Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Word Overcomes Illiteracy

For much of the workshop, Susan, a Kwomtari speaker, sat unobtrusively at her table, often resting her chin on her hands as she listened to the and here.) I had the privilege of serving on staff during the course and meeting Susan firsthand.

One of 30 participants from seven languages, Susan was attending the third of four workshops on Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS), a course that teaches Papua New Guineans how to memorize and retell Bible stories in a dramatic manner. (See more stories about that course

Photo of Susan by Gary Abbas
Quiet and humble, Susan rarely spoke in discussions, and so when she shyly walked to the front of the room, everyone grew silent. She stared at the ground for a moment, and then, breaking into huge grin, Susan dove headfirst into the story of Moses fleeing Egypt. Waving her hands and darting around the room, this tiny woman became a fierce Moses attacking an Egyptian, scolding Hebrews, cowering shepherds, and Jethro’s daughters. As she finished the story, the room roared with laughter and applause; Susan beamed in delight—being illiterate no longer meant she couldn’t share God’s Word.

As a pastor’s wife with a deep faith, Susan’s inability to read has long been a great frustration to her, preventing her from leading well her women’s fellowship group or even telling Bible stories to her children. After she attended her first OBS workshop, Susan eagerly began sharing stories, but the other women in the fellowship became angry, accusing Susan of arrogance and not accepting their authority as literate members.

But, a chance to clarify OBS came when Susan was asked to share a Bible story for the opening devotional for a regional women’s meeting. “How many of you can read?” 150 women were asked. Only a dozen raised their hands. “OBS helps you learn Bible stories and share them with your families—without needing to read.” Excited, the women listened spellbound as Susan proclaimed Truth in their own language. No longer did Susan face opposition from the fellowship; instead, they were excited about receiving God’s Word through OBS into their own lives!