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.