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Simply The Story (STS)

Oral Bible Schools (OBS):

Need, Design, Starting and Brief Results

Audio Interviews


Need for Oral Bible Schools


Question: If someone becomes a004_Bramuel_Telling_story02 believer in Jesus and is not literate, where could that person go to Bible school? Right! Nowhere!

Actually, there is some help available. Dotted around the globe, there are schools that do teach students Bible stories and encourage the telling of those stories to others.

The STS-OBS also teach Bible stories and encourage the telling of stories to others, but in addition, these schools teach how to glean information from the stories and how to teach others deeply from them.  

STS-OBS began in July 2009, all because a Filipino Christian touched by STS workshop training felt the call to start an oral Bible school. His model offered job training, some STS learning of stories and topical teaching. Unfortunately, this content drew mostly students who were looking for the financial help that they hoped the job training would provide.  

But this Christian’s idea prompted us to set up some pilot STS-OBS whose curriculum was to teach only Bible stories and how to prepare and share them deeply with others. More schools followed, each STS leader learning from what their co-workers in other countries were discovering.  

Now …. praise God, Simply The Story Oral Bible Schools are springing up in various nations.


Design of STS Oral Bible Schools

Twelve students, hosted locally, shepherded by national STS instructors, learn Bible stories and study them oral style. No faculty—no campus—locally supported.

The students, who are a mixture of non-literate, semi-literate and preferred oral learners, learn how to dig deeply into the stories to discover treasures and how to teach others through discussion.

After trying different models, we settled on one that saw the most success. The students attend two weeks of school, then return home for two weeks. This schedule means that the STS-OBS six-month curriculum of learning and preparing Scripture passages and stories takes twelve months to complete.

So the students alternate. For two weeks, students are in school and learn stories and practice them some in local outreaches. Then the students go back to their villages for two weeks.

This schedule allows the students to learn about 15-20 stories in that two-week period, and then they go home and put those stories to use! That home-practice time solidifies the stories in the students’ minds and deeply places the stories, as we say, “in their heart pockets.”

As well, that time home allows students to keep tending their ministries, homes and fields, making the school time away from their villages much less of a hardship.     

Then the students come back to their schools and learn more stories.

Most graduates know close to 200 stories, which they then carry everywhere in their heart pockets. The STS oral schools are producing dynamic church planters and teachers. 


Starting an STS-OBS

Local pastors and Christians who have seen the value of STS arrange for a school in their region. After they find a home or cluster of homes available for the six-month school term, these leaders begin interviewing applicants. The pastors and hosts interview, screen and select twelve students out of the applicants.

The selected students, their church, family or village provide the students' food.

As possible, STS headquarters in USA endeavors to pay for solar players with recorded Bible stories, God’s Story and a New Testament (as available). Those players help non-literate and semi-literate students learn and review the stories.
When recorded stories are not available, headquarters assists in the recording of the stories.

The school begins when local STS instructors lead a 5-day STS workshop in which they teach the twelve student 20 stories and the skill of finding spiritual treasures. The instructors stay a second week to deepen the students’ learning and presentation skills. After that, STS instructors visit monthly to encourage the students and to assist if needed.

The believers who host, often pastors, serve as spiritual guides and problem solvers. For the schools where recorded stories are not yet available, a minimum of two literate students are selected as their literacy skill is needed to read the Bible stories to the other students.

Although we originally anticipated that most students would be single, young and non-literate, the population of the schools so far has been two-thirds married, two-thirds semi-literate and an average age of 37 years old!  

During each of the two-week sessions of school, weekends are generally used for practical use of story in local outreaches and churches.


Brief Results of STS Oral Bible Schools

In-depth reports found on OBS Results.

India (One School) This pilot school ran for six months straight. Students learned an average of 40 stories and worshiped and prayed a lot. The students used stories in practicals as part of their school experience and by God’s grace led hundreds to Jesus.

Learning of stories was not dominant, and the leadership who oversaw them was not highly skilled in STS. Practitioners were produced and students matured spiritually, but few instructors were produced.     

Kenya (Seven schools initially began in 2010.) These schools were established after our Africa director gleaned a lot of information from the early pilot school in other countries. Part way into their operation, outside observers visited the some of the schools. See the findings documented on this site. In April 2011, more observers came to Kenya to join a graduation celebration of this first Africa OBS.

To give a glimpse, they learned 120 stories in four months!

Nepal (One School) Tamang people. Of twelve students who started, eleven stayed in school the whole time. Their four months of actual time at the school took six months to complete due to strikes, holidays and farming needs.

As a result of telling their stories and people saved, the Tamang students planted six churches near the school and seventeen churches back in their villages.

A local Nepali pastor who had been involved for 19 years in trying to disciple the Tamang said, “Never did I think they could know deep things in the Bible like this.”

