An Oral Bible Storying (OBS) workshop began in Wewak, Sepik province on February 3, 2014. Nineteen nationals gathered together from seven different language groups to learn how to craft Bible stories in their tok ples (heart language). On the weekend they traveled back to their villages or found other tok ples speakers in town to practice their storytelling and get feedback on their stories.
Five Papua New Guinean trainers who have become well versed in storytelling are teaching these seven language teams how to internalize Bible stories and share them with their language groups. The participants are learning both traditional and modern techniques to enhance their storytelling. Storyboarding, drama, mime, and symbols are used as memory aids in learning the Bible stories.
Students are learning methods of communicating Bible stories without the use of any translated scriptures in their tok ples because they have no scripture in their language yet. This is the first time OBS has been used in the Sepik as an initial project with language groups that have no scripture or writing system. Since they don’t have a writing system yet and want to focus on improving their storytelling techniques, they orally translate the stories using voice recorders rather than writing their stories down. This way the translation is told naturally the way they would tell a story in their tok ples.
During the first week, the language team learned two stories, the Creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall of Man from Genesis chapters 2 and 3. They shared their own traditional origin stories in order to learn about their own traditional knowledge and skills of storying and apply it to telling Bible stories. For each story they studied they drew story boards to help them learn the story well and remember it so they can retell it. They also dramatized the story of the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
We look forward to the final week of the workshop. The participants will be coming back from their villages with reports of their experiences. They will be learning one more Genesis story and their recorded stories will be checked for accuracy and clarity by Bible experts. Then they can re-record their stories one more time so that they have an accurate telling of the story with them for future reference as they tell their stories in village settings.
Story and photos by Janeen & Mitchell Michie