Orality is an interactive story-telling technique that connects the Bible with many oral cultures, where people learn best through story. International workers in one West African country are affecting many lives with this tool.
Hope for the Barren
The story of Hannah has had a significant influence because it resonates with the women in this culture who are unable to have children. The men typically have four wives, so it is common for barren women to be ridiculed just as Hannah was.
When some Alliance workers taught the story to patients in a hospital operated by The Alliance, a woman, Ayo*, was so moved by it that she went to each patient and repeated it to them. “When they hear a story, they can’t wait to tell somebody else,” says Megan, an Alliance worker. “It’s part of their DNA.”
Ayo eventually approached a woman, Chidi, who was lying on the porch. When Ayo told Chidi about Hannah, she began to weep. Ayo didn’t know what to do, so she found some of the workers and asked them to come speak to this woman.
Chidi had been a believer but walked away from God after years of being mocked for her inability to have children. “I didn’t believe He had the power to do anything,” she said. “But this story reminded me that God is King, and I want to rededicate my life to Him.”
Indifference Turned to Excitement
Before orality reached a Sunday school class in this area, a seven-year-old girl, Onyeka, would not engage with the lessons.
When the teacher decided to use orality, Onyeka began to open up. One story in particular gripped her heart, and she couldn’t wait to share it with someone else. “The power of God’s Word through story just lit her heart on fire,” Megan says. When Onyeka got home that day, she taught the story to her family.
They enjoyed it so much that Onyeka could not keep from sharing it with even more people. She went into the streets, gathered all the neighbors she could find, and made them sit to hear the story. Through this child’s excitement about the gospel, one of her neighbors came to Christ that day.
Redemption in a Prison
The Alliance pastors who work with an area prison asked Megan and several other international workers to come share. The team was nervous at first because the only ones trained for orality were women, and this was a men’s prison. They were not sure their story would be effective since women are not often respected in this culture.
Barbara, another team member trained in orality, chose to share the parable of the prodigal son. When she had finished, instead of having the men repeat it back to her, she decided to choose two of them to act it out. One man played the father, and another played the son. The man who acted as the father eagerly took off his ratty T-shirt and shoes and placed them on the other man as they finished the story.
Megan looked on with tears in her eyes, thinking, It can’t get any better than this. Suddenly, an old man in the back started waving his hand, saying, “I want to talk!” The workers were concerned, as this was an older man from a resistant people group. But they let him speak.
“I want to tell you what this story is about,” he said. “There is absolutely nothing you can do—no matter how much you have broken God’s heart, He’s always welcoming you. He’s waiting for you to come home to Him.”
The team members were stunned. “The Holy Spirit validated His message through a man after a woman had shared,” Megan says. “It was incredible.” Several men came to the Lord that day; since then, as the workers continued to share Bible stories with these men, a dozen have given their lives to Christ.