Philippines (Two Schools) As explained, the first try at a school saw poor results due to the school's providing job training.  The second school, that is pure STS, is seeing exciting results. Their graduation is due at the end of November. An outside team is traveling there to examine the results. See Philippines Results for most current posted report.  

Zambia (One School) “We managed to bring the oral school to the end with the total of ten students completing the training. AMAZING.”



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 mewell 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!”


Fruit Bearing, First OBS Graduation in Africa


As God told us in His Word, there is a time to plant and a time to reap. The celebration of the first STS Oral Bible School (OBS) graduation in Africa proved to be a time of reaping!

We are transcribing some of the many heartwarming testimonies told to us at this Kenya celebration and hope soon to start posting them on our web site. For now, do enjoy the video testimony Ann Kavuo.

Any day when this plucky five-foot, 65 year-old widow can’t get a ride to school, she walks 10 kilometers to get there. Ann cannot read! Surprisingly, in her filmed testimony, she says that now when she goes preaching she does not have to carry her Bible, because, “I have the stories in my heart pocket!” Humm? If Ann cannot read, why did she bother before to carry her Bible? (You who have been to STS workshops heard our instructors explain this oddity. We show and tell how non-literate people often carry Bibles and put pens in their pockets so they look “educated” and can gain credibility.)   

Ann’s comment may reveal even more. Could it be that her perceived "need” to carry her Bible to give her credibility has now been replaced by her new-found ability to easily speak multiple stories from her heart pocket? Ann has boldness now to speak in front of anyone. In fact, consider the boldness it took for this non-literate villager to give her spontaneous testimony in front of 130 people, most strangers to her, Westerners included—while being filmed!  

Keep looking on our “What’s New” corner on the web site for more OBS audio and video testimonies.  

Seventeen leaders from outside Kenya, representing eight countries, came to observe this celebration and to listen to testimonies about the schools and STS impact. Thirty-plus Kenyan STS instructors and leaders joined the 80 students from among the current 120 OBS students. All met together in this first ever, momentous occasion.

Some of these students had never been out of their villages, so the fellowship of these believers and joy echoed loudly through their singing. Their praise melted our hearts.

How Schools Operate

The OBSs have been in session in Kenya for two months to one year. The students from Vihiga, the first school to complete the full year, made up the graduating class. Most students are men; a few schools are mixed and one trains all women.  

The schools scattered throughout the southern part of Kenya operate two weeks on and two weeks off. Some students commute daily, while others sleep in local homes. Together, five days of each week, the twelve students per school learn Bible stories and passages and discuss them STS style.

About two-thirds of the students actively serve as pastors or on a church staff. Nearly half of the students have been to Bible school and are literate. Many students were nominated to come to the OBS by their own pastors or bishops. The OBS education is seen by these ordained Christians as a way to create stronger leaders, pastors, teachers, church planters and evangelists.

Of the 120 students who began attending these OBSs only four have dropped out! One student was dismissed after the first three days when an ethics issue arose. But a new man who was waiting quickly took his place! Another two students were recalled by their churches’ senior leadership because the men were needed in their villages, and one left because of sickness.

So far, leaders in Kenya and other African nations of Ethiopia, Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Tanzania and Uganda have investigated these schools. As they see how students, families, villages and ministries are being positively affected, they have begun planning for schools in their countries. Representative leaders in India, Philippines, Europe, Nepal and South and Central America are discussing what they are seeing in Kenya to see how they can utilize the Kenya model to set up OBSs in their countries.   

Because these schools are largely student-supported, only people hungry to learn Bible in an understandable and practical oral style are drawn to attend. The local host’s commitment to arrange for a school, and the self-support of the students create ownership and fosters responsibility.

For the first week of a new school, a qualified STS overseer leads an STS workshop. That training is followed by one more week of solidifying the students’ understanding of the STS style of learning and discussing stories. Ongoing leadership is selected by the students from among their own ranks.   

Overseers for the schools are selected from the growing pool of qualified STS instructors in Kenya. We found the depth of these STS leaders impressive. Many serve as pastors and evangelists in remote villages. STS is helping them to effectively reach musl.sms and animists as well as to evangelize and disciple the vast numbers of nominal Christians who cover the Kenyan landscape. We observed the humility of these overseers and instructors (many who are well-trained theologians) as they continue to seek more STS training skills and Bible knowledge.

None of the instructors are paid STS staff, and as rural pastors, they live on meager incomes. But, when these volunteers are away from home, a small honorarium, as needed, may be given to them by The God’s Story Project (TGSP).       

After the initial two weeks together, the students organize their own study schedules. However, at the end of each successive two weeks that a school is in session, the overseer returns to spend a few days with the students. During those days, the overseer encourages students, listens to observations and application found in the stories and fields questions on operation of the schools. In time, as the students progress in practitioner skills, the supervisors teach their students how to train others as STS practitioners.

