“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.
Early this month we had three teams spread across Francophone Africa to meet with local leaders, to develop oral Bible stories, and to equip people to reach out to their own unreached people group. Hallie, a team leader who was with Karim, had this to share: “We have been to three cities and six remote villages. Everywherewe went, we saw over and over again that these stories CHANGE LIVES. They WORK. God is MOVING in places where people know nothing about Him.”
But there is hope for God’s WORD is changing people’s lives. One person (among many) is a village chief whose life has been radically changed because of the story group in his village. He was so excited to have the story group there and welcomed the StoryRunners team with open arms. In another village, the chief proudly took the team to visit the land he was donating so that Karim could build the first church in their village. Everyone has been eagerly using storying, forming many new story groups, including second-generation groups and churches.
A team in another part of Africa had an equally fruitful time developing oral Bible stories and using them in outreaches. In just three weeks, more than 1,500 people heard the oral Bible stories, and around 56 story groups met in the two villages the team worked in. Hallelujah!
The third team leader shared, “Seeing the simple method working in a relaxed and natural environment reminded me of the power of storytelling. It truly can be done by anyone, anywhere, any time for nearly any situation. And all you need to do is show up. When you do, so does God.” Indeed. Look out for more on how storying is changing the spiritual landscape of Africa in our next newsletter.
GET TO KNOW: NANCY KELLEY ALVAREZ
The Lord saved Nancy 44 years ago and was burdened to share God’s Word and love to others. She first followed God’s call to Asia in 1979 to teach English to the Japanese. Later she went to the Philippines to plant churches. She later earned an MA from Wheaton Graduate School in Intercultural Studies and then returned to Japan as a church planter. Through twists and turns the Lord led her back to the Philippines to teach at Cru’s International Graduate School of Leadership as trainer of English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. During this time, she met the love of her life – Al Alvarez. They married in 1999 and adopted Al’s niece and nephew in 2002. Nancy joined Cru in 2000 and has been serving with StoryRunners since 2010.
PRAISE & PRAYER
PRAYER | We covet your prayers, please pray:
WOULD YOU PARTNER WITH US?StoryRunners partners with people like you who fund our School of Storying projects and our day-to-day operations. If you are encouraged about how God is using StoryRunners, ask Him if He wants YOU to become a monthly giving partner or to make a special gift.
We have three teams currently in Africa at the same time. Team Maximus is on a return trip to West Africa to work with the *M people. Team ET is also on a return trip to West Africa with the E* people. While Team Toad is working toward building relationships with leaders in Central Africa to set up the first SOS (School of Storying) in that region. Here is the update from our leader for Team ET.
“Dumah, Dumah Zama, Dumah!” Glory, Glory to God, Glory! Dumah is also used to refer to the majestic trees like this one. (Faces have been blurred for security reasons.)
“We stopped by a flowing stream for a drink of good mineral water. It so happened that there were a few people there. They were filling five-gallon plastic drums from the free flowing water to carry on their heads back to the village. I started telling the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, which I thought was quite fitting for the context. After I finished, some more people gathered. So I told the story again and asked what they learned about Jesus.
One man said, “Jesus can do miracles, like give eternal life.” I asked them if they followed Jesus. The man said he wanted to follow Him. I shared the Gospel that Jesus died to take away our sins and rose to life again on the third day. If we believe that He did this, we could ask Him to give us eternal life too. He said he wanted to, so I prayed and our translator interpreted it while he prayed in his heart. We exchanged contact information so we can follow up with him and invited him to hear our stories next week.”
A sea of Dumah trees.
We praise God for opportunities such as this where we can share the Good News through life-changing oral Bible stories anytime, anywhere to anyone. Pray for those who heard the stories, that they will have a genuine hunger for Christ. And that they will realize that Jesus is the Living Water. If you would like to hear the story of the Samaritan woman, check our YouTube channel.
Telling an oral Bible story by a flowing stream in Africa
*Names changed for security reasons.
A StoryRunners team goes to Africa to look for new partnerships
Our vision is to help people in 500 unreached language groups become followers of Christ in a growing community of faith by the year 2025.
“I’m nervous in big groups so, on mission trips I’m in the background, but this trip has pushed me to be a more confident Christian.” Hannah, Missouri
Hannah, second from right.
