The storying workshop attendees. Odilo is the one
on the far left. (Sandawe, Tanzania)
An effective way to teach the Bible is through storying. After the Sandawe people of Tanzania had a storying workshop last year, Odilo, the Sandawe translator decided to use this new approach instead of a regular sermon one Sunday when he was scheduled to preach. Contrary to the usual pattern of a service he didn’t stand behind the pulpit while teaching, but sat down in sort of a circle with the congregation. He then told the first story that he had learned. As is customary here for preaching, he told the story in the Swahili language. He then went on to ask his audience questions. Surprisingly, they were unable to answer them. So he suggested that he’d tell the story again, which his listeners agreed was a good idea. But even after the second telling they were not able to answer his questions. Odilo asked one old man in the congregation what the problem was, if they didn’t understand the story. He answered, “Oh, I understand it, but I can’t remember it. It goes in one ear and out the other.” Then Odilo thought he would try one last thing: He told the same story in Sandawe, his and his congregation’s mother tongue. He noticed that the people were listening very intently. Then came the question round. They were able to answer each and every one of them! In the end he asked the listeners to retell the story. It was the old man mentioned before who was able to tell it best!
This convinced the Wycliffe missionaries working with the Sandawe that the average church goer doesn’t benefit much from a sermon in Swahili. Odilo, too, is very convinced that his people need to be reached through the mother tongue. So a follow-up meeting with the participants of the storying workshop was scheduled for a full day. They were able to come up with a plan of how they want to use their new knowledge in their own churches and neighborhoods and spend time regularly with the Wycliffe family, learning and practicing more stories.