By Savannah Cooper
JEFFERSON CITY—Oral storytelling is a tradition in many cultures and dates back to ancient times. Jesus himself told stories as a way to communicate with the people around him. Today, oral storytelling is a way for Denise Pieper and other missionaries to communicate with the native people of Mali.
For Pieper, the road to God has been a long and winding one. Although she grew up in a church environment, she was unfamiliar with the idea of having a personal relationship with Christ until some tragic life experiences brought her closer to God and led her to eventually accept Him as Lord and Savior in 2007.
After what she calls “my rebirth to a new creation,” Pieper began to feel God calling her to the mission field. While attending First Baptist Church, Arnold, she became involved with an evangelism project and learned of the need to share God’s Word in Mali, Africa. In December of last year, Pieper quit her job and left for the Sahara Desert.
Since then, Pieper has been living in Mali and working alongside International Mission Board (IMB) journeymen with an unengaged people group. Most of the people she works with are very strong Muslims, and many have never even met a Christian.
While conditions are difficult – there is no electricity or running water – Pieper feels that the group she affectionately calls “my people” have been very welcoming to her and the IMB journeymen, and she feels that their work has definitely been fruitful.
“We know for sure that God is moving and working in this part of the desert,” she said.
Like the majority of Africa, Mali is a largely illiterate nation, and missionaries to the country face the challenge of sharing God’s Word with people who are unable to read. Pieper and others have found the answer in oral storytelling, which is how many Africans share their family histories across generations.
This summer, Pieper will be speaking to children at Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) about her life in Mali and oral storytelling. Introducing herself as “Toudo,” Pieper will discuss African food, toys and children’s lives. She also plans to have the children participate in activities, such as attempting to balance a bucket on their heads. She can be contacted and scheduled for your VBS by email at email@example.com.
“I will explain the importance of storytelling here in Africa and in many illiterate countries around the world,” Pieper said. “Then, I will share a story from God’s Word, the way we do here in Mali, and help [the children] retell it.”
Pieper will then challenge each child to go home that night and tell the story to a friend or family member. She also hopes to help the children think about missions, not only around the world, but at home, as well.