TGSP (the ministry that developed Simply The Story) covers the cost of sending the overseers to the schools—their bus fares, and food (and lodging if the overseer travels longer than one day to visit one of the schools furthest away). While the supervisor is on his trip, he usually does an STS vision casting (sharing STS with new people) while traveling to maximize the use of funds.  

During the students’ year of learning stories, they study together for two weeks. Then they go back to their villages as STS practitioners for two weeks. At home they share the 20 or so new stories that they have just learned with their spouses and families and they minister to their congregations. The two weeks at home also enable students to tend their fields and flocks or maintain whatever means of income they have.

Interaction With The Graduates

We sat and talked with ten of the twelve members from Vihiga, the village that hosted this first graduating class. We recorded much of the conversation and the testimonies they gave. One absent graduate, Pastor Albert, did come to the celebration. But he was a sick man and had to return home before the ceremony. So during the awards, Albert’s robe and cap lay over an empty chair in his honor. Pastor Albert went to be with the Lord eight days later! One person commented, "He missed the local OBS graduation, but he made the big graduation soon after."

The other absent student was on a month-long suspension. His classmates, all who serve as pastors, decided that this man’s two days of drunkenness called for this suspension.  We hope and pray that the suspended student will repent, complete his training and graduate with another school.

The ten graduates with whom we conversed told us why they first came to the school and why they committed to the hardships of one year of school. All expressed in various ways, “We found in STS that we could go deeper into the Bible stories than anything we had ever experienced.”  Evidently, the value gained from coming together and being able to concentrate on just the Bible and to discuss the stories together justified the challenges of committing to this year-long school term.

A new crop of students has already started a second OBS in Vihiga.

One of the challenges the men named was the distance some of them had to travel to attend school and another was that there were not enough schools for everyone. “Why don’t you make the schools larger so more can attend?”

“Humm,” I mused, “Good questions.  I am wondering why Jesus didn’t think to have more than twelve disciples?  He could have trained a lot more people at once if He had thought to have a larger school.”  The students all laughed.

“But if there were a lot more students than twelve in a school, what would happen to accountability among your ranks? And what would happen to the discussion times and everyone’s participation? We at STS see twelve students as no hardship on the local host. Twelve is an ideal number of people to study together, to get to know each other well, and to make sure (as you had to do with that one erring student) that what you’re learning in the stories is lived out among you.” The graduates agreed.

I wanted the students to solve the problems of schools being too far away and the need for schools to accommodate more students.  So together we reviewed the story of Peter stepping out in faith to walk on the water to Jesus. We discussed how those eleven disciples who stayed in the boat were all blessed when Peter and Jesus came to that boat and only then did the contrary wind stop.

I suggested. “You live in different villages, and stepped out of the boat to see if the OBS was really from God. Those in each of your villages watched you. Now you can go back to your villages and bless them. Can you consider becoming qualified as overseers and making more schools available and planting those schools in your own villages?   

All ten graduates stated that they wanted to start assisting in workshops so they could become certified instructors and then move on to become overseers. “We want to help lead a school like the one we have just experienced.”

Future Plans, “We Want to Go There!”

The majority of the students in all ten schools expressed their interest in learning to teach and in becoming school overseers. This commitment excites us, because as instructors become certified in a new region, no longer will TGSP need to use donor funds for transportation and food for supervisors. When instructors become available in a new region, schools can be established there that can be supervised by local certified STS instructors! Then TGSP can use available funds to send the Nairobi supervisors to new regions to set up schools.    

When the Kenyan STS instructors met before this graduation celebration, they looked at the map being prepared for attendees that shows the locations of the current schools in operation. The instructors were shocked. “All of our schools are in the south. The work in the north is harder. People are spread out and know far less Bible. Many are unreached and in bondage to false worship. We must go there!”

So as you will see on this STS-OBS map of Kenya, the instructors mapped out places in the northern part of Kenya where they plan to travel.

We first met instructor “A” in Nairobi in 2008. He works in the north. His testimony By Foot, By Camel, By Airbus shows the difficult ways that he has to travel every time he comes to Nairobi which is in the developed Southern part of Kenya. In fact, on the “Airbus” ride to the graduation, a low limb ripped away his jacket and left him with a scraped arm and face! (but at least it left him on the bus!) While at the celebration “A” glowingly shared what has taken place in the north after three years of using STS. We hope to post these results on the site soon.

Hopefully, prayerfully, by God’s grace these motivated instructors, who are willing to make to make these hard treks to the north, will be able to establish more schools. Already school number eleven in Kenya is about to begin!



More Results of OBS and listing of OBS in Session