Reproducibility

Yesterday I was taking a Sunday afternoon nap and when I woke up I heard the recurring “shump shump shump shump” sound of a sewing machine in the next room.  I walked in the room expecting my wife, but instead one of my daughters was working on a project for a friend.  She just learned how to sew in the past couple weeks from my wife.

When I went downstairs, in the kitchen was my youngest son with an apron on backing brownies, under the tutelage of our other daughter who was making sure three tablespoons of salt were used, not three cups like he was about to pour in. 

Going in the other room I found my oldest son on the computer creating some promotional fliers for his sibling’s sewing and baking “businesses”.  He had pictures and layouts and I think the video camera was being charged to make a video to post on YouTube.  I’d like to say that I taught him everything he knows, but honestly all I did a few years ago was get him started and he took of with it from there.  Now he’s flourishing in creating things on his own.

Finally I found my wife, sitting on the couch reading a book.  It hit me later last night what I had seen, besides the house being quiet.  We were seeing my kids do things that they had been taught by us, now on their own and even teaching others how to do what they had learned.

Reproducibility.

“You have heard me teach things…Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. (2 Timothy 2:2)”

When we get the opportunity to train people in how to use storying, we don’t just want them to walk away with notes in a binder to file away.  (Actually, the way we do training we don’t use any handouts or notes anyway, but that’s another topic.)  We want people to leave the training prepared to train others in what they have learned, and do it in such a way that those people can in turn help still others learn.

This short excerpt is from an email I received in December.  It is from a friend in Congo who oversees the people we trained in October.

Your mission to Congo has been a blessing to Church of The Holy Spirit. We keep practicing the training we got from you and it really works. Even a week ago we went to M______ on 18th afternoon and sent a couple of people from the church [my note – these were people who had never gone out before to other villages.] to God’s field telling Bible stories and 8 people come to Christ. Let me tell you that the same day, in the morning we baptized 8 new believers.

Storying is very transferable or reproducible.  Something is easily transferable usually because it is very natural.  And when what is taught is caught, it is able to be passed on to others.

Now if only my kids could learn to keep their rooms clean like they learn other things…but then again, a clean room might not be natural for them.

Churches and Baptisms in India

Not all the stories we will share here are ones directly related to people we have worked with, but we want to share because they highlight how storying is being used by God in situations where traditional Western ministry methods may not be connecting with the people as well.  This is one such story.  We had a chance to be in India for a training a while ago and met men and women like this pastor. 

 A pastor in India tells this story of ministry among his people.

 I was saved from a Hindu family in 1995 through a cross-cultural missionary.  I had a desire to learn more about the word of God and I shared this with the missionary.  The missionary sent me to Bible college in 1996.  I finished my two years of theological study and came back to my village in 1998.  I started sharing the Good News in the way I learnt in the Bible college.  To my surprise, my people were not able to understand my message.  A few people accepted the Lord after much labour.  I continued to preach the gospel, but there were little results.  I was discouraged and confused and did not know what to do.

 But then the pastor’s story takes a major turn.

 In 1999 I attended a seminar where I learnt how to communicate the gospel using different oral methods.  I understood the problem in my communication as I was mostly using a lecture method with printed books, which I learned in the Bible school.  After the seminar I went to the village, but this time I changed my way of communication.  I started using a story telling method in my native language.  I used gospel songs and the traditional music of my people.  This time the people in the villages began to understand the gospel in better way.  As a result of it, people began to come in large numbers.  Many accepted Christ and took baptism.  There was one church with few baptized members when I attended the seminar.  But now in 2004, in six years, we have 75 churches with 1,350 baptized members and 100 more people are ready for baptism.

 This account is taken from the booklet “Making Disciples of Oral Learners” (Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, 2005, 2-3).  This is probably the best non-technical read (about two hours) on who oral learners are and why ministry to them needs to be approached differently.  We like it because it is written by the leaders of many organizations and so doesn’t have an organizational agenda hidden in it.   Available in paperback or as pdf.

Under a tree

In a North African country, a group of national Christians entered a Muslim region.  Before long, they could see a cloud rising in the arid horizon.  The believers sat in the shade of the only tree grove around.  Before long, the Islamic horsemen arrived.  “What are you doing here!  You are on our land!”

The believers told them they came to tell people stories from the injil (Bible).  The armed men dismounted, sat under the tree, and began listening to the stories that were shared.

After several stories, the chief stood up.  “I will make a deal with you.  We will give you the land around this tree and build a hut for you if you will send men to teach us more of these stories.  You will be under our protection.”

Unbeknownst to anybody else, two of the believers had been praying that day, offering themselves to live among this extremist people group.

