'Pick a card' segues to Gospel
EAST ASIA (BP) -- The middle-aged man smiles and makes a quick bow of greeting to the small audience. He reaches into his left coat pocket and pulls out some cards.
Ben Lim's* eyes twinkle as he shuffles the cards. He fans them out in his hands and tells a random person in the crowd to "Pick a card ... Pick any card!"
A hush falls over the audience as a young Chinese man pulls one of the cards from Ben's hands. Ben instructs him to look at it but not to show anyone. Then, Ben asks him to act out the picture on the card. The young man gets down on all fours, puffs out his chest and roars.
"LION!" the group screams in unison.
Ben smiles and grabs the card. He flips it over for everyone to see. It's the ace of clubs -- but with a picture of three lions surrounding a man at the bottom of a den.
"Anyone know a story about a lion?" the Christian worker in East Asia asks. "No? Then, let me tell you the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den."
That's when God's Word falls on ears that are hearing for the first time. Ben, a master storyteller, takes the audience through the trials of walking by faith and not sight.
The rise and fall of his voice depicts emotions and fears when confronted with problems (like hungry lions waiting to devour). His peaceful cadence and soft, confident tone assures that God is always present when we have problems and call on Him.
The story ends and everyone looks at Ben, waiting for another. He smiles and fans the cards out again. In his hands are 51 more pictures depicting the Old Testament. Another set of cards in his pocket has 52 stories from the New Testament.
The collection is a unique pictorial Bible covering everything from creation to Christ. The uniqueness isn't simply because this wordless Bible is found on a pack of cards but by the fact that Ben's teenage daughters Jasmine* and Jamie* (plus one of their friends) drew the pictures.
"I can't begin to describe what it is like to use an evangelism tool developed by your own kids.... It's beyond our imagination because only God can do this," the church planter from Oklahoma said. "All over the world, people are using these cards as part of evangelism and discipleship training."
The teenagers spent hours last summer poring over the different Scripture passages that Ben uses as part of the Storying Training for Trainers program.
The S-T4T approach combines oral communication with methods of evangelism and discipleship, training local believers to share their faith with family and friends.
Jamie explained that most of the people her family works with are more or less illiterate. While most reports show East Asia as having a literacy rate of more than 90 percent, this only tracks the ability to read 950 characters (or just under 1,000 words). In rural East Asia, word-of-mouth and pictures are the most common forms of communicating.
"There are so many people here who haven't found Christ. The burden is on us to spread the Gospel," Jamie said. "If drawing pictures is the way to lead people to Him, then it's something you just gotta do!"
For the Lin family, ministry is always a family affair. Ben and his wife Ellie involved their children in ministry even at a young age by giving them age-appropriate projects or tasks, helping them gain a heart for the nations and the confidence to share the Gospel. Their goal is to get their children to imagine the impossible and be creative in using their gifts for God's purposes ... even when it involves drawing 104 pictures in one summer vacation.
The 17-year-old sighed and admitted it was a lot more work than she anticipated. They'd read and study a Scripture passage and then ask God to show His work through their pictures and not just draw whatever they wanted. The budding artists decided to use a popular medium in Asia, cartoon characters. Despite all of the preparations, it often took several drafts to get it right.
"Sometimes we'd draw a picture and my parents would say that they didn't get it. So, we'd have to come up with another one," Jamie said. "If other people don't understand the picture and the character of God depicted then there's no use printing it because it's not like I'm trying to spread the Gospel to myself."
The teenager giggled at her own joke and picked up a New Testament set of cards. Putting the pictures on playing cards was a natural choice for the girls. Everyone has them in their homes. Playing games, especially cards, is a big social activity in this part of the world.
Jamie pointed out that this love for games made it the perfect way to present a "picture Bible." Not to mention the fact that in some areas of East Asia (like China), it is illegal to give someone a Bible. But, Jamie added, you can give them a deck of cards.
Ben uses the combo-pack to train local believers in sharing Bible stories and planting the Gospel. They can use it as an "ice breaker" like he often does, as a game, as Bible story flash cards or there's even a short presentation from creation to Christ that only uses nine cards.
Ben's favorite way, though, is to teach about the character of God and life lessons through the pictures. He works his way from creation to Christ and even teaches how to become an "Acts church." Among the minority people groups that he works with, it has become so popular that Ben recorded all 104 stories as MP3s to accompany the card packs.
More than 5,000 churches throughout East Asia have adopted this unique evangelism tool, creating a new project for Jasmine and Jamie this summer -- helping their parents train others to use the cards and share the Bible stories.
The teenagers know there are a lot of unreached people groups just waiting for God's Word. They can't wait to introduce them to their God and eternal life.
"People are going to see how creative God is and amazing He is through these stories," Jamie said, shuffling through the New Testament. "Just pull a card out of the deck and you can share about a different characteristic of God or a different Bible story.
"Seriously! Pick a card ... Pick any card!"
*Name changed. Susie Rain is a writer in Southeast Asia. Click here to learn more about the pictorial Bible evangelism tool. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).