A few years ago “Melissa”, currently a member of Wycliffe, helped adapt a Twenty-one-story evangelism story cloth to fit the needs of from those available at StoryingScarf.com. [Update, that web site may not still be active, here’s a Google cache of the site.]
Back then Melissa served with the IMB on a two-year project in Asia with a group she calls the “Rainbow People.” There are approximately 100,000 Rainbow People in over 100 villages. There is no written alphabet in the Rainbow language so it may be decades before written scriptures become available. The Bible is printed in the national language but most of the people are not literate or very fluent in that language.
When Melissa’s work began a few years ago, it was the first missionary contact since 1937. Because of the overwhelming orality in the Rainbow people group, the team decided to adapt the “storying scarf” pioneered by other IMB missionaries. Instead of importing the scarves, the team found a local factory that produces batik (pronounced ba-teek) an art form using wax relief to dye cloth. Batik instantly transformed the Bible stories from foreign import into local culture. Some assumed the Americans had been taught the stories by other Rainbow people.
Among the positive reactions was “Sarah” a woman who was very interested in hearing about God and when she saw the batik she sat down and said, “Tell me every single story.” About an hour later, Sarah was continuing to ask questions and said these were stories that everyone deserved to hear. As she heard the last story—Jesus giving the Great Commission—she realized that she, at that very moment, was enjoying the benefits of His command to “Go into all nations….” Sarah is a schoolteacher and said that she wanted to go and tell all her co-workers and students. “Catherine,” another woman, said she had been too busy to read the Bible very much. However, as they pulled out the batik of stories, she and several of her friends became very interested.
Distractions were quite high as children were running in all directions, but Catherine remained fairly attentive. Melissa left the cloth of pictures with her and bookmarked the stories in the national-language Bible. Catherine said that she would share with her friends and family and they could use the pictures to learn. Because the evangelism batik had only twenty-one stories, there were often gaps left in the understanding of scripture, so the team quickly added a second “discipleship cloth.” The follow-up set of stories was handpicked to deal with the Rainbow worldview and correct and complete the understanding of the Gospel beyond the small evangelism set. OneStory trainers have learned from the Rainbow people and hundreds of other Chronological Bible Storying projects. These experiences have taught us how to learn what the local people are thinking and doing before we attempt to teach them Bible stories.