Some reports coming to us from instructors and users of Simply The Story touch us so deeply that we do not want anyone coming to our site to miss them. These are what we offer here as, "Must See."
Before You Came
[Report below was sent to us from an African STS Instructor.]
This is a testimony from Pastor D.A. We had an STS workshop last February in the South of Ethiopia in his church. He visited me yesterday and gave me this testimony …
I’m so happy about the STS method you trained us in my church. Before you came to us, I had a real struggle on how I could disciple people in my churches of whom most are non-literate. I tried many ways to help in discipleship and evangelism in the villages- as you know I minister in villages- but nothing seemed to work. Actually I was getting a bit frustrated.
After you trained us on STS, we started using the method almost immediately and within a space of ten months, we have planted three churches in three different villages using STS method.
Your coming was so timely. Before this, we were discipling just a few people- those who could read- in hope that they would somehow reach and disciple the non-literate. Of course I didn’t expect them to do so for I myself knew that we had no proper way of discipling the non-literate, but there was nothing else I could do.
Now the whole congregation is being discipled. People teach each other. Even those I thought they knew nothing, God is using every one to teach each one. And it’s so simple. You do not need textbooks, black/white boards, chalks or markers or bible scholars. The difference STS has made in my ministry is very visible.
I’m requesting that you come to train more people in all the seven villages where we have our churches. Thanks to God, to you and the God’s Story team for making this tool available to us.
My Best Day Ever!
A missionary in Uganda who uses STS, traveled to Kenya to investigate the Oral Bible Schools. He, and one of his African leaders, met our Kenyan leader Bramuel. Together they traveled to a village that hosts two schools.
With only these three sitting and talking to some of the Oral Bible School students, the students felt the freedom to share some amazing personal stories. Bramuel reported, “Of all I have seen so far in Simply The Story, I call this ‘my best day ever!’”
Five of the many stories told to the visitors by the students:
A lady said, “My sister died this morning. The family is there, but I had to make a decision. My sister is with Jesus. Since this is Friday, I decided that I could come to school today so I would not miss learning some more stories, and then I could join the family tomorrow. [Especially in relational cultures, this choice, to wait a day to join the grieving family so that no school would be missed, is highly unusual.]
Another female student shared, “None of the other students knew about me when we all started the school. I didn’t let any of the other ladies in the school know that I had been separated from my husband for two years. We split very angry. We tore apart everything we owned as we left each other.
“But the stories. Oh, the stories. So many stories we learned and discussed showed us about love and forgiveness. That convicted me. Finally, I asked my fellow students to pray for me, to pray that I could learn to forgive. They did. We prayed together. Then, within two days I had an unexpected phone call from my husband! He called me, just like that! Well, I am happy to say that we met and talked and the anger is gone and we have reconciled.”
Yet another student told this. “I am a single mother. To take care of my children, I do any jobs I can find, field work, house work─whatever is available.
“Well, I was invited to come learn some Bible stories. Taking off a day of work would be hard for me, but I decided it was worth it. It was a wonderful experience, but then to my surprise, I was told, ‘This is a five-day training.’ I was shocked. How could I pay my bills if I was away from work for five days? I was gonna go home, but then the Lord touched me, so I stayed.
“Then again I was shocked. I came to find out that these five days were the beginning of a two weeks on and two weeks off school to learn stories and it was going to last a year!!!! No way I could do that, because I had to work all the time to keep going. But you know, again I felt the Lord lead me to commit to the school and somehow it would be ok.
“Let me tell you what is happening. I now go to school for two weeks and keep learning more and more stories. And when I go home, plenty of good work is waiting for me and I am making enough to easily pay my bills and take care of my children.
Bramuel told us, “While we talked with the various ladies in this school, the husband of one of the women students came to visit the school. The husband said, “I just wanted to come see what was happening here that is having such a wonderful effect on my wife!”
One of the students in the men’s school told a story to the visitors that meant a great deal to them. “No one knew when I came to this school why I had a big gash on my head. It had happened when I went back to my home village after my grandfather died. I went to claim my inheritance. But my relatives said, ‘You don’t get anything. You’re not a son.’”
“Well, I got mad and I fought them and that’s when I got hit on the head with the machete.
“So, even though I was at this school learning Bible stories, inside I was angry and just waiting for the chance to go back and fight them for my inheritance.”
The student spoke with intensity. “Now one of the stories we did was about the children of Israel after they had victory at Jericho. Those people of God took it on themselves to go attack the city of Ai, but God was not leading them to go. They went anyway to attack the city on their own, but they were badly defeated. That story convicted me. I was like that. I was trying to take by force what I thought was mine. God was not in that plan!
