As believers, the end goal is not simply to learn what the Word of God says, but to learn it in such a way that we can then share it with others. The Bible says, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). It is classic discipleship, and it is the approach AMG International missionary Richard Hetzel utilizes when training pastors in the Amazon rainforest. There is a bit of a twist, though, in how Richard teaches Scripture.
He relies on storytelling. The goal is for Peruvian pastors to learn Scripture in such a way that they can turn around and teach what they have learned to those around them. And, the way they learn is through storytelling. As Richard states, “Our goal is to train them to reach their own people.” The villagers in the jungles of Peru, like the majority of people around the world, are auditory learners. According to Richard, 70 percent of the world’s populace consider themselves to be oral learners, but that number jumps to 100 percent in the jungles of the Amazon. Yet, 90 percent of all evangelical and discipleship resources are designed for written learners. Storytelling is a highly effective means to bridge that divide. Richard uses storytelling exclusively in teaching pastors the Word of God.
As such, Richard mentions a few specific rules he follows when it comes to teaching the stories of the Bible. “First, you have to include every pertinent detail from a passage. Second, you cannot include any opinions or interpretations about what you think the passage means.
Third, you have to make it easy to understand for a tribal person without changing the meaning of anything in the passage. Then, you have to memorize the story word for word.” When Richard shares the stories of the Bible, he does so repeatedly and then follows up with questions that get progressively more challenging. It’s a proven way to increase comprehension and prepare pastors to train others through storytelling, which is their primary means of taking in and studying Scripture.
Because of the support of AMG’s faithful financial partners, Richard and his wife, Krista, are able to travel to remote villages throughout the Amazon in order to teach the teachers. Not surprisingly, there are many things the Hetzels need to know, mainly concerning culture, before entering a tribal village. In preparation, the couple spends time studying the various people groups before going in, so they better know how to relate to them culturally while avoiding any kind of unintentional offense. The biggest thing they need to do to prepare, according to Richard, “is to write out and memorize any stories from Scripture that will help us teach the principles the pastors want to learn.”
Just last year, Richard spent a week training Wampis and Achuar pastors. He was storytelling a passage from Matthew 22. Imagine the joy he and Krista had when they heard shortly afterward that several of the pastors from that training session hiked for two days to reach a remote village so they could teach others the same thing they had just learned. “That is the goal,” says Richard. “Training natives so they can reach their own people for Christ as they live out 2 Timothy 2:2.” Thank you for being an integral part of Richard and Krista’s ministry efforts in Peru.