Spanning more than 265,000 acres and soaring up to 14,259 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is a magnet for millions of tourists every year. Tourists and locals alike flock to the Park to bask in its natural beauty – multicolored wildflowers carpeting the park, meandering rivers, hiking trails snaking through subalpine forests, exotic animals and a plethora of recreational activities.
Earlier this summer, a group of college students and StoryRunners staff members, climbed up the mountain to soak in something different. Something far more precious and lasting than the breathtaking panorama. They came to immerse themselves in God’s Word, in the greatest stories ever told. In doing so their hearts were pricked and their lives were changed. Read on to hear about the experience of StoryRunners intern Allyssa.
“On July 25 college students from campuses across the USA joined us in the Rocky Mountains on a 10-day summer mission trip packed with adventure, fun and amazing opportunities to fellowship with one another. Surrounded by spectacular sceneries, the students learned 12 oral Bible stories from the gospels and learned how to use each story to engage people in spiritual conversations. Each evening, in a story group around a campfire, we dug deep into a story and committed each to memory. God pierced our hearts with His Word, changing us profoundly. Every morning, after a night in a tent, or, in my case, a hammock under the stars, we took our stories to the hiking trails.
“We enjoyed conversations with many people who were eager to hear a story. Each encounter was a great encouragement, not only to the listener, but also to the storyteller. For those who weren’t interested, we thanked them, and we prayed for them as we continued on our way. In 10 days, our students shared 237 stories with 561 people on the trails! It was so uplifting!”
After the 10 incredible days up the mountain, with hearts on fire and rekindled passions, the students returned home, ready and committed to share the stories they learned. At least a half dozen of them have already led story groups back on their campuses, and others are planning to integrate storytelling into their outreaches on campus.
Because of your support and partnership, these students have been impacted tremendously and they will continue to reach others in the coming years.
If you’re 18-25, consider joining us next year. Check storyrunners.org, ‘Get Involved’ section.
“I was losing my joy in serving God but this trip helped me get the joy back.” JiSoo, Buffalo, NY (bottom left)
“I have not encountered this much love in a group before. I am so overwhelmed.” Erin, Tennessee (center)
“This was the best week of my life!” “I was scared to pray out loud in front of a group. I was scared of talking to strangers and of bringing up faith in conversations. This week I realized that I don’t have to be scared of things I don’t know about.” Michaella, Texas (Michaella initially implored her boyfriend to turn the car around as they were making their way to the airport. Ten days later she had a new attitude … she didn’t want to leave! In this photo she confidently shares an oral Bible story to a hiker they met on the trail.)
“When Melissa gave that presentation about Unreached People Groups, my heart broke after knowing that most mission resources are allocated towards reached people. I realized how much God is calling me to work with international students. I’m involved in Bridges on my campus, and my Bridges leader wants me to bring Bible storying to campus so I’ll be teaching them the Bible stories and how to use them.” Amaryllis, Texas
Some of our new staff members prepare a studio out of materials available in the house during their five-week training in Orlando.
Meanwhile, back in Orlando, we welcomed six new staff members, volunteers and interns! After an intensive five-week training, they are ready to go to reach the ends of the earth to share our life-changing oral Bible stories. We are so blessed to have each one of them. Please lift them up in your prayers as some are still in the process of raising support.
PRAISE & PRAYER
- For sparing our lives, that our homes and the Cru office suffered minimal damage during hurricane Irma.
- For the 561 people on the trails who heard Bible stories.
- For God to bring healing and restoration to each person affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma
- For the hikers with whom we engaged in spiritual conversations – that God would grow the seeds planted in their hearts.
Photo Credit: Dustin Brecht Photography
TWO WAYS TO GIVE: ONLINE | Give.cru.org/2817474 BY CHECK | Made payable to Cru and mailed in enclosed envelope
100 LAKE HART DRIVE, MC 1100, ORLANDO, FL 32832 • STORYRUNNERS@CRU.ORG • (407) 826-2396 • STORYRUNNERS.ORG
Click here to check the pdf version of the StoryRunners September 2017 Newsletter.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Dance is an integral part of worship in Africa
“Every morning and afernoon session began with worship. Dancing is an integral part of worship, and everybody has to dance. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The beat, the style and rhythm are so diﬀerent, and ofen there is a lead singer with the crowd cheerfully responding with a chorus,” reported Mark Steinbach, StoryRunners Director. Mark was at the very frst West Africa Train the Trainer workshop held this summer.