“So I went back again to my village, but people didn’t trust mewell not at first. They said, ‘You’re coming back to fight us again.’ But finally they figured out I was different. You know what I am doing now? I’ve been going back and using my grandfather’s house to tell Bible stories to everyone!”
To see this article and other articles on Oral Bible Schools see Oral Bible Schools
Beyond Expectations, Modern Day Leaping
The most amazing discovery yet in our STS journey began like this. A team of experienced STS instructors gathered in a storefront church with some of the newer instructors in-training. We planned to spend the day fine tuning teaching skills and bonding as a team to prepare for leading a five-day STS workshop.
That month we had completed recording three Bible stories with a lot of in-depth questions. This Practitioner Audio Training (PAT) in its trials had proven to help people gain the feeling of learning through asking questions. So we decided to gather our newer instructors and have them participate in a self-regulated discussion guided by the series of recorded questions. Four STS instructors and one man from Kenya, Jacob, who arrived a day early by mistake, prepared to start the study.
Now, here is where it got interesting …
The front door of the meeting room was being monitored by a man who looked as if life had run him over—several times! He appeared to be in his late 70s, but his worn face, plain clothes and lack of teeth could have made him look older than his years. As I came back from the parking lot to re-enter the church, I felt led to stop and speak to this man.
“Hi. My name is Dorothy.”
“I’m Junior,” he responded.
“So do you go to this church?” I asked.
“Yep. I watch over things here and keep the place clean.”
“Say, Junior, I wonder if you could help me with something?”
He responded, “What?”
“Well, here’s the deal,” I confided. “I am testing a new recorded teaching. It’s a Bible story and some questions and I really need some people to listen to it and then give me their opinion.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Do I hafta read?”
“Oh no,” I assured him. “It’s all recorded and then you talk about it.”
“Well, okay. Let me finish my cigarette first, then I’ll come in.”
In my side vision, I had seen a few people standing nearby on the sidewalk. Turning to them, I asked, “You part of this church?”
The man in the group responded, “We’re here to clean the church.”
“Oh,” I said. “We’re gonna be here awhile for our training, so you can’t clean now. If you can come in and help me with this test, then, when we’re done, we can help you clean.”
The man conferred with the other adult there, a lady who, I was soon to discover, was his wife. As they talked, I glanced over at the other three people, two teen girls and one teen young man with some piercings and cell phone in hand. The man turned back to me and said, “Okay, we can do that.”
So Junior, and what I was to learn was a family of five, joined the four instructors and the Kenyan and the test began. All gathered repeated the recorded story about four times and then listened to a few questions, put the player on pause and started discussing the content. This they continued—listening, pausing the recording, discussing and then playing again to listen to more of the discussion-prompting questions.
Occasionally our group of advanced instructors would stop the planning we were doing and look across the room to watch and listen to the discussion. Lively exchanges were taking place, with everyone involved, except Junior. I never saw him saying anything, but he did stay engaged in listening to what everyone else was saying.
The discussion stayed active with even the teens adding some thoughts. In wise STS style, the instructors did not respond immediately, but gave others opportunity to first voice their observations about a particular part of the story.
Time was approaching for the dinner to arrive, so I stood up to walk over to the group to ask for their feedback. The father was finishing an application saying, “It was hard for Abram to be in a famine with his family depending on him, but he should have consulted God and taken better care of his wife and not been so worried about himself.” Then the father said, “I know what that’s like, but Abram never gave God a chance to provide. We gotta trust and take care of our families. We’re cleaning the church so we can have a place to stay and get some food. I lost my job and yesterday we lost our home, so we are homeless.”
Surely it was amazing to hear him reveal his situation and to hear his application of the story to himself. This little family had just lost their home and income, yet still they clearly and peacefully discussed why you needed to trust God in the hard times. Trust was not theory to them!
I walked on over to the group. “Sorry to interrupt, but dinner will be arriving soon. How far into the recorded questions did you get?” One instructor told me that they had completed the spiritual observations and were half way through the story discussing the questions that led them to discover spiritual applications.
This diverse group proceeded to tell me what they learned and how they felt about this style of studying the Bible. Jacob, the African, told how he heard different views on this story of Abram and Sarai that he never had seen before. One of the Americans countered with, “Oh Jacob. You saw some amazing insights in the story that were new to us, things that in our culture we never think about!”
