Storytelling: Opening Hearts to the Gospel

My vacation was over and I was back in India, my home of two and a half years by this point. A day to rest and one more to get over the worst of the jet lag, then off to visit Sazin, a new Muslim friend. Arriving at her home, Sazin, her husband, and her in-laws greeted me excitedly and sat me down for chai tea and a snack—a rather large one since I had not been to her home in weeks. “How was your trip? How is your family? What was the weather like?” began the slew of questions. I answered in turn and fancied their intoxication in knowing every detail of life in America.

“Why did you not come visit us the day you returned?” they inquired. Ah, how to explain jet lag to someone who has never left his or her own time zone…I settled on developing the exhaustion of multiple flights and layovers. “What is it like in an airplane?” they wondered. I laid out the view and the physical feeling, but felt it easiest to take them along on the journey with me. Thus began the stories of those I met on the plane. One particular story I especially shared in detail:

On one of my flights I was sitting next to a Buddhist boy from Thailand. He studies at a college in Texas. I asked him to explain Buddhism to me, and he thoroughly told me all his beliefs and thoughts as I continued to ask questions to gain an understanding of his personal convictions. He said he doesn't follow all their religious rules. Shyly giggling, he told me he likes to drink alcohol. According to his beliefs, he must continually face punishment after death for his sin and then be reborn into the world to try again in another life. All the while, he's shooting to reach the state of Nirvana, becoming one with god in heaven. The ironic thing is, he is not afraid of the punishment or coming back again because he knows he will never live a perfect life or get to Nirvana. He just did not care because he knew it was impossible to escape the cycle.

“Really?” I interjected. “I disagree with that last part. I've heard of a way you can escape the cycle…there is a way you can break free from that punishment and be guaranteed heaven, the oneness with God! Do you want to know?”

He expectantly shook his head yes. I proceeded to tell him the Creation to Church story: how God created humanity for relationship with him, but humans disobeyed and broke that relationship, causing separation from God. But God sent a Savior, Jesus, to give his life as the payment for us. He conquered death and now sits at the right hand of God in heaven, offering forgiveness to all who believe in him and guaranteed escape from death. In five minutes, he heard the whole gospel in story form.

He asked, “How do you know Jesus really forgives you?” I went on to tell him my own story of how I found salvation and knew I had been forgiven. I also told him about how my life had changed since then and how God is working in my life today.

“But how do you pray?” he asked. “Let me show you,” I responded, and then prayed with him.

This is the story I shared with Sazin and her family. Afterwards, her husband was shocked. “How do you know so much about God?” he asked.

“I learned about God from the stories,” I stated. “You can learn about him too, if you want to learn the stories with me. You will have to learn to tell them also, or else you'll forget them. And we have to discuss them afterwards so you can see all that God is teaching you from it, for his word is holy and he will teach you through studying it.” 

“Okay,” they both enthusiastically chimed. “Come back later this week, earlier in the day, so we have enough time.” And of course, I did! I went back later that very week and told them the first story of Creation and of what it means to have a perfect relationship with God. They…ate…it…up!

After I told it, I somehow convinced them to act it out with me, as well. The three of us, adults, acting out God creating and relating to Adam and Eve…it was wonderful! After acting, each retold the story on his or her own; they had learned the first two chapters of Genesis! Finally, I facilitated a discussion of what they learned from the story. They could not wait for the next one, and I was able to meet with them more to continue sharing stories from the word of God.

I am now living back in America and this Muslim family has not yet come to place their trust in the saving grace of Jesus. However, they now have the word of God in their hearts and the images of the stories (from acting the stories) dancing around in their heads.

I know that all I need to do is plant and water the seed. I pray that others will water it as well. But ultimately, it is God who will make the seeds grow (1 Corinthians 3:6). I also do not know what came of the Buddhist boy whom I met on the plane that day. However, I pray that the word of God, which he heard, will also work in mighty ways, and that he may meet a disciple of Jesus in Texas who will continue to share the stories of Jesus with him.

Praise God who speaks through his word. And thanks be to him that he lets me be a part of it.

Julianne George spent three years in India sharing stories with those who don't know Jesus. She is now married and living in Oklahoma, where she and her husband continue to share stories with neighbors in the hopes of making disciples.