Stories that Spread Like Wildfire!
By an IW to France
We sat in the living room in France with our story crafter. Sophia was from Algeria in North Africa but had arrived in France with her family at a young age.
She was the perfect blend of a first generation immigrant family. She lived daily on the bi-cultural bridge between Algeria and France. She lived daily on the bi-lingual bridge between Arabic and French.
She knew both languages and both cultures perfectly. She lived comfortably in two very different worlds—equally at ease with her French friends and her North African immigrant community.
Sophia was the perfect story crafter—the perfect storyteller.
Our team was working on a Onestory (link - www.onestory.org) project—a chronological oral Bible story set for the French-speaking North African diaspora (“displaced people”) community in France. We had chosen “Honor and Shame” as the redemptive theme for our story set. This was a theme that was culturally relevant and specific to that people group.
Our hope and prayer was that the power of God’s story would penetrate the hearts of these lost North Africans in France, bringing them to a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus.
Each week, we met with Sophia to work on crafting and revising a new story. Starting with the story of creation, we would eventually have a set of 20 oral Bible stories. The chronological panorama would end with the death and resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the New Testament church.
During the story crafting session, Sophia would listen intently to multiple audio versions of the Biblical story passage in French and in Arabic, as well as watch a silent video clip of the story from the Jesus Film. We would also create a “storyboard” with stick figures and drawings on a white board as she listened to the story. This allowed her to follow the accurate chronology of the storyline and to learn the story well.
The goal was to paint a picture of the scene in her mind from which she could then draw from in her telling of the Biblical story.
When she was ready, Sophia would begin to retell the story over and over again. Intermittently, I would play the audio story passages for her to listen to and to self-correct her story.
Sophia would determine when the story was correct and well-told. From there, we would take her stories to be tested by other French-speaking North Africans, and then come back to Sophia at a later time to revise them as needed.
The goal was to have a short, natural oral story that could be easily retold with accuracy.
Our team was moving along well in the story set and had already crafted the first three stories: Creation, the Fall, and the Tower of Babel. The next story was Noah.
It was nearing Christmas, and our team thought that it would be good to have the Christmas story crafted. We wanted to be able to learn the French story and perhaps have open doors to share it with our North African friends during this upcoming holiday season.
We talked to Sophia about it, and she was happy to adjust our story schedule and work on the Christmas story.
“I’m going to Algeria for Christmas, so perhaps I can share it with the churches there,” she told us.
We worked for several hours on the story until we were all pleased with the end product. We had a great French oral Christmas story ready to share!
At the end of the session, Sophia asked if we could craft the story into her Algerian Arabic dialect.
“Perhaps I can share the story in Arabic while I’m traveling in North Africa for Christmas,” she said.
We took the next hour and worked on the Algerian Arabic version of the story. It didn’t take very long, because Sophia already knew the story by heart. She was an oral learner—even though she could read and write. It doesn’t take oral learners long to learn something orally. It comes naturally for them.
After a long morning of hard work, we kissed Sophia goodbye and parted ways. We wouldn’t see each other until after the Christmas holidays and her return to France.
“You won’t believe what happened!” Sophia texted. “I’ll tell you when I see you next week.“ I could hear the excitement and eagerness in her written words.
“I was able to share the Christmas story in French and in Arabic with so many people in Algeria!” she told us when we met together for tea and for our next story crafting session. She told us everything that had happened. There had been many open doors for her to share. It was unbelievable!
Sophia was able to speak to entire churches and to many small groups of women in isolated villages. Many of those women couldn’t read and write and couldn’t speak French.
Sophia told us that she had shared the story in the local Arabic dialect with one Christian woman who said, “I have never heard this story before!” Even though this lady had been a believer for many years and attended the local church, she went on to say that she had never heard the story like this before.
It was as if she were hearing it for the very first time! The power of the story brought the images, the words, and the experience to life for her! The power of the told story in her own heart language—her own dialect—penetrated her heart and soul in a new way.
That same lady then went back to her family in the village and shared with them the Christmas story in Arabic. That life-giving story was spreading like wildfire!
Who knows how far that story of the birth of Christ has gone in that village, in the nearby towns, in the urban cities, in the region, in the country!?
Little did we know what was birthing that day when we gathered in our teammates’ living room to craft the Christmas story with Sophia. Little did we know that God had a bigger plan in changing our story schedule. Little did we know that Sophia would ask if we could craft the story in Algerian Arabic for her to take with her on her journey. Little did we know that God was already preparing hearts in that faraway land to hear—truly hear—the Christmas story in their heart language for the first time.
Little did we know that He was writing a story that would spread like wildfire!