Interestingly, one of the teen daughters shared a specific lesson she gained from how Sarai just went along with Abram’s lie. The teen son announced, “I could do this with some of my friends from school.”
To a person the feedback was very positive, which, of course, encouraged all of us who had been observing. “So how long do you think you were discussing this story?”
“Oh maybe an hour,” they agreed.
“Actually, you were talking about it for two hours and 40 minutes!”
The pastor of this church reaches out to local neighbors and in return, many of the drug-controlled homeless in the area are drawn by the love offered to them by this church. The pastor drove Junior to the motel where he currently lived.
Now here is what impacted us so strongly. The next morning, after the pastor dropped off Junior, he took me aside to give a startling report. “Last night on the way home, Junior told me, ‘Pastor. I’m gonna learn the Bible. I’m gonna learn it and tell it to others.’ Then Junior told me a Bible story about Abram and Sari and he was spot on accurate. Our Junior is illiterate. He has been saved ten years. He had been thirty years a heroin addict, twenty years in prison, is known by local police as having mental problems and now has dialysis three times a week.”
Our team had felt led to invite the family and Junior to the workshop and to sponsor their meals for that time. They all came! So ministry leaders, missionaries, some internationals, some highly educated people who wanted to learn oral strategies, local people and these late comers combined to learn Simply The Story together. They learned together, studied stories together, practiced and enjoyed discovery together. All participated, including Junior.
Junior was in the small study group that dug into their story of Peter and John nearing the Temple gate when they were asked for donations by a lame man. As the discussion was underway, “Junior flatly stated, “I used to beg.” How real the discussion became as all in his group relived what it must have been like when Peter reached down and took hold of the lame man’s right hand. That happened just after Peter had announced, “I do not have any silver or gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stand up and walk.” The lame man stood and then walked and leaped and praised God.
During the week of the workshop the pastor said he saw Junior sharing Bible stories with people outside the Laundromat. Junior was standing and praising God.
Beyond Expectations: Five months later the unexpected report came to us. Junior’s pastor told me on the phone, “I just had lunch with L.R. He lives across the tracks in the ravine under a shelter he made. Sunday, a week ago, L.R. showed up at church … drunk. We ministered to him and told him, ‘Come back tomorrow sober, and we will give you lunch.’ He came every day last week.
“So today at lunch I asked, ‘How did you happen to come here to the church?’
L.R. explained, ‘Junior had been coming to see me. He doesn’t bring a Bible and read it to me. He tells stories. I liked what I heard, so I wanted to know more.’”
The pastor shared, “We are realizing that Junior has been going out to the homeless all around here and telling them stories!” [Junior may not have been leaping, but I sure was!]
It appears that the Lord had not used a literacy test to determine whether Junior was qualified to serve in the Christian army!
P.S. The pastor told us that the father of the homeless family now had a good job and the family had a place to live!
Dorothy Miller –TGSP/STS
See how STS started for pastor D.A.: “Where You Have Been That You Did Not Come To Us Before” | Effect of STS in a Marriage and Ministry | They Remembered, But It Was Unexpected!
I know the value of feedback and thought you might want to hear some, especially from a guy who struggled through the whole week of the workshop you just led.
My position as pastor at my church often leads to opportunities to counsel people. This morning, when I least needed it, a young girl, whom I’ve met with on many prior occasions, stopped by. She was complaining about a situation that keeps surfacing between her and her Mom. We have had this conversation in similar form before. So, what did I have to lose? Obviously, prior counseling didn’t quite help with a solution to the problem.
I decided to try the STS method. I told her the story about Jesus walking on water.
She, through the process, discovered that sometimes when we decide to be obedient we find ourselves in a rocky boat, maybe even doubting the choice to be obedient. She also discovered, and this was the good part, that if the disciples had not been obedient, they would have missed out on a miracle by Jesus – not an observation from any of us in our “tribe” during the workshop.
We talked about what that meant for her for a few minutes. She stood up and said she had to go, that she now knew what she had to do and she was going to go do it. I don’t know what “it” was and I was too amazed to go any further. I didn’t do any counseling, the Bible did. What a concept!
It felt like the divinely appointed meeting between the king, Gehazi, and the woman whose son Elisha had restored to life (one of the other stories we learned in my tribe study group.)
Needless to say, that meeting this morning has given me new focus and desire to commit to STS. [In further correspondence after sending that report, this pastor told us that together he and his wife were aiming at learning and studying a story a week.]
JC Workshop attendee in Joplin, MO
To see this article and other articles on counseling see Counseling