November 5, 2010

Trip to Santarém with STS

Here is a post in pictures of the Simply the Story workshop in Santarém in the state of Pará, Brazil. This was the first STS workshop in Brazil, and I am honored to have been a part of it. I was called up at the last minute to help as a leader and translator. God's hand was in this at every step.

Demonstrating how to learn a Bible story accurately and quickly in small groups.

Listening in on a group talking through one of the Bible stories and finding spiritual treasures.

October 31, 2010

More Lessons Learned: How to be a Missionary

As I mentioned in a previous post, these are lessons I have learned along the way as a missionary.

  • Walk, don’t drive. My experience has been that in general taking a car cost much more than it helps. One example: When we needed to go and visit a family about half an hour up the mountain walking, we were tempted to do it in 5 minutes driving. We walked. As we walked with one of the family members, we told Bible stories and listened to her stories. By the time we got to the top, we were in the company of nearly a dozen. All of them hearing these stories. We were then introduced to another dozen people who wanted to hear more. When we got to her house, we stayed for a 15 minute visit. By car, that would be 15 somewhat superficial minutes with a family. On foot, that was over an hour, and highly intimate. We met a dozen more people through an existing relationship.

  • Do copiable things. Today I found out that another friend of mine started reading the Bible with friends at work when he started a new job. I never told these men that they needed to go and make disciples in their workplace by reading the Bible or telling Bible stories, but that is what they did. They saw us doing it, and when they left our company to work in another place (and even country) they did what seemed natural to them.  They had seen it done, easily.  So some of our disciples have gone and made disciples and we never knew about it until much later.

  • Spend the Night. This idea is related to the first. We would go into a small community and have a Bible study with one family, visit another and then take the bus home. We always had to alternate which family would get the Bible study because of time. One night, the family told my wife and I. “Look, you can stay here. Go ahead and miss the bus, take the one at sunrise, you will be back in your city by 7:00.” They gave us their own clothes to wear to bed. The result was that we spend a long time sitting around the kitchen table talking with them and drinking coffee. You know how those kinds of conversations go. In one night, we became family. There was a bond that formed that was stronger than 3 years of weekly 1-hour visits.

October 30, 2010

Widely Accepted Missions Strategy

I read this on a site. I’ve seen this dozens of times with other organizations as well. I want to point it out.
The objective of the work of the Generic Missions Agency can be outlined in three stages:
1. Learn the Language.
2. Begin creating a phonetic alphabet and training in literacy.
3. Through the translation of the Bible, transmit the word of God.
I would propose a new strategy if I were permitted to give my opinion. It would look like this:
    1. Learn the language.
    2. Tell God’s stories orally.
    3. Disciple using an oral Bible.
    4. Begin creating a phonetic alphabet and training in literacy.
    5. Translate the Bible as a supplement and codification of the oral bible, making recordings as you go.
Why should reading or literacy EVER be a prerequisite to evangelism and discipleship?

October 13, 2010

Interactive Bible Storying with Children

Yesterday, I was invited to tell some interactive Bible stories to a group of children. I expected about 40, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw busloads of kids arriving. There were over 300!

The neat thing about stories, is that once you’ve told them a few times, you don’t forget them easily. (In the case of Bible storying, I would say you should tell every Bible story you know at least once every six months to keep them fresh in your mind.) Once you have learned a number of stories, you can string them together into a bigger narrative. This is a wonderful experience for both the storyteller and the hearer.

Since the children were all sitting on the floor, and rather disorganized, I knew I would have some trouble keeping their attention, so I used a hand sign to represent each story before and after I told it. Every time I got to a new story, I would do all of the hand signs with them from the beginning and say something that would remind them of the story. Most of them were “two-minute stories.” They were only a few verses long. So, I was able to tell these stories straight from the Bible.

Here are the stories I told and the hand signs I used.

October 5, 2010

Lessons Learned: How to be a missionary

Since I began Bible storying, my strategy in missions and ministry has transformed a great deal. Here are some of the lessons I have learned from both success and failure. (I am going to do this over several posts)

  • Don’t spend your time trying to create groups. In 2004 and 2005, I spent a lot of time trying to coax five families into meeting together for a Bible study. I got three of them to finally do it. As soon as we started to make progress, as I defined it, Satan broke up the group. He caused confusion and mistrust to separate the families in a brutal way. I spent 3 years trying to corral families together for Bible studies and was unsuccessful engaging many willing families, because I could not form the groups I wanted.

