In November 2020, Wycliffe Singapore, with trainers from another Wycliffe entity, held an online workshop to train storying facilitators in Singapore. This was the first time the training was held totally online (since COVID-19 restrictions prevented it from being held in person).
The training was part of an initiative to train and equip people with the skills to craft oral Bible stories in colloquial Chinese dialects. Through this, Wycliffe Singapore hopes to improve access to Bible stories to dialect speakers, even if they cannot read or understand the Bible in Mandarin well. This workshop had participants who were Hainanese and Teochew speakers.
During this first stage of training, potential facilitators were guided through three processes. First, they were asked to reflect – to listen to a Bible passage and consider the lessons learnt about God and the different characters in the story. Then they were asked to internalise the story – to think about the themes of the passage, create a storyboard, and discuss the cultural background, key concepts and key terms of the passage. Finally, they practised actually telling the story and recording it.
Initially, the thought of having to tell a full story from memory seemed overwhelming. Our oldest participant (76), in particular, was afraid that she would not be able to remember all the details of the story. However, to our pleasant surprise, the processes of reflection and internalisation helped the passages come alive to us, and the storyboarding process helped us visualise and remember the details of the Bible story. This experience showed us how important it was to be personally engaged with the stories in the Bible in order to retell them well.
While discussing the key concepts, key terms and types of details to include in our storytelling, we learnt how important it was to understand our target audience. In order to decide what to include in a clear and natural retelling, we had to ask ourselves:
What prior knowledge of the Bible, key terms and historical context would our target audience have?
Which details were important for our target audience’s understanding of the story, and which details were less critical?
These experiences in the storying training reminded me of how Jesus often used parables, or short stories, in his ministry as a means of conveying important truths in a manner that spoke into the hearts and minds of his listeners. While the use of parables meant that truth was concealed to those who rejected his message, to those who would listen, the stories challenged their existing worldviews and assumptions.
In the second stage of training to be held in January 2021, the trainers will guide the facilitators as they work with groups of native speakers of the Chinese dialects to craft oral Bible stories. In the longer term, Wycliffe Singapore is planning to continue with monthly story crafting workshops so that the facilitators and crafters can continue practising their new skills. In the process, the stories crafted in Chinese dialects can be shared with those who need it. May we continue to seek God’s leading and wisdom in crafting stories that not only convey important biblical principles, but also speak to the hearts and minds of dialect speakers in Singapore.