Biographies are interesting and fun as well as a great tool for teaching historical perspective. Billy Sunday lived in an era children are unfamiliar with. The culture of Pearl S. Buck was unknown to the western world until recently. And the Scottish missionary David Livingstone discovered one of the world’s largest waterfalls, Victoria Falls, while in South Africa. What a day that must have been for him to uncover one of God’s most wondrous sights. Sunday School is the perfect place to introduce biographies! So many missionaries, pastors, and lay workers have told their stories in such a way that children can vicariously participate in God’s work. An intangible personal touch is introduced when a child reads about the pastor who struggled with personal problems, but through prayer and spiritual strength overcame those obstacles.
Missionaries must face indomitable problems that students readily associate with. Just learning the language of the country they will serve is a huge task for most missionaries. Then they must learn to live in a whole new culture, perhaps adapting to a lifestyle they’ve never known. The Boy Scout might spend a week without electricity and running water, but has he thought about the missionary who might have to live that way every day? Personal stories such as these bring living the Christian life into focus for young students because it is about a real person who did this.
I admire parents who protect their children from too much television and media hype. Nothing on television is “real world” except for a few news flashes and it certainly has nothing to contribute to the Christian. Real life stories, on the other hand, not only tell truths about Christian living, but can be read over and over. As a Junior High student I read the story of Ruth from the Bible and then had to give a report about it. I included some geography and history of Judea. By the way, I was in a public school at the time and no objection was made to my choice (that tells you how old I am!). My classmates found it most interesting and asked lots of questions after I finished my report. They had always heard such sayings as be willing to lay down your life for a friend or for your country, but the idea that Ruth would do the same for her people fascinated them. Two other students later read the book from the Bible!