July 26, 2008

Please Leave Comments

If you are a reader of this blog, I want to invite you to leave your comments when you feel led. You can post a thought or a question, anything you like. Just click the where it says "comments" or perhaps "comentários." There you can write what you like. It is kind of like writing a short email. Just remember that what you write is public. So if you know the names of people or places, try not to use the real ones.

July 25, 2008

Three spectacular reports! (a long read)

Report 1
Yesterday José António and I went to the small town by car. We were talking about how God always goes before us and prepares people and places before we go and how we should always pray for more laborers. This reminded me that a man contacted my wife last week, having heard about our ministry. He has some land he has developed as a retreat center and wants to make it available for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

José said he knew where the land was and could take me there. It is about 20 minutes outside of the small town. It is near a small village of maybe 100 families. We stopped there and the gate was closed, José rang the bell and a few minutes later an older man named Nascimento came to greet us. I told him who I was and he said he already knew of me, and about my deafness and my ministry. He began to share with me about his desire to see his place used as an evangelist training center and a place to train pastors and gospel workers. I shared with him about our work and we prayed together. This place is an incredible place prepared by God for us to use in the coming year. There are dormitories, eating areas, a chapel, and a large recreation area. It is a work in progress and no one is using it right now. This man built this place like Noah built the ark. Pray that we can fill it's halls with lay pastors and house church leaders and missionaries.

Report 2
When we arrived in the small town we went immediately to a family that has not been at home during our trips for the last several weeks. I have wanted to begin storying in this home for over a year. The sun was setting and the family was finishing up their home construction work for the day. They invited us in and I introduced my helper. After catching up on the latest news in the family I talked with them about their construction. I then told them the short story of Jesus about the two builders.

Afterwards I asked the man if we could begin to tell him the stories of the Bible each Thursday at 8:00. He said that he'd love it, but he couldn't promise that he would always be home on Thursdays, as he has to go to a small neighboring village sometimes to take care of his mother. I told him that we would come by each week and when he is home we will enter and tell a story, when he isn't we will say a prayer for his mother and his family and return the next week. He said that he could never understand anything he read in the bible and could never understand anything that was read to him from the bible, but that if I told him the bible in stories, he would learn it all and obey it. We will begin next week! (I will call this family, the family by the bus station)

Report 3
We then went to the families on the hill. After praying for them and reviewing the story of Phillip from two weeks ago, I prepared them for the story of Saul's conversion. This is an odd story that is not often told, unfortunatly. It was my first time telling it. I told it once; they asked me to tell it again. As I began to tell the story a second time, a sister who lives next door entered the house bringing somethings to the kitchen. She tried to hurry out, but somehow the story caught her attention. (She has never participated with us before. She is a very simple woman and very shy)
She stepped one foot out the door and paused, she waited a moment and then stepped back into the house. She listened to the story to the end.

I asked the family if we could do something different today and try to dramatize the story. The head of the family played the part of Saul. My helper was Ananias. The woman who just had a baby was the high priest. Another woman was Saul's companions and Judas (not Iscariot), the simple woman who had come in was Jesus. I began telling the story slowly. As I told about how Saul was threatnening to kill Christians, the man made a fist and an ugly face, then pretended to choke his wife. He went to get documents from the high priest and began to walk to Damascus. I said "Then he saw a bright light and fell to the ground." The new woman smiled and turned on the bedroom light. I coached them through the dialogue and through the rest of the story, including a scene where Ananias baptized Saul. When it was over they all laughed and said that the story really came alive for them and they could understand.

I then reminded them that we must be careful to put into practice all that we learn from the Bible. They said they like the part where Ananias went and put his hands on Saul. I asked them if we could begin to pray for one another like Jesus wants us to. We agreed that each person would pray for another person. My helper prayed for the head of the family (an excessively long and traditional prayer). This man then said. "Oh, I can't pray. I wouldn't know how. I don't know what to say." We told him that prayer is speaking from the heart to God.

He said "Father. Bless my wife. In Jesus name, amen."

His wife then prayed "Father, bless my sister who came here today. Show her your love. Amen."

