took root, the terrifying grip of fear and suspicion began to lift off the village, and the killings stopped. Mike’s wife, Libby, beautifully describes what happens in the life of a villager who accepts Christ.
“The change is amazing. They go from a once, very fearful, ‘just survive’ mentality, that depends on manipulating and pleasing spirits, to a very evident feeling of peace and joy in Christ knowing that He can be trusted and is faithful. It is a 180-degree change.”
We included many interesting facts and details about the Wilds and the Wano people and their customs in this episode. People of the region eat the things mentioned, and the Wilds enjoy some of these dishes more than others. Asher wrote the following line himself, which he delivered with great gusto in the episode: ‘You haven’t tried any of the delicacies yet. Like rotten wood grubs, bat brains, or hairy pigskin that’s tougher than your momma’s leather boots. You have lots to look forward to, Isaac!’
As you hear, the Wano people use a plant similar to stinging nettles to treat their pain; the Wild family built their house on the top of a mountain and carried each board up to the top by hand; the Wild boys do enjoy jungle-sledding on skateboards without wheels.
To learn more about the Wilds, visit Answers in Genesis, where you can purchase their DVD series The Wild Brothers.
Josh and David Bultman have never visited the Wild family in Indonesia, but their sister Grace did make the trip with her dad, where they worked with the family to record these episodes. While doing so, they experienced the beauty of Kri island, the current home for the Wild family. To read more about the trip, click here.
Episode 70: Rescue the Captors, Part 1
After reading Rescue the Captors, Ian Bultman immediately knew that he wanted to adapt the story into a radio drama. It took a couple of years to connect with the Stendals and get the necessary permission, but once that happened, our brainstorming team got to work.
We included four gifted high school students in our day-long brainstorming session. At the time, they were all enrolled in a writing program called IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing). We all read the book in advance of our brainstorming session. We then spent the day listing our favorite scenes from the book and arranging them into a format we felt would work well for a two-part audio drama. A couple of months later, Ian took this outline on a writing retreat and began crafting the script. It didn’t take long for him to realize a different approach would be needed, as much of the story took place internally in Russ’s mind, making it hard for a typical audio drama script.
Ian took a long walk down a crunchy snow-covered road leading to Horseshoe Bay, on Lake Michigan. While walking and praying about the dilemma, he suddenly had the idea to tell the story through Susan reading Rescue the Captors to the kids. Reading missionary stories was something Amy did with the kids, so it felt like a natural approach for the Brinkmans. He returned to the cabin and his chair next to the warm fire and began typing.
This new outline required more extended portions of narration, which Shannon Zorn (Susan Brinkman) later performed wonderfully. It also needed lengthy pieces of music. Our composer rose to the challenge and wrote a riveting score that seamlessly carries the listener in and out of narration and live-action. Using this storytelling technique was a first for Brinkman Adventures, and resulted in unique episodes that Ian has coined ‘audiobooks on steroids.’
A benefit of this approach was that it also allowed us to stay very close to the story and use Russ’ own words throughout the two episodes. Everything you hear happened with only minor changes. Occasionally we re-word the dialogue. We also combined the roles of some characters for the sake of simplicity. We also omitted portions of the book for the purpose of time. Aside from these minor changes, the two episodes remain very true to the original story. We hope many of you read the book yourself to get all the incredible details and exciting portions we didn’t have time to include.
After Russ signed off on the script, we began recruiting actors. It’s always exciting to see how the Lord provides the voices for Brinkman Adventures. We started looking for Colombian voice actors in the Milwaukee area but came up dry. Then one day on the way home from church, Ian and family needed to stop at Costco to get gas. While pumping gas, the attendant greeted Ian. Below is a loose transcript of the conversation that followed:
Ian: ‘I love your accent. If I may ask, where were you born?’
Ian: Wanna act in an audio drama and be a communist guerilla?
Fernando: Do what? Be what? I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.
As Ian pulled away, smiling, he showed Amy the small piece of paper with Fernando’s name and phone number on it. He ended up playing Carlos, the man who greets Russ when he first lands at the airstrip with the line ‘What took you so long?’
After nearly completing the episode, we still needed a couple of roles to be filled. Then suddenly, Ian received a FaceBook message from someone he didn’t know. It turned out to be an American missionary in Colombia recording a radio drama. He wanted advice on recording techniques! Below is another loose transcript of the conversation that followed:
Ian: You’re in Colombia right now? And you’re recording a radio drama?
Charles: That’s right.
Ian: Any chance you could connect me with a good Colombian actor down there?
Charles: Absolutely! I have just the guy. He’s amazing!