Today, there is a hut near the tree where a group of men regularly arrive by horseback, sit under the tree, and discuss stories from God’s Word. 

(This story was one inspiration for the logo we use.)

How a 7 year old helped start a church

Taj trip 11.06 071There’s a mountain area in Central Asia where getting 20’ of snow is common during the winter.  People have to dig tunnels to get between houses.  There’s no electricity during the winter.  For six months the villages in this region are isolated from the world.

Afareen (not real name) and her family moved to this region right before the snows came.  Afareen began going to the village school. During the winter, after school the kids rush to one another’s homes for hot tea and candies or cookies.  One day they were in Afareen’s house and she told them one of the stories her family had learned.  Then the kids came up with a song about the story.

Taj trip 11.06 083That night, back at their own homes, some of the children sang the song.  “What is that song you’re singing?”  “We made it up at Afareen’s house.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s about a story she told us…” and they tell the story to their Muslim family.

The parents go to Afareen’s parents.  “What is this our children are telling us?”  Afareen’s parents begin telling them more stories.

Taj trip 11.06 114By the time the snows melt, Muslim families are regular gathering at Afareen’s house, drinking tea, and sharing stories from God’s Word.  Now they are going to the nearby villages and sharing those stories with others.

Midnight persecution, sunrise church

IMGP0642aIn the southern Pacific there are between 20,000 and 30,000 islands.  Some are sparsely populated and others have larger cities.  Some islands have a long history of Christian ministry working.  Others remain unengaged by Christianity.  On one such island, the population is 99% Muslim blended with spiritism.  That is where Tasi (not real name and a national from another island) felt God wanted her to live.

While we were training Tasi and others from the region, she absorbed the use of chronological Bible storying like a sponge.  A few weeks later, she moved to this particular island.

She began telling stories to women in the village while cooking, playing with children, and getting water.  Because of the extreme religious background of the people, Tasi didn’t feel it would be safe for her new friends if she give them Bibles.  It wouldn’t have mattered anyway since their language is an unwritten one and no Bibles exist in it.

One night, around midnight, men from the village burst through her door and dragged her outside, pushing and kicking her.  More men gathered.  Some began stripping her, beating her with canes on her back and the bottoms of her feet.  The men kept telling her to deny these “infidel teachings” she was telling their wives and sisters.  Tasi kept praying out loud, “I love you Jesus…I love you Jesus…I love you Jesus…”

IMGP0753Men turned her house upside down looking for anything Christian that she might be using to teach.  They only found her own Bible, which they destroyed.  When they couldn’t find anything to use as evidence against her, they resumed their beating and yelling at her until the sun began to rise, since on their island it is wrong to punish people like this after sun-up.

Tasi made it back to her house.  Some women took care of her that day.  Tasi never renounced her faith in Christ.  The men never found anything they could use against her.  They didn’t return to persecute her.  And a small group of women began meeting in her house, the first church on the island, among an unreached people group without an alphabet in their language.  And they share stories from God’s Word.

Blogging as communication and catalyst

img_1694-copyLast month I went with a small team to Congo.  There we trained 27 pastors and missionaries in how to use chronological Bible storying to go start churches in undeveloped villages.  It was a fantastic trip full of answered prayers, unexpected barriers both human and spiritual, people becoming Christ-followers, and sharing of lives.  Where but in the Body of Christ can you find people who don’t speak the same language and have almost no common background, but can worship together, pray together, share the spiritual journey they’ve been on, and move forward by faith towards a common goal – seeing people glorify God?

img_1769One of the frustrations we had was being able to keep folks updated.  We had several people checking here for updates, but it wasn’t possible to do.  Either we had no power, no access to internet, or when we did it was a sizzling 0.78 kps, which hampered any possible blog entry.  So we’ll have to figure out some alternatives for reporting from the field on future trips.

As we’re planning 2010 trips to train others, I felt like during this next year I’d like to expand the scope of this blog.  Recently we did an intro to storying workshop for several churches.  It wasn’t for those only interested in global missions, but for local outreach, small groups, student ministry, international university students, and families.  It was a great time.  (If you’d like to find out more about doing something like this at your church, let us kn0w.)  During the day, it became obvious many people were making connections to use storying in their various niches that God has placed them.

What I hope you’ll start seeing here are more regular entries that deal with a variety of topics:

  • storying that is occurring globally;
  • thoughts to spur storying use wherever you are in the relationships that God has given you;
  • pointers to other resources and articles in popular mags, mission mags, and scholarly journals that are out;
  • and more reports from locations we are able to train as we are able.

