More than a Pretty Picture

GRN flipcharts being used by a missionary in Malawi
GRN flipcharts being used by a missionary in Malawi

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An example of the GRN pictures

by Elise Cooper - International Administrative Assistant

In Australia, meticulously-constructed images that are vivid, loaded with detail and hidden meaning bombard us every day. So the GRN picture books with their black outlines and bold colours did not really excite me. I perceived them as an adjunct to our audio recordings-something for the children, an optional extra, something pretty to look at while you listened.

Helen Gemeren, a GRN recordist who had also worked as a missionary in Ethiopia for many years, spoke about the GRN picture books and their development at a GRN Open Day. I was amazed to hear the extensive research that had gone into the production of these pictures throughout the 1970s-80s with Christian workers in Africa and Asia. Helen and Ellen Noble (nee Bay) travelled the world interviewing missionaries and locals finding out what was helpful. This feedback significantly shaped the final product.

These pictures have been used effectively in a wide variety of contexts. Intentionally simple, the uncluttered pictures do not distract but rather concentrate viewer attention on key elements of the story. High contrast colours and clear outlines which help people clearly identify objects and people, make the pictures useful even under low light conditions. Colours were selected carefully to avoid cultural misunderstanding.

The pictures attract people and draw them into the story. Some Bible translators working in North Africa recently shared, "the illustrations that accompany the recordings draw a crowd every time." The pictures are more than just a drawcard however; they explain the story. One pastor said, "When we hear the stories we sort of understand but with these pictures we say 'Oh, that's what it was like.' We really get it."

The pictures are an aid to memory. A missionary in Burkina Faso explained, "If I just teach a Bible verse they don't remember a thing a week later, but they see a picture and it jolts their memory as to what the story was."

Dalene, base leader of GRN South Africa, writes, "The accompanying audio or script gets memorised and referred to occasionally, but as long as the pictures are there, they have a story to tell. The pictures become the primary source of the discussion whether it be a Bible study, prayer meeting or children's group. We can never have enough pictures in this part of the world. . . . The pictures help them to remember the stories and go share them again with others."

Last year Stan, a member of our local church, travelled on a short-term mission to Malawi. He purchased a couple of Sabers and a set of flipcharts as a gift to the missionaries there, who were working with Global Interaction Australia. We were thrilled to receive photos of the material in use. What was a surprise was that they had already been using the materials and were delighted to replace their worn out set with the latest arrival.

Stan writes, "These pictures and also the Saber players are used several times each week with different groups, the Africans also teaching others from them. . . . They are truly thrilled with these items, as some of their older pictures were becoming rather worn, so all came at a good time."

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