TWR Canada past-president Ray Alary blogged every Thursday, telling behind-the-scenes stories and ministry updates you won't find anywhere else. You can still access his stories and read about his time as a missionary with TWR.
I had been in China for a few days and experienced the big city with all the conveniences we have in North America: subways, packed highways, beautiful hotels. I even had an enjoyable train ride on a highspeed train and had the privilege of going to “The Great Wall.” And, most importantly, I had met many of our SOTA students, which was my reason for being there in the first place.
Nothing had prepared me for my next experience though. One minute I was in an ultra-modern city, and the next minute I thought I was back in rural Africa. There was, in essence, two China’s: the modern China and the rural, undeveloped China. This story focuses on rural China.
I will never forget our first stop. The vehicle went from a paved road to a gravel road to basically a path. The driver stopped the vehicle in front of a big pile of manure. The small church we were going to share in was right there, right behind that big pile of manure. The place where we were going to meet didn’t look like a church; it was basically a room with a blackboard, cement blocks with wood across them to form a bench and a couple of plastic chairs for the speakers. I was to be the key speaker.
Shortly after we got there, a few women started to appear, and then a few more appeared. Before long, the room was mostly full. These ladies didn’t speak any English, so everything we did was through a translator. Somehow, even though we couldn’t understand each other, I felt like I was part of their family.
I shared the Word with them. They shared some testimonies, and then I asked them the same question I have asked many times as I have travelled around the world: “If we were going to do one thing for you, what would it be?” Their answer surprised me. They said, “We need stories for our grandchildren.”
I was surprised by their answer, and they could tell I was surprised. One of them went on to explain why they wanted children’s stories. They explained that in their honour/shame-based culture, they couldn’t let those younger than themselves know they didn’t know the basic stories of the Bible. If they had children’s stories, they could learn the stories themselves and then share them with their families. In this way, they would not be shamed by their lack of knowledge. God planted a seed right there, but what was I going to do about it? How could we help these grandmothers in China?
Before I go on with the rest of the story, I must share this. We went to another small church like the first one. Here they made the same request. Our final meeting that day was with a younger woman who held Sunday school classes in her area. Her request was also the same: “We need to share the Bible in a story format.”
I was astounded! I had gone to China to meet SOTA students and to encourage the SOTA staff, and I left with a new burden and no idea how TWR Canada could help.
Shortly after I returned, I was asked to present a plaque to Bible Stories Alive in appreciation of their involvement with TWR for 40 years. They had been producing A Visit with Mrs. G for all that time. This program had made an impact on my children when we were serving on Bonaire as missionaries. On Saturday morning at 7:00 am, we aired two children’s programs, and one of them was A Visit with Mrs. G. Our children and most TWR children got up early on Saturday to listen to these programs. We also aired the programs in Africa, so presenting this plaque was a great privilege for me.
The presentation was simple with just a few of us there. After the presentation, we sat down to enjoy a cup of tea together. One thing led to another, and soon we were talking about the programs and how they had impacted my children and many of the TWR children.
I started learning the history of how the program had started and then I asked a question. I asked: “Why have you only done this in English?” I can no longer remember the exact answer, but I can paraphrase it: “No one in TWR has ever asked us to do it in another language.” At this point, my mind was going a thousand miles an hour! I thought back to China and the repeated request for children's stories. God had just provided an answer to their prayers!
Again, I can’t remember every word of our conversation, but the essence of it was that we asked them to partner with us to do it in other languages. They asked me to share this vision with their board, and the rest is history.
God had sent me to a small village in China, to a simple church, to talk to a group of elderly women so he could birth a vision. Then he sent me to Toronto to deliver a plaque and caused a conversation to take place and a partnership to be formed.
A Visit with Mrs. G is an amazing program! When it was created, no one was talking about orality, the idea of using a voice to share a message instead of the written word. Today, we are discovering that this is often the best way to share about Christ. The Griffiths were actually 40 years ahead of the time! They were using orality when no one else was even thinking about sharing that way. I think of this program as Thru the Bible for children, but the truth is that it isn’t just for children; it works in most cultures for the whole family.
The China story is an amazing story, and there is still more! The vision to do this in Mandarin was shared with a donor in Hong Kong who caught the vision and enabled us to begin production. From that simple conversation, we developed a partnership that has blossomed, and we are now translating A Visit to Mrs. G (now called Bible Stories Alive) into six languages.
There is still much to be done. We need to get these programs onto media players. We recently got feedback from our team in Kenya, and their stories mirror the story of my children. They listen then they discuss what they heard; they gain knowledge of the Word and apply it in their lives.
Scripture tells us we have a responsibility to share the Word. Using story telling to share Bible stories is possibly the most effective way of doing it. I love how God saw fit to put all the pieces together so that not just children, but every age group, could hear these stories.