‘Let me tell you a short story’
‘Kuka wara yinga angkama.’
Storytelling has always been a major way of teaching in every culture. Bible storytelling was the focus of the 2016 FRM Aboriginal Women’s Bible leadership Camp led by Ann Eckert.
Women from eight communities and five language groups in Central Australia learnt how to tell Bible stories in their own languages to their own families to help them grow spiritually.
Ann lived in Ernabella for many years as a Bible translator. She knows the importance Indigenous people place on memory for the oral transmission of stories. During the camp, she captivated the women by telling the gripping story of Esther and relating it to the listeners’ own lives. ‘Have you ever been really frightened?’ she asked. ‘Can you think of a time when you didn’t know what to do?’
Ann also explained that it is important not to let needless details (such as foreign names) confuse people when telling a Bible story. Telling the story is not the same as a Bible study. Storytellers choose descriptions from the story that set the scene and use their voices to convey feeling and expression.
‘After learning about storytelling we divided into our language groups and read the same Bible story again and again. We took notes or drew pictures to help us remember the story. We practised telling the story in our language groups. We recorded what we learnt by drawing posters to help us share the teaching with our families when we returned home.’
On Saturday evening the ladies told Bible stories without reading them, which was a challenging but powerful way of sharing the Bible with others. One lady told a story while drawing in the sand and another used pictures from a book to help her retell the Bible story.
Sunday morning was time for a worship service together in Luritja and English. Pastor Paul Traeger led the liturgy and shared a story about Dorcas in both languages.
Knowledge gained from this Bible camp has been spreading. Part of my work is facilitating language workshops in NT schools. This week I went to Hermannsburg for a school-based workshop where Lily and Marion spoke passionately about the importance of Bible storytelling in Sunday school: ‘Children need to practise telling Bible stories too!’ Even though Bible storytelling wasn’t on the school workshop program, the ladies still wanted to share what they had learnt at the camp with other staff from their school.
At Ti Tree community Seraphina said: ‘In the past, the women’s Bible camps have helped me learn how to pray, especially for those I’m having trouble with. They have also helped me learn how to share the good news. This year’s camp helped me to remember and to tell Bible stories. These stories change people’s lives! We are really excited that next year’s camp will be at Ti Tree. I am happy that more women from Ti Tree will be able to learn with me. Yimi wangkami Ngurrju!’