Welcome to Prairie Wind Guild, a group of folks in the Chicago-Northern Illinois-Lake Michigan area who are passionate about learning by heart and telling sacred stories. Prairie Wind Guild is associated with the Network of Biblical Storytellers International.
The Festival Gathering is four days (August 6-9) of engaging, thought-provoking keynote programs, storytelling workshops for all levels of experience (from beginners to master storytellers), networking and the spontaneous joy that just seems to happen naturally when storytellers get together!
Our keynote speaker for 2014 is Vicki Garvey, a marvelous Christian Educator from Chicago. Vicki will help us explore new and exciting ways to teach the greatest story ever told in an increasingly complex era.
Pastor Daniel gathered women who want to learn how to make disciples of Christ. Although it was a work day, and the women are subsistence farmers whose families depend on the food they grow, they came instead to the old stone chapel on the grounds of a Baptist high school to learn Biblical Storytelling. They want to “eat the scrolls” as the prophet Ezekiel was commanded, and to go out and speak the words as Ezekiel did and taste the honey-sweetness of the story.
The biblical storytelling workshop was part of a week-long spiritual retreat, the vision of Pastor Aseh Daniel Mubain, pastor of the Njinikejem church.
I had been working in the village for about one year by this time. I use Biblical storytelling as my tool to reach the people I’m working with, so a few people were learning the art. Pastor Daniel wanted to hold a workshop for more people. He had told other pastors and even his Field Pastor how some of his members were using this tool to evangelize in the community.
I called on my friend and fellow biblical storyteller Pastor George Vimensi Minang [now the leader of NBS Cameroon] to help facilitate the workshop for about 40 people on that Wednesday afternoon-- a huge number for this small village.
Pastor Daniel reminded them that they are a people of storytellers, it’s their culture. They agreed enthusiastically that it is their culture. They laughed when he reminded them of the story of the snake and the fly or the tortoise and the pig.
Then he taught the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-9: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Pastor Daniel painted the picture of the Shema in their culture: Before villages had electricity, families gathered around a fire in the evening to listen to stories. When a baby is just able to stand, a bangle is placed on his wrist. People use prayer beads, and the doorposts of many homes today have scripture verses written on them. They could see it, they could feel it, it was and is a part of their customs and culture.
He asked, “How do we feel today about people that can’t read or write?”
“Not so well,” came a reply.
“But our ancestors did not read or write and they taught the Bible,” he reminded them. “In what form did they teach Bible lesson?”
The people shouted, “Stories!”
“Yes, stories -- so not just a pastor or minister or a priest or someone who has gone to school can teach the Bible.”
We broke up into language groups. It was fairly easy to break up since all the people are from the Kom tribe and speak English, pidgin or their dialect. At first we didn’t have a group that wanted to learn in English; this left me with my “funny” accent to be the photographer, but before I could snap all the groups’ pictures, a small group wanted to learn in English. Whoopie! I got to teach a group!
I picked 2 Kings: 4:1-7, the widow with the oil. I love to tell that story to people who tell me the Lord hasn’t blessed them with much. I like to use the gestures of pouring the oil, shutting the door and pleading with Elisha. I learned to use those gestures at the 2013 NBS Festival Gathering in a workshop. Here, people didn’t use gestures much and I had never seen them used until Ron Coughlin, president of Network of Biblical Storytellers International, came to Cameroon in March of 2013 and demonstrated, showing us how our bodies will remember the gestures and the story when our minds forget.
Some of Ron’s students from Cameroon are now teaching biblical storytelling here. Three from the Scripture by Heart Group at the CBC Njinikejem church and one from the Catholic Church in Babanki Tungo were present at the workshop yesterday. Two pulled out Ron’s autographed, dog-eared book and used it to teach their group. The DVD’s in the back of the book have never been used. They don’t have the Power Point program but that doesn’t matter; they have the book.
In 2012 Pastor Daniel started a Scripture by Heart group with about 10 people. Today that number is 22. They meet at 6 AM once a week to learn a story that may be used in an upcoming sermon, or in the community to evangelize, and as part of Sunday school and weekly bible studies.
Continued next column...
Our featured storyteller for 2014 is Vanora Franklin Legaux, a long time, story loving, storytelling native of New Orleans. Vanora is Past President of the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc.
Too busy or too far away to come to PWG meetings - when we can schedule them? Join NBS TOGether, The Online Guild!
Folks have been gathering every third Sunday or so via Google+ hangout to share ideas and encourage one another in our telling. Email Joyce Orr for information on how to join.
Participants hail from across the U.S., Australia and Belgium. One of our regulars joins us from Albania! Check it out through the link above.
You won’t usually see Sharon Davis at PWG telling events. She spends most of her time Africa, doing holistic community development work.
Now on her second stint as missionary, Sharon had helped plant the seed in 2012 which led to the frequent workshops of today’s active NBS Cameroon. She was a partner in leading one of the most recent:
Sharon's Story Continued...
When everyone gathered again to share our stories with others, each group sent a teller to tell the story. When it was my group’s turn our teller stood and told the story in pidgin. I was so moved that this group of women had allowed me to teach them in English, my heart language, but they told it in their heart language. They had made me their sister. What a blessing!
Little did I known when I took Beth Galbreath’s online biblical storytelling class that I would meet a storyteller in the very region of the country I would be working in, George Vimensi Minang, and the discipline would spread the way it has.
Little did I know the founder of Network of Biblical Storytellers International [Tom Boomershine], Prairie Wind Guild coordinator Beth Galbreath, and other leaders of NBS would come to Cameroon to hold an Institute in two cities last year.
Little did I know that from the seeds planted in the workshop in the little village on the hill that 22 members would be tellers and teachers.
Little did I know that from that one Scripture by Heart group there would now be eight.
Little did I know that this Scripture by Heart group is calling a planning meeting to form a regional chapter of Network of Biblical Storytellers Cameroon in Boyo Division.
It’s not by my action and deeds; it’s the Lord’s. He asked for laborers and George, Daniel, David, Magnus and the other NBS Cameroon members, and I, are willing laborers who are teaching others to be laborers in the Lords vineyard by telling His stories.