When I am not working for Albany Presbytery or my congregation, I am often involved in the work of the Network of Biblical Storytellers (http://nbsint.org/). Our mission is to “encourage everyone to learn and tell biblical stories” and by that we mean the world over.  To that end I’ve been on several mission trips with the Network; to the Gambia, Cameroon, and lately Haiti.

Our way into Haiti was via an organization called MURR International, (MURR is French Kreyol acronym for United Mission for Reform and Revival. It is a Pentecostal based mission, but since most Protestants in Haiti are Pentecostal, it served as an entry point to Haiti.  Along with its lively focus on Holy Spirit, MURR is seeking to build a church based job and entrepreneurial skills training campus in Haiti, an effort that I recognize is most needed in this nation that has a 40 percent unemployment rate by conservative estimates.

While in Haiti I introduced biblical storytelling to a Baptist college, four different churches where I taught during the day and preached at evening revivals, and visited at several other schools and mission sites. It was a busy nine-day visit.  MURR is supportive of biblical storytelling as it is fully aware that about 50 percent of Haitians cannot read, and those that can, are neither encouraged to read their Bible by their churches, nor do they often hear the Bible in worship. The reason the Bible is downplayed in Haitian churches is that most of the Pentecostal pastors watch American TV preachers as their “continuing education,” and seek to mimic them as the ideal. As you may or may not know, when the Bible is used by such preachers it is often proof-texted, that is, taken out of context, as support for whatever the preacher is saying. The reason Scripture isn’t read is that frankly it is considered boring TV and will lead watchers to change channels.

Biblical storytelling is viewed by this Pentecostal mission agency as the way to combat biblical illiteracy, or as we say in the Network of Biblical Storytellers, “to reverse our story poverty.” The question for us is whether there is a biblical story poverty among our own members, and if so what can be done about that?

About Rev. Dr. Tim Coombs

Tim Coombs serves as co-pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Scotia, NY with his wife, Rev. Kathleen Gorman-Coombs and leads a New Worshiping Community, Parallels (https://www.facebook.com/ParallelsNWC). He also worked on staff at Albany Presbytery for over a decade. Besides his work for the church, Tim is a storyteller, biker, guitar player, and intern to his cat, Sharpie. You can reach Tim at: pastortim@scotiatrinity.org

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