A note to my pastors’ wife:
I am so happy to tell you that your prayers were answered. God was very kind and encouraging to me the day of the Tea. But I can't tell you about the Tea without telling you what God has been doing leading up to it. Let me tell you about it in stages:
Preparation: The Perspectives course last fall deeply affected me, as did the missions speaker in March, and a 5-day workshop I took in January called Simply The Story.
Prayer: A few of my friends and I prayed a lot for this Tea. I’m so grateful that you were praying too. It was an adventure in prayer, because my prayer this year is to die to self. But how does one do that? I'm looking to the Lord to find out what that looks like. My inspiration is John 12:24, "Truly, Truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
I wanted the tea to be memorable: to break the ice in the neighborhood conversations. How do I do that without being the center of attention? The purpose was excellence, not self promotion.
But it was hard to go to so much work (5 weeks of planning, cleaning house, weeding and pruning the garden, practicing recipes, preparing and sending invitations, renting round tables, linen and chairs for 32, etc.) without feeling that I was “responsible” for the success of the whole process. But it was hard not to not be disappointed when some who were invited couldn't come.
Then again, sometimes I was afraid so many would respond I’d run out of food and seats. Finally, I quit trying to analyze everything and decided to just do my best and leave the results to God.
I purposely did not invite my Christian friends, who would have come in droves and made it look successful. Invitations went to the ESL adult students I teach, piano teacher colleagues, neighbors, International Friendship Connection students, and of course, family. Besides my family and a couple of Christian neighbors, I had no idea where the others were spiritually.
Purpose: The Tea had two specific purposes: to build relationships and to make God a topic of conversation. I wanted them to see in a Bible story how amazing God is, and to become interested in reading more Bible stories. In January that 5-day Simply The Story workshop so impressed me regarding the deep spiritual conversations we can have just by telling a story and discussing what happened in the story. That’s it: simply the story!
A new friend from the workshop came to the tea and told the story of Mary and Martha when guests came to their home. I had mentioned in the invitation that a Bible story would be told, so guests wouldn't be surprised. The take-away from this story: the most important thing we can do in life is sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him.
The Tea: 77 were invited and 25 came. (Actually a 26th came late, but no one heard her at the door, so she went home!) Reminder! Put a sign on the door to come in. Of course, I invited the Lord too, and told Him I wanted Him to have fun: working in hearts in ways I may never know about.
A talented high school cellist added an elegant touch to our eating time. The food was a success. All but one or two Spanish speakers participated in the story discussion. The only request the Lord didn't answer was the weather -- it was very hot that day.
The cellist's mother, whom I insisted on her participating in the tea rather than waiting in the car, told me privately as she left that she was so grateful to be a part of the Tea, and would I please invite her back if I ever do something like this again? I'd never met this woman before that day.
Three of my teenage piano students helped in the last-minute food prep and decorating, serving guests and doing clean up, so I could concentrate on the guests.
The cost? Yes I did have to spend some money for renting supplies, hiring the cellist and piano students, and purchasing the food, and making a small jar of jam for each guest. But the cost was far less than the $2300 being spent by each person in the group going on a short-term mission trip this summer." And rather than having just one week with them, I will have months and years of opportunity for personal follow up with these women.
The lost who haven’t yet clearly heard the Gospel are across the sea AND are also living close to me.
I’d like to see us have a yearly training on hospitality evangelism, sharing ideas, teaming up with Christian neighbors to reach a neighborhood, pooling resources (I borrowed teacups), etc. Perhaps those who cannot be a hostess could sign up to help with cost, baking, joining in a prayer group for it, decorating, etc. I’d like to see us women initiate more intentional interaction with those around us.
One ESL student, whom I have taken to lunch and had her family to our home house several times for ESL parties, asked me as she was leaving if I would please invite her back if I did this again. Her teenage daughters interpreted the story to her and the grandmother who was visiting from Mexico.
While thanking the guests for coming at the end, several chimed in, "We must do this again next year. We'll help with the food!" Of course, I agreed, saying it was an excellent idea. Privately, I'm not willing to wait a year, and am planning to enlist them in organizing together a Christmas cookie exchange after Thanksgiving. I'll hire a Victorian quartet to sing carols, or another instrumentalist.
Follow up: First, I’m taking copies of the recipes to my neighbors, visiting, and asking if they have read any more Bible stories and encouraging them if they haven’t. They are all aware of my husband’s recent illnesses and regained health. I have told some of them that it is in answer to the prayers of many people.
