October 30, 2007

October 30th, 2007

Last night, we got back to business, going to the family in the big city. I told the rest of Acts 2, which is the story of Peter's sermon at Pentecost.

We first reviewed the story from the last meeting, which was the Ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. After they recounted the story, I told the story for the night. Last week, I had told the story, but it was late and I could see that our discussion would not be beneficial, because everyone was tired.

This time I began the story, but there were 3 interruptions before I finished the story. I believe that these stories from the Bible need to be complete, or unbroken. This is why I don't stop the story to give commentary. Since there were significant interruptions, I told the story again. Afterwards, I saw that the hearers were unable to reproduce the story. After talking about some of the difficult parts of the story, I told it a third time. This time the comprehension was there, but they could not retell the story.

The problem, I believe, was the part of the story where Peter quotes David and explains that David was foretelling the suffering and Resurrection of the Messiah. I had a lot of difficulty making this fit into the story when I was framing the story, and even after doing that, it became a trouble spot in the story for the hearers.

Our discussion was a great one afterwards. Many of the themes are coming together in their minds and hearts, and I think if we'd had a pool of water in the house where we were meeting, the might have been baptized right there.

Next week, I will continue a little with Acts, because there are more stories that will help them to conceptualize putting faith into practice.

Tonight I will go to the small town to the families on the hill.

October 26, 2007

October 26th, 2007

We did not go to meet with the family in the big city last night. They asked to meet on Monday. This means I've only done one storying session in 2 weeks. The good news is, that next week things will be getting back to normal routine. My head is okay, and I should be getting the stitches out on Monday if not sooner.

Let me just take this space today to give an idea of what we're doing and plan to be doing for the remainder of the year.

Our strategy is to plant house churches in a rural community where literacy is low in general and very low among older adults. We organize a small group of families and meet with them once a week. During these meetings we tell the Bible (that is, we tell the scripture in narrative form instead of reading it or doing traditional Bible studies) in chronological order from creation through the birth of the church. It takes about 3 - 4 months to go through the stories that give the people in this culture a basic understanding of the Bible and an understanding of Christ.

The stories are told and repeated and repeated again by those learning the stories until the group owns the story, or knows it by heart. After that we talk about the story and draw out of it the truths of God. The stories can then be retold by the learners (even illiterate ones) to others. Once the evangelism stories are told and acted upon in faith, we will begin telling discipleship stories.

Our time with the family in the big city will end in the next few weeks most likely. We are finishing our Old Testament stories with the families on the hill in the small town. In November and December we will be telling the stories of Jesus. Our goal is to have a house church on the hill before the end of the year and to have 2 more "pre-churches" started before the end of November.

October 22, 2007

October 22nd, 2007

Well, I bumped my head while spending the day at the pool with my family. 12 stitches...

I am not sure if I will go to the small town tomorrow, but I really want to. I missed last week and don't want to let too much time pass between Bible studies. Pray that the families on the hill do not grow cold as a result of losing rhythm.

October 19, 2007

October 19th, 2007

Yesterday we continued our evangelism work with the families in the big city. I had a little more trouble preparing this story than I've had with the others. I told Acts 1 and 2 as a narrative. The part that gave me difficulty was keeping the flow of the story when Peter quoted David in Psalm 16. I finally got it down and was able to tell it well, but we left late and arrived late.

We were well received and spent a long time just talking together and eating some fresh bread that they had baked. When we finished, we prayed together and began. Everyone was able to tell a little bit of last weeks stories. I told the first part of the story, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, was asked a question by his disciples, and was taken into heaven. Afterwards I reviewed the story again with them, to see that they heard and understood it.

When we began talking about the story, I asked them at one point, what the angels were saying about Jesus' return. One woman replied... "Is it really going to be that way?" I asked her what she understood would happen. She replied "The same way as he left... the clouds of the sky will open up and Jesus will descend from heaven in plain view of everyone." She then asked. "Has that happened yet... in the stories you're telling from the Bible, has it already happened?" I told her no, that we are waiting for the day when Jesus will return. She smiled and exclaimed "I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it!"

I then asked if they remembered what Jesus said at the house of Caiaphas when he was on trial. Her husband remembered that when the High Priest asked Jesus if he was the Messiah, he replied "It is as you say and you will see the son of man sitting at the right hand of God, all powerful and coming on the clouds of heaven." This got them really excited.