Samuel David Majia ended up voicing two characters for us from Colombia as Ian directed over the phone. Samuel played Gilberto, the guy flying with Russ when the episode begins. He also played Eliazar, the top guerilla in part 2, who tells Russ to drink the lemonade laced with drugs.
It’s always exciting to see how God provides the inspiration, the finances, and the talent to create these stories that glorify Him and point people to the Truth.
The scene where Russ shoots Manuel is one of the most intense scenes Brinkman Adventures has created to date, and we placed a warning at the beginning of this episode to alert parents with younger children. In creating a family audio drama about modern missions, we find balancing reality with the desire to not scare kids is one of the most challenging things for us. We tell real-life stories, and sometimes real life is scary and dangerous. We need to remain faithful to a story, but we also don’t want to give kids nightmares. In the case of this particular story, we changed some of the more intense wording for the sake of our younger audience. Even so, we suspect this scene will be too much for more sensitive kids. In that case, we are trusting parents to heed the warning offered at the beginning and listen with their kids or even save this episode for when they are a bit older.
The shooting account brings up another related point. Russ explains his actions by stating that his initial idea wasn’t to kill Manuel but to disable him in order to escape. Russ says that if he hadn’t used his weapon, he would have been an accomplice in his kidnapping. And since kidnapping is wrong, he had a moral responsibility to resist. In the book, Russ says that his last shot at Manuel was aimed directly at his head. Thankfully this shot missed.
In this YouTube video, Russ tells the story of his kidnapping one year after the event took place.
Not every person will agree with Russ’s conclusion. We hope that these types of gritty, real-life situations spur conversation between parents, teachers, and children, and we prefer parents to unpack these difficult subjects with their kids. Presenting stories about missionaries is not necessarily an endorsement of their every action or doctrine. Scripture does a similar thing at times by telling the stories of the saints. Was Peter right when he cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant in the Garden? This would be an excellent family discussion!
Sometimes our series teaches, such as in the episode The Wild Way. Other times, Brinkman Adventures tells a story, creating teachable moments for parents as they instruct their kids and work through what it means to follow Jesus.
Listen as Russ explains how the kidnapping launched him into his current ministry.
A ministry which has enabled him to reach over a million people in Colombia. https://youtu.be/d7waCH9iHro
To see what Russ Stendal is doing today visit his website here.
isode 71: Rescue the Captors, Part 2
In this episode, we stayed very close to the actual events of the story. Everything you hear happened with only minor changes. We combined the roles of some characters for the sake of simplicity. We also omitted portions of the book for the sake of time. Aside from these minor changes, this episode remains very true to the original story. We hope many of you read the book yourself to get all the incredible details and exciting portions we were not able to include.
Before the guerilla rebels captured Russ, he felt strongly that he should write a book about his life. He promised God that he would work on it for one hour every morning, but never started the project. When the FARC guerillas kidnapped him, he wondered how he could present to them the truth about what he was doing in Colombia. Suddenly he remembered the idea of writing a book. He realized this would be a perfect way to introduce himself and his beliefs to his captors. He wrote the book specifically for Manuel, the guerilla he shot the day of the kidnapping. Manuel passed the finished copy around the camp, and many of the other guerillas read it. God enabled Russ to write in a way that helped them to consider the truths of Christianity and rethink their Marxist ideology. The book had a significant influence on many people in the camp and ultimately became an important part of Russ’ future ministry. Since it’s first edition, Russ’ ministry has distributed over 1 million copies of Rescue the Captors to people all over Latin America.
Click here to listen to Russ tell his story on YouTube.
In this episode, we hear Russ discuss with Geovonie the reasons he believes in the God of the Bible. Geovonie brought up the fact that many people use the data from Carbon 14 dating to prove that the earth is older than the Bible claims. But as Russ points out, there are serious problems with that dating method. Click here to learn more about the assumptions and inconsistencies in the Carbon 14 dating method.
Russ also pointed out that the fine-tuning of the universe points to a master plan of an expert Creator. This argument is astonishing and true. Click here to read an article in the Wall Street Journal that speaks about the subject. The article is entitled, “Science making a case for God.” by Eric Mataxas.
The snake that chased Russ was a Fer-de-lance, an extremely venomous snake of the viper family. It lives in the tropical regions of South America and Asia. If he had been bitten he would have surely died.
Since the kidnapping, Russ and his family have continued to reach his captors through distributing books and broadcasting Christian radio into the heart of the most hostile areas of Colombia. Watch a video about this incredible work on YouTube here.
Russ went on to write 11 more books, and publish a Spanish translation of the Bible called the Jubilee Bible. Russ has been able to distribute over 1 million copies of this Bible throughout Colombia and Latin America. His daughter produced a movie about their family’s efforts to reach the communist rebels and governmental leaders. You can watch it here on YouTube.