  • Disciple groups that already exist. The families on the hill is one of the biggest success stories of this blog. A major reason for the success was that they are a family with already existing ties and relationships. There is a bond there that is not easily broken (though Satan did try again). Existing groups will generally either accept or reject the gospel as a group, rather than splinter and disband. When they do decide to follow Jesus, discipleship is natural and often faster than expected.

  • Give preference to oral communication. I had tried several times to start a Bible study with the families on the hill. At one point, I was going weekly for a long period of time, but making no headway in evangelism or discipleship. The day I suggested we put away our pens and notebooks, and began telling the scripture was the day they started “hearing” the message. This happened in a lot of places, even among the highly literate.

July 5, 2010

Not Forgotten

It has been a long while since I have written consistently in this blog. I have been blogging regularly at Beyond Outreach. I do intend to return to this Bible storying journal soon. I do have a couple of examples of Bible storying in preaching if you are interested, both in English and Portuguese. They are on my Media Page. I should be back to posting updates here soon.

April 12, 2010

W much like Gideon

W was baptized yesterday. His grandmother was there (she is the head of his household). His brothers and sisters were there. I was wrong about his age. He is 13, not 11.

His grandmother was in tears and hugged him afterwards. I could read her lips saying. “Now you are a man of God in our family. This is very important.” She announced to me a little later that her family is going to follow Jesus like W. She asked me to return to her home again after my trip to help her family learn how to be disciple too. On second thought, I may go there this afternoon.

I will help them begin an oral-style inductive Bible study as a family.

April 6, 2010

From 12 to 50+

I just noticed in a post from October that we had 12 attend our prayer meeting that particular Wednesday. We’ve been running 50+ for about 6 weeks now. The format is simple.
  1. We have a meal, (30 minutes)
  2. We put the plates away and formally begin with prayer.
  3. Each person that wants to can share what God did in their lives that week, or what they learned of God and wanted to share with others, or an experience telling someone else about Jesus.(15 minutes)
  4. We sing. (10 minutes)
  5. Someone tells a passage of scripture as story. (5 minutes)
  6. We talk about it and find ways to apply and obey it. (15 minutes)
  7. We break into groups of 3 or so, to pray for one another. (15 minutes)
  8. We close, and put the tables away and benches back into their places, and talk.
I do believe the meal is a draw, but the scripture as story and the opportunity to pray with one another is what keeps people involved.

March 22, 2010

“W” like Gideon

Yesterday morning at our traditional church, I was meeting with 4 new Christians and telling them the stories of John the Baptist’s baptizing, The baptism of Jesus, the command of Jesus to tell the good news about repentance and the forgiveness of sin in his name, and the great commission passage. When we dismissed, an 11-year old boy I will call “W” came to me and told me that he wanted to be baptized too.

I asked him why. He said “It’s the only way. It’s the only way things will change.” I asked him what needed to change. He said. My family is always fighting, everyone. It is horrible. No one cares about anyone and no one is ever happy.

I’d been to his house several times last year, during evangelistic visits. His home is a shack with two rooms, a dirt floor, a tin roof, and 12 beds, stacked like bunk beds. There is no front door, so they put a board up at night. The floor is dirt.

Well, I asked W if he wanted to follow Jesus. He replied that he believes that Jesus is the son of God who was sent to save us, but that he wasn’t sure if he could believe because his family didn’t.

God put Gideon’s story on my heart and so I told it to W, from Judges chapter 6. In the story, Gideon knocks down his father’s Baal alter and cuts down the post-idol and cuts it up for firewood to give a burnt offering to the Lord. The next day the people of the region want to kill him, but Joas, his father had a change of heart and sided with Gideon and sent the people away.

I told W that his faith and obedience to Jesus even when his family is not following Jesus could be just what God uses to call his whole family to repentance. He said I will be baptized and be like Gideon, I will follow Jesus no matter what they say. I hope I can help them follow Jesus too.

We get the baptistery again on April 11th, and plan to baptize 6 more, including W. We’ve baptized 10 in February and 3 in March. Fun to watch God at work.