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Digging Deeper: The Story of Emmanuel

Emmanuel takes care of orphans on islands in Lake Victoria, Kenya. He once struggled to find food and provisions for one orphanage and inquired to local ministries in the capital, Nairobi. One young leader, Bramuel, invited him to join their oral Bible storytelling training in the village of Vihiga. Vihiga is a village on the eastern side of Lake Victoria, close to Kisumu, and only five kilometres north of the equator. Emmanuel had to travel by boat to Kisumu, and thereafter by taxi to Vihiga, a journey that lasted almost a day.

p3 EmmanuelHe did so as he was desperate to learn more about the Word of God, and to apply the Word of God in his ministry, hoping to take better care of the orphans entrusted to him. Over the course of 18 months he studied, spending two weeks at a time in Vihiga and two weeks back on the island. With what amounted to 4 months worth of training he learned 120 Bible stories. Emmanuel shared how he would use his trips between the island on a boat to Kisumu, and between Kisumu and Vihiga in a taxi, to practise what he had learned during the sessions. He said that he had a captive audience; they could either listen or jump! Well, they decided to listen and participate in the oral Bible storytelling practice.

“People who attended the oral Bible storytelling training events commented that everyone who partakes can now dig deeper into the Word of God.”

Over the course of these months, some of the people on the boat and in the taxi applied the Bible stories to their lives, after coming to Jesus as their Saviour. Some invited Emmanuel to come and share the Bible stories and the training in their villages as well. The oral Bible storytelling events led to churches being planted. Emmanuel continued to attend the training in Vihiga.

One day, back on the island, some people from a newly planted church visited Emmanuel and brought with them some food as a gift from their harvest. This continued to take place over the next few months. Emmanuel shared that he started with a need to provide for one orphanage, but at the end of the oral Bible storytelling training in Vihiga, he testified that he is now able to help 70 orphanages on various islands with the support of the newly planted churches.

People who attended the oral Bible storytelling training events commented that everyone who partakes can now dig deeper into the Word of God. A local pastor said that the use of oral Bible storytelling methodologies helps local churches and translation teams really understand the meaning of the story in the Bible.

A young man said that one does not need a lot of books to get the meaning, only follow the story in the Bible and one can get what is needed through deeper discussion, asking questions, and finding treasures, which leads to selfdiscovery and application. He explained that questions are asked about the characters in the Bible story, the circumstances surrounding the characters, choices and the result/impact of choices made, and what is learned about God. They learn together and take responsibility for themselves. When they, as Kenyans, participate in the message, they see themselves in the story, then they take responsibility for the lesson from the message.

Oral Bible storytelling as a method to internalise Scripture is helpful not just for translation teams, but also for the local church in obedience-based discipleship.

By Gerhard Marx


"Vihiga." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 June. 2023,

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