Thursday, October 25, 2018

Blessed are the Flexible.....

Blessed are the Flexible.... for they will Not be Broken. 

This is a favorite saying of one of my teammates and as a missionary it is good to remember.

I have always enjoyed sharing what I have learned with others, whether this was in a large group setting, or with smaller groups and individuals, including people I worked with and clients. I am thankful for all God has allowed me to experience and learn throughout my life and I love sharing those things with others. I especially love public health, veterinary medicine, and science in general. Did you know that scorpions glow under a UV light! Thanks to a friend in Tanzania I now know that and am sharing that Fun Fact for the Day with you all! 

Before I came here I was comfortable that how I taught was not that bad and that people did learn things from me. Now I am transplanted in a new culture and every day I question how I am teaching and how I can do it better. The people I am teaching have different interests, abilities and levels of education, with many having no formal education. However, they all have something in common that is very different from me. They come from oral societies.

" 'Orality' refers to reliance upon the spoken, rather than written, word for communication."         From the International Orality Network website

The CHE (Community Health Evangelism) program, that I work with is great in that it uses spoken word, stories, skits, dramas, pictures and many other participatory learning tools to help teach lessons, which are really more facilitated discussions based around lessons than teaching facts to memorize. In itself it is flexible and can be adapted to use with different cultures. This is good, but it takes the teacher/ facilitator recognizing a need to adapt and the ability to be flexible and do the  adapting.

This has not been easy, but I am continuing to adapt and want to share one way I have done this when teaching/facilitating a lesson that begins with the creation story. When I first taught this I used pictures that I made, then began asking the people to draw the pictures, then I added motions/ actions that made sense to me for each day to help me remember, lastly I asked the people themselves to decide which motions/ actions they wanted to use.
One of my drawings. 

Here is a video of the result from one community. (Click here to watch if the video will not play. )

There was a bit of prompting, but I hope you will appreciate their input and understanding of the story through their own actions. I particularly like them using the sound and actions to call their goats for the land animals, the flicking of their fingers to represent killing the snake, and the fact that they used walking to represent man. 

As usual after we finish a lesson the people are encouraged to share the story with someone before the next time we meet. This is the hard part as people here do not like to share information. It has been explained to me that information is power and by sharing you share a micro-advantage with others that might help them get ahead of you.

That is tough, because everything we teach through CHE is meant to be shared, from Bible Stories, to health lessons. Multiplication is one of the key principles and that cannot happen if the people are not sharing with others. There are a few who share, especially among the women. I find them more willing and understanding of the need to share, but even then I still wonder how can I teach differently to make this easier to share, could there still be a cultural "thing" I am doing that makes it hard to understand and share.

Because of all this, next month,  I will travel with a teammate to South Africa for the International Orality Network's African Conference (ION).  There we will meet with 130 other people learning about African oral societies, how they learn, and how we can work with them to help spread the Gospel. I am most interested to see how they address the idea of a micro-advantage keeping people from sharing information. Is it really the stumbling block or is that an excuse and there are solutions unrelated to it. I am thankful for the commitment of ION and their partners to put on this conference and others they are hosting around the world this fall. I am thankful for their commitment to pray for the conferences and oral societies around the world.

Please join me in praying for this conference and other ION conferences and all who will attend. Pray we come with open minds and are able to absorb many wonderful things that we can take back to our ministry areas. Pray we are able to apply these things we learn and also share them with many others. Pray for travels and logistics and the leaders who are coordinating these events.


  1. Shannon, you're absolutely amazing to write such great blogs. I try to write them for our website and don't do a good job at all. So proud of you for everything you're doing. Thanks for keeping me on your listserve.
    Pat Kennedy Arrington

  2. Love this blog post Shannon! You will have to tell us if you learn how to work through the micro-advantage issue.

  3. ShannonI really enjoy your blog since I am no longer on Facebook. The vedios and pictures bring back so many memories like when we were working on that new farm fence the first trip I made to Lodwar and our trip to the "Cradle". I hope to see you in a year or two to reconnect with you and the Terkana people. Love from the Florida Drapers.

  4. Thanks for sharing Shannon!