Monday afternoon under the cashew tree was my favorite time of the week, not even daunted by the hot Brazilian sun’s intensity. Ten students and I gathered around a table in the shade to learn Bible stories. Our teacher was the Holy Spirit, and we were there to learn together.
We began with the story of how God created the world and continued to work our way through the Bible using a method called “Chronological Bible Storying.” Each week one of the students taught the class a Bible story – about Abraham, David, or Jesus walking on water or healing the blind – and challenged everyone in the class to learn the story and to tell it to at least three people during the week. At first, learning Bible stories was very difficult for them; they struggled to remember the details of the story and to share the story fluidly with others. I still remember one week when the students did not share their story, and we had to repeat the story of Adam and Eve’s disobedience (Gen. 3). However, the students were determined to improve, and we never again had to repeat a Bible story. As the weeks progressed, we began to have increasingly deeper discussions about the truths that we learned.
What made this time under the cashew tree so special was how I was able to see the Holy Spirit work in each one of our lives. He began to change this unsure teacher into a confident listener of His voice, and He changed these students from cautious listeners into vibrant teachers. He began to change them from hesitant participants to motivated activists for our class. Most of all, He began to transform them by His truth in the deep places of their hearts, placing in them a hunger for His Word and burden to share it with others.
One of my greatest joys was seeing Joyce, one of my students, blossom into a passionate witness for Jesus. As the semester was ending, I challenged the students to pray and to ask the Lord what He wanted them to do during the break. Joyce adamantly insisted that she did not want to “waste time,” but wanted to share the Bible stories she had learned with the youth in her community. She certainly did not waste time, but taught them eight Bible stories. They even presented a drama of the story of Adam and Eve’s disobedience (the very story we had to repeat in class). The best part was that all the youth she worked with accepted Jesus. True to her name, Joyce was bubbling with joy upon her return and could not wait to tell what Jesus had done.
The Lord uses the simple things to confound the wise and to accomplish His purposes. The Lord was pleased to use the simplicity of Bible stories under a cashew tree to transform us by the power of His Spirit and to the glory of His name.
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5