Long, long ago in a far away land, girls didn’t like boys. And boys didn’t like girls either. The boys started a “Mighty Strong Man Boys Only” club, and the girls had their own society in which they shared teatime with their dolls — boys were not invited.
Yesterday I taught a children’s Bible class. I don’t do that often. Our teammates, and a visiting missionary family from Mwanza, came over to the house for worship — so there were lots of kids. I taught Sunday school so the parents could have a Bible study and discussion time of their own. We studied parables — not any one parable, but parables in general.
Class started with a story about girls and boys who disliked one another. One girl fell and was injured on the way to a ballet competition (is there such a thing as that?). Anyway, another ballerina passed by, unwilling to stop because she was late for her performance. Then a female judge for the competition also hurried by with a similar excuse. Finally a male ballerina stopped to help the poor little girl, bandaging her wounds with his tutu.
We discussed the story and its meaning for a few minutes before one of the children pointed out that this story was almost the same as the parable of the Good Samaritan. We noted the similarities and talked about forming stories for your audience — that I can, and probably should, tell the same story in three completely different ways for this group of children, their parents, or the Tanzanian farmers that live next door.
The class decided most of Jesus’ parables would speak well to the Tanzanian farmers. After studying a few other stories, each child decided on a make-believe audience and made up his/her own parable.
There was a tale of a tree that loved all of his leaves very much, but lost one. The tree, in his sadness, sent out his roots to find the lost leaf and bring it back.
There was a story of dogs and cats, in which a puppy was the only animal willing to help the poor, injured kitten.
There was a little girl who slept with 20 teddy bears every night, and had a party for all of them after finding the one that was lost under the bed.
And a man who left his fleet of rowboats in order to paddle out to sea and find the one lost rowboat that had drifted away.
We ended by performing a play for the adults. There was a soccer team with a coach who loved them very much. But one of the players didn’t care about the coach’s love and became bored with the game. She voiced her opinion that soccer was stupid as she ran away with her friends to become a horseback rider. But after tiring of being bounced and jiggled on the back of an animal, she returned to the soccer field. She apologized to the coach and asked if she could only be a manager that would give water to the players. The coach would have nothing of it, hugged her, and declared her a member of the team once again. Then the whole team had a pool party at the coach’s house. Well, the whole team save one player. But he showed up later, if only to voice his disapproval and dissatisfaction with the coach’s decision. He’d been a hard worker, practicing every day. He’d given up many opportunities to play other sports and spend time with his friends — yet there had never been a party for him. But the coach explained that the two of them had been together all along. The younger athlete had been lost, but now was found. “That is why we celebrate.”
Teaching young children is generally not my idea of fun. But I had a really great time yesterday. I was so impressed with the imagination and creativity of the children. It was also cute to see them all swallowed up in my soccer uniforms as they performed the play. My little contextualizers. I suppose if anyone would grasp the significance of telling stories, it would be children. And if any children would understand the importance of knowing your audience, it would be missionary children in Africa.
Oh, that more of us adults understood the value of a well-told tale.