I just returned home after spending a week in South America. I've been on several mission trips with my church in the past, all of them have been within the U.S. This was the first time I've ever been out of the country, with the exception of a couple of cruises and a couple of business trips to Canada. Now that I'm home and have had a chance to reflect on the trip, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.
A Whole New World
Being out of the country opened my eyes to a whole new world. Sure, I've seen it all on TV. I've heard about it from missionaries. I've read about it on the internet. But I've never actually experienced it for myself. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. New scenery (man, was it beautiful!!). New experiences. New food. New people. But as a lazy American, I also experienced regret. I regret that I never took the time to really learn another language well enough to actually communicate with someone. I found that some of the simplest conversations were nearly impossible to have and the simplest questions nearly impossible to ask. One of the missionaries we were working with suggested a free app called Duolingo as a simple way to begin learning another language so I checked it out and have been using it ever since.
People With Little or No Access to the Gospel
There are lost people everywhere. But I've never been any place that a church didn't exist. I saw that in South America. There's a people group of about 30,000 indigenous people where less than 2% are believers in Jesus Christ. These people are scattered across a region in small communities where there is no active church planting activity at all. These people effectively have little or no access to the gospel. There are a few missionaries who are trying to reach these people, but it's hard work. The people are skeptical of outsiders. You can't just walk in and start preaching. You have to spend time building relationships and earning trust.
We met a man named Gustov. He is a shaman or witch doctor in his community in South America. He believes he has spirits living inside of him. The missionaries have talked with him about Jesus. Gustov says he wished he had heard the gospel message earlier in his life. If he had, he would have accepted it. He believes that if he were to follow Jesus now though, the spirits would leave him and do harm to the people, crops, or animals in his community. He doesn’t want to hurt his people, but he does hope that all of his sons become believers in Jesus. READ THAT AGAIN! Gustov cares about his village so much that he's willing to choose NOT to believe in Jesus in order to protect them. But he also hopes ALL of his sons will choose to follow Jesus. On the one hand, it's sad that Gustov's beliefs about evil spirits keeps him from trusting in Christ for himself. But on the other hand, it's amazing to me that he's so moved by the gospel message that he wants his family to become believers in Jesus!!
If Gustov were to give his life to Christ, it would change his entire community of about 100 people. The community currently only has 2 believers. One of those believers is one of Gustov’s sons. The other is his daughter. Please pray for Gustov, his family, and their entire community...that God would draw them to Jesus!
Gustov’s story is why there is such urgency to deliver the gospel message to people around the world in a way that they can understand it.
Storying as an Effective Way to Share the Gospel
One of the challenges that missionaries face as they try to reach unreached people groups with the gospel is that 70-80% of the people in the world are "oral preference learners". This means that they depend on aural or oral-visual means to receive, process, remember, and pass on information.* In other words, for many people, even if they had a Bible in their own language, they might not be able to read it or understand it. This is why "storying" has become such an effective strategy for sharing the gospel. While I was in South America, I got to see this firsthand. One of the missionaries shared the story of Creation with people in the community. He shared the story once. Then he told the story again. Then he went through it a third time asking questions. And then he did it again a fourth time. This approach really seemed to work well. The repetition, questions, and interaction with the people helped them to understand and retain the information shared with them in an amazing way! It was really cool to watch. Check out the brief excerpt below.
Oral Storying Video Project
As I shared above, the people group that we visited are oral learners so one of the strategies that we've developed along with our missionary partners is to produce a library of video Bible stories that share God's message of love and redemption from Creation through the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.
We recruit actors from the community to play the parts in each story. We also work with the local indigenous people to accurately translate those Bible stories into their primary or "Heart" language and we record the narration for the stories using a local person as the narrator. Then we edit the video stories together so they can be shown to the indigenous people and distributed amongst the people and to other villages on mini SD cards that be plugged into almost any cell phone...and they all have cell phones! Isn't technology great? Check out a sample story here. When the videos are shown at a person's house and the people nearby hear it in their heart language, a crowd frequently gathers because it's so unusual to hear a recording in their heart language. It's an incredibly effective means of capturing their attention and communicating the story of the Bible to this people group, and it opens up incredible opportunities for sharing the gospel!
While we were in South America, we were able to work with the missionaries there to produce several of these video Bible stories – The Creation, The Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, the Call of Abraham, and Abraham Sacrificing Isaac. This week, additional stories are being recorded, including the Birth of Moses, the Plagues, the Passover, and many others.
Burdened and Moving Forward
The biggest thing that happened to me while I was in South America was the incredible burden that God laid on my heart for this wonderful unreached people group. My heart aches for them to come to know Jesus! I'm excited about the oral storying video project and the ability to use these video Bible stories to share the gospel with these indigenous people in South America.
We would appreciate your prayers as we move forward with this project. We're so thankful to all of you who so willingly donated to help us cover our travel expenses in South America. We still need help though. We're looking for more people to help us financially. We were able to raise enough money to cover our travel expenses but we still have the costs of video production and video editing to cover. We are moving forward by faith, but we still need people who will commit to be ongoing monthly donors to help us complete this project. And we need more people who are willing to make a one-time gift as well. Would you consider partnering with us to take the gospel to this unreached people group in South America?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Doug Keesey is the Vice President of OneMessageTV, Inc.
OneMessageTV, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation registered in the state of Georgia.
All donations are tax deductible under Internal Revenue Code Section 170.
* info taken from The Lausanne Movement and Orality.net