I show up at the seminar room…and nobody is there. This does not bode well after yesterday’s experience (previous Not Everything Goes Smoothly). But most places around the world you have to add “-ish” to any time reference as relationships are much more important than punctuality.
So about 1:00-ish (which means at 1:45), the room started filling up. Instead of several days of training with one large group, because of the language issues I decided to do one day in one language, the next day in another, and the third day in yet another. There wouldn’t be much depth, but at least there would be an introduction that we could build on in the future. So for this day, I had 75 people who spoke Hindi.
It might help to understand the make up of those who were here.
- Most had been believers for less than a year.
- For most, they were the only Christians in their village.
- Each of them was trying to start a church in a Hindu village.
- Of the 75, only about ten had been in school.
- Most could not read.
- Their Bible knowledge was minimal at best.
And so we began. Rather than “instructing” them in traditional ways, I shared a Bible story and we talked about it, raising all sorts of points that were theological and practical. I don’t think they even knew they were learning. (In another blog I’ll share some observations I’ve made about teaching unschooled men and women.)
We have people retell stories in groups and I try to get them to talk about it. This is a simple model of how they can “have church” back in their village – non-technical, simple, and reproducible. I had a few people retell the stories up front and from the expressions of many people, they were surprised they had learned the stories! For many, these were the first Bible stories they had learned!
At the end of the seminar, I told them that the next day I was going to do the session in a different language. They left and I wasn’t sure exactly how it had been received.
The next day, the same 75 people were there! I don’t know if they misunderstood that it was going to be a different language today or if they had secretly told the other folks not to show up. So we did a second set of stories and teaching.
The last day, the same thing happened. So we did more stories.
What a difference 72 hours makes. On this last day I had everybody in groups retelling stories. They were animated and passionate. Instead of a stoic “Bible study” as many of us experience, they looked more like a group of friends talking in a family room with a football game on the TV in the background. After 30 minutes I asked my translator if he could tell if most everybody was done. “I’m so sorry, but they don’t want to stop. They’re still talking about the story.”
After another 30 minutes they were still going. Most Americans don’t go that long on any one topic so I wasn’t sure if they were still on the story or not. With help from the translator, I sat in a few groups and they were STILL talking about the story. One man told me he was sorry, but this is the first time since he had become a Christian that he had ever been able to talk about Jesus or the Bible with others!
After they left, I admit a few tears leaked out. 72 hours before I was pulling hair out, wondering what in the world we were going to do. Now, I had just spent 3 days with 75 unschooled believers who were learning the Bible and talking about how to plant churches in Hindu villages.