As time went on, Russ’ influence grew, and he reached people on every side of the Colombian political conflict. His efforts have contributed to peace in the ongoing struggle. In 2015, the FARC Commander, Ivan Marquez, told World Watch Monitor that “[Stendal] is an apostle of peace whose words generate a favorable environment to advance the search for peace, who encourages us on our journey for the search for a political solution for the Colombian conflict.”, Marquez also said three of the guerrillas’ peace negotiators were Christians.
By 2015, Stendal estimated at least 10 percent of FARC rebels had accepted Christ.
Discover more about Russ Stendal’s ministry here.
Episode 72: Grudge Tree
This story focuses on our need to forgive. This issue comes to a head when Hope is no longer able to participate in the Port Washington Cup, a highly anticipated sailboat race. The idea of a sailboat race came as the writing team was trying to find a way for Ms. Bernice to invest in a relationship with Hope. The team writes in a studio overlooking Lake Michigan. As they worked on this episode, they saw dozens of sailboats racing, and this inspired the idea to include them in the story.
The writing team learned a lot about sailing through writing this episode. We hope you did as well. If you would like to learn more about how to tack a sailboat, watch this video on YouTube.
Although the Port Washington Cup is not an official race in Port Washington, the city does host the Clipper Cup and the ‘Double Handed’ race. Both races start on the Michigan side of the lake. Participants must sail across Lake Michigan to the finish line in the Port Washington Harbor.
The idea for Hope breaking her pinky came from a time when Evy, the actor that plays Hope, really did break her pinky trying to get some mac and cheese from a top shelf of the RV. Her sister Grace, however, was not the one who asked her to get the mac and cheese, it was her mother!
Thankfully Evy did not keep a list of her siblings’ offenses, nor did she have an ongoing struggle to forgive her sister Grace.
The idea of Hope keeping a list of her family’s offenses came from a memory that Sarah Bultman shared. As a little girl, she actually did keep a list. The list contained the names of each of her family members. After each name, in tiny letters, she wrote down every significant offense they had committed against her.
In reality, they were just small things, but to her, they were big. Writing them down somehow felt right, like she was taking a stand for justice. She knew those things were wrong, and thought they should not be ignored or forgotten. She hid the list under her dad’s big desk.
One day, she decided to share this list with her closest sister Mindy. She assumed Mindy would appreciate how she had remembered everything and written it down so carefully.
However, to Sarah’s surprise, Mindy appeared shocked and disturbed as she read the list. Sarah had suspected she might be mildly annoyed at seeing her name there. But since Mindy’s offenses were the most minor of offenses, Sarah didn’t expect this to be a problem.
Mindy’s words took Sarah by surprise. “Sarah, this list is not good! You are supposed to forgive people, not write lists about them.” Sarah felt ashamed and eventually abandoned her list. It would take a while for her to understand forgiveness and how Jesus’ love empowers us to forgive others.
One day, when Sarah was about 16, she remembers reading a verse that reminded her of that old list.
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” Colossians 2:13-14
In her mind’s eye, she saw a list, but instead of seeing everyone else’s names and offenses, she saw her name along with everything she had ever done wrong. Then she saw Jesus hanging on the cross in agony, and below Him was the list of her sins, nailed to the cross with Him. God showed her that through Jesus’ death, He not only forgave her, but he wiped out the handwriting against her, covering over it with His blood. Oh, what love! If God, out of love, forgave her sins, how much more should she forgive those who sinned against her!
Through this story, we hope that people realize the need to forgive and are helped in doing so. We wanted to show that forgiveness doesn’t mean ignoring the bad things people do to us, but instead, doing what Jesus said in Matthew 18:15.
“Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”
Hope follows this Scripture by going from person to person, telling them how they hurt her, offering them a chance to make it right along with her forgiveness. But forgiveness is not easy, and can often seem unfair. For that, we used a story from the life of Corrie ten Boom. She, of all people, had a reason not to forgive.
Hope had been struggling to forgive Grace for excluding her from activities. But it became even harder to forgive Grace when Hope hurt herself on account of Grace’s request. This caused Hope to be unable to compete in the Port Washington sailboat race. Ms. Bernice read Hope an excerpt from Corrie’s book Tramp for the Lord, which helped Hope forgive.
Watch this video on YouTube to hear the account of this powerful incident in Corrie’s own words.
Corrie’s two books are a must-read for anyone who wants to grow in their faith. If you have not yet read these books you can buy The Hiding Place here and Tramp for the Lord here. You can also purchase the audio drama version of her story here.
If you are in the Netherlands and want to visit the house where Corrie hid and rescued many Jews, you can find visitor’s information at this website.