A Conversation with Joanna Adeyinka-Burford: Author, Actress and TV Presenter

Meet Joanna Adeyinka-Burford, the British actress and TV presenter behind an exciting new book—an interactive devotional journal designed for kids aged 7-11! In a candid chat with Natalie Frisk, Joanna shares her influences, inspirations, and personal faith journey that sparked the creation of this delightful resource.

Natalie Frisk with Joanna Adeyinka-Burford
5 minute read

With all of your work presenting for children and youth. All you've seen and know, what prompted you to write this book, specifically?

With all the influences we and our kids have to face these days, it definitely feels like there’s a need for children to be secure and rooted in who they truly are and not who the world, or anyone else tells them they should be! I wanted to tell stories that were real, relatable and honest experiences of faith in the hope that young people would read them and feel encouraged throughout their own faith journeys.

What was your experience of childhood? What parts of your own experience of who God is, are reflected in this book?

I talk about this in one of the chapters of my book. As a child I went to church most Sundays, learnt worship songs and read Bible stories but, although I remember as a child writing little worship songs, I didn’t have a personal relationship with God until I was much older. And that’s when I really began to experience who He was. I think the faithfulness of God, that I’ve experienced over and over again, is what’s reflected in this book.

What would you want 7-year-old Joanna to know about God? What would you tell her?

I would want her to know how loved she is, just the way she is! I think there is a lot of security and confidence that comes from knowing you are accepted just the way you are.

But I’d tell her to never stop seeking God (stay close to Him as it’s where you find your true self and really flourish), that His love for her is unshakeable and that she can trust Him with absolutely EVERYTHING as He walks with her through every situation. I’m writing this and it’s still a great reminder for my almost 40-year-old self! lol

How did this book come to be? What was the process like for you in your walk with Jesus?

You’ve probably heard people use the phrase ‘I’ve got a book in me’, something that’s been brewing that they are just itching to get on to the page…

It was back in 2020 when one of the team from SPCK asked me if I wanted to write a faith-based children’s book.  However, I was not one of those ‘I’ve got a book in me’ people. I actually left the conversation thinking I’ve got nothing!! (Maybe they had the wrong person?!)

So I prayed about it and just waited… not long afterwards I had the idea for a book of encouragements. I knew it wasn’t just a good idea, it was a God idea. I knew this because I literally had nothing, no ideas and no real desire to write a book! But I began to get excited about the possibility of what this book could be and how it could encourage the younger generation I’d been so passionate about for so long.

I’d always been encouraged by other people’s testimonies - amazing things that God had done for them. So, what better way to encourage others than by telling my own God stories? I wanted this book to be alive and vibrant, drawing you to want to spend time in the presence of God, yet for it to be fun and accessible! There was a lot to pull together but even through the process I saw God’s faithfulness. Creating time for me to write while I worked away from home on various jobs. He broke down the fears of ‘what if no one wants to read it’ and ‘who am I to write a book’. I knew I was writing it in obedience to God, the small seed that He planted when I prayed. Through the writing process, and particularly when I was recording the audio book, I got to see the ‘big picture faith journey’ of my life - how God really has been with me in everything and that was so encouraging!

How does the Holy Spirit speak to you? What does that experience feel like for you?

I love listening to the Holy Spirit, I think as Christians, it’s one of the most exciting things we can do.

I’ll preface this by saying I didn’t always know when it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me, but I’ve learned to discern this over the years. I actually talk about this in my book too! The Holy Spirit normally speaks to me through a thought, an idea or just a feeling being dropped into my heart. It’s actually quite hard to articulate. But for me it’s usually quite a strong feeling, it’s never wishy washy. It’s almost like a brewing of something in my heart or a pull to do or say something. I think the more I’ve been bold in following what I feel God or the Holy Spirit is saying, the clearer it’s become when He’s speaking to me.

Who is this book for and why should everyone buy at least a dozen copies?!

It sounds cliche but this book really is for everyone! The target age is 5-11, so you’ll find games and word puzzles designed for that age group but the stories in the book are multi-generational. If you want your faith to be ignited, reminded of God’s faithfulness and be totally encouraged then it’s for you and yeah, you should definitely buy some copies for your friends too!! It’s also a great conversation starter for those who don’t yet have a faith or those who are exploring faith.

What encouragement would you want to give to Children's Ministry Leaders if you were to sit down for a coffee (err...tea)?

First, I think I’d wanna say thank you. I think children’s leaders are the most incredible leaders!! You have the ability and opportunity to communicate the word of God and his love to the youngest people - that’s incredible.  You are raising the next generation of leaders, decision makers, creators, politicians… what an honour!

As a children’s leader, there’s a few things I’d tell myself on a regular basis:

  • Keep it simple. First and foremost, these kids need to know and experience the love of God. Make the messages simple and accessible and don’t forget to have fun!!!

  • Just like us, kids need genuine connection, so create time and space for them to connect with each other and for leaders to connect with them on a personal level AND of course for them to connect with God!

  • Find out what they like and dislike and design lessons and activities around them.

  • Keep listening to the Holy Spirit and let Him guide you.

  • Slow down and don’t burn out!!! Build a great team around you and remember the task is never more important than the person!

(Completely out-of-nowhere question) I read in a previous interview that Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was one of your favourite shows when you were young (ME TOO! I know every word of that theme song!). What do you think it was about that show that was meaningful to your growing up experience?

Yes!! I loved the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It’s iconic!! Growing up in a predominantly white area, I loved seeing a black family on TV. I loved that Will Smith’s character entered a world where he felt totally out of place BUT was unapologetically who he was created to be! I feel like we could all live with a little more of that freedom! Being unapologetic about who God has created us to be!

I actually loved that show so much that the What’s Up song I perform when I talk about my book at events is inspired by the fresh prince rap!

Joanna is best known as bubbly children’s TV presenter for the BBC’s popular children’s channel, CBeebies.

Joanna trained as an actress and dancer at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and spent a number of years acting and teaching dance before finding her feet as a TV presenter and voice over artist.

Her credits include: BBC’s Doctors, Holby City, Little Britain and ‘As You Like it’ at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. As a presenter,  she has worked across a number of productions; from various shows on the Cbeebies channel (Romeo & Juliet, Dick Whittington, Robin Hood, The Let’s Go Club, Jojo and GranGran and BBC live lessons) to hosting a worldwide video production for the Watoto children’s choir, HSBC, Citibank, The NHS, The Sheffield Children’s book awards and was delighted to present the RAISE training program for the Salvation Army’s Youth ministry.

Find out more about Joanna on her website www.itsjoanna.co.uk

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