EE is a preacher, but his wife has no trouble admitting that she is not, nor does she feel called to be. One of the things she likes the best about teaching with the Heart Bible is that the pressure is NOT on her to come up with insights and applications. That is the part that the listeners contribute – no matter their age, education, culture etc.
Some examples are:
In a remote village in Papua New Guinea, EE’s wife had finished telling the story of the Creation of the Man and Woman. Through an interpreter, she opted to tell the whole chapter in Genesis 2, naming the rivers and the location of the Garden of Eden. However, in the midst of telling the story, she questioned her own judgement for not having told a shorter version of the story, since the listeners were mostly non-literate people. But she went ahead with the process and had the listeners retell the story. Next, she asked the first question, which often serves the purpose of an ice-breaker,
“What did you like about the story?”
A pastor quickly raised his hand and answered,
“We have a legend that the Garden of Eden is on an island north of us. Now I see that our legend is not true. God has shown us that it is in a different place.” It seems that her choice to tell the longer story had an important cultural purpose that day.
When they were in Peru, EE’s wife told the story of the Bronze Serpent in a church with a listeners they did not know at all, since they were simply guest speakers for that night. After asking the people to retell the story, she asked the 2nd question,
“What does the story teach us about God?”,expecting to hear comments about God’s justice and mercy. But, instead, a man exclaimed,
“I think God is mean!” EE’s wife did not know the man at all. Was he an important official? A hostile trouble-maker? The pastor of the church?! She did not want to correct the man so, she said,
“Ah, that’s an interesting comment. What do the rest of you think? Is God mean?”
Systematically, in their own context and among themselves, the people at the Peruvian church talked about how the story shows that God is Sovereign. In His love, He had saved His people from slavery and was leading them to a new land. His people did not trust Him, so he punished them. God was merciful because He gave them a source of healing if they would only look at the bronze serpent.
Another time, in a typical church in Midwestern USA, after telling and reviewing the story of Blind Bartimaeus from the book of Mark, EE’s wife asked her Elementary School listeners the third question,
“What do the characters in the story teach us about people?”
“The blind man had faith.” “The people around Bartimaeus did not want him to shout.” were common answers she had heard before. But, she was a bit surprised when a third grade girl answered,
“The blind man took off his coat and jumped up to go to Jesus.” The comment seemed rather random. However, instead of brushing the comment aside, like she wanted to, she disciplined herself to ask the little girl,
“And what does that teach us?” The little girl quickly answered,
“The man was poor and, probably, all he had was that coat, but it wasn’t important now because Jesus called him.” Wow! EE’s wife humbly admitted that this was a deep insight that she’d never thought of before.
The 4th question is probably the most important question:
“What should we do or think about after telling this story?”
It’s a simple question of application and gives the listeners the chance to express, in their own words, what God is revealing to them. It also gives the storyteller a chance to see whether the listeners understand the story and whether something needs to be revisited.
When EE and his wife were in a restricted-access country telling a story to a group of tent-maker missionaries who had already been using Bible stories in their ministries. After telling the story of the Birth of Moses, EE’s wife asked the 5th question,
“Who can you share this story with?”
Often people will answer, “My neighbor.” “Everybody!” “People who are lost.” etc. That evening, however, one of the missionaries answered,
“People who want to have an abortion!”
She continued to share that she told the same story to a couple who wanted to terminate their pregnancy because they already had several children and were very poor. But, when they heard the story of Moses, they understood how valuable life is and how God has a purpose for everything He has created.
With obedience and in faith, that couple chose life! And, when their baby boy was born, they named him Moses!