I sensed that God was moving on their hearts and moved on to the story of Pentecost and Peter's sermon. I told it very well, but as I was telling it I could see that some of them were becoming sleepy. I knew that it was very late and that more discussion would not be possible. I thanked them for their time and we agreed to meet again next week for me to retell the story of Pentecost. We prayed and said goodnight.

October 17, 2007

October 17th, 2007

I did not go to the small town yesterday as planned. I really hate to interrupt our weekly rhythm, but I had a bout of dizziness over the weekend and yesterday I did not feel that it was safe for me to drive to another city and back late at night. Tomorrow, I will return to the families in the big city and continue telling about the events after Christ's resurrection.

October 12, 2007

October 12th, 2007

Last night we returned to the families in the big city. I began, as usual, by asking someone to tell the story from last week. I started the story and before I got too far, someone else had taken over. Then the story was finished by another. I was satisfied with the retention of the story. I then told the narrative of Christ's resurrection from Luke 24, with the story of Thomas in John 20 tacked on. The story worked well, because even though it was the length of a chapter, there was re-telling inside the story itself. First the women at the tomb, then the two followers of Jesus walking to Emmaus (who retold to Jesus the story of the women at the tomb), then the arrival of the two followers of Jesus to the place where the apostles were and Jesus appearing and showing his wounds. Finally Jesus appearing again and showing his wounds specifically to Thomas.

I had some difficulty telling the second part of the story because our babies making noise, but this probably bothered me more than them. After asking them to retell the story, we talked about the events of the story. Our discussion was more on what Jesus did and said. What did Jesus say about the scriptures? What did Jesus say about their disbelief? What did Jesus do to help them believe? What did Jesus do to help them understand the scriptures? What did Jesus say they were witnesses of? What did he tell them to wait for?

I asked them what they thought of the story. Le asked me a question. "Why didn't Jesus appear to Caiaphas and the Pharisees that condemed him?" I thought it was a key question, because Le had identified with the pharasees early in the stories, he doubted Jesus and didn't want to believe in him. Le had worked through why the Pharisees rejected Jesus, and decided that he would not reject Jesus for the same reason. I asked him. "Do you think it would have helped them believe in Jesus?" He said that it probably would not have, and was satisfied with that answer. I asked them if they believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he rose from the dead. They said that they did. We prayed together to end the Bible study and agreed to meet again next week.

October 10, 2007

October 10th, 2007

Last night, I took my family and a friend of ours to the small town to the families on the hill for our storying session on Moses. When we arrived, we were told to go to a different house. Lu, the man in the wheelchair, was out of town.

We arrived in the house, which had a much smaller area and sat tightly together. I began by retelling the first part of the story of Abraham from last week. Once they were oriented, each person began retelling a part of the story. One person began giving details from the end of the story and was helped by another person who said "wait to the end of the story to tell that part." Al was the one who was to tell the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt Moriah. He began just by telling a summary. This didn't please the group and we all coaxed him to tell the story. He did.

My biggest problem is impatience. I want to get through these stories to the resurrected Christ as quickly as possible. To do that, I have to tell fewer and sometimes shorter stories. I elected to skip the stories of Jacob and Joseph and go straight to Moses. Since continuity is very important I used another short story from Abraham to bridge the gap. I told of the covenant God made with Abraham and the warning he gave that Abraham's decendants would live as slaves and be mistreated in a foreign land for 400 years, but that God would punish the country that enslaved them and that they would leave with wealth.

Once they had repeated that story, I began the story of Moses from his encounter with God at the burning bush. I could tell that they were familiar with the story. I asked if they had seen this story in a movie. They had all seen the Charlton Heston 10 Commandments movie. This was good in that it gave them something to hook the story on, but was bad in that they put details from the movie into the story, even though I did not tell those details. They did understand the purpose of the sacrifice of the lamb and passover, so this will help when I present Jesus.

One cultural barrier to the gospel is the worship and veneration of saints and particularly Mary, who has several forms and names in this culture. I wanted to emphasize the 2nd commandment, which prohibits the making and worshiping of graven images and prohibits serving idols.

