15 November, 2016

My storytelling adventure

Christine and I as I guided her on her first journey through
the Tokyo train-subway system from the airport to our house.
I'm always fascinated with encounters leading to unexpected outcomes, especially when it's clearly not designed or planned.

Ten days ago we had a missionary-friend guest from Taiwan. Christine Dillon is an Aussie missionary and author. She's passionate about evangelism via biblical storytelling.

The main reason she came to visit us was for her to see some "real" Japan before she dived into teaching an evangelism and discipleship course from Monday to Friday. That was mostly to be a long bike ride with me. On the way out of our city we stopped so I could show her our church. While she was taking some photos our pastor came out and introductions ensued.

She had planned to go over to our headquarters on that afternoon, but began to think about staying another night so she could come to our church with us the next morning. It turned out later that that was the best option (her next host became unexpectedly busy on Sunday morning). So she stayed an extra night.

The next day at church she was introduced to everyone at the end of the service, as is the standard custom in Japanese church. Almost immediately the service ended the most extroverted Japanese person I think I've ever met, a long-term member of the church, came over and introduced our guest to a Taiwanese lady who's been coming for a few years to our church. It also transpired that a long-time Japanese missionary to Taiwan also was coming to the church that Sunday for the next service and lunch (something we hadn't known).

Anyway, Christine ended up talking with the Taiwanese lady and her Malaysian friend. While we waited for the missionary to Taiwan to turn up, Christine offered to tell these two ladies and me a story, a Bible story. So, standing near the entrance to the worship area she told the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar (Gen 16). The ladies were excited, but were clearly not as familiar with the story as I was.

After returning home we did what often happens these days when meeting new people: we connected up via social media. The Taiwanese lady was a new friend who I'd planned to connect with over this month anyway, so I messaged her asking if she had time to meet, suggesting maybe her friend could join us as well.

After we'd organised a time I dropped the suggestion that we could learn a Bible story together. This wasn't something I've ever done before, so I was a little shocked but pleased when they both responded enthusiastically.

While washing up our lunch dishes Christine briefly told me her method for learning how to tell a short Bible story in a group. What particularly encouraged me was her exhortation that I didn't need to do any preparation. She gave me six question cards to use after we'd learnt the story (you can see them here).  What basically results is not just learning how to tell a story from the Bible from memory, but a simple Bible study.

I'm glad there was no preparation required, because as it turns out, it was a crazy weekend for me. We met, spent time getting to know one another, and learnt Genesis 3:1-15 together in English (that is our best common language).

What blew me away was how enthusiastic both ladies were. They've done Bible studies before, but not one like this. They really liked this and are keen for much more!

The other thing that amazed me was their answer to the sixth question card: "This week, who could you tell this story to?" They both had people in mind, but neither encounter was going to be in English, these multilingual ladies had Japanese-speaking and Chinese-speaking people in mind. 

So I was not only able to help them learn a story and improve their understanding of Scripture. But they were going to go out and do what I couldn't do. Not only do they have language abilities that I don't have, but they obviously have many friends and colleagues I don't have. It seems almost too basic even to write this out. But if, in my little way, I can equip these ladies to tell people stories from the Bible, and continue that so they get all the way to being able to tell the gospel, it doesn't matter if my language and evangelistic skills aren't great (the things I always beat myself up about).

Exciting and not at all in my usual scope of ministry! But something that's landed in my lap that I intend to follow through with. We're meeting next Wednesday to learn the next story in the series of eight to give a Bible overview that seems to be the current "best practice".

The whole thing reinforces to me that what we're doing in Japan is not of our own making, God has a plan for using our willingness to serve him here and sometimes we get a glimpse of his plans.

If you're interested in this method of ministry, do check out Christine's website: storyingthescriptures.com. If you are on FB you can ask to be accepted into the "Storying the Scriptures" FB group dedicated to supporting each other and asking questions about this.


Caroline said...

Hi Wendy, thanks for sharing this, my response to reading it is 'wow!', too, because it seems so relevant to me at the moment. I'm reading a book which suggests that telling Biblical stories is a most effective way to start conversations in cultural groups which have strong story-telling cultures. I think that many people in my part of the world probably come from such groups. So I'm really encouraged to read your post, and the links. Now I just have to put it into practice!

Belinda Lakelin said...

that's awesome! Thanks for sharing Jesus in another culture.

Sarah said...

Exciting! Yes, His plans are so often very different to ours.

Anonymous said...

I know how exciting it is to just sit back and let the Holy Spirit work, he sure knows how to tell a story don't you think.