Would You Like to Hear a Story?

By Tom Castor | May 8, 2020 |

Researchers estimate that, of the more than seven billion people in the world, 70% are oral learners. While one can argue with the numbers, even the most casual observer knows that people, regardless of language or culture, love a good story.

Insights derived from oral culture studies have led multiple Christian mission agencies to have an increasing interest in Story Development and Orality. The founding of the International Orality Network (ION) is a case in point.

At Clear and Simple Media, our own interests in orality and oral discipleship methods began in the late 1970s when we lived north of the 58th parallel in Canada. In the years that followed, we have received training in SouthEast Asia, Africa, and North America with organizations that specialize in this area. That interest also resulted in a delivery website focussed on Oral Learners called Hear A Story.

Our website, Hear A Story, is built around a set of thirty-two stories in simple English. The stories tell the story of the Bible “from the beginning to the new beginning.” Site visitors may listen to the stories and use dropdown menus to read along if they are able. While the site has been used primarily by Teachers of English as a Second Language (TESL) thus far, our goal is to integrate our story site with our A Simple Word website to reach the broadest audience possible. With that in mind, we decided to create more stories to increase the audio content for both websites.

But for several months, that project hit various snags and detours. Other project deadlines took priority and we could not seem to make progress on the story set. Each story would be under 400 words in length. We would write them so as to be easy to remember and retell. But with multiple projects on the go, this one had stumbled down our priority list.

A few months ago, I happened to be lamenting this fact with a supporting pastor in Alabama. He told me that he might just know someone who could be of help. That conversation led to a trip to northern Alabama where we met Audrey Carroll. Miss Carroll has been a student at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. When we met, she was just a few months from graduating. She also had a keen interest in writing. We talked. We told her about our story development project. And we agreed to pray for God’s guidance in the matter.

Multiple emails and texts followed and within a few weeks, a project partnership was formed. Sometime in late March, Audrey agreed to help us create first drafts of a set of sixty stories from the life of Christ. Much of the research had already been completed and we had selected the stories that the set would cover. We just needed a competent and willing person to get the first drafts of stories on paper.

On April 30, we received the last ten stories that complete the set. The stories are drafts, but we could not be more pleased with the quality of the work. And we thank God that, in his providence, he helped us find this talented young woman.

There is still a good deal of work to do before the stories are posted. We will organize the stories chronologically. We will write scripts for a short commentary to go with each story. Both the stories and the scripts must be recorded and field-tested. When field-testing is completed, we will make editorial adjustments and post all sixty stories on the site.

Since the very beginning of our work with Clear and Simple Media, God has always provided us with the help that we needed, sometimes even before we knew that we needed help. Our introduction to Audrey Carroll is a case in point. A true “God send.”

The goal was to make the stories succinct, to use a simple vocabulary set, and to write “for the ear”. Here is a sample:

       After John the Baptist died, Jesus wanted to be alone. But he kept on teaching people everywhere he went. And he did many amazing things along the way.

 One day, Jesus went across Lake Galilee again.  He wanted to be away from the crowds that followed him. So he said to his disciples, ‘Come with me.  We will go to a quiet place where we can rest.’  But the crowd heard where Jesus was.  So they followed Jesus there. 

There were many sick people in the crowd.  And Jesus felt sorry for them.  The people were like sheep without a shepherd.  So Jesus began to teach them many things.  

After a long time, Jesus’ disciples came to him.  They said, “Jesus, it will be dark soon.  Send the people away so they can find something to eat.”  But Jesus wanted to show his power.  So Jesus said, ‘Do not send the crowds away.  Instead, give them something to eat.’  

Jesus’ disciples could not believe what Jesus said.  ‘Lord,’ they said.  ‘How would we do that?  To feed these people would take more money than what we have.’  There were 5,000 men, not including women and children.  

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saw a little boy.  The boy had five small loaves and two fish.  So Andrew took the boy to Jesus.  ‘Look, Lord,’ Andrew said.  ‘I have found five small loaves and two fish.’  So the boy gave what he had to Jesus.

Then Jesus told the crowd to sit down.  When they did, Jesus took the bread and the fish.  He thanked God for the food.  Then Jesus broke the bread into pieces.  And the disciples gave the bread to the crowd.  Everybody ate.  They all ate until they were not hungry anymore.  Then the disciples walked through the crowd.  They collected all the food that had not been eaten.  When they were finished, they had collected 12 baskets full with bread and fish.  And all the people were amazed at what Jesus had done.  

Would like to read this story for yourself? It is found in Matthew 14:13–21; Mark 6:30–44; Luke 9:10–17; and John 6:1–15)

Tom Castor

Thomas Castor, founder of Clear and Simple Media Group, is a seasoned writer and communicator who has been delivering content with clarity and simplicity for 30 years.