Did they tell You [Jesus] stories ’bout the saints of old?
Stories about their faith?
They say stories like that make a boy grow bold.
Stories like that make a man walk straight.
(from Rich Mullin’s Boy Like Me, Man Like You)
We sat around the supper table last Sunday evening enjoying a meal together of fried fish and milk-soaked juneberry and strawberry shortcakes. The gathering was both spontaneous and planned. Aimee and I had already invited Phil and John and Emily and their two children over to help pick a bumper crop of juneberries, when Jay and Anita called to invite us over for wine and stories about Jay’s mission trip to Zambia. Knowing that Jay knew Phil and John from our mission trip together to Henryville last year, Aimee and I thought “What’s two more good friends over for company?” With anticipation of a wonderful evening of good friends, good food, and good story-telling we invited Jay and Anita to our place as well.
With genuine curiosity Anita started us off by demanding that we tell our stories from our mission trip.
So for the next couple of hours stories flew back and forth. Stories of twin mission trips…one to assist with micro-economic development projects at a pastor’s school at Kaffakumba, Zambia, Africa and one to assist with neighborhood service projects and a backyard Vacation Bible School for Soma Church in inner city Columbus, Ohio. Stories of how God used both groups to bless others and how God blessed us in turn. Stories of the faithfulness of God and our faithfulness to following Jesus’ call to make disciples.
From our weeklong trip, we recounted how we were used by God from the onset since the VBS almost didn’t happen due to a lack of adult workers from Soma’s missional community until our team of eight servants offered to help. We recounted how Phil used his growing “skill” at dumpster-diving at the local grocers to provide extra food for the host families and the neighborhood VBS kids. We recounted how John encouraged four young brothers who were attending VBS in the evenings to work alongside us during the day as we grubbed weeds and overgrown brush from the yard to make room for more play space and a vegetable garden. We told how Chelsea used her cheery disposition and winsome smile to help make VBS kids feel comfortable in the presence of us outsiders. We told the story of Mike and Jen’s conversation with the neighbor for whom we house-painted…how our act of service had restored his faith in humanity because he was still reeling from being robbed at gunpoint the week before. We told how the experience of being a participant in and recipient of acts of extravagant generosity and genuine love in action “raised the bar” for Zach, the newest follower of Jesus in our group. And we told Aimee’s favorite story of how God was faithful and allowed us to experience eighteen VBS kids become our brothers and sisters in Jesus as they decided to “follow Jesus the rest of their lives”…and how after receiving personal copies of the Jesus Storybook Bible, they spontaneously sat in groups of three and four in the grass to read aloud to each other and to us adults God’s creation story as it had been read to them every night that week.
It was indeed a good week of good experiences and good risks. I was reminded how stories and storytelling play such a vital role in building our faith in God. And how they play a vital role in passing on the tradition of building his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. According to scripture, the faithful ones (Hebrews 10.39) tell stories of their and their ancestors’ faith (Hebrews 11). This motivates brothers and sisters in the faith to think of ways to carry out acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10.24).
Your faithful followers will praise you.
They will speak of the glory of your kingdom;
they will give examples of your power.
They will tell about your mighty deeds
and about the majesty and glory of your reign.
For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
You rule throughout all generations.
Oh, and around that table we were enamored with and encouraged by Jay’s stories as well. Our twin trips and twin stories were very similar in theme but varied in detail. I do not wonder why. It is the story that God is telling…through people. First through faithful followers of old. Then through Jesus. And now through us. Yes, tell the stories of the everlasting kingdom.