Telling the Story, Shaping Community: Indigenous Storytelling & the Gospel Narrative
As Christians we believe that the Gospel Story – the Word – does something when it is preached. It cuts to the heart, it creates a response, and it creates a communal identity wrapped up in the life of the Triune God. Preaching the Gospel narrative creates space for Christian communities to invite God’s dreams for our own stories to become reality in our individual and corporate lives.
I wonder, what are the stories we tell ourselves? Out of what narratives are we living? What are the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and about the world in which we live? From what stories are we drawing our own life’s narrative? Is it the Story of God and who we are as God’s creation? Or is it a narrative of distrust, despair, and anxiety? What does it look like to reclaim the story of the Gospel as our communal identity?
In a context where combating narratives seek to quell the stories of forgotten populations, I would like to travel and visit indigenous communities throughout Central and South America learning from them in how they create communal identity through storytelling. More specifically, I long to witness how these indigenous communities embrace and carryout telling the Story of God to shape a communal identity – one that seeks to live out God’s reign in the particular crevices of human life and dreams of a community living together.
“What I treasure most in life is being able to dream. During my most difficult moments and complex situations I have been able to dream of a more beautiful future.” – Rigoberta Menchu
Guatemala is home to over 22 Mayan tribes and languages. The Gospel Story has become a way to integrate the history of struggle and identity among indigenous people as well as a means to organically create community-based holistic ministries. My time here will be spent with the non-profit fair trade organization, Sharing the Dream, and local congregations throughout Guatemala.
“For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls” – Acts 2:39
While in Ecuador, I will focus on the role Bible translation has had in how indigenous storytelling creates communal identity. My time in Ecuador will focus on two different indigenous contexts: the Quichua community in the Andes and the Huaroani tribe in the Amazon. I will learn from two very different communities who embrace Bible translation and communal Bible studies as a part of how their communal identity and mission is interpreted through oral storytelling.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” – Maya Angelou
For many Christians in Peru, the Gospel story has become a voice for denouncing economic, political, and ecological injustices as they seek to remind Peru’s government of the stories of the forgotten ones in their midst. I will observe how Truth and Reconciliation Commissions as well as local congregations have used the biblical narrative in their community’s storytelling traditions to expand on how the Story gives voice to the marginalized of society.
“With many similar parables [stories] Jesus spoke the Word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable…” – Mark 4:32-33
Of Bolivia’s 9 million residents, 55% are Quechua or Aymara Incas. Storytelling of the Gospel takes place within encouraging lay leadership to integrate the Story into individual vocations and empowerment in civic life. I will visit Aymara, Quechua, Leco, and Mollo communities of faith that utilize storytelling as a way of creating communal identity with the focus of empowering lay leadership in daily life.
“Let what we have said serve as a reminder; we must go on with the story…” – 2 Maccabees 6:17
SIM International is responding to the specific needs of the oral culture in Paraguay by using MP3 players of Bible audio recordings along with teaching methods specifically designed for Rural Roman Catholic Mestizos who speak Guaraní. I hope to live among the Guaraní and also learn from SIM church planters, to see firsthand how the Guaraní adopt the Story as they tell tales of the kingdom of God breaking open dreams and possibilities that draw us out and send us forth as a community that shares the Story with others.
“All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” – Luke 2:18-19
The Taizé community is one that is reclaiming the Christian narrative through prayer, stories, and song as a means of creating communal identity. While in Taizé I will reflect on the stories that I have heard and been astonished by as the Story is being brought to life throughout communities in Latin America. This will be a time to actively ponder and imagine how I can integrate the powerful witness of indigenous storytelling and the practice of reclaiming the Gospel narrative as a communal Story that is preached and lived.
“I want to tell you a story…”
What is the story you are longing to share of how “God has done great things” in your life? The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) reveals Mary as a great narrator of the story of God’s people and the mighty acts of God in uplifting the lowly, scattering the proud, and feeding the hungry. That’s a story we give thanks to be a part of! The communities of Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Taizé are dedicated to giving the voice and story of Scripture to entire communities as they shape communal identity, mission, and vocation. We, dear friends, are a part of this beautiful, living, breathing, storytelling Body of Christ. It will be an honor to be a storycatcher, a witness, and a sojourner among such storytellers as these.