The Gospel for the Illiterate
First the bad news: many of the people living in the least-reached parts of the world can’t read or write. And those percentages are even less among the poor and refugees, where disruptions to schooling make the challenge even greater. How can we help them engage the Word of God if they are illiterate? Does that automatically disqualify them from following Jesus? In Romans it says “Faith come by reading,” right?
Faith comes by hearing! (Romans 10:17) That’s the good news! While working to improve literacy is a worthy endeavor, we also must seek to share the Gospel in ways that illiterate people can quickly learn about Jesus and pass his good news along to their friends and neighbors. We at All Nations do this through Storytelling!
This past month a colleague and I went to South Asia to train 30 young leaders to share the Gospel in the slums of their capital city. We showed them how to create simple drawings of Jesus Stories from the Bible, in order to memorize those stories and teach them to their new friends who cannot read. This method makes use of multiple learning styles, and helps to get the Word deep into a person’s heart, so they know it and can re-tell it at anytime. Our trainees were excited and loved the interactivity and practical nature of this method.
A Visit to the Slums
After five days of training, we went with one of our young trainees, Khalida, to the home of a family she is reaching out to. Khalida herself is from a Muslim family and was the first in her family to follow Jesus. Her father was even an Imam in her village mosque. Khalida now is a powerful evangelist, and has led to the Lord and baptized more than 10 different Muslim-background friends!
Khalida led us through the winding maze of dank alleys to the home of the family she wanted us to meet. When we arrived, we couldn’t believe the conditions – the family of 5 all stayed in 2 tiny rooms stacked on top of each other, with narrow, impossibly steep concrete stairs connecting them. The room on top was all concrete walls with no windows, and barely big enough for a double bed that the whole family shared.
We sat and got to know them, first looking at the school books of the 9-year-old daughter, Mina. Besides sharing Jesus, Khalida’s ministry also sponsors girls like Mina to attend local schools. Without their help, the tuition of $8 per month would be beyond their reach. Mina was so happy to see our enthusiasm about her schooling, and she practiced a bit of her simple English with us. Her mom and grandma looked on, remaining pretty somber. Neither of them is literate.
As Mina’s mom shared their plight as refugees from a neighboring country, undergoing all kinds of discrimination and challenges (especially since Covid) the mood in the room was grim. What could we say to this family enduring so much suffering? Holy Spirit reminded us of the story of Jesus Calming the Storm. So we said, “We are so sorry you are facing so many storms in your lives. Do you want to hear a story about what Jesus did in a storm?”
They agreed, and we began to share the story – not using text, but first hand motions, and then later, simple stick figure drawings. As we went through the story multiple times, Mina, and her mom, and her grandma, came alive with joy. They forgot their struggle for a moment, and entered into the truth of Jesus’ power over storms!
They memorized the story, because we told it repeatedly, and reinforced it with motions and drawings. And then we asked some simple discovery questions: What do you learn about Jesus from this story? What do you learn about people? What should we do about it? We got to talk a bit more about Jesus’ heart to bring them peace, and hope. And hopefully we opened a door for further conversations and discipleship by Khalida, as she continues to visit and follow up.
Storytelling is not only effective for those who cannot read, but also for professionals who have easy access to a Bible. We are all drawn to stories! Jesus knew this, and it is a beautiful act of discipleship to him to learn to tell stories like he did.
If you are interested in learning more about Storytelling, check out upcoming trainings.
In addition, we often have free Ignite Online Trainings coming up that will give a taste of Storytelling.