The new woman began immediately to cry. She cried hard. Tears of joy. No one in her family had ever prayed for her before, not in 40 years. She then tried it for herself, "God bless my niece and her new baby." The whole family broke down in tears. A new experience had gripped them all, and God's Spirit was felt heavily in the whole house.

They agreed to continue pray for one another regularly from now on.

July 18, 2008

Praying for More Laborers

We often spend so much time looking for precepts in the teachings of Jesus, that we sometimes forget just to take him at his word. Jesus told his followers to pray for more laborers. This was one of the first things he instructed them to do. We recently began to take Jesus at his word and my one new helper for the small town has become 4 new helpers.

We did not go into the small town yesterday because of limited bus tickets. The city was celebrating the festival of Saint Peter. Where they carry a statue of Peter through the town and bow down to him often and pray to him frequently. Had I prepared beforehand I would have brought several people with me, each having learned a story about Peter from the scriptures. It would have been interesting to see what people thought of Peter's oft repeated words in Acts. "I am only human like you. This miracle happed by the power of Jesus, not mine." There is even a story of when Peter commands a household not to bow down before him.

I did lead, recently, two different workshops in the big city to prepare our church to use Biblical narratives to evangelize households and start small churches in their homes. I will be doing more workshops for the next 4 weekends. This will hopefully, lead to many new Chronological Bible Storying opportunities in the big city.

July 11, 2008

Two by two

Jesus always sent people out in pairs. I've got someone going to the small town with me now. He was a great help and should be a good partner. He has wanted to work in rural areas and learn how to do evangelism, so this was a good start.

We went later than I usually go, so our time was limited. We went to the families on the hill and there I told the story of Phillip and the Etiopian. After I told the story, they asked me to tell it one more time. Following this I asked if they could tell the story back to us. All of them denied that they could do it, but after prodding a little, the head of the family told the story perfectly, maybe even better than I did.

The two major themes they picked up on in this story were the actions of Phillip and the actions of the Etiopian. Phillip helped explain to the other man what he wasn't understanding. (This was the first time this family had heard this story and they recognized Jesus in the Isaiah passage, even before hearing Phillip's response) These families agreed that from now on they will help others that need help understanding about Jesus.

The etiopian, of course, was baptized. Everyone in this group is needing to be baptized. They agreed that baptism is the first step of Christian obedience and that everyone who believes in Jesus should be baptized. The head of the family, however, said that he sees his new faith as confirming the baptism they experienced as infants. He said there is no need to have a second baptism. Their position is very logical and sincere, from what they know. I do believe, though that the story from Acts 19 of Christians being baptized a second time will help inform their thinking more.

We made some other visits, but no other storying last night.

July 5, 2008

Evangelizing with Stories

The more I tell stories and use them to talk about God and to present our Lord Jesus, the more I understand why God wrote 70% of his scriptures as narrative.

Thursday I went into the small town again. I went alone this time, but beginning next week I will accompanied by a man named José António. He participated in a workshop I taught on church planting and evangelizing family networks. His heart has been to do ministry in a rural area. God has placed us together. This is very good news.

In the small town, I first mailed a letter, then went to the barber shop where I got a hair cut and took advantage of the captive audience to tell the story from John 9 of Jesus curing a man who had been blind since birth. This was the first time I told a Bible story in the barber shop. It was well received. I may be getting more frequent haircuts soon.

From there, I went to the families on the hill. De had her baby and named him with a name from the bible. I went to her house and the extended family met there for our storying session. De's mother was present and is staying with her to help with the baby, so she participated for the first time. I told the same story.

The discussion we had about the story strayed from the power of Jesus to heal, to the purpose of God in suffering. We talked through the reasons people suffer and what hope they have. The greatest hope, the group resolved, was not to be healed, but to be resurrected because of Jesus.

After I prayed for God's blessing to be on the baby, I went to meet another family. It turned out they weren't home and I was able to meet with the local baker. He'd told me the other day that his life was better and that he has been trying to learn more about Jesus. I went to his bakery and he served me tea and cookies. As we sat there I told the same story once again, I then used the transition just given to me by the family on the hill, and told the story from John 11 as well. (When Jesus resurrected Lazarus) I was able to begin to call him to repentance and faith through these stories. Once again, I had to cut our conversation short and run to get the last bus out of town.

God is at work.