An Answer to Years of Prayer: Discipleship in an Oral Culture

By Merri Lee Hipp, edited by Kendall Emmert

Pastor Stefan* works among the Roma people in Bulgaria (also known as gypsies, which is considered a derogatory term by many). While attending a Discipling for Development (D4D) Foundations workshop, he had a dream. In that dream, he heard God say, “If you want to see the Roma transformed, listen to these people.”

Pastor Stefan could not have known that Merri Lee Hipp and her team of D4D international mentors had been praying for a breakthrough into the Roma for five long years.

Finally, in March of 2020, Merri Lee and team were invited to lead twenty-five Roma pastors and church leaders through the D4D Foundations workshop, which included lessons on teaching scripture through Bible Telling. But, halfway through, along with the rest of Bulgaria, they were shut down with COVID-19.

An Answer to Years of Prayer: Discipleship in an Oral Culture | The Navigators World Missions | Two men friends sit and talk

Before its abrupt end, Pastor Stefan told Radi, a D4D international mentor, what God had said to him in his dream. Afterwards, over the next several months, Radi continued to meet with Pastor Stefan and his wife, Mira*, making the six-hour journey to visit them in the town of Kotel. He also talked with Pastor Stefan several times over the phone, but the practice of discipleship proved to be a difficult concept for Pastor Stefan to understand. Although Radi planned to visit the couple two more times, COVID-19 forced them to cancel.

Months later, Radi and his wife were finally able to make the trip and meet with Pastor Stefan and Mira. Radi and his wife discovered that Pastor Stefan and Mira had been meeting with a group of twelve men and women, between the ages of sixteen and thirty-seven, implementing the Bible Telling tool that they had learned at the workshop. Encouraged, Radi and his wife decided to also teach Pastor Stefan and Mira how to lead a follow-up discussion through questions about the Bible stories that they were sharing. They practiced with them, helping them learn how to ask relevant follow-up questions to their Roma listeners.

Pastor Stefan wanted to equip his group to go into nearby Roma neighborhoods, teaching people through Bible Telling and praying for them. Radi encouraged him that Bible Telling was “the perfect tool; your people may not preach, but they will remember the Bible.” Stefan knew that the Bible Telling method would allow his group to share a consistent message throughout their community.

Radi said, “This was orchestrated by God. We’ve never seen a Roma person gain such enjoyment from teaching and listening to the Bible!”

Several said that they had never understood the Bible before. Then, after a Bible story was told during the Sunday morning service, five people received Christ! Following that day, each member of Pastor Stefan’s group agreed to share the new story they had learned with one other person that week.

A short time later, Pastor Stefan called Radi to tell him about one of the women in the group. She had gotten to the end of the week and realized that she hadn’t shared the stories with anyone. So, on the last day, she found a coworker and told her the story of the woman at the well. The woman listening to the story began to cry, saying that she needed to find out more about Jesus. She decided to come to the church and learn more about faith and Christ.

God has answered faithful prayers. He is illuminating His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit through Bible Telling to build disciples in Pastor Stefan’s community!

*Names changed.


  1. Lori, my name is Mike and I work with The Navigators in Discipling for Development. We are preparing a course to learn about Bible Telling. Its availability is still a couple months away. It will be available on-line and is designed to be self-directed (at your pace). Please check out in the coming months. I hope you’ll find the tool helpful!!!

  2. Dear Friends, 60-70% of Americans do not prefer to learn by reading. Denver school district has 115 languages spoken by high schoolers. My last conversation with Jim Downing at 98 years old, I explained Biