BIBLE STORYING: Ancient art form helps relay the Gospel
EAST AFRICA (BP)--She squeezes the cone of greenish-gold paste and a small amount, guided by the movement of her fingers, forms the finishing touches of a fish drawing. Mina Rowland*, focusing on the hand in front of her, is drawing the Bible story about Jesus feeding 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread. This storytelling session is one of hundreds of such gatherings Rowland has led throughout Africa and South Asia. Earlier in the evening Rowland, a Christian believer working in eastern Africa at the time, told the story to the 12 women gathered at her home. The women eagerly listened to the story and begged Rowland to draw the story on their hands using the paste called henna. Once dried, the henna creates a temporary drawing that stays on the skin for several weeks. Believers throughout Africa, South Asia and the Middle East are combining oral Bible storytelling and henna to share the Gospel. Henna is a significant part of these cultures, in which women draw beautiful designs on their hands and feet for special occasions such as weddings. Henna is a plant used to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather or wool. It is commercially cultivated in various countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Yemen. To be used as a dye, the leaves are ground and sifted to make a fine powder which is added to lemon juice or strong tea to make a paste. The paste is then used for application on the skin. Ameena*, an 18-year-old in eastern Africa, met with Rowland during the course of a few months to learn new stories and drawings. When Rowland first started sharing the stories of Jesus, Ameena was unsure in her faith. Now, she says, "Jesus completes me and I want to start a henna group." Once Ameena learns a new story, she'll share with her neighbors as she draws the story on their hands. Oral storytelling -- the weaving together of the memories and lessons of life -- is the primary form of education throughout much of the world. In New Testament times, Jesus taught the people orally, using primarily stories and parables. Many stories in the Bible contain visual symbols that can easily be incorporated into henna drawings in an art form that's been passed down for centuries.
WEEK OF PRAYER:
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