I made another mistake. I wanted to highlight the difference in the 10 commandments of the Bible and the 10 commandments as taught by the local Catholic church (in which the second commandment has been removed). I printed out a copy of the 10 commandments and gave a copy to everyone. Instead of telling the 10 commandments as a story, I read them one by one. Their eyes glazed over and from that moment on, the Bible became abstract and difficult to understand. No was able to tell what God was commanding in the first several commandments.

Next week, I will reteach this part, and tell the 10 commandments as a story. I am going to find a way to slow down a bit too. I am telling so many stories its becoming overwhelming.

October 5, 2007

October 5th, 2007

Last night we went once again to the family in the big city. After having a snack with them, I asked them to repeat the story from last week. They were able to tell this one well. The story ended with Peter having denied Jesus and abandoning him. The story I told yesterday was a mix of Matthew and Luke. It began with Jesus before the High Council and ended with the women who saw where Jesus was burried going home to prepare the burial perfumes, but staying home to observe the sabbath. Next week I will tell the resurrection stories.

In our post story dialogue, I had them each tell a part of the story, as it was a long one. After finishing the retelling, I did something, that in retrospect, was not a good idea. I had not prepared anything else from the scripture, but wanted to use Isaiah 53 to help tie together all of the stories. So... what did I do? I asked them to read a few verses each. Well, the post story discussion went downhill from there. I got caught up in trying to logically present Jesus as the substitute for our sins and have them explain to me how exactly God forgives us in Jesus. Once I realized what was happening, I just stopped and said. Let's just go back to the story and I'll ask one last question.

What did you think of the two criminals who died alongside Jesus on their crosses? They answered that one went to heaven and was forgiven because he had faith and asked Jesus to remember him. I ended the night on that. They thanked me for coming and we agreed to meet again next week for me to tell the story of the resurrection.

(For those who might be confused about why I had a problem in the study, let me say this. We are attempting to use an oral style of teaching and evangelism for people who understand things better in a non-analytical style. The stories of scripture hold all of the theology of God. Salvation doesn't come just to those who can explain substitutionary atonement, but comes to those who simply repent and believe. My theological analytical style is comfortable for me, but hasn't translated to very many baptisms in the last 5 years. This family is the first family with whom we are using an oral style, so it is a challenge for me. The families on the hill in the small town are the second. Things seem to be going smoother with that group.)

October 4, 2007

October 3rd, 2007

I went to the small town again yesterday, to the people on the hill. The room was full, once again. Different from my storying experience in the big city, this group has not dwindled down, but rather has invited at least one new person a week to hear a story and decide if they want to form a storying group on their neighborhood. So far, there are a lot of positive feelings about our storying time.

The first story was the call of Abraham. I told the story and I nailed it. It was faithful to the Bible, interesting, everyone listened smiling. And then when I asked someone to tell it back there were blank faces all around. No one wanted to even start the story. I asked one man to try and he said. "hmm. too many names and places." I told the story again, this time, everyone was concentrating and the result was... no one remembered the story.

So I thought about the names in the story (in portuguese) --Tera, Abrão, Ló, Sarai, Ur, Babelônia, Canaã, Harã, Siquem, Morê, Betel, Ai -- Too much. I remembered that 4 new names were about the limit for stories, so I told it again leaving only the most essential names. I called Terah "Abraham's father" and I called Haran "another place" and things like that, leaving only Abraham, Sara, Lot, and Canaan in the story. It worked. They remembered and retold the story. (But this whole process took a long time, and I had 3 more stories to tell).

In the discussion time we talked about Abraham's obedience, his social status, and we talked about altars. They remember altars from Cain and Abel and from Noah after the flood. I asked them about altars in the small they first mentioned the shrine to Mary outside the Catholic church. Then after talking, the started to talk about the altars in their homes as devotion to saints.

The next story was of the separation of Lot and Abraham, with Lot settling in the Jordan valley and later the 3 visitors coming to Abraham's home and telling of the future birth of their son. The third story was the story of Abraham's prayer and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The last story was the birth of Isaac and the testing of Abraham.

When questioning them about this last story, I was surprised at the fact that they didn't have a problem with Abraham's obedience to God. I've heard so many people complain that God was asking something unjust of Abraham. These listeners didn't see it that way.

