People Love Stories

This morning Yepabo (one of our national trainers), Dodji (our translator), and I (Hera) went to Pastor Francois’ church. He is one of our trainees here in Benin at our SOS for the Ajan* language. It was so neat. Francois decided to use a story as his sermon. He told the “Boldness” story, how Peter and John were tried before the Sanhedrin after healing the crippled man. You could have heard a pin drop. His audience of about 75 men, women, and children, their brightly colored clothing a stark contrast to their dark skin, sat on the edge of their wooden benches. When he got to Peter’s words, the entire congregation broke out into a hearty chorus of “Amen! Alleluia!” and when he finished, they burst out into raucous applause. After he told the story again, he walked them through the discussion questions. You could tell at first how strange this was for them, but they loved it. More and more people stood up and shared what they liked in the story, what they disliked, and what lesson they could take from the story. After sharing briefly his own two cents on the subject, Francois then asked Yepabo to tell a story. Put on the spot, Yepabo nevertheless told the story of Jesus calming the storm in French, with Dodji translating into Ajan*. By now the audience knew what to expect. If they had been simply listening before, they were participating now. My favorite part had to be when Yepabo asked them to tell it to their neighbor in pairs. The room filled with laughter and bright astonished smiles as it erupted into people talking, telling the person sitting next to them the incredible things Jesus had done in the story. At the end, a small ten-year-old boy stood up in front of the whole church and told the story, to great applause. Yepabo told them that their homework was to tell that story to two nonbelievers, and encouraged them how it’s such a simple way to share their faith, giving them pointers on how to bring up the opportunity in normal conversation. At the end of the service, Francois stood up again, and announced his plan to hold a regularly meeting story group among the church members in order to teach them the stories so that they can hold regular groups in their own homes and among their own friends. From the interested light in everybody’s eyes, I know that many groups will be started by those church members in the coming weeks. Praise the Lord!

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