Jeffery Aaron

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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.

Without True Love Waits, they might be dead

LUSAKA, Zambia (BP)--"All these years I've been looking for love and I've found it," Cassius says.       He and his wife Lukunda, 20-something Zambians, look lovingly at each other as they remember their recent wedding day.

Helping kids avoid gang life is S. Africa church’s goal

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (BP)--Homes and cars are riddled with bullet holes. Gangs rule this South African neighborhood, and crime is high.       Schauderville Baptist Church has been in the Schauderville community since 1903. The tall, rock structure is located on the edge of the Coloured* neighborhood in northern Port Elizabeth, the second oldest city in South Africa.       As rough-looking men walk by the church building they stare questioningly at it, hearing the loud noise coming from within.       During the World Cup, the church is hosting a Holiday Bible Club to teach children about Jesus while letting them have fun and keeping them safely off the streets. It's difficult to contain the excitement of more than 100 children as they watch skits, scream with delight when their team wins a game, and dance and sing as loudly as they can, "Jesus is my superhero, my star and my best friend."       Wayne Barros, pastor of the church, is leading the event for the children, ages 2 to 13.       "The idea is that we keep them fairly busy, because ... the area where the children come from is needy, and most come from poor backgrounds," Barros said.

S. African church seeks to guard children

GEORGE, South Africa (BP)--Children run through the grass, yelling, laughing, singing and playing together in front of Ballotsview Baptist Church near George, a city along the southern coast of South Africa.

Cattlemen connect in southern Sudan

AKOT, Sudan (BP)--What could a few good ol' boys from the Deep South have in common with a bunch of hardened, gun-toting, spear-throwing Dinka men in the Sudan?