God’s Timing

“I was very discouraged when the Aja SOS finished,” remembered Dodji, our Aja translator and a current School of Storying (SOS) trainer. He explained, “It looked like my people were rejecting the stories.” 

So few participants in the Aja SOS in October 2013 were interested in telling the stories that we despaired of anyone ever using the stories in ministry, but God was still at work!

We recently learned that one of the participants, Francois, began telling stories in his home village. When people in his church wanted to learn to tell stories, he trained Germain and a few other men how to use the stories. As these men visited surrounding villages to share the good news of Jesus through the Aja stories, in one village, the people responded to the stories with such enthusiasm that Germain and his friends planted a church.  After Dodji heard Germain talk about the new church, he exclaimed, “I’m so happy to know that people are using the Aja Bible stories to reach our people.”

Sensing God‘s prompting to restart a storying movement among his Aja people, Dodji offered two storytelling trainings in April in Djakotomey, his home village. By the end of the trainings, 71 new storytellers had told stories to 596 people and had started 68 new story groups.  As Dodji follows up with these new storytellers, he hears how people are responding to the stories the training participants tell. He recounted, “Jean-Paul started a story group, and, in just three weeks, his group grew to 32 people, and 26 of them have become believers! Amele and her husband started a group in another village, and 60 people attend regularly!”

Dodji continued, “Now I realize that it was just not God‘s timing yet. It’s like I hear a voice inside me saying, ‘Don’t ever again think that no one is using the stories you are helping make. God is using His stories to do exactly what He wants among people groups. What you have to do is just go, make good stories, and train storytellers. God will use them according to His will.”

Sadder and Sadder

African Man Moved to Tears After Hearing Passion Story - StoryRunners

“Stop! What’s that?” Our non-Christian translator, *Edward, held up his hand. His face was pale, as we sat under the mango tree outside our training room translating stories from the Passion Week. We all listened. We heard one of our trainers calling one of our participants, but to our translator, he heard, “He is dead! He is dead!” God was clearly touching this man’s heart. We continued working through the stories. After each story, he’d say, “Wow, these stories are getting sadder and sadder! Last week in the stories, Jesus was doing miracles and healing people, and everything was happy. But now they are so sad.”

Edward is a very kind and gentle, smiling person, but we noticed that he was unusually somber today. It was very apparent to us that the stories were affecting him. Edward was beginning to see Jesus in a different light from what he was used to. Before this School of Storying he viewed Jesus as the ‘Christian God’. But he did not know or understand who Jesus really was. We continued playing the stories for him, sentence by sentence. We noticed that with every sentence, he was pondering the real meaning and weight of what was being said, rather than just translating them. When we got to the crucifixion story, he listened to the line, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” At that point, tears began to fall down his face. He started shaking his head.

“Jesus was at the point of desperation,” he whispered. “I understand.” He excused himself and went away for a few minutes, washing his face and composing himself. But he was still shaken when he returned. When we reached Jesus’ resurrection, the tears flowed again, and once again, he had to excuse himself for a few minutes. At the end of our translation session, he told us, “In the beginning I didn’t realize where this was going. But now I realize it is about Jesus’ life. And beyond all this he rose from the dead and went to heaven promising his Spirit to his followers. When people hear these stories, they should believe, because Jesus proved over and over again that He is the Son of God.”

*Name changed and face has been blurred for security reasons.

In the Middle of Nowhere

Experiencing God Among the Unreached - StoryRunners November 2017 Newsletter - Road to Nowhere
“Tall, African bush almost towered above us,” Michael reported from a story movement trip in Africa. “I looked around and all I could see was grass-carpeted vast land dotted with flat-topped trees. We had covered quite a distance already since we started our journey. We were on our way to the church our guide has set up.
“He kept saying we were nearly there but it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere. Or so I thought. Suddenly, we heard voices, faint at first.” Then we realized they were singing, in a language I could not understand. And then we saw them – one, two, three people. No, there were more than 20, 30, actually around 50 people gathered under a big tree.
Experiencing God Among the Unreached - StoryRunners November 2017 Newsletter - Beautiful worship
“We quietly joined the group as we saw they were in deep worship. I was quickly swept into the sweet melody that was filling the air. I did not know what they were singing but I knew it was beautiful. God’s presence among the people was almost tangible. I soaked it all in. I was in awe. I looked at the people’s faces and they were so happy. As if everyone was so in love with Jesus. I could not shake off the feeling of awe. When we left a few hours later, I blurted out to my team, “What had just happened? I’ve never felt like that before. That was the best experience of my life!”
Experiencing God Among the Unreached - StoryRunners November 2017 Newsletter - Enjoying church
As it turned out the group that Michael was referring to was only a few months old. It started as an oral Bible study group with 11 people but had quickly grown to 65 within months. Before the group was formed, a man in the village from a different religious background, had purchased prayer mats to encourage people to do their prayers. But when the pastor started telling Bible stories in the village, everyone liked the stories so much that, eventually, all the people who belonged to the local place of worship started coming to the Story Fellowship Group. The same man who bought the prayer mats was the very first one to give his life to Christ. He is just one of the many changed lives Michael witnessed across Africa during his short visit there.