Trying Something New

Research was presented in a recent leadership webinar that indicates a trend among the most effective leaders in the most impactful nonprofits. They have the habit of “starting stuff” and “trying something new”.  These leaders have been referred to as “eager scientists” in their persistent and courageous efforts, especially when new opportunities arise.  I am reminded of all the times my mentors said to me, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Founded on Trying Something New

In the early days of Scriptures In Use, our founders, Jim and Carla Bowman, chose to live in a truck camper for five years in the high, coastal mountains of the Sierra Madras in Southern Mexico, engaging the Tarahumara people, learning how oral peoples think and process differently than book learners.  That was a big part of SIU’s beginning, learning deeply about the oral arts (storytelling, drama, dance, music, song and poetry) and how hearts and minds are transformed as oral people engage with Scripture through the oral arts.

Jim and Carla, apostolic workers called by God, were “eager scientists”. They put on their figurative lab coats each day and went joyfully (and, I am sure, some days with much struggle) into the high mountain villages to demonstrate the love of Christ and learn about the Tarahumara people and their oral-preference learning paradigm.  If Jim and Carla had not been willing to “try something new”, there would likely be no SIU today.

Still Trying Something New

In the midst of this pandemic, we were contacted by Ade (Ah ‘day’), a West African apostolic missionary who is serving in Southeast Africa. Ade was interested in using our Bridges curriculum and training model to equip oral culture leaders at an upcoming church planting school he is coordinating. Our SIU leaders/trainers are unable to fly and meet in person to develop a new contact because of current international travel restrictions.  However, after much prayer and “Zoom” conversations, along with discussions with me and the SIU team, two of our newer SIU leaders/trainers decided to “try something new” with this courageous leader! They began developing a potential new partner using non face-to-face methods and ran a week-long international training via video conferencing.

“Their Eyes Lit Up”

During the coaching and training, using “WhatsApp” and “Zoom” technologies, Ade told our team,

“I worked hard to prepare extensive, three-page outlines to pass out during my teaching with local believers. When we gathered the following week, the people were not able to recall what I taught. I insisted that they take notes, however, they still could not recall what was taught. All the people wanted to do was sit and listen to me talk. I did not trust they would learn just from listening.

Then I came across the storytelling approach in some materials I received years ago from someone connected with SIU. I decided to use some of the stories from the list called, ‘Stories of Obedience: Discipleship for New Believers’. I started storytelling using two stories: Jesus and Zacchaeus, and Phillip and the Ethiopian. When I started telling stories, their eyes lit up. The stories captured the people’s attention. They love hearing the stories repeated and are repeating them to others in their communities. Fifty and sixty-year-old grandmas who cannot read or write are retelling the stories to their families and neighbors.”

“I Will Have Them Start Now”

Our two SIU leaders/trainers said it was amazing to see him understand and catch so much of the training even though it was delivered in a less than ideal way, over “Zoom” and not face-to-face. After they finished a lesson on creating Scripture songs within the local language, Ade said, “The potential to write songs in the local dialect is huge! I will have them start now.”

At the end of the “Zoom” Bridges training, Ade told our team he was going to restructure the church planting school to make Scripture storytelling training one of the first weeks instead of a later week in the three month course. Each week he will have the students memorize a Scripture story or parable. Then he said, “What you have taught me this week will be a foundation for what we are doing.”

Praise for this New Beginning

We praise God for this new beginning with this courageous disciple maker and church planter in the harvest fields of Southeast Africa! We continue to build a relationship with him and look forward to the learnings that will come out of this church planting school in Southeast Africa.  I am proud of these two newer SIU leaders/trainers and the entire SIU team in supporting them.  They were willing to “try something new”.

So, I ask you,

“Are you trying something new?  What is the Lord saying to you about trying something new?”

Stay Connected

Hopefully, this post encouraged you. Thank you for staying connected with Scriptures In Use, our partners and the Lord’s work in oral cultures around the world.  Please feel free to ask or leave any questions or comments to this post.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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