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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Transforming Power of Water and the Word
True Worth and Value in the Kingdom of God

By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST New Service

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- Jesus was with His disciples one day and people began bringing their little children to Him for Him to lay His hands on them and bless them. The disciples scolded and rebuked the people. When Jesus saw this, He became very angry with His disciples. Jesus said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and don’t hinder them. For the kingdom of God is like these little children. In fact, unless you receive the kingdom of God like a little child, you cannot enter in.”

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and don’t hinder them.”

So, Jesus took the children into His arms, one at a time, and He laid His hands on them and He blessed them. (That is a true story from the Word of God.)

This story, found in Mark, chapter 10, is a short, but powerful story that can be used to introduce the gospel. It can also be used to communicate many valuable truths. The following are a few of the questions we use with this story in our Orality Training Workshops:

* From this story, what do we learn about the disciples’ attitudes toward the little children?
* Do you think those disciples saw the children as people who have value and worth?
* Do you think the culture of the day could have influenced the disciples’ attitude toward the children?
* Are we influenced today by our culture?
* Why did Jesus become angry with His disciples?
* What did the disciples learn from Jesus about who is important to Him?
* Do you think children have worth and value in the Kingdom of God?
* What do you think Jesus was seeking to communicate about what is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God?
* What are some characteristics of children? (i.e. Innocent, trusting, dependent, forgiving, etc.)

In our orality training, or in sharing the gospel, there are many more questions which can be asked about the story of Jesus blessing the children. Questions relating to:

1. What do we observe in the story?
2. What does it mean?
3. How does it apply to our lives?

This particular story is one that someone can hear once or twice, and then be able to retell it. And, with a set of questions and the appropriate pre- and post-story dialogue and discussion, the gospel can be made clear, so that someone can respond.

As a teaching tool, we can give more background and context. For example, we can mention that in that day there were no orphanages, and babies and little children were sometimes just left in the streets. Some would not survive unless someone helped them. Children and women were not esteemed at the same level as men in that culture. In addition, the Roman government made it legal to kill little babies, either before or after they were born.

At an Orality Training Workshop in a Central American country, a 10-year-old girl learned and retold the story of the demon-possessed man, from Mark, chapter 5, to about 100 people. At another workshop, a six-year-old boy learned and retold the story of Nicodemus. In many places where Living Water International works, the women have never had the opportunity to go to school and learn to read and write. However, they can learn stories. Very often, we observe that the oral learners are able to learn the stories faster than the more educated and literate learners.

Many are thirsty for both Water and the Word

I was part of an Orality Training Workshop in West Africa with about 120 people; about half of them were totally oral (non-literate). It was amazing to see how those with the least formal education could learn and retell the stories better than the more educated participants. We may be tempted to think that people in non-literate or oral cultures are less intelligent, however, they are often very bright, and learn and reproduce the message of Scripture in a very effective and accurate way.

An important characteristic of oral cultures and oral learners is that they learn in community and have the benefit of the collective memory of the group, family or village. When oral learners learn a new story, they discuss it, reflect upon it and share it with others. And, of course, we emphasize that repetition is the mother of all learning.

Some visionary and creative board members and volunteers with Living Water International have created a museum at LWI’s global headquarters called, “The Story of the Thirsty.” It was developed primarily to create awareness and teach children about water issues, the global water crisis and the importance of water. School and church groups, vacation Bible School groups and others come to experience “The Story of the Thirsty.” However, it is effective for all ages and gives people a good understanding of the need and the solutions. It is not only about water, it is about health and hygiene, sanitation and the Good News of Jesus.

“The Story of the Thirsty” museum has inspired many with new passion and enthusiasm to do something about the global water needs. It’s is exciting to see how creative children are and to see the many ways they get involved, as advocates and raising money in many different ways.

Having clean water is something
to smile about

Think about the thirsty; while millions are still without access to clean water, even more are without access to the Living Water of Jesus. They have a different kind of thirst. When people are spiritually thirsty, and hear and understand the message of Jesus, they are eager to receive and share it with others. And, a simple story that makes the gospel clear and understandable has great power when told over and over again. This is the way the gospel spread throughout the entire populated world in the first century. Actually, that’s the way the gospel has always spread the fastest throughout history.

It is powerful and encouraging when we realize that God uses “all kinds of people” in His kingdom work. In the context of our orality training, when people learn a set of stories, we often ask questions like, “What do we learn about who God uses?” People respond by saying that God uses all kinds of people from every racial and ethnic group. He uses women and social outcasts, demon-possessed people, blind and crippled people. In fact, God uses men, women and children from all tribes and languages and people groups on the planet.

In our Orality Training Workshops we have a conversation about who we should care about and reach out to. Who has value and worth from God’s point of view? How should that affect our attitudes toward others who are different from us? How should that affect our conversations about who has worth and value? The group discussions are very engaging and people come to realize that our worth is not based on our ability, performance, education or possessions. If someone pays a great price for a particular possession, they will value it more, and tend to take care of it better, than something that is cheap or is given to them.

When we consider our worth and value to God, we discuss the price that was paid for us. Because God sacrificed the life of His one and only Son, we realize that we are all VIPs (very important persons) in God’s sight. We see that we have value and worth, and so does every other person on earth; and we should treat them accordingly. Those who engage in these kinds of conversations receive amazing insights and come alive with great passion and enthusiasm to care for and share with others. It is obviously an inner stirring of the Holy Spirit that brings about that kind of transformation.

A man who attended an Orality Training Workshop with his 9-year-old son, said, “It was great seeing him tell stories, answer questions, and share his thoughts.” He went on to share how his son told the story of Nicodemus to a group and how they connected with it. He also observed that it was a great experience of bonding and relationship building between him and his son.

We often hear accounts of how children are learning stories and sharing them with their parents and family members. In many cases these are in restricted access regions. However, when people learn stories from the Word of God, they can go anywhere with what is in their heads and hearts, and it can be reproduced in the heads and hearts of others. We have even heard how children have been used by the Lord to plant churches, by simply using a set of stories and questions.

Why has soccer become the most popular sport in the world

There is such power that is released in the people of God when they learn His Word, discuss it and share it with others. We continue to be reminded that it is the Spirit of God who brings revelation, understanding and transformation. However, the exciting thing is realizing that, as children of the Most High God, we can all be agents of transformation, every day, wherever we happen to be.

I recently read a comment about why soccer has become the most popular and universally played sport in the world. Consider some of the characteristics of soccer: It can be played by almost anyone, almost anywhere and at about anytime. It is inexpensive, simple, reproducible, and it’s fun. That is actually a good description of orality as well. We don’t often think about learning, sharing our faith and advancing the kingdom of God as being fun. However, we observe how humor is a great aid to learning, and that joy and fun are very much a part of orality training. Joy and laughter should be a part of our congregational workshop, fellowship and learning together.

This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.
Jerry Wiles serves as president emeritus of Living Water International ( Living Water is one of the world’s leading faith-based water solutions organizations with operations in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Having gotten involved in orality-based evangelism and disciple making strategies in the 1980s, he has been a paradigm pioneer in the orality movement and presently serves on the advisory council of the International Orality Network. Wiles has more than 35 years experience in ministry and international mission work. He can be contacted at

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