Our discussion on this last point.
Q: What did God ask Abraham to do?
A: Burn his son as a sacrifice on the altar.
Q: Did Abraham obey?
A: Yes he did.
Q: Did Abraham lie to his servants when he told them that he and Isaac would return after worshiping God on the mountain?
A: No, because Abraham knew that God would do something special. Remember... later he promised Isaac that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice. Yes... and God also promised Abraham he would have many descendants through Isaac and that all the land would be his. Abraham had faith.
Q: What if Abraham had brought some products from the field like Cain? Would God have accepted that sacrifice?
A: No.
Q: What if he had brought a lamb?
A: No. God told him what the sacrifice had to be and God provided the substitute.

This moved me, because they were hearing this story for the first time, and I am not used to getting good answers like this from even long-term Christians.

I gave them 3 DVD movies to watch this week. Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. I will tell the story of Moses next week.

September 30th, 2007

Last night was rainy, rainy. We missed Thursday night and rescheduled for Friday so as not to interrupt our storying rhythm. We met in the house of the couple we are evangelizing and not in the usual house. After eating brownies and ice-cream to celebrate a birthday. I asked the group if they remembered the story from last week. Everyone remembered a piece of it, but no one could tell it through. I told it again.

(At this point I am doubting myself again. When I began with this group, I was pretty strict about them learning the story and repeating it. I began to think it was using up too much time and cut out the second retelling by the learners. Now I am worried that this was not a good idea. They are familiar with the story and remember the highlights, but cant retell the story.)

After retelling the story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus, I told more of the story of Jesus. This time I picked up where I left off last week with them, Jesus had just resurrected Lazarus and all the people who heard about it were starting to believe in Jesus. The religious leaders and the Chief Priest had already decided that they needed to kill Jesus. Tonight I told about their deal with Judas and the preparations that the disciples made for the passover dinner. I told of what happened in the upper room and of the arrest in the garden and how all the disciples abandoned Jesus and of Peter's betrayal. I ended the story with Jesus alone at Caiaphas's house, having been betrayed, abandoned and denied.

Next week I will tell of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus ending with his burial. I might go ahead and tell some resurrection stories as well, but it depends on how much time we have. Not only do I need to tell the story, I need teach it to them, so that they can remember and retell the story.

The couple who invited me to start this Bible storying group told me that the unevangelize couple is wanting to receive Christ, so I will give them this opportunity on Thursday.

September 26th, 2007

Last night I went to the small town. I gave a ride to a man and his daughter who are friends of mine. The man is a musician and sings Forró, a traditional and popular style of music in rural communities. Since I have been looking for opportunities to begin teaching about God to them for months now, I used this 1-hour car ride to begin. This family is very traditionally folk-catholic.

I asked the daughter, a teenager, if she knew the story of creation from the Bible. She said she didn't, but then replied again, that she remembered something, that God created the world in 40 days. So, I asked if I could tell them the story that is on the first page of the Bible. They agreed and I told the story. Both enjoyed it and began to ask me if I believed in "the mother of God." I replied that I could tell them all of what the Bible teaches about Mary if they would like to hear it. Hopefully I will be able to begin something in their home.

Arriving in the town, I found out that someone that we had been praying for had died, and there was family in the home in which we were intending to meet greiving at the loss of their loved one. I sensed that telling the story of Abraham according to our schedule would be a mistake, so I just sat with them for a while. They asked me to pray, and I did. I then felt led to tell them the story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life. I told the story very well and appropriately, I think. We all repeated the part of the story where Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life...." I did not do anything else except sit with them and pray with them. Next week I will tell Abraham's story.

September 22nd, 2007

Thursday night, we went to the family in the big city and I told the story of Jesus raising Lazarus. We arrived an hour late, so our session was a little different than ususal. We reviewed last weeks stories, but I didn't ask anyone to retell a story, nor did I retell the stories.

My pre-story questions:
1 Who was Lazarus? 2 What happened to him? 3 Why did it happen to him?
Their answers after the story:
1He was a friend of Jesus. 2He got sick and died. 3To reveal God's power and the divine nature of Jesus.

My post story questions (not counting factual questions about the story)
Why didn't the disciples want to go back toward Jerusalem?
Did Martha understand what Jesus was saying about Lazarus?
What do you think Jesus meant about being the resurrection?
Why did Jesus cry?
When Jesus raised Lazarus, what was the reaction of the people?
What did the religious leaders plan to do because of Jesus? Why?
Why did the pharisees choose not to believe in Jesus? Did they have enough evidence that he is the Son of God? What was the difference in the reaction of the people and of the religious leaders after Jesus cured people or raised Lazarus?
Were the pharisees happy people? Why not? What would have made them happy?
Is there anything causing you to not want to believe in Jesus? What would happen if you gave it up to believe in Jesus?