Hopefully the Lord will allow the posts and comments to be a catalyst for us to see people get into God’s Word (the written) in order that God’s Word (the person of Christ) can get into people with the fewest number of obstacles possible.

Congo trip

A dozen pastors were waiting for us across the border.  The men were smiling ear to ear.  The women were raising their hands and yelling a very fast high pitched “la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…” greeting.  We walked across the bridge, leaving Rwanda and after two and half days of travel finally entering Congo.  For seventeen minutes.  Sometime between when we had left Richmond and the day we entered Congo, the Congolese government had changed the visa policy, now requiring a visa from the embassy in Washington, DC.  We couldn’t get in.  As we walked down the hill to cross the bridge back to Rwanda, all we could do was ask the pastors to pray.

 

Ahh, the battle.  The next day, as we were leaving the hotel, my foot slipped on the stairs, I elbowed a window, and gashed my arm forearm on the concrete frame.  As I was passing out, my phone got a text message.  Here I am laying on the stairs of a Rwandan hotel with a gash in my arm, passing out, no idea if we will get across the border or not, our host has invited all these pastors and missionaries for training, and we had spent the day before praying and having others pray and what does the text message say?  “Welcome to Congo.”

 

pic_0336-tunedIt was from a Congo cell phone company, but it reminded me that God was going to get us in because He wants to do something and wants us to be a part of it.  I’d like to say that I jumped right up praising God, my arm was healed, and shared this confirmation that God was in control and that Satan was not going to keep us out of Congo, but honestly I was out cold because I looked at the blood.

 

Thirty minutes later we walked across the bridge, took our passports to the immigration desk, and got stamped to come in.  “Welcome to Congo.”

 

A number of things happened this past week that kept reminding us that our trip was a real pain in the rear end to Satan.  Our van had a major part break.  A road we needed to take to get to see the rape victim women was closed for two days because of a car burning riot.  Rebels attacked a truck several kilometers from a church we were teaching at on Sunday.  Kath was throwing up two minutes before she was supposed to teach, felt fine, and as she was ending had to run out the door getting sick again.

  

img_1787One of the pastors went into a bar near his home.  The lady running it told Kalu he couldn’t come in unless he was going to buy a beer or Coke.  “I don’t have any money.”  “Then you will have to leave.”  “Why?  All I want to do is share a story.”  “What kind of story?”  “This is a story from God’s Word…”  As he told the story, all the people in the bar stopped and listened then started talking about it when he was done.  The woman and several others asked what kind of church talks about these stories.  “Ours does.”  His church was started by evangelism done through stories last January and has baptized fifteen since.

 

Many of the pastors and missionaries came from difficult backgrounds.  The war has claimed many victims.  One of them is a young woman, Zjebolei, who I’m guessing is 18 or 19.  Rebels img_1683-tunedattacked her village, kidnapping many woman and holding them hostages.  Zjebolei was a raped for a year.  Finally escaping, she made her way back to her village, only to find it burned and her mother and father killed during the raid.  She made the two day trek to the city we were in, met an older woman named Noela who led her to Jesus.  Not long after she gave birth.  Zjebolei is an outcast in her country because she’s been violated, and her baby is an outcast because the father is one of the Rwandan rebels (she doesn’t know who) killing people in the region.

 

Zjebolei didn’t miss a session of the training.  And guess what she’s going to do?  Tell other women who have been raped, lost families, and have outcast children stories about a God who loves completely, even outcasts.

 

This trip seared in my heart more the vision God’s given us, to be a catalyst to help national believers plant churches in hard to reach places by helping get people into God’s Word and God’s Word into people with the fewest number of obstacles possible.

 

img_17231img_17691We’re about ready to land in Ethiopia on our way home.  Kath has been sharing stories with a Rwandan woman sitting next to her for the past two hours.  I’ve got a lady changing her kid’s stinky diaper next to me.  So much for the glamorous life of a missionary.

 

Yours for seeing God glorified in hard to reach places.

Other Snapshots From This Trip

There were frustrations with this trip as well.  Limited translation hampered our being able to talk with kids we met at Channel img_0763to Brazil for Christ’s school.  The safety factor limited our ability to wander through the streets meeting people.  And our video camera died on Day 2, which was really hard for Brady since part of the reason I brought him was so he could get footage to make some videos for me.  Homesickness also got pretty hard for Brady towards the end of the trip.

 

There were also some of those random events that make trips memorable.

·         We had to use mosquito netting at night.  The first night, Brady slept with his knee up against the net.  In the morning he had 33 mosquito bites on his right knee cap where they got him through the mesh.

·         I did not know it was possible to run, cut, dribble and kick a soccer ball at 100 mph in flip flops.  And this was the eight year olds.

·         Brady has groupies.  He helped with a children’s crusade the last few days we imga0005were there by running the powerpoints.  The first night when the program was over, a group of Brazilian boys ran up to him and thought he was really cool because of the computer.  Then they took him over to a group of girls, who giggled.  The next night, the girls crowded around him after the crusade.  And again on the last night.  Brady just sort of looked at me with a “Dad…what do I do?” look on his face.

·         Our last couple days were spent down the coastline with some friends.  They live on a coconut farm where monkeys come to the porch to eat bananas, but in their attic they are producing a series of twenty-five minute movies of chronological Bible story teaching (www.lightinaction.org).  Their vision is to put this online in the major global languages.  We had the chance to talk with them about how different ways that movies can connect with oral cultures and how stories as a follow-up can help reproduce the lessons people take from the movies.  I would encourage you to keep an eye on their films to show international students or to use as a small group with faith seekers.

 

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Village Visit

We drove through the night on a bus between Natal and Fortaleza.  Brady at least got some sleep, but sleep eluded me as violently as the bus driver was swerving the bus to avoid pot holes.  When we got picked up, we expected to go back to CBC to spend time until our 11 p.m. flight to the US, but our host asked if we’d like to visit an interior village.  That was a no-brainer.

 

We didn’t get to share any stories while there, but the experience was one that I’m glad Brady got to have.

 

village-window-kidsAn hour an a half outside the city, we drove into a town that seemed to be an afterthought.  Houses were made of woven sticks with mud slapped on top.  Mosquitoes bred within the crumbling walls.  Nobody seemed to be working, which we found to be true.  There wasn’t anywhere to work.  The crops had been destroyed by the rainy season this year and so people were just passing time until next season.  A village of 7,000 people did pretty much nothing all day.

 

We walked into a church in town and met the pastor and his wife.  They opened up their home, made us lunch while we got a flat tire fixed.  They killed one of their chickens and even bought us a two liter Coke, a meal which I told Brady cost them more than they could afford. 

 

In one of the homes we stopped in, we met a 74 year old man who had ten children.  His wife had left him recently, village-timtaking the five oldest.  His seventeen year old daughter was visiting.  She had stopped going to school in third grade and had recently married a man she barely knew from the city.  It is a marriage of hope only, a hope that being in the city she can find a job.  His other children living with him were all under the age of twelve.  Brady got to meet his nine year old son, who couldn’t count to ten.  I asked our translator what would happen to the young kids if their father dies this year.  “The government will take them to an orphanage in the city, but most kids leave those and go to the favelas.  The eight year old girl could be a prostitute within six months.  And the boy will likely be into drugs…”

 

brady-and-village-boyWhile we were only in this village a few hours, seeing it and hearing people’s stories gave both Brady and I another snap shot of what a hard to reach place looks like.  Our prayer is that God will open up ways for His Story to be taken to these sorts of places, seeing churches born and lives reborn with hope.

The Next Generation

(Brazilian kids)  Three times we were able to do some introduction to Bible storying with a group of teenagers leading in group-teach-resizedministry.  This group of thirty teens are all kids who grew up in the favelas.  Most of the guys had been into drug activity as young kids.  Many of the girls were told they should pursue prostitution if they wanted to ever make any money. 

 

But in the middle of the favela is a ministry committed to community transformation.  One of the main things Channel to Brazil for Christ (www.thechannel.org) does is run a school that adds a half-day of quality education enhancement to the half-day public school the favela kids have.  There are 350 children who are able to be enrolled and over 400 waiting for an opening to get in.

 

All of the youth leaders we met had come to know Christ through CBC and are now leading CBC ministry groups img_1124and discipling children in the favelas.  Many of them go on bus mission trips to interior villages where they do two-day evangelistic crusades.  Some have been awarded scholarships to study at universities.  Some want to go overseas a missionaries.

 

On the last training time, I divided the men and women up and we let them “have church”.  They shared a story, talked about it (women are women all over the world…I had to encourage them to stop sharing so much and keep movin!), and retold the story.  Afterwards a few of the older folks came up and said they could see how this would be so effective in the favelas.  That was what we hoped to hear.  We are hopeful that CBC and these kids will seek ways to weave reproducible storying into their relationships and ministry.

 

(Brady)  The day after leading the house church, Brady said he wanted to share the story I did that night with me.  He did an amazing job without me retelling it.  Then he did another story that I had told him earlier that day.  Then he did a third story, which I shared once.  He had a huge grin on his face and said, “This is fun.  I like doing this!  I can see why you like doing this with people.”  That was great to hear!