Building with Stories
Stories made me to become who I am. In fact if there was a way of pulling out all the stories I heard and used throughout my life I would turn to be a different creation – not only a different person. I wouldn’t exist in the way I do today. Stories sustain life beyond shaping it – as building blocks of human beings. I am convinced: in the absence of stories human beings would never become what we are today.
I come from an oral culture – a culture that expresses itself orally rather than in a written way. Even before I was able to talk in my mother tongue stories were told to me by my parents, my siblings, my relatives, our neighbors, and other fellow villagers. Those stories were considered great gifts that I was grateful for. The stories passed messages of wisdom, bravery, love, obedience, loyalty, discipline, respect, fear of God, etc. Usually I was also expected to share the stories with others. We do not know when the stories began to circulate among our people. The only time reference used is “…at the time of ‘so and so’…” But usually no one knows when “so and so” lived. The story had to continue that way. Time was not of big concern to our ancestors but the message of the story was. Retelling is the only way that keeps the stories alive in our culture. So whenever we had the chance, as children, we also tell the stories we know. Our stories were like fireworks that crisscross each other. You hear the same story from several people several times. You tell the same story to several people several times. These stories helped our culture remain intact. I think we will loose our culture once we allow alien stories to replace ours. In my culture when people sit under a shade as their animals graze in the fields they tell stories. In the river after leading their animals to water they tell stories. In the evening before and after dinner around the fireplace they tell stories. In village gatherings (due to weddings, mourning or other reasons) they tell stories – even when village elders sit to solve a problem they use stories. Without stories our ancestors wouldn’t be our ancestors and we wouldn’t be their descendants. Our rural community was a result of stories. I think regardless of the context it is similar with yours also – my dear readers. Now, I think you could see that I grew up immersed in the world of stories. Interestingly I am seeing myself getting immersed in a “ministry of stories!”
In January 2012 I bought a DVD called “The Ancient Path: Church Planting Training for Oral Cultures” that helped me to have the very first set of organized information on Oral Bible Storytelling Strategy. In March, the same year, I saw people using an Oral Bible Storytelling Strategy called “Simply The Story (STS),” which is an inductive bible study in Oral Style. It was amazing to witness how The Holy Spirit was using the Bible stories to talk to people’s hearts. I heard people confessing their sins in public – even pastors – after stories were shared and studied through this (STS) approach of bible study. What an amazing tool! My interest to the oral approach was building fast. After all it is an approach that is akin to the one that introduced me to the realities of life. But most importantly my ministry is in an oral culture. Hence, I needed to be systematically equipped with this tool. Pastor Santino (standing) telling a Bible story in Mapel
In late August 2012 I had the opportunity to be trained in STS, for the first time, along with three other colleagues. WGM’s missionaries Billy Coppedge and Scott Rambo trained us at Billy’s house in Arua, Uganda. Since then, I had the opportunity to learn more about STS approach from Billy and others during some trainings for South Sudanese church leaders. Learning STS at Billy’s place in Arua
As I live among the Dinka people in Aduel, South Sudan I get so many God-given opportunities to tell Bible stories to individuals and groups of people in various places such as: churches, tea shops, boda boda (motorcycle taxi) parks, bus stations, etc. Again, in order to use all these opportunities effectively, I needed more experience and also more training in the STS approach.
In the second week of December last year I came to Kenya to spend two weeks with my family. But due to the conflict in South Sudan that is believed to have displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and killed thousands I had to stay in Kenya until the situation improves. It was difficult to predict how long it would take for the unrest to settle. So I wanted to use the month of January to attend some trainings that would help me in my ministry. Luckily there was a five-day STS training in Nairobi. It was God’s providence! I attended and it was a training in which I was able to get more skills through many practical sessions.
Now, sleeves up! I want to use this method to the maximum as I get or create opportunities. I believe God will use His stories to build the South Sudanese into a Holy Temple that glorifies Him. His stories can build individuals to His likeness. His stories can transform communities into godliness. His stories can build South Sudan into a godly nation. His stories can build the world for His glory!
In the area where I live the word of God is scarce. Instead the grip of the Dinka traditional religion is strong. The church group in Aduel is a minority. Those who belong to the traditional religion are the majority. Syncretism is another big challenge. On several occasions I find people mixing the worship of God with the worship of ancestors, as most of South Sudan continues to bear so many problems. Looking at the following figures one can notice the problems. In our area, according to the South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics (www.ssnbs.org):
• 94% of the population does not have access to any toilet facility. As a result diarrheal diseases and worms are common.
• Under 5 Mortality Rate is 114 (per 1000 live births). It is very common to find parents who lost 2 or even 3 children before they reached their fifth birthday.
• Maternal Mortality Rate is 2243 (per 100,000 live births). This is shocking!
• Only 7% of children were fully immunized.
• 49% of the population lives below the poverty line.
• Only 26% of the population can read and write.
Along with this, people tell us that insecurity is their biggest problem. I have personally seen petty quarrels between two individuals turn into a big physical fighting that involved many people from several villages. Due to such things, people feel very insecure.
I believe that good secular interventions would help to solve the above problems and other countless problems facing the South Sudanese. But it is my strong belief that genuine solution to these problems can only come from God. It is Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who can give genuine and durable peace, which is incomparable to the peace that the world seems to give. It is for this very reason that we in Mango Ministries are endeavoring to promote God’s stories in South Sudan. The South Sudanese church needs to be equipped with God’s stories. I thank God that I am witnessing a commendable progress of using God’s stories in my area. Pastor Joseph Meen and Pastor Peter Monyde, both Dinka who were first trained by Billy, are doing their best not only to spread God’s Stories but also to train other pastors in the STS approach. With God’s grace I am also doing my best to coach them in STS skills. In one occasion a Paramount Chief (traditional district head) who was invited to attend one of our STS trainings was captivated by the beauty of God’s Word as communicated through the stories and said; “Before we had only the baptism and the songs. But now, we have the Word of God.” Halleluiah! Yes, God is using His stories to transform people’s lives. Transformed people are people who are strong enough to shun violence. If we have transformed communities; killings, forced displacements, lootings and destruction of property as witnessed in the last six weeks would not happen. God’s stories can usher the much-needed transformation in South Sudan. Now dear readers, would you like to see or hear of transformation of South Sudanese? You can join hands with us.
1. Pray. You can participate in this ministry by your prayers. Please pray for:
• Peace in South Sudan.
• Pastors Meen and Moynde as they work hard to spread God’s word among their fellow pastors and the people of Diocese of Akot.
• Me as I work to promote God’s stories and other messages that would help to bring transformation in South Sudan.
• Helen, my wife, as she also has begun to learn and use God’s stories in the STS way.
2. Mobilize. You can mobilize your friends and your church members to pray for us, and our ministry.
3. Donate. You can also participate in our ministry by your donations. If God is leading you to do so, you can click here www.wgm.org/hidug for online giving. If you can’t use online donation yet want to donate you can let me know. Our Mango Ministries’ compound in Aduel, where I live