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Tell me a Story - in Singlish!

Sylvia Chong attended the "Tell me a Story" workshop organised by Wycliffe over 13-17 September. She shares with us what she has learnt and do not miss her group's translation of Philippians 3:1-4 into Singlish!

“Telling a story…to introduce who God is and the message of the gospel…” that publicity line from the workshop's webpage struck a chord with me. I wanted to add another skill set to sharing Christ, besides using gospel tracts and personal testimony. So I signed up for both the basic and intermediate workshops to get the complete training. I admit that I had some concerns with the full-day (9am–4pm) schedule. Very encouragingly, around 85 others signed up for the workshop.

On the first day, one of the first questions the instructor asked the class was, "What is your heart language?" That is, what is the language that comes out of you when you are emotional!

The class offered up answers such as: English, Singlish, Mandarin, Bahasa Indonesia, Cantonese, Teochew, Malay, Peranakan, Myanmese, Karen, Malay in Cantonese form, 'Chapalung' (Mixture) Hakka, Tamil, Hokkien and Bahasa Gaul. Such an amazing variety in such a small group! These languages (where there were at least 4-5 people to make a group) became the foundation of our workshop groupings. I chose to join the Singlish group.

In crafting our stories, we were told to look at them through the lens of the non-Christian audience and ask these questions:

  1. In this Bible passage, which words/phrases would be unfamiliar to the non-Christian?

  2. Look at context, commentaries and different Bible translations for help with difficulties.

  3. Come up with a C.A.N. (Clear, Accurate, Natural) way to tell the story.

  4. Then in your groups discuss, agree, decide on actions, practice and come up front to tell and demonstrate to the rest of the people!

These were some of the concepts I gleaned from the workshop:

  • Not to memorise but to internalise the story.

  • Storytelling is more of an art than a science.

  • Stories change worldviews.

  • The more they hear the Bible stories, the more they want to read the Bible for themselves.

  • The story is the skeleton, the meat is put on by the listeners.

To put what we have learnt into practice, we were to translate Philippians 3:1-4 into the heart language which we were grouped into. Here's a sample of the Singlish attempt:

  1. Aye, finally, Bro, be happy in God. To repeat all I have said before is no problem for me and for you it is the steady one, (thumbs up).

  2. Look out for those “pai lang” and “chou kwan” who try to bluff you into pleasing God by your own effort.

  3. For we are The REAL DEAL, who honor God by His power, who rely on God and not on how “chai” we are.

  4. Though if you know me, I have many things to “hao lian” about. If anyone thinks he is very “chai” let me tell you how "lagi chai" I am!

(Philippians 3:1-4: 1. Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more.)

Through this course, I am encouraged to take the Bible and put it into everyday language of my present day listeners.

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