Julie Joel is a talented storyteller and trainer. Originally Julie is from Milne Bay from the Maiwala language group. As a young child she was adopted by her grandfather (who was her dad’s uncle) because they were barren. Later her grandfather also adopted his wife’s brother’s two young daughters because their mother died. Julie and her sisters grew up learning the Suau language. When Julie was 28 years old she rejoined her birth mother and had to learn the Maiwala language. During that time she met and married her husband. Julie became a Sunday school teacher and enjoyed teaching Bible stories to children. The Maiwala language group started some translation work with the Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association (BTA). The gospel of Mark is translated and waiting to be checked. One of the Bible translators, Doreka, invited Julie to join the Oral Bible Storying (OBS) training because she saw Julie’s potential as a storyteller. In 2009 Julie took the four module OBS in Alotou, Milne bay. Julie enjoyed the course and eagerly started sharing the stories she learned. Since then she has been a trainer four times in the OBS courses offered at SIL in Wewak, East Sepik province. She has faced some challenges as a trainer because she has to learn more stories, participate well with the students, and learn even more so she can give the students the help they need to become good storytellers.
The story she told that impacted her life was the story of Abraham offering Isaac to God on an altar. She realized that if you believe and trust God he will provide for you. She was encouraged by this story as she learned the Maiwala language and started storying. It was challenging for her to story tell in the Maiwala language because she couldn’t yet communicate well with the people. She said, “Nothing is impossible to God, He provides any time. So that changed my life because I thought that it was hard for me to bring stories to my people in my mother’s language because I was adopted in another tok ples but I know that the Lord can provide if I still believe in him and I trust him, he can provide for me. Nothing is impossible with God. I just believe that God can do anything.” Later she spent two years learning the language and now is comfortable storying in the language. During the workshop in February 2014 she taught the participants the Bible story about Cain and Abel.
Two stories about the impact of storytelling
A group of young Maiwala boys gathered in Julie’s house to talk. One of the boys was involved in a cult. The other boys were interested in learning about cult worship. So they asked him to tell them about it. He told them how he involved himself in cult worship. Meanwhile Julie was in the kitchen cooking dinner and was listening in on the conversation. When dinner was ready Julie went to the boys and said she heard the story and she wanted to tell them a story too. Then she told the story about the golden calf from the Bible. She did no story application with them and after, they joined her for dinner. Another day a different group of boys asked the boy involved in cult worship to tell them about it but he told them, “I knew but then I’ve decided to stop.” When asked why, the boy replied that he had heard a story from the Bible about a golden calf and that the story struck his heart. He said, “I knew that there is no other God’s just God himself”. He continued, “The story is still in me and I can still remember the story. When I go to do other things I feel like God is speaking to me since I heard this story.” Two weeks later Julie heard that the boy had changed and that he was no longer doing the same activities he was doing before.
In 2012 during an Easter camp in a Maiwala village Julie and Doreka (a Bible translator) shared three stories over three days about Jesus’ life starting with trial of Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. After telling the final story Julie related that people began to cry and soon everyone in the Church was crying, Julie says, “People were convicted because God spoke to them in their own language.” One woman told Julie that when she heard the story about the resurrection she was so excited “I almost got up to shout hallelujah because I knew that my Lord was not dead forever; he was risen”.
During that Easter week, Julie says God showed her that Bible storytelling is not only a story to tell but is something that has power to change people’s lives. Julie is also involved in a ministry visiting people’s homes to help them deal with family problems. In this ministry Julie & Doreka pray with people and encourage them and continue to see God working in people’s lives.
Stories and photos by Janeen Michie