We were gathered at the end of another long day, a few seated on the tree-bark floor, others in chairs or in the homemade hammock hanging in the cozy front room of Xakapa and Weshu's house. The men had spent the day hunting, the women bringing food from the plantation, fishing and washing. A refreshing bath in the river just before dark and savory wild boar meat for dinner rewarded all our tired bodies.
At Xakapa's invitation, I retold the story of Elijah and the widow of Zaraphath (1 Kings 17.7-16) in Spanish and then listened intently as he masterfully told the entire story to us and to his family in the Mastanawa language. I had picked up enough of the language from my visits over the years to follow his telling and be thrilled as the story unfolded. 'Crafting stories' had become a welcome part of our evenings, and with each retelling Xakapa had mastered a new part of the story until he could tell it completely and with his own dramatic emphasis.
But had he learned anything from the story? We hadn't given him a three-point lesson on miracles, or obedience, or Epa Ewapa's (Big Father's) care for our needs, or any other conclusions illustrated by the story. I was convinced after a recent 'storying' seminar that abstract sermons aren't the most effective with oral peoples (people who prefer to learn orally rather than from written word, whether or not they can read). Instead, we committed ourselves to helping Xakapa draw his own conclusions by asking him carefully chosen questions about the story and about real-life situations.
It sounds easy, but in practice we found that we had to do some mental acrobatics to decide which questions needed to be asked, and even then we asked some duds because WE ARE NOT USED TO THINKING THIS WAY! But in the end we were encouraged and humbled by Xakapa's answers-he had indeed learned some important truths from the story, and even taught us how they applied with stories from his own life!
That was just the beginning of the beginning. The following nights we worked on the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (Luke 15.1-7). A few days later, we listened with expectation as Xakapa chose one story to tell to his friends and relatives upriver in the third village...
Can you tell that I'm excited about this? Can you also tell that this is going to take more time than we have typically spent with each tribe we can serve this way? And preparation! We are already challenging one another to master more Bible stories, sharing them in our devotion times and helping each other to find the questions that help lead to the conclusions. We see how storying and recording fit together, the one improving relevance and comprehension, the other bringing the collection of stories together as an audio Bible for reference and distribution. Pray with us as we explore this more-pray that our minds will be transformed!
We can't wait to get back to work on more stories with Xakapa and others. But before then, we are hoping to bring several families representing all three villages to the base in Porto Velho for the Conference of the Council of Indigenous Evangelical Pastors and Leaders (CONPLEI). This is the first event of this size and it promises to be a time of great celebration, a time of many languages worshiping together, sharing, teaching encouraging and challenging indigenous believers to press on in taking the gospel to the nations.
We are expecting two to three thousand people from tribes across Brazil and surrounding countries in just under a month, September 6-9, but we need a miracle to house and feed them all! Please pray!
Thank you, Friends, for your company and for your covering on this exciting journey!
PS-Thank you also for your prayers for Jaime and for Lisa during this trip. They were great company, hardworking and learned so much from their time with the Mastanawa. Lisa's internship ends later this month, Jaime's in early September. Well done!