A Recap on the Oral Bible Storying Workshop
This last Wednesday we spent nearly 8 hours in an Oral Bible Storying (OBS) workshop with about 20 Kwakum men and women. Together we wrestled to understand the context and meaning of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. The goal of this meeting was to begin to give our friends an idea of what OBS is going to look like in the future. Particularly we wanted them to understand that it was going to be a lot of work. A goal that was achieved as many of the participants commented on how difficult the process was.
I sat down with a close friend this Friday and asked her what she thought of the workshop. I expected comments on the difficulty of the task, or the pleasantness of the company. What I heard truly surprised me. Though a lifelong Catholic, she said that she had never heard the story before. But she also said the message of the story was clear: there truly is only one God and all other gods are false. She also marvelled at the faith of Elijah, especially his boldness as the only follower of Yahweh present. I commented, “Can you believe that stayed that faithful to the Lord in the face of 400 prophets of Baal?” She replied, “Actually, it was 450 prophets of Baal.” What a joy to see someone trained so well in the details of the Bible that they can then correct one of their teachers!
The workshop was led by some of our colleagues with SIL/Wycliffe, Kathy and Bruce. It conducted in French though most small discussion groups were in Kwakum. Kathy first recited the story and then led the group in a Bible study of sorts where we talked about the passage devotionally. After recognizing the powerful message of the text, we also gave testimony to the times in our lives where we saw the Lord work in a powerful way. Particularly we discussed how God had demonstrated himself more powerful than village gods and spirits. The small groups then discussed at length who the characters in the story were: their attitudes, their emotions, and what the did in the story. After this step, we studied the context of the story: the context in redemptive history, the political context, and the geographical context.
It was then that those directing the meeting showed a map of Israel in relation to Cameroon and a chart of the various kings and prophets. Each small group was then tasked with constructing the events of the story start to finish. We did a drama (pictured above) in order to cement these events and then discussed the importance of establishing the setting of the story as well as indicating the climax in a way that is uniquely Kwakum. We ended in a lively discussion of key terms (such as prophet, alter, offering, etc). People took turns recounting the story, and then after 7 hours of work, everyone went home (exhausted).
From now on, Dave and I will facilitate Oral Bible Storying (OBS) workshops and we will do it in Kwakum. If there is anyone out there who loves schedules and scheduling as much as I do, our timeline is listed below. I intend to do literacy one weekend out of the month and then help with OBS workshops the other weekends. Since we have a translation/literacy center with guest rooms, the workshop participants can sleep there and work all day Friday and Saturday.
- Aug 30-31 | S – Transitional literacy manual testing
- Sept 6-7 | D – OBS: Creation and Fall (Gen 1-3)
- Sept 13-14 | S – OBS: Noah (Gen 6:6-8:22)
- Sept 20-21 | D – OBS: Joseph’s Forgiveness (Gen 30-50)
- Sept 27-28 | S – Trans. lit. testing / Transcribe stories from OBS
- Oct 4-5 | D – OBS: Passover in the Exodus (Ex 12)
- Oct 11-12 | S – OBS: Bronze snake in the wilderness (Num 21:5-9, John 3:1-18)
- Oct 18-19 | D – OBS: David’s sin with Bathsheba, Nathan’s confrontation, and Ps 51 (2 Sam 11-12)
- Oct 25-26 | S – Trans. lit. testing / Transcribe stories from OBS
- Nov 1-2 | D – OBS: Jesus’ birth
- Nov 8-9 | S – OBS: Jesus heals the paralytic (Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:18-26)
- Nov 15-16 | D – OBS: Woman washes Jesus’ feet (Luke 7)
- Nov 22-23 | D – OBS: Prodigal son (Like 15)
- Nov 29-30 | S – Trans lit testing / Transcribe stories from OBS
- Dec 20-21 | D – OBS: Death of Christ and the forgiveness of the thief on the cross
- Dec 27-28 | S – OBS: Resurrection and the Great Commission
The first day of each of the above workshops will be devoted to the internalization of the story and the second day we will do community checking, back translations, and consultant checking. My prayer is that we could have representatives from each village attend the OBS workshops, internalize the stories, and then go share the stories in local churches and communities the following week. We intend to integrate the stories into our literacy program and have participants come to write them down once a month.
We do not intend for OBS to replace Bible translation but instead to whet people’s appetite for the translation. Another hope is that we can give people a big picture of Scripture and especially the work of God in forgiveness through the stories. We will not include every detail that is found in the Scripture passages themselves but instead, like a good children’s story Bible, the essential events and truths in each story.
How are we feeling? Very excited. The Lord is answering our prayers and we are delighted to (finally) dig into the Scriptures with the Kwakum. May we and may our faithful supporters continue to be faithful in prayer until Christ is worshipped among the Kwakum. If you could particularly pray that our participants, and then later the hearers of these stories, would truly grasp forgiveness. We have found that grudges are common, anger frequent, and few Kwakum people truly know what it is like to be forgiven. If you have ever imagined yourself as the prodigal son returning home to his father’s open arms, pray for the Kwakum. Pray that they would know that the heavenly father is eager to extend the same type of forgiveness, and then empower them to offer it to others.