I told the story well, but since it was very late, and because the story was long, I did not ask anyone to tell the story back. I don't know if this is a bad thing or not. Everyone in this group is literate, but we only use our Bibles to mark the place of the story and to memorize verses. I did not remember to challenge everyone to remember the words of Jesus "I am the resurrection and the life, anyone who believes in me, even if he dies, will live."

I am a little worried about what to do after the next couple of weeks, because I am getting to the end of the story block. I believe both Le and Fa will receive Christ, but I don't know if I will pass them over to the neighborhood church for discipleship, or if we will form a house church.

September 19th, 2007

Last night I went to the small town and had my 3rd storying session with the families on the hill. I arrived early with intentions of arranging a second group to meet on the same night, but after my first storying session. Unfortunately, I was unable to confirm a second group yet. When I went up the hill to Lu's house I was told by a young lady that we would go to Al's house. Lu is nearly quadraplegic and has a lot of difficulty to leave his house, but he came by taxi. I helped take him out of the car and put him in his wheelchair. After the session we rolled him around to the other side of the hill (going down is easier that coming up).

I reviewed the 3 stories from last week. They remembered what the stories were, but could only retell the story of Adam and Eve's sin without mistakes. I retold the story of the creation of Adam and Eve and the stories of Cain and Able. I probably spent too long reviewing last week, but Mar missed last week and I wanted her to catch up. This time I told the story of Noah and the flood. I did an okay job. They all seemed interested and liked the story, but I just didn't feel the flow of the story. (This was the second time I've told this story in a group session) We talked about God's punishment of the disobedient and his provision for the obedient.

After it was over, we had a pretty good role play where De played the part of Noah and I was one of his neighbors asking why he was building the boat. She was true to the story with her answers. It went like this.

Me- Why are you building that big boat, Noah?
De- Because God's sending a deadly flood and everyone and every animal is going to die. God told me to build the boat to save my family and the different kinds of animals.
Me - Why is God sending a flood, Noah?
De- Because there is so much violence and evil on the earth and people only do bad things. God is displeased with his creation.
Me - So you're telling me I'm going to die?
De - If you don't stop doing bad an get in this boat with me, yes, you will.

I do hope and pray that this group will come to know Christ in the next couple of months. I am thinking of planning a retreat for the end of November and inviting all those who have participated in the Bible stories from Genesis to Acts to participate. I would spend a day mixing fun and Bible stories and hopefully we would have baptism for many in the afternoon and the Lord's supper as a church in the evening.

My next storying session is on Thursday in the big city. It will be the story of the crucifixion. I've already told several stories from Creation to Moses and of the life and ministry of Jesus. I'll write a report on Friday.

September 14th, 2007

Last night my wife and I went to do a storying session here in the big city. This was our 10th session with this family. (This group started out bigger, but dwindled after the first few sessions. The organizer asked me to come and help him evangelize his brother and his family. I told him that I would come spend about 3 months telling stories to give his brother and family the core stories of the Bible. These are the two families that remain.)

I told 4 stories:
Jesus cured a handicapped woman on the sabbath day
(luke 13:10-17)
Our discussion time compared religious tradition and truly doing what is right।

Jesus is asked about the people Pilate killed (luke 13:1-5)
Here our dicussion led us to the idea that God doesn't punish just the very bad people।

The pharasee and the tax collector (luke 18:9-14)
From this parable, the couple was able to tell me who God forgives and why।

The high cost of discipleship (luke 14:25-34)
This couple will be rejected by their parents when they follow Christ and so this story will help them think through the meaning of a real conversion.

In the car on the way home from a storying session, my wife, Loaise, and I were talking about how nice it was to evangelize using the stories of scripture and not clichés and canned phrases. We began talking about how perfectly the stories fit with the life situation and culture of the families we are evangelizing. I began to tell her that I had specifically left the original 10-week plan of giving an overview of the Old Testament and Jesus, adding these stories because I had applied the 10 principals from the Following Jesus series as I prepared this lesson.