How A Visit With Mrs G began...
Yesterday in our Speaking Hope E Update
, we shared the exciting news about a new partnership with A Visit With Mrs. G ministries to translate children’s Bible stories into Mandarin, Arabic, Farsi, Swahili and Spanish. A Visit With Mrs. G
has been broadcasting for over 40 years.
Kitty Griffiths’ love of storytelling helped her reach entire generations of children in east Asia, Africa, North America, and South Africa for many years. She was really ahead of her time. It’s only recently that many non-profits and charities working with oral cultures, especially, are learning to harness the power of story to teach the Bible.
I sat with her husband Gerald Griffiths, a former pastor, to talk about Kitty Griffiths’ love of story and how these amazing radio programs came to be.
Where did Mrs. G get her love of storytelling?
She got started early. She was brought up in England in East Anglia and Suffolk. Her mother was an evangelist working in rural areas in Scotland and Ireland and then came down to East Anglia. Her father was a very devout and gracious farmer. She went to a school that had one hour of Scripture every morning. Her teacher was an incredible storyteller. At five years old, she would sit at the back of the class absolutely transfixed. That’s what her idea of what a Bible story was.
At 18, she wanted to be a teacher and wanted to be sure she could hold a class because she didn’t want to train until she knew that. She went out to a two-room school in a small village as an uncertified teacher. The head teacher discovered that Kitty knew how to tell Bible stories and so for 3 years, Kitty taught children from aged 7 – 14 Bible stories for one hour every morning, which was quite a challenge, but she enjoyed it and evidently the children enjoyed it.
At 21, she went to school but it was war time and the college was evacuated to Cardiff University in Wales, where we met. Our first child was born with a severe hearing loss and she taught him to speak against all the advice of people who said he should have gone to a deaf school. He went on to university. She was a very good teacher.
How did she come to teach women Bible stories?
Because it was war time, I was asked in the middle of my theology course to pastor a church in Cardiff. I was 22 at the time. Kitty went down to her first women’s meeting. The speaker did not turn up so she was asked to speak at the spur of the moment. She was stunned, but she had a good memory and remembered a sermon she had heard on the gates in the book of Nehemiah. She used this.
When the meeting was over, an old lady said to her, “Well, Mrs. Griffiths (in those days you didn’t use Christian names), I’m sure that was a good message but I didn’t understand a word of it.” Kitty said she’d never do that again – try and teach through a sermon.
In all of her speaking to women, and she did a lot, she always told stories. She believed that we should transfix people with Bible stories in order that they might be transformed. Bible stories will do their own work because of the transforming power of God’s Word.
You were the first one to be on the radio and then Mrs. G joined you sharing short everyday stories, not Bible stories. How did she come to tell Bible stories for children on the radio?
Our church program was being heard in the United States, and an executive of TWR turned up in Toronto. He was visiting some producers and was on the lookout for a new program. One of these producers said, “Listen to Gerald Griffiths.” The TWR man came to the church (we had a studio in the church at that time) and it happened that Mrs. G’s short 60-second story had just finished on the air. He liked her stories and asked if he might have them for TWR. We talked to our agents, and they said, “We were just waiting to attack your male ego to see if you’d let your wife go off on her own!”
It was to be a family program where mother and father and children could listen to the same story. The program was called A Visit with Mrs. G
– the G not for Griffiths but for General Audience. In the come-on a mother and father and 3 children come and ask for a story and Mrs. G tells them a story. The expectation was that Mrs. G would tell everyday stories, non-biblical stories, but the two of us felt the program should be Bible stories. I talked to some producers of children’s programs for Christian radio. They said a Bible story program wouldn’t fly on radio. The interest could not be sustained. Bible stories were for Sunday school.
We felt that Bible stories could be made interesting and that a Bible story program was sustainable. During my pastorate in an English-speaking church in Johannesburg, Mrs. G had successfully told Bible stories to African women every week for 4 years, by translation into Zulu and Sutu. Mrs. G had those years in Africa and the 3 years in that village school in England to encourage her and she believed the same could be done on radio.
Mrs. G hit upon the idea of YOU ARE THERE Bible stories—stories that bring the Bible close so that children come to know the people of the Bible and how they lived and, above all, come to know God and put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Bible stories create faith and shape the lives of children.
When our radio agents produced a pilot cassette of the first program, it arrived in the mail as we were leaving for a conference in Florida, and Mrs. G put it in her purse. At the conference we met Clarence Jones, one of the co-founders of HCJB and a friend of ours. Clarence listened to the tape and said, “This is good radio. This is going to go places. I will give you one piece of advice. Spend 50% of your time and money on follow-up. Otherwise you’ll be like a farmer who sows seed in his field and doesn’t gather in the harvest.” Mrs. G followed his advice.A Visit with Mrs. G
went on the air in September 1973, and immediately there was a demand for cassettes and books. She gave away half-a-million books to 180 countries—all in response to individual requests. She also corresponded with 150,000 kids, mostly in Africa, especially in Ghana and West Africa. It was very much a one-on-one ministry. The people who responded in the majority world were teens or late teens because children didn’t learn English until they were in their early teens. Mrs. G took a keen interest in her listeners. We were getting over 1000 letters a month.
Mrs. G wanted children and young people to live in the Bible stories. She succeeded. Young people wrote and said, “I love your show”. And, “It’s better than TV”.
That’s why, recently, we named the publishing arm of the ministry Bible Stories Alive