A woman in Southeast Asia
Photographer: Marc Ewell

‘We have encountered all the kinds of difficulties the Bible says God’s children will have to encounter,’ says Ma’ayan*. But at every turn she has seen God at work.

‘When we interview staff before they join our team, I think we should begin by asking if they can endure the challenges of the world,’ Ma’ayan says.

Ma’ayan is a member of the Aldor* oral Bible storying team. She lives in a country in Southeast Asia where Christians face rejection, discrimination and even violence. But, she says, ‘God’s power is so much greater than man’s.’

‘I am passionate about work that reveals the meaning of the Bible’

‘Ever since I was young, I had a desire to serve the Lord,’ says Ma’ayan, ‘but I don’t like being in front of people. In my country, anyone in ministry must always be ready to preach. It’s just what people expect.’

Despite her fear of public speaking, Ma’ayan chose to attend theological college. ‘Whenever it was my turn to preach, I came up with all kinds of reasons to get out of it. But I was happy to get the chance to attend seminary. Every subject intrigued me.’

Ma’ayan’s time at seminary deepened her passion for the Bible: ‘While studying Bible commentaries and resources, I began to admire the people who wrote them. I really wanted to do that. But I knew that my levels of English, education, and health would all make that difficult. Regardless, I am passionate about work that reveals the meaning of the Bible.’

After her studies, Ma’ayan met a couple working in Bible translation. ‘They told me they were looking for someone to work with a project related to Bible stories,’ Ma’ayan explains. ‘I wasn’t really interested. I thought it would be working with children. But someone else explained I would actually be helping people create oral Bible stories in the many languages in my country. My job would be to make sure the meaning of their stories was biblically accurate. That piqued my interest.’

‘We always have to cling to God’

Around two-thirds of people worldwide prefer to learn through oral methods rather than reading and writing, so Bible storying is a great way to learn about Jesus and grow in faith.

Ma’ayan and her colleagues run workshops to help people craft oral Bible stories in their own languages. Participants select stories that will help their communities to see the world through God’s eyes. The chosen stories are told chronologically, covering the overall storyline of the Bible and the basics that a new believer would need to know.

‘When we are working at the office, we don’t have problems at home, but when we go out on a trip, things always happen that weigh on our minds – our kids get sick or someone’s wife has poor health. Every woman on our team has lost a child in a miscarriage. We had to face the loss of our own children.

‘Many of these difficulties happen while we are visiting language communities. So we have to be careful. We have to pray before travelling. We always have to cling to God.’

An Aldor village

‘I can see that God has prepared people’

‘After we craft a story,’ Ma’ayan explains, ‘we tell it to someone who doesn’t know God. With their feedback, we can make the stories even better – more natural-sounding, accurate, and understandable for people who don’t have a Christian background.

‘When I first started working on this project, testing was really difficult: If I try to test a story with a close friend, will they no longer want to be close with me?

‘Some people are okay with it, but some people aren’t and even say bad things about the Lord Jesus. I just pray for them in my heart. If these people see me on the street, they act like they don’t know me.

‘But I can still see that God has prepared some people, people who don’t even believe yet, to use them in his work. When we were testing stories with certain people, they welcomed us to come by any time. These people tell me about what they believe, and they are very good at sharing helpful feedback.’

I could just feel God miraculously at work. I’ve come to realise that he has already prepared everything.’

Covid-19 restrictions have prevented Ma’ayan and her colleagues from meeting in person. And more recently, instability in their country has made it almost impossible to run workshops online.

Illustrations of the Bible storying process, including ‘listen to the story’ and ‘take it into your heart’

But, says Ma’ayan, ‘We are seeing with our own eyes that there is no work of God that man can destroy.’ Although it is difficult, the team has continued supporting communities around their country over the phone.

‘When lockdowns began, we worried that testing the stories would be difficult. Yet at the exact time I was worrying, one of these friends called.

‘“Are you still doing what you were doing before?” Then she offered out of the blue: “If you ever need it, I’m happy to help you over the phone.”

‘I could just feel God miraculously at work. I’ve come to realise that he has already prepared everything.’

‘I get the privilege of sharing stories of Jesus’

‘Before doing this work, my dream was to do ministry among my own people group, the Rane*,’ Ma’ayan says. ‘But now I’ve realised that God has called me not just to the Rane people but to other people groups as well.

‘It has become a job I thoroughly enjoy. This ministry doesn’t require me to preach in front of crowds. It is perfect for me because our workshops prioritise everyone’s involvement. I’ve even had the opportunity to become a consultant and to attend a biblical Hebrew class. I hope that understanding the meanings of the original words better will enable me to help the Bible storying projects more.

‘We didn’t begin working on this team because we are spiritually perfect and know the whole Bible. Through telling Bible stories day by day, we gradually became more familiar with the Bible. And God has revealed Scripture over time to the point that it infiltrates our lives.

‘Through these Bible stories, I can give so much light to people. I get the privilege of sharing stories of our Saviour.’

*Names changed for security reasons

 

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