Guest blog by Carol Schatz
When a young man named Demas showed up for an oral Bible storytelling workshop in Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea, he seemed a little rough around the edges. But then so did the tiny, unkempt village he came from a day’s hike and canoe ride away. He didn’t know much about the Bible, but he was willing to learn, and he was willing to ask for prayer for the struggles in his life.
At the workshop Demas studied Bible stories from Genesis. Working with five others who spoke his mother tongue, Mamhoaf, he translated the stories and learned to tell them effectively. All Scripture leads to Christ, and as the days went by, his understanding of the Good News began to grow. One evening toward the end of the course, he asked Jesus into his life.
Four months later, Demas came back for the second workshop in the series. Staff members could hardly recognize him. His appearance had changed and his face was radiant.
He said that when he got home, he immediately told the story of Creation to his family clan. That night, his older brother became ill and strongly felt the oppression of an evil spirit. Family members asked the village’s traditional healers to remove the evil spirit, using their spells, charms and chants, but none of the traditional methods seemed to help.
The next day, Demas heard about his brother’s illness and went to see him. He offered to pray for his brother, but he said he would only pray if the family agreed to stop asking for help from the traditional healers. He did not feel it was right to mix good and evil. Then he told the family that before he prayed, they all needed to confess the wrong things they had done, so they would be clean before God.
The family must have been shocked at the changes in Demas, but they accepted his offer of prayer and confessed their sins as he asked. Then he prayed and went home. During the night, his brother felt the evil spirit leave him, and he returned to normal.
Demas shared more stories, and spiritual interest began to stir in the village. The once-dead church began to revive. The villagers asked Demas to share devotions on Sunday mornings. They set about building a church and asked Demas to be the pastor. As God’s Word in story form began to change lives, five young men felt led to enroll in Bible school.
Demas gave his report to the workshop participants with excitement, but quickly voiced a multitude of questions. What does it mean to be a pastor? Can I pray with someone to help them receive Christ? Can I baptize them? Besides telling Bible stories, how do I preach? How do I deal with the traditional beliefs that have kept my people in bondage for generations?
Demas had come to a good place to ask questions, because the workshop was staffed by a strong team of Papua New Guinean trainers and mentors, who along with several SIL workers, were well prepared to walk with Demas through Scripture and find answers to his questions.
At the end of the workshop, Demas went home stronger in the Lord, with a new collection of Bible stories to share and a deepened understanding of how to lead his people toward God. He knew it would not be easy, but he had glimpsed what God could do through his Word, and he was looking forward to seeing what God would do next.
Yes! I love stories like these. And yet, it underscores an urgent need; to make *more* Scripture available to people like Demas. While the precious Holy Spirit is no doubt with him, and continue to minister through him, how much more effective and free from potential error would Demas be if he had a full New Testament in his hand?! Thus, let’s pray for the continuation of not only the oral storying project, but a full translation!