My Story of Story Impact

Missionary stories are one of my earliest church memories. Our children’s church teacher, Mrs. Reitman, would tell us exciting accounts of missionaries like Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael. Each week the story would build to a climax, and then she would stop and inform us wide-eyed children that we had to come back next week to find out what happened. I loved those stories of missionary exploits.

My family shared the pleasure of stories. My mother must have read dozens of missionary biographies aloud to us, especially on long winter evenings. That custom sounds archaic today, but it was a priceless contribution to my understanding of missions.

In my teens, I helped teach Good News Clubs. So I became the one telling the serialized missionary stories to the next generation of eager kids. Even the wiggliest ones quieted down to see if teenage Harry Bollbach and his dad would survive their canoe trip down the river in the Amazon jungle to share the gospel with an unreached tribe.

About that time, I began reading missionary stories—biographies and autobiographies—for myself. Books like Behind the Ranges by JO Fraser and Isobel Kuhn’s books about taking the gospel to the Lisu not only shaped my concept of what it meant to serve God, but they also helped to set my theology on a firm footing.

In the 21st century, using stories to communicate has fully come of age. Younger generations have grown up on YouTube; they distrust “facts” but highly value personal experience. Storytelling has become a more powerful tool than ever. But people of every age enjoy stories. This blog began with a story that I’m sure drew you in faster than if I had started with facts.

Some storying suggestions:

  1. Learn to tell your own missions story clearly. Your personal story of how God touched your heart for the world has great potential to start others on a similar journey.
  2. Share missions stories in multiple forms. If you read or watch a good biography, pass the book, audiobook, or video along to friends. “Talk up” books. I just read Nabeel Qureshi’s Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and At Home in Exile by Russell Jeung. I highly recommend both!
  3. Many missionaries need to improve their storytelling. Look for someone in your church who could coach new and even veteran workers in order to improve their use of powerful stories.

Read “Story Force,” our March 2017 issue of Postings to learn more about how to create and use transformational global stories.

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