For the next step, I want to tell them how much I believe in the power of prayer. Simply praying is so effective. My question to them will be, “Is there anything you would feel comfortable sharing that you would like me to pray about?” We’ll see where that leads. In my private prayer time, I fully expect God to give me more ideas.
Sorry this is so long. I wanted to tell you of my excitement about how God is opening so many doors to be relational. And thank you so much for praying.
Anna never had the opportunity to go to school. She grew up as an ordinary village girl amongst her Turkana tribe in Northern Kenya. Years later she married a police officer and settled into the quiet life of a housewife. Anna tried to set up a business, but with her husband being transferred from one town to another due to the nature of his job, she struggled to establish a stable business.
As she sought answers to life’s questions, Anna met a Christian evangelist who told her about the love of Jesus, and she gave her life to the Lord.
Newly passionate for the gospel, Anna visited her pastor and shared her desire to become an evangelist and witness for Jesus.
But Anna carried a secret. This secret had been carefully kept by Anna as she always carried a Bible, a pen and a notebook to church. But, this day, the secret was uncovered when the pastor asked Anna, “Tell me about your educational background. Then maybe I can recommend a training program for you.”
Anna revealed, “I have never been to school Pastor, I cannot read.” The surprised pastor told Anna, “Then I don’t think it will be possible for you to get training, so ministry life is just not for you.”
She, as a new believer, was disappointed, but still remained determined.
A few months later, she heard about a Simply The Story training in Kinango, where she and her husband lived. She attended the entire 5-day workshop and was so excited to discover that even non literate people like her could learn and teach God’s Word through the stories of the Bible. Her hope for ministry rekindled as she began to witness to others by sharing the Bible stories she had learned in the workshop.
The following week, an Oral Bible School was established in Kinango. Anna signed up! Anna attended the six months of classes that were spread out over the next year showing great determination to succeed.
On graduation day, Anna stood out as the best student having never missed a class. But as well, she had learned and internalized the most number of stories of any graduate; 210 stories! She went on to establish a Bible study in her church, much to the joy and amazement of her pastor, the one who initially had thought that non-literates couldn’t lead ministry or teach Scripture!
By the time Anna graduated, she had already identified a new location for ministry and recruited Oral Bible School students in Nyahururu, where she began fulltime to lead the twelve month term.
Long Time in Bondage
A sweet, quiet, lady missionary attended an STS workshop in Michigan.
Afterwards, she shared this with several of the staff Instructors. “For 38 years as a missionary in South America, I have been living as the Bent Woman.” [The Bent Woman story in Luke 13: 10-17 is one of the stories we learn and share in a workshop.]
“For all the time we have been serving as missionaries, my husband has wanted me to teach the women, but I told him, ‘I can't.’
“All along, as I refused to teach, I felt guilty. What kind of a missionary am I to not teach, but I can't.
She told the staff, "At the workshop, I discovered that I CAN tell Bible stories and CAN talk about them.
She happily declared, "As I go back to the field, I am no longer the bent woman. I am freed of that bondage. I will teach telling stories"
Not ParticipateAt a workshop in TX, USA, a lady attendee who by looks, seemed not to fit with the congregation. She intrigued us. She looked like a person who had been battered by life. We discovered from the workshop host that this lady was a Katrina victim who this church had adopted.
The ladies at the church had loved on her for almost a year, but up until the workshop, during church functions and Bible studies, the lady didn't talk.
Amazingly, during the small group time of exploring for treasures in a story, this discarded lady spoke out loud a few times. The church people who knew her were amazed.
Finally, on the last day of the 5-day training, she announced, "I will tell a story!" She did not commit to leading the discussion on the story; someone else in her group would do that part. So, when storytellers rotated to tell their stories to a new group, this extremely withdrawn lady actually told a Bible story to a group of six other attendees.
Toward the end of each workshop comes the fun time for each small study group to select a story to tell and to dramatize for the last evening’s grand finale. One person would be selected to tell the story, while the rest of the group silently acts the story out in front of everyone.
Wonder of wonders, the once beaten down lady volunteered to tell the story! Not only that, when the evening came, she brought her Down's-syndrome daughter.
When we looked out and saw 70 plus people in the audience, we realized that the storyteller would have to use a microphone; which for a withdrawn person presented an added hill to climb!
We all watched in awe, some even in tears, as that withdrawn mom told the story, over the microphone—and her daughter took part in the drama!
The STS way of empowering people gave this broken lady that courage to speak God's Word. God is no respecter of persons!
For more on women see: Sample Conversational Use of STS