Run and tell that

HANCOCK COUNTY — What’s the best way to get this done?

That’s the question industrial engineers like Darren Wise ponder. It’s a search for the best process — the right staffing levels to keep a hospital functioning smoothly, or the right logistics to keep a manufacturer’s production line humming. As a college senior, Wise worked with a truck tarp maker on how to cut down the four hours it took to make one of the company’s parts.

So when Wise thinks about Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19 to make disciples of all nations, known as the Great Commission, his engineering mind has found a process he can get behind in accomplishing that work.

Boil down Bible passages into two-minute stories.

“This is one of the most strategic ways to complete that,” Wise said. “As an industrial engineer, thinking strategically … comes pretty naturally.”

Wise is serving a one-year internship with Story Runners, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Story Runners has selected 42 stories from the Bible that help capture its major themes. It sends teams into settings with strong oral traditions and trains Christians there to develop a telling of each story in language easy to understand by the local people.

Wise, a 2011 graduate of Greenfield-Central High School, arrived in West Africa more than a week ago. The name of the exact country remains private to protect team members, as they are working in an area where Christian ministry could put them in peril.

Galen Miller, mobilization director for Story Runners, said the people Wise is working among have only a few chapters of the Bible in written form. Though Wise has learned some of the stories and can recite them from memory, the trip is not about telling him the stories so much as coming alongside local Christians and “letting them turn it into a naturally told story,” Miller said.

Wise and fellow team members facilitate the process of wording the story. During their several weeks on site, they offer feedback to the storytellers in training, and each step in the process is recorded. A final test is having a non-Christian translate the story back into English to see how it aligns with the original.

Miller said the steps are designed to keep the story narrative true to the actual passage in the Bible and also to ensure that narrative retains clarity in a given cultural context. For example, a past team in Europe was sharing the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, and some who heard the story at first thought the tax collector was bribing Jesus; wording of the story had to steer clear of that notion.

The final narrative is professionally recorded for local story tellers to listen to, practice and tell. As they tell the stories, more learn them and are able to retell them.

There’s confidence the story will remain intact and not fall victim to the morphing of the telephone party game. Among peoples with strong storytelling traditions, Miller said, whose histories are often preserved in stories, “they’re used to making sure people don’t change the stories.”

Story Runners typically has two teams of four to five people traveling each year. The ministry wants to increase that to 10 teams in the next five years as part of pursuing a larger goal of sharing the 42 stories by 2025 with 500 people groups believed to have not heard the gospel message.

When Wise and other team members are not traveling, they live and train near Cru’s headquarters in Orlando. He raised support to enable him to spend a year doing Story Runners work before he pursues a career with the industrial engineering degree he received this year from Purdue.

Wise had had successful internships with big companies in his field, said Annette Benson, an intercultural programs specialist in Purdue’s international program. It’s likely he could have easily landed a solid engineering position, but for now, he’s chosen Story Runners.

She’s not surprised. She remembers a young man who was faithful to regular dinners at Purdue designed for international students and American students to connect, one who was exceptional as a mentor to students who had just arrived in the United States before the start of classes, one who has continued to nurture friendships forged during a semester of study in Hong Kong.

“He was tireless. He could not get enough of that sort of interaction,” Benson said.

“He really sees himself to have a higher calling in life. … That inner drive caused him to just love people wherever he went.”

Backing Wise work

Those interested in supporting Darren Wise’s work with Story Runners can donate online at https://give.cru.org/0747632.

Another option is to mail a check made payable to Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), P.O. Box 628222, Orlando, FL 32862-8222. Include Wise’s name and #0747632 in the memo line.

At a glance

Story Runners has selected 42 stories from the Bible that help capture its major themes. The organization sends teams into settings with strong oral traditions and trains Christians there to develop a telling of each story in language easy to understand by the local people.

Author photo
Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at asmith@greenfieldreporter.com