The clay pot for the Ubir tribe living in the Northern Province of Papua New Guinea is the key utensil in any kitchen. Its function ranges from cooking pot, water container, food safe, and can be given as a present. It is also a highly valued item to exchange in a barter system economy. For example a good size out triggered canoe can be purchased for 20 clay pots.
In this time and age the metal cooking pots have replaced most of the clay pot’s function but they cannot replace its value in a barter system. The reason is that anybody can buy a metal pot but only a few skilled women can make a clay pot; thus its value in the barter system and its significance as a gift.
Telling stories is part of the life style in Wanigela, Northern Province; and would be same for any oral community in the world. LTPNG’s objective to conduct the Oral Strategy Workshop (OSW) was to train a team of people who can be skilled in telling Bible stories. Just like the clay pot is only made by skilled women, only an OSW participant can correctly tell Bible stories.
The Wanigela Oral Story Telling workshop is the second to be conducted by the LTPNG staff since receiving training from the MAF US Learning Technologies team. This training is a major step toward establishing one of the main training that the LT team desires to deliver to churches in PNG. During this facilitation in Wanigela for the four denominations, they discovered that the OSW is the strategy to reach the majority of non- church goers in their communities and in their congregations.
Following are expressions by the invited leaders of each denomination of the impact of the OSW after hearing the testimonies from the participants.
“As a preacher dealing with the word of God so many years, I feel empty of ides to present the gospel because the world is still stubborn. Every time I sit down to prepare a sermon I struggle because I have used everything I know and see no change in the lives of the people. I cry to God to give me an insight or a new way to present the word; and now hearing the feedback from the participants I see OSW as an ideal strategy to present the gospel in a new way” Fr. Walston Paniara, Anglican Church.
“As denominations we have our difference in doctrines and that becomes a barrier to share what we have with others. I am so excited with the OSW approach to reach people and disappointed too that I did not attend. Do a second one and I will be your first participant” Pastor Wallace Bawasu – CMI
“As a teacher by profession I see the uniqueness of this approach and so I strongly appeal for a second training so that all my teachers will receive this training. I see that the Word of God is totally missing in the classrooms and this OSW can be the way to bring the word of God back to the classroom” Anastasia Borok – Teacher In Charge, Naukor Elementary School.
“I love this approach because it makes the Bible come alive” Martin Manimat – SDA Trumpet Ministries.
Our travel to Wanigela did not go as scheduled with a delayed flight from Nazab to Jacksons airport which resulted with an overnight stop in Port Moresby. By the time (9:00 am) we arrived in Popondetta the next day we were already late for an eight hour dinghy trip to Wanigela. By this time we lost one day for training and so we rescheduled to have night sessions to make up for lost time.
We had only two full days to effectively conduct the workshop and I was concerned that we might not do justice to the workshop itself considering the expenses it took for Johnson and me to make the trip. However, the Lord in his faithfulness took care of that and by the end of the first day (Thursday) the participants had picked up the steps and had the translated the steps into the Ubir language.
All the 15 participants had a testimony to share of how they used the five steps of story tell and the questions that followed. One of the participants tried it with her elderly father and she was really impressed how her dad responded when she did the questions. Another tried it with her husband in which the husband said that this is a very easy method to learn deep truths about the bible. An SDA ministry leader tried it on Saturday morning before the graduation and his eight year old son told him that reading the Bible in this approach (OSW) is much, much, better than formal reading.
When we had a staff debriefing at the end of the first day we came to the conclusion that all have successfully grasped the five steps of storytelling and questions. So the second day was repeating the cycle until each one told a story and led in doing the questions. The highlight for them as I observed was the sending of two participants to “minister” to another group. This to them indicated that an OSW is not just theory but practical intergraded into the process of learning it and doing it in single stride.
As trainers in this new and exciting training we came away from Wanigela with the knowledge that the Lord used this delayed flights and long dinghy trips to give us only two days to deliver an effective method to prepare “skilled” story tellers which the Lord can use to build up the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).