My language teacher has been teaching Mandarin to foreigners for about 10 years. She has had many missionary students and heard many things from the Bible, but she has yet to believe in Jesus. When I said I wanted to learn to tell Bible stories so that I could share them with friends in the market, she seemed a little surprised. This is not what missionary language students usually want to do.
After each story we discuss it: Which part of the story do you like? Why? What does this story tell us about people and God? What questions might someone have about this story? This final question is always interesting. Taiwanese people are not as accustomed to raising questions as Westerners. Then when I shared that I would not answer her questions she looked even more surprised. “Really?” she said. “I want to help you find the answers in the story yourself. If you find the answers yourself, they will mean a lot more to you and you’ll remember them better.” She didn’t look convinced…
After a few months of learning some initial Bible stories, my teacher now loves hearing them. Every week she says “Are you going to tell me a story today? Have you told any stories to people in your town this week? How did it go?”
I began the Noah story – “So Adam and Eve had children, who had children and they began to fill the earth. Then God saw that inside people’s hearts was only evil all the time.” My teacher stopped me.
“You can’t say that,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Chinese people won’t understand that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Chinese people believe that you can only have evil actions, not an evil heart or evil desires.”
“Oh,” I said. “That’s interesting. In the previous story, when Eve ate the fruit, where did the problem start? Was it in her actions or somewhere else?”
She thought about it. “Was it in her heart? Eve saw that the fruit looked delicious and that she could get wisdom and be like God…so you mean that the problem was not just that she DID the wrong thing, but that she WANTED to do the wrong thing.”
“Yes. Sinful actions follow on from sinful thinking or a sinful heart.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” she said.
In the end her response to the Noah story was, “If only righteous people can be saved, what’s to be done?!” I didn’t answer her question, but said, “Keep listening. The answer is coming. It will become clearer as you hear more stories.”
Linda McKerrell – Donggang