The workshop saw 41 leaders from churches, para-church groups and other ministry leaders gather in West Africa along with three members from StoryRunners in the US. With representatives from Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Togo, the event was the frst of its kind for StoryRunners and the African leaders. Its main purpose was to train the African leaders to become trainers for future School of Storying (SOS) projects.
During the three-week training, everyone developed oral Bible stories using our six-step process and learned how to coach a story development group. The participants also gained practical experience. Using Bible stories developed on the ‘F’ SOS project (name undisclosed for security reasons), some of them taught
‘ F ’ – speaking people how to learn and discuss stories in a Story Fellowship Group (SFG).
For many of the participants, it was their first authentic cross-cultural experience. They had to work with a translator to reach a people who spoke a language diﬀerent from theirs. Another team also reached out to students at a nearby university to help plant a new Cru ministry in that campus.
Story development in progress
The workshop culminated with the certification of 31 participants as ‘Assistant Trainers in StoryRunners School of Storying.’ This is a huge milestone for us as we have now more than doubled our training capacity—with African nationals ready to work with other unreached language groups. We are incredibly grateful to
these African leaders. Please pray that they will faithfully share the gospel through these oral Bible stories.
We are also very grateful for your prayers and partnership. We could not have done it without you.
A glimmer of hope for the Haka people
This summer, we joined forces again with E3, a partner mission agency based in Dallas, Texas. We sent one of our team leaders to revisit the *Haka people, an unengaged and unreached people group who live in a restricted country in Central Asia.
Afer a challenging two-week session, we were delighted to see encouraging improvements among the participants. When Maria, one of the participants, told the story of Jesus calming the storm to her son, she experienced a ‘breakthrough’ moment. She told our team, “Suddenly, the story came alive to me for the frst time. It was like I was sitting on the boat with the disciples, feeling the water on my face.” We are now planning to complete the project in early 2018 to fnish the story set and continue our training with E3 partners in Bible story development. We praise God for this glimmer of hope. Please also pray that the Haka participants will be steadfast in sharing the gospel among their people.
“I was losing joy in serving God but this trip helped me get the joy back!” Exclaimed one of the 25 students who exclaimed one of the 25 students who
participated at our Rocky Mountain Summer Mission. look out for more exciting stories on this in our next edition!
Praise & Prayer
1) Praise God for the recently concluded second part of the Haka School of Storying, for the changed hearts among our participants there, for their renewed
commitment to using oral Bible stories, and for their partnership with us.
2) Praise God for the recently concluded Cru17 US Staﬀ Conference in Colorado that our team attended from July 16 – 24.
3) Praise God for our summer mission, which fnished earlier this month. Our 32 participants learned about oral Bible storying and shared their faith all over the
Rocky Mountain National Park using Bible stories. Read next month’s newsletter to learn more.
1) Pray for our upcoming SOS trips in the fall: for preparation by our nationals in the feld, safety and health for our travel teams, and for full funding for each
2) Pray for the 31 African leaders we trained to be School of Storying Assistant Trainers to continue to develop their storying skills and gain more experience.
Spreading our wings in West Africa – StoryRunners
“The rain pelts the metal roof and creates a dull roar for the background music of our lunch. But the cacophony inside is much louder, composed of voices in fve diﬀerent languages, with songs of various genres playing from phones for good measure. One man stands up from the table as he shouts and points. No, he’s not mad—it’s just another lively discussion over lunch between the participants. I looked around at the 30 or so people gathered together for this School of Storying—men and women, young and old, pastors and laymen, Francophones and Anglophones—and I can’t help but think that only God could assemble this particular group of people for his work. It’s a little taste of heaven to be able to worship together with seven diﬀerent tongues, tribes, and nations represented, all of us united in Christ to praise our glorious God,” writes Darren, leader of Team *Ewok.
Matt captivates the crowd with his story.
Darren and his team recently went to Africa to complete the second part of the 42 oral Bible stories they were developing in the Ewok language. At least 30 people participated, 9 of whom were also present in the frst part of the training in March. That in itself is incredible as former participants are not always able to attend the second session for various reasons. Everyone proved to be enthusiastic participants and turned out to be amazing storytellers. Many of the returnees also had testimonies of how God was using the stories in their villages. Coming from various backgrounds and professions, the team worked tirelessly for three weeks to develop and complete the set of oral Bible stories. In the process, everyone has been impacted, with many stories of lives changed. Here are just a few of their testimonies.
“Wow, there is much wisdom in this. We go so deep in the Bible stories—even more than in Bible college!” *Matt was one of our Ewok participants who came to a realization during story development time one day. One of the trainers had suggested a rewording of a question to get better responses from the guests who would soon test the stories. It seemed trivial at the time to the trainer, but had a profound impact on how this man would view Bible storying as a way to dive deep into the richness of God’s Word.
“When I sing in French it is somehow not so deep. But when I sing in Ewok* I feel it with my whole soul!” *Chuck was an Ewok participant who also served as a translator, and he saw the signifcance of having songs in his mother tongue. This is why we focus on these particular languages, even though many people in this region can speak French or even English. Stories of Jesus in your heart language will touch your soul in ways other languages cannot!
“Before my frst School of Storying I was a big pastor, always commanding people to do this and do that. That’s not how God made me. I didn’t know how to have fun with people. But now I can tell a story and just be free with them.” *Lew, from West Africa, served as one of our national trainers. Using Bible stories for ministry inside and outside the church has had a tremendous impact on him and those around him. He told about one little girl who had been struggling with reading and other literate learning methods in church and in school. But when Lew began using stories to teach, she quickly caught on and became one of the best storytellers in the church at only ten years old. And now she’s doing much better in school!
One of our translators, *Ethan, had a similar experience with Bible storying. Because he spent all week at this training, including evenings, he didn’t have time to prepare a sermon to preach. So he shared the story of Jesus walking on water, and to his surprise, the church loved it! Everyone actively discussed the story and had it learned by the end of the service.
Because of your partnership and prayers, people like Matt, Chuck, Lew and Ethan have learned to develop oral Bible stories that they can now use in their local ministries, Bible studies, evangelism and discipleship. Personally, they’ve also learned how to dig deeper into God’s Word. Please keep the Ewok language group in your prayers, and pray that they will be faithful in retelling God’s life-changing stories!
Praise & Prayer
1) For the successful completion of phase 2 of the Ewok* School of Storying and the safe return of our trainers.
2) For the successful West Africa “Train the Trainers” conference with 30 ministry leaders from five countries on the African continent in attendance.
WE COVET YOUR PRAYERS. PLEASE PRAY:
1) For the newly graduated Ewok participants to be faithful in using the completed 42 oral Bible stories in
their personal ministries, in evangelism eﬀorts, and in discipleship.
2) For our upcoming Cru17 US Staff Conference in July—that our StoryRunners team will be encouraged
and refreshed spiritually.
3) For the upcoming Rocky Mountain Summer Missions trip participants—for God’s provision and that they would all be encouraged and equipped to use oral Bible storying in their personal lives and outreach opportunities.
Get to Know
In a survey we ran earlier this year, you mentioned that you would like to know more about the StoryRunners team—so here’s an opportunity to take a personal look at who we are!
Mark Steinbach – StoryRunners Director
Mark has served on staff with Cru for the past 37 years. He came to Christ as a Penn State student through the inﬂuence of Cru, graduating in 1980. He later earned his MBA degree from Rollins College here in Orlando. Before his role with StoryRunners, Mark served with The Jesus Film Project. He was part of their executive management team for 13 years that included directing the studios for recording and post-production of JESUS (the most watched Christian film in history) and its associated films in over 850 languages.
When not immersed in our business operations or overseeing various StoryRunners projects, Mark loves to read and catch up on current events. Mark also enjoys going to the beach with his family, yard work with his wife, and cooking. He’s become quite famous around the StoryRunners’ offices at Christmas time for making the best fruitcakes in town too!
Mark has lived in Orlando since 1991 with his wife, Jenny, and their four sons. They are now enjoying life as empty-nesters.
Click here for the pdf version of our June 2017 Newsletter.
More Stories and Songs for the Ewok