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The Spoken Word in Your Heart Language

by Grace Tan

Imagine this: Jesus has a lao bu (“mother” in Hokkien) who sets out to take charge of him after hearing reports that he’s seow (“mad” in Hokkien). We heard this story at the Bible Storytelling Workshop on 9, 10 & 13 May 2017. And, yes, it’s there in the written record (Mark 3:20–21, 31–35).

For many of us, the word lao bu instantly linked Jesus’ mother to the many worried Chinese mothers who try to do what’s best for their children. And at the end of the story, when Jesus didn’t do what his mother wanted, many of us were offended at his response – though we tried to excuse his behaviour, since he’s our Lord.

Wycliffe Singapore has run the Bible Storytelling Workshop before. But this year, for the first time, we practised telling stories to each other in our heart languages – Singlish, Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, Indonesian, etc. – as well as English and Mandarin. In doing so, we experienced the shock and impact of hearing God’s Word in a homely context. One participant shared, “I think we were all wowed when we heard the Bible in our own dialect and languages. It felt like ‘home’. It felt like ‘This is do-able.’ Suddenly it felt like I have something to say beyond ‘ni how.’”

During this workshop, we had a taste of three methods of crafting Bible stories. Once the story was crafted, the next step was to act it out. In Teochew, English and Singlish, three groups acted the story in Mark 4:35–41 about Jesus calming the storm, to the immense enjoyment of all. We also practised doing inductive Bible studies on the stories.

On the last day of the workshop, we tackled a non-story: Philippians 3:1–4:9. We crafted segments of this passage, then we put it together, with tellings in English, Mandarin and Singlish. Hearing the whole passage spoken was powerful for us. One participant commented, “When I heard chapters 3 and 4 of Philippians being presented to us, I was extremely moved. It suddenly clicked, I understood and could feel what Paul must have been feeling for the church. It all felt so real, like God’s Word was shooting straight into our hearts.”

A workshop participant, CY, used the storytelling method only two days after the workshop ended. CY knew an elderly lady who was unreceptive to Christianity because she thought it was a western religion. However, when CY and her friend visited the old lady in hospital, she agreed to listen to stories and testimonies and she let them pray for her, all in Hokkien. They visited her regularly, and CY was able to share stories of Jesus’ miracles, the Prodigal Son, and some Old Testament stories. During those few weeks of sharing, as the elderly woman learned more about God, her heart was softened towards him. Touched by the Word of God, she eventually accepted Jesus as her personal Saviour and Lord before she passed away in June.

This workshop really demonstrated the power of God’s spoken Word in the heart language. As a participant said, “This is a basic skill/lifestyle that needs to be put into the hands of every child of God, not just Sunday School teachers or leaders.” May all of us use this wonderful tool for the glory of God. The storytelling goes on! If you would like to join a storytelling group and practise your skills, please contact us.

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