Our story: How heroes of the faith became The Torchlighters

Whether you are new to The Torchlighters or a seasoned fan, you may be wondering how the The Torchlighters: Heroes of the Faith series came to be. It all began around the turn of the millennium, when my wife and I began reading biographies of great Christian heroes with our daughter Michelle. One day while on vacation we read aloud the story of missionary Gladys Aylward. After finishing a chapter, Michelle looked up at me and with great conviction exclaimed, “Dad, I want to be a missionary when I grow up!”

As I pondered in amazement the power of Gladys Aylward’s true story to move my daughter’s heart, I thought of my own childhood.  In spite of my parents’ best efforts, I had little interest in books or anything that felt like schoolwork. Surely there was a way to share these true, inspiring stores with all children, even those who would rather kick a soccer ball than pick up a book. Here, the vision for a video series of Christian heroes for children began to take shape.  

So often young people look up to heroes in the sports and entertainment industry, many of whom convey values that are contrary to our faith. I wanted to offer parents an alternative in the form of heroes that would build kids up in their own faith walk and encourage them to live for Jesus. 

I shared this dream with my colleague, producer/animator Robert Fernandez of Herald Entertainment. We began discussing possible stories, focusing on those with adventure and suspense that would draw kids in, but also with eternal values to build their faith. We considered producing the stories as live-action dramas, but opted instead for animation, knowing it would appeal to our young viewers

We knew we had a big learning curve!  We at Christian History Institute (CHI) were good at producing award-winning films and printed material for adults, but reaching children was a new challenge.  Many warned us that the project would fail, that children would not be interested in Christian history.  But we felt burdened to give it a try; the stories themselves were so powerful, and we hoped kids would respond. 

With God’s help, our hopes have been realized!  When our first episode on The Jim Elliot Story just happened to coincide with the release of a major documentary and feature film on Elliot’s life, we realized the timing was perfect and beyond any human plans. Since then, with the help of our partners The Voice of the Martyrs, we’ve produced 21 episodes and have more on the way.  The project has stretched around the world through television, video, and web streaming, and has been translated into dozens of languages.  

Our new website represents yet another step forward in bringing these stories of the faith to a new generation.  We’re thrilled that these action-packed adventures sharing the stories of heroes of the faith have helped kids come to know and love Christian history as well as grow in their own faith! Our hope today remains the same as it was in 2005, when our first episode released: that many children will become Torchlighters themselves, carrying the light of the Gospel into the world. 

As for Michelle, she did not become an overseas missionary. However, she recently graduated from seminary and is now actively searching for a pastoral ministry assignment while also continuing to help at CHI, including with the Torchlighters project.