UNLEASHING POTENTIAL IN STORYCENTRIC COMMUNITIES

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The Literacy Conversation – Part 2

“Could it be that orality is not about literacy at all?”

Six years later, this is what I have learned from experiencing it as a practitioner:

“No, orality is not about literacy. It’s not about literacy at all. Orality is about STORY.”

In fact, we at Freedom to Lead believe in this so strongly that we use the word “storycentric” to describe the cultures we work with. We recognize that “orality” has connotations- real or perceived – that can cause confusion. But it is story that captures the heart of both the nonliterate and the literate. It is both biblical stories and current, personal life stories that inspire all people to embrace the God of the Bible.

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The Literacy Conversation – Part 1

I think I’ve been getting it wrong all these years. Since that time two millennia ago in Antioch when followers of the Way were first called Christians, the church has carried God’s mission to the world. Evangelism and discipleship methods have varied over the centuries and the local church’s involvement in the advancement of the kingdom of God has looked different from culture to culture and has changed with the times. During the last decade, for example, there has emerged this new term in missiological communities called “orality.” Orality methods are essentially methods of evangelism and discipleship that involve oral-based communication like story, drama, music, and the arts to portray the gospel rather than linear, abstract, literate-based communication that has been done since the invention of the printing press. Missions groups have been recently saying that they would like to begin using orality methods for peoples and cultures that cannot or do not read. The tried-and-true literate-based methods would still be used for peoples and cultures that do read. At least that’s what I thought they were saying.

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These Are Their Stories – Chandra and Rick

In 2006, Chandra was invited to a workshop that introduced him to the idea of storycentric communication. At first he was highly skeptical of this new approach, but he soon became convicted that storycentric methods of learning were more appropriate than literacy-based learning for his people. So instead of teaching them through lectures and systematic theology, he began to incorporate biblical stories, drama, and traditional music.

The results were dramatic! People responded to the storycentric methods beyond Chandra’s imagination. Since 2007, the ministry he leads has planted more than 860 house churches throughout Odisha.

However, Chandra’s story doesn’t stop there.

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These Are Their Stories – Elizabeth

Elizabeth grew up in a small town not too far from the capital city of Addis Ababa. A godmother-type figure was the one who raised her while her parents worked. She remembers her guardian taking her to church at a very young age. When she was a little bit older she was able to move back home to live with her parents and siblings. One day a church opened up next to their house. She remembers that they were singing. They were familiar tunes, songs she remembered hearing as a very young child. Intrigued, she went over there by herself, if only for the music. For two years she kept going back, drawn especially to the singing. One day the pastor was preaching from Romans 12 (“Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”). Something stirred in her heart with those simple words and she immediately accepted Jesus as her Savior upon hearing them. She was 12 years old. Her first work as an evangelist was to her own family.

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These Are Their Stories – Matthew

Matthew* and his wife are simple people of Zimbabwe who lead a quiet life unto the Lord. When the AIDS epidemic swept throughout southern Africa in the late 80s, Matthew and his wife took in four children from their church home who had recently become orphans. Their heart for these children was due in large part to Matthew’s wife having grown up as an orphan herself. She knew firsthand what it’s like to walk that lonely road and is using her story to give her life to others. Over the years they began to add to the number of children they would bring in and care for. Today their ministry to these orphans have expanded to 66 orphans that reside with them. In addition to these 66, over 100 children are fed meals every day by their ministry.

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A False Hope

On a day filled with expectation, Jesus made His way to Jerusalem. His followers believed the Kingdom was about to be reborn. Those marching with Jesus had seen him raise Lazarus from the dead a few days before. You can understand their excitement. Along the parade’s path, crowds were shouting praises and dancing and singing, escorting Jesus on His “triumphal entry.”

“Hosanna!” they sang, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Spreading their palm branches along the processional. We celebrate this on Palm Sunday. As parades go, it wasn’t very impressive. But for those who marched into the city with Jesus that day, it held all the promise of a new beginning.

Why was the crowd so joyous? What was it that created the excitement in these people, that caused them to sing, “Blessed is the King. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”? What was it that inspired them?

In a word, it was “hope.” The people saw in Jesus the fulfillment of their dream.

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These Are Their Stories – Stephen

Like many places in Africa, Nigeria operates regionally by tribe. There are “Muslim” tribes and there are “Christian” tribes. Whoever is dominant in that region maintains the power. Stephen was born in the north where the power belongs to the Muslims. That means that the Muslims have a say in what kind of job one is allowed to have once he reaches age. Stephen grew up with a military father and an Anglican mother. From the time he was young he knew he wanted to help people. He thought that meant he would become a doctor someday. However, the Muslims in his area would not allow Christians to have “professional” jobs. Not sure of the options that he had, he discovered that he had an uncle living in the south. His uncle took him under his care and became Stephen’s guardian. Stephen was able to get an education in the south. His uncle’s Christian influence encouraged Stephen to walk away from medicine and begin a journey toward studying to be an Anglican priest.

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These Are Their Stories – Owen

Owen is a young leader in his late 30s who just started participating in Freedom to Lead’s The Garden Project. He and his wife have 4-year old twin girls. Owen works with the Church of the Nazarene among his people in Zimbabwe. He tells these stories in his own words.

In November 2018 I had the opportunity to attend a training workshop on leadership which was conducted by the Freedom to Lead International® (FTL). The FTL team took us on a one-week intensive leadership training program which helped me have a new perspective on leadership and how I can influence my world. Delivery and presentation of the lessons was storycentric whereby a biblical text was taken from the Bible and lessons/concepts were thereafter applied from the text to real life experiences.

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The Year Ahead

As winter creeps slowly into spring, Freedom to Lead is also experiencing a new season. Our travel calendars are packed full from now until December. We are grateful for being able to continue what was birthed back in 2009. At the same time we wonder how to cover all the opportunities. New initiatives are being started and new dreams are being explored. 2019 is a year of possibility.

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The Sleepy Invasion

The Stage was set. God was about to make His move, to enter time. Would He come with mighty wonders and signs? Would He light the skies as far as one could see? Would angels shout His arrival with trumpets and drums? Would the whole earth rock from the impact of his landing? The Great Sustainer, by whom and through whom and for whom are all things. The Almighty who is more powerful than any army. The One who holds in His hand all life. The moment came for His invasion.

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Leadership Matters

We believe that leaders make a huge difference in people's lives.