Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Suga's Story Continues

Senda shared, “About six months ago my husband asked this woman if she would disciple me. God put it on my husband’s heart that we will not reach our nation if the women are not taught about how much God loves and values them. He asked this woman if she would train me in how to tell Bible stories so the women in our nation can know that God sees them and hears their cries.

My husband and I met with her and her husband regularly for them to train us in story-centric discipleship. Story-centric discipleship means to know God through His sacred stories by listening, sharing, and teaching others His sacred stories so that we can know how to be in relationship with Him. I would like to come and tell you more sacred stories so that you can listen to them, then share them, and teach them to others as well.”

The elder’s wife said, “We would love this very much. We had a Jesus follower come to our village about 15 years ago and he shared Jesus stories with us, but we haven’t had a Jesus follower in our village since then.”

Senda said, “We will try to come and visit your village four times a year. If I come, will you be willing to gather groups of women and tell them the Bible stories, too?”

We all said, “Yes! Of course!”

Senda went on to say, “In my village on Saturday nights, I gather women from five different villages. I share the sacred story with them, and we practice until each of us can tell it accurately. Sometimes, I might need to tell it five times before everyone in the group can tell it accurately. I then ask them to go back to their villages and gather a group of women to do the same thing. They will gather the women, tell the story until everyone can tell it accurately and then they go share it at their village.

Each week when we listen to the story, we will take the time to ask at least these three questions: 1. What do you learn about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit? 2. What do you learn about the people both good and bad? 3. What should you do based on what you have learned? The women love it when we ask the questions because it gives them time to discover deep truths that God reveals to them in the stories.

Without thinking, I raised my hand slightly. Senda looked at me and said, “Yes?” It just came out of my mouth, “I can’t believe you are trusting us with these sacred stories?”

Senda smiled sweetly said, “It is not me that trusts you. It is God!”

I couldn’t believe it! God trusts me with His sacred story! I determined in my heart that I would gather women to tell His sacred stories every time Senda came and shared them with us.

Just then the men walked up to the courtyard and motioned that it was time for Senda to leave us. I didn’t want her to leave. I wasn’t ready because I wanted to know more sacred stories. We quickly hugged her goodbye and then she was gone. My heart felt joy as I thought of God’s sacred stories, but I also felt sadness because we didn’t know when Senda would return, but I started thinking of who I would invite to come and hear the sacred stories.

The next week I had invited five women from my village along with my sisters to hear the stories. I did exactly what Senda said she did with her women in her village. I welcomed them and then told them I wanted to share the sacred story of Jesus, the Son of the Most High God with them. I told them the sacred story several times until they were comfortable retelling it to each other. I then asked them to go out and tell it to a group of women they would gather and to do it the way I did it. I reminded them to tell it several times and have them practice it so they can tell it well. Then encourage them to go do the same.

My sister Praga loved listening to the stories too. She shared with me that wanted to tell the stories, too. This surprised me because Praga is a practicing Hindu. But the next week when we gathered together Praga shared that she invited five friends over and she also told them the sacred story of the Most High God sending Jesus to be born as a baby to Mary. Praga shared that the women in her gathering all agreed to go and tell the sacred stories to their friends the same way.

I couldn’t wait until Senda showed up again to share more sacred stories with us.

After about six months the white van drove up with the dust cloud swirling around it. This time all of the women that heard the van drive up rushed out to greet Senda. We were so excited to share with her that we were faithful in sharing the sacred stories. We encircled our arms around her arms, and we rushed over to our courtyard so Senda could share more stories with us. As we sat down to sip our tea and catch-up Senda asked us how it has been in our village. Normally, we would chatter about the happenings of each family, but not today. I couldn’t wait!

“Oh Senda, the Most High God makes us feel so valued. We stand taller because we have been trusted with His sacred stories. We can’t wait to hear more sacred stories about the Most High God and His Son Jesus! What story will you tell us today?”

Senda looked at each woman that gathered. There must have been well over thirty women this time waiting to hear the sacred story.

Senda pulled out a little black box and pushed a button and we heard a man’s voice say, “In Matthew 1, we are told this true story…” We sat mesmerized as we listened to the man’s voice tell us the generations that led up to the birth of Jesus. After listening for a while Senda shared with us that Audio Scripture Ministries provided these solar power devices for them to bring out to our village. Senda said, “The sun can charge it up for you so you can listen. Sit it out so that this side faces the sun, and the sun will give it energy to power it up.”

I wanted it so bad, but Senda gave it to the elder’s wife to be used in the village. Senda asked, “When will you gather so you all can listen to hear the Most High God’s sacred stories?”

We chose a day and agreed to gather, pray, listen, share, and then go teach it to others. Senda suggested that we listen to one chapter at a time and to play it as many times as necessary so that we can retell it accurately.

Then one of the women said, “Senda will you tell us a sacred story, too?”

Senda smiled and said, “Of course!” Senda bowed her head in prayer and then began to say, “In today’s sacred story, we will hear about how Jesus invited people to be His disciple. A disciple is someone that follows someone and does what they do. When you listen today, I want you to ponder if you are willing to be a disciple of Jesus, the Son of the Most High God. In this sacred story Jesus is called the Word.

Everything in the Bible is true. In John 1 we are told, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…”

***This is a fictional account that is based upon a composite of stories taken from a team of storytellers. The names have been changed to protect the storytellers. Every scene is based on a true story that has been told of what is happening on the field.

Suga's Story

***This is a fictional account that is based upon a composite of stories taken from a team of storytellers. The names have been changed to protect the storytellers. Every scene is based on a true story that has been told of what is happening on the field.

I heard a car humming in the distance, so I got up from the fire where I was cooking to go see what was causing the noise. A small white van was approaching our village as the dust was kicking up and swirling in a dust storm behind it. When it pulled to a stop several of the village elders walked out to greet the family as they climbed out of the van. It was a husband, wife, and five children. It isn’t typical for us to have someone come to our village because it usually takes two to three hours to reach us from where the city people live.

I paused and watched as the head elder listened to the man speak as he motioned to his wife. The elder motioned for one of the women to come over to him and they introduced the women. The women walked away to our gathering area, so I hurriedly wiped off my hands and rushed over to see what was happening. At first, I stood at the edge of the gathering space in the courtyard waiting and hoping that I might be welcomed to come join them.

The women were seated on a grass mat and the elder’s wife was pouring tea from the pot for the women. It is our custom to offer tea when someone visits. It is very offensive to not accept the tea, but if the tea is accepted this means that the person accepts your hospitality. The visitor reached out and accepted the small cup of tea being offered to her. She cupped it in her hands as she sipped it nodding with pleasure at the soothing comfort it brings to the dry throat.

My friend looked over at me, “Suga, the woman has come to tell us stories. Please help me gather the other women so we can listen together.”

I was so excited! I hurried to get my mother and sisters to come! I said, “Mom, hurry! There is a visitor, and she wants to share some stories with us!” My mom and my sisters looked up with curiosity and got up to follow me. By the time we gathered around in the courtyard there were about four other women already there. The woman stood up front with a beautiful shalwar kameez in bright yellow with silver sequence on it. The sun made it sparkle as she moved around. She was so elegant and a bright contrast to the mud walls behind her.

She said, “Hi, my name is Senda. Thank you for welcoming me so kindly in your village today. I would love to share with you some sacred stories.”

We all sat up a little taller when she said they were sacred stories. We wanted to bring honor to our guest as she told them. In our tradition, it was our custom to gather and listen to sacred stories being told.

Senda said, “This is the sacred story of Jesus, the Son of the Most High God. It is told in the Sacred book called the Bible. In the Bible we are told this true story.

One day an angel spoke to a young maiden named Mary who was engaged to be married to Joseph. They lived in the land of Nazareth near Galilee. The angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid, favored one of God, the LORD is with you! You will give birth to a son, and you will call him, Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The LORD will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign forever. His kingdom will know no end.

Mary asked, “How can this be? I am still a virgin.”

The angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. The child you will give birth to will be called holy—the Son of God. Even now your cousin Elizabeth in her old age will give birth to a son. She is six months pregnant even though she had been barren. For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary responded to the angel by saying, “I am the LORD’s servant. Let it be as you have said.”

Then the angel departed from her.

I wondered at the story Senda was sharing with us. I wondered, why was this young maiden was so important? Why was her baby called the Son of God? How can I know more about this Son of God? He sounds so wonderful and powerful. Why have we never heard of this Son of God before? How can I learn more? As these questions were rolling around in my head Senda asked us a question.

“Would you like to hear the story again?” Everyone in the group nodded in agreement. So, Senda told us the true sacred story again. This time I listened with anticipation expecting the angel to tell the young maiden to not be afraid. It was if I was seeing the story unfold in my mind’s eye as she told the story. I was no longer there with our small group, but in the village with the young maiden called Mary as the angel talked to her.

When Senda finished telling the story she said, “May God honor the telling of His sacred story.”

Senda then asked, “What do you learn about God in this passage?”

At first, we all just sat there and looked at her. No one responded. We were not accustomed to someone asking us our thoughts when someone shared. We just listened. So, Senda coaxed us and said, “It is okay. I would love to hear what you think and what you have to say about the story. By answering it will help all of us discover truths together.

She asked again, “What do you learn about God in this passage?

I thought in my mind, “You said the baby was God’s Son!”

One of the women in the group said, “God sent an angel to talk to the young girl.”

Senda responded by saying, “Yes, God sent a messenger to the young girl. That was good. What else?”

Another woman said, “God was the Most High God!”

Senda responded, “Yes! God is the Most High God. There are no other gods like Him. What do you learn about His Son?”

“He would reign forever, and His kingdom will have no end!” my sister cried excitedly from the back of the group.

“You are so right! Very good! So, we have discovered that the Most High God sent His Son to earth to be born as a baby and that as He grows up His kingdom will last forever. What else do we learn about the Most High God?”

I whispered it aloud, “Nothing is impossible for Him.”

It took me by surprise when Senda said, “Yes! That is right! Nothing is impossible for the Most High God!” As she straightened her head covering that was slipping off her head she then asked as she made quiet eye contact with each of us, “What about Mary? What do we learn about Mary?”

One of the women raised her hand to get Senda’s attention and when Senda nodded acknowledgment she said, “Well, she was young and engaged.”

That hit me for a moment. Mary wasn’t married and she was told she would become pregnant with a child. This would bring shame upon her, shame upon her family, and shame upon her village. Why would God ask her to do that? I was too afraid to voice what I was thinking. I didn’t want to shame Senda by questioning her. But, I really wanted to understand.

My thoughts were interrupted by one of the women saying, “She was willing to listen to the angel and ask him questions.”

WOW! I hadn’t caught that either time Senda told the story. Mary questioned God’s angel! We don’t even sit in the same area as the men in our village much less talk to them. We would never consider asking them questions in response. What kind of God allows a woman to ask His angel questions? The more I thought about Senda’s sacred story the more I started to ask questions in my heart about the Most High God. It seems like He honored women, and He was willing to let women talk to His angels. He didn’t shame Mary. He lifted Mary up by blessing her. What kind of God gives women such honor? What kind of God gives women such freedom to speak? How can I know this Most Hight God?

“Yes! Good! These are great answers,” said Senda. “What do you learn about her response to the angel of the Most High God?”

One of the women whispered, “She said she was the Most High God’s servant and agreed that it should be as the angel suggested.”

I thought to myself, “That is what I want, too! I want to be the servant of the Most High God and do as He asks!”

“Yes! That is right! Mary said she was willing to be the LORD’s servant. She was willing to do as the LORD asks. I would like to share with you a little bit about my story and why I am here.”

I leaned in because I wanted to know everything about why Senda came to our village this day!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Anticipation for Jesus Birth

Anticipation gives me such joy! I love looking forward to something, sometimes I get a ticklish feeling runing up and down my spine as I anticipate something fun. It makes me wiggle and giggle.

Yet, there are times that when I anticipate something that it takes too long and it falls into the category of waiting. I do not like waiting. It makes me feel heavy and sluggish. It feels like a burden. 

I imagine the anticipation and wait for the birth of Jesus brought about both of those feelings. There were those that were so excited that they felt their spine tickle, but the wait was long. You really need to know why you are waiting to get the joy of aniticipation when it is a long wait.

Just before the birth of Jesus there were 400 years of silence from God. There were no prophets giving His messages. They had to focus on what they knew. They knew the Messiah or Savior of the world was coming, but not when. They needed to prepare their hearts to give Him room when He arrived, but didn't know the day or time. 

The last of the birth pangs before Jesus' arrival were long and laborious. The wait was hard.

Today, we start the advent season anticipating the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Christmas is such a happy time because it is when God's presence comes in human form. Christmas is the fulfillment of the Messiah's arrival. 

He came to us as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. Heaven's gift, Emmanuel, which means God with us. We no longer are waiting His first arrival. He has arrived. He has made a way for all men to draw into the presence of God and know the gift of eternal life.

Join me in celebrating the birth of Jesus on this first day of advent. Here is the first story in our series.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Why do I model a simple telling of God's Word?

Why do I model a simple telling of God's Word? 

Is it because I don't like drama, skits, or musicals?  Not at all. Those each have a time and place for presentation. I love them and they can be a great asset in drawing someone to the LORD if done properly in the right cultural context.

If someone is hearing the Word for the first time, I have a responsibility to tell it in such a way that they hear it clearly and can repeat it clearly. I want them to be able to replicate what I have done.

A simple telling is easily reproducible. 

It is the first step of learning a story. It is the foundation of good storytelling.

When I lead trainings, I always start with how to recall a story as the first basic element. I have a responsibility as an educator to establish a good foundation to build on.

The pattern is listen, learn, share. 

When our partners observe this model in other countries, they get so excited because it is so easy to follow. I am often told "Thank you! This is so easy. We can do this!"

Often, material is presented in highly literate methods and reproducing it seems difficult. When they see our books, posters, PowerPoints, dramas, wardrobes, digital media, etc. It feels daunting because they may not have these readily available and this then makes it appear that God's Word is not accessible in their context. 

Often we do not realize how those watching us will think I must copy everything they do. This is true right down to how we dress. If I only teach with a robe on then those watching determine they must wear robes. The focus moves from telling the story to the outer appearance of the leader or even the material.

A simple telling guards the purity of God's Word and what is perceived about the role of the teller.

Once a basic storytelling is established, we will then learn how to ask good questions and model different learning styles. 

The goal of asking good questions will be to help them discover from God's Word the truths that the Holy Spirit is revealing to them in their context. It isn't about me teaching them what I know. 

The goal of using different learning styles will be to encourage the person in their context to reproduce the Word through their arts: drawing, drama, skits, music, poetry, digital media,  etc. 

The key is that they are the creator of the art form to take place not me. This lends it to be culturally relevant and reproducible in their context.

A simple telling of God's Word is foundational. If done well, then those listening and learning will immediately start dreaming about how to share it in their context. Dreams of dramas, skits, poetry, art, and digital media will be envisioned as they seek to communicate God's story to their people in their ways. A good basic telling opens the door for the Holy Spirit to unleash His creativity in them to create and tell His story well in their culture and context.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

I am in Awe of GOD!

I am reading Job with the intention to focus on what I learn about the character of God. It has added a whole new layer to my understanding of the book of Job, but also the beauty of knowing God in our suffering. 

I am asking myself to reflect on what I learn about the character of God through Job and even his friends.  If you have never studied Job, you need to understand that his friends are known for talking too much and blaming Job for His suffering. 

As I am reading Job to know God, I am focusing on HIM instead of the inadequacies of Job or his friends. I am discovering that I am walking in a deeply rich worship experience that causes me to write out prayers that are inspiring to my heart, my soul, and my spirit. And as crazy as it sounds, they often feel poetic to me. They are a beautiful conversation between me and God.

Today, I was blown away by the beauty of how God's creation displays His wonders. God sets boundary lines in creation that man cannot undo. Like the existence of light and dark. We can add light to dark but we cannot undo day and night or the pattern of their existence.

I am astounded as I ponder the crushing of the earth to form rocks that can be cut into brilliant diamonds.  Hidden treasures we can discover, explore, and even do our own creating. If we dig deep enough we find math and science revealed in these discoveries. Holding patterns and equations that give us clever beauty. 

I am in awe! I am basking in His wonderful creation allowing myself to behold His beauty as He displays His splendor for us to explore. Immeasurable. Unfathomable.  Mysterious. Consistent. Ingenious. Divine. 

I am in awe of God!

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Unconventional Ministry Podcast Interview on Story-Centric Discipleship in Bible Engagement

What a blessing! I was interviewed on Unconventional Ministry Podcast by Dennis Weins. 

My family always said I was Unconventional! LOL! 

What an honor and privilege!

Thank you Coleen Becker Black for the connection. Your introduction at the Grace Alumni Event made this possible. 

Dennis was an incredible interviewer that truly grasped the value of what I do as an oral strategist with Bible Engagement at Audio Scripture Ministries.

Feeling unexpectedly honored and excited for good fruit to be born through this podcast.

I'm listening to Unconventional Ministry | How Story-centric Discipleship Could Change Your Church on Podbean, check it out!

Unconventional Ministry Podcast