I discovered, while cutting my eight year old son's hair, that he had never heard the story of Sleeping Beauty. So I kept him still for the rest of the haircut by telling him the story.
Next day I went to take a church service in an informal settlement in our circuit. I thought I would tell them the story (because stories are good things to tell) and I thought I could use it as an illustration that Jesus wants us to wake up to the fact that there is more to life than day to day drudgery. So Jesus is like Prince Charming. And in fact we also need to be like him and wake others up to the fact that there is more. I said we do that by doing the Matthew 25 things - feeding the hungry and so on. They enjoyed the story - although they could not understand 'king' and 'queen'. Translating for little Tswana speaking kids they settled on Morena and Mrs Morena! And I did not even begin to try to talk about spinning wheels.
But I battled to communicate with them what I really wanted to say. Just thinking about it now, I think it is because they didn't expect me to connect with them. They didn't try.
This is a very small preaching place. I arrived at 11am for the 11am service - knowing African time well! At nearly a quarter past the first people arrived. By 11.30 we had four adults (other than me) and five children. Given that the most I've ever preached to at that place is one adult and a couple of children, I was very pleased. Although, from 11 to 11:15 I questioned the wisdom of what I was doing. There could be no benefit in my being there with no congregation at all! But God is good and I didn't feel my time (or preparation) wasted. But my heart breaks for the people there. The settlement has about 7000 people. There is a Pentecostal church working there which seems to draw about thirty people. We Methodists manage a handful. And the rest? And why do we only get a handful? Although it must be recognised that this is growth. And why do they not expect to connect with the preacher? I worry that traditional African Methodism is simply not touching people's hearts. But I can't tell.
Maybe next time I will ask them to tell stories, rather than me. Will I learn anything? Or will they not have stories of Jesus' work in their lives and community to tell?
I can see the advantages of being a minister rather than a local preacher. My contact with them is too sporadic to be meaningful. But the minister is a probationer looking after three congregations. I guess we really need to depend on God - who is always there. But he does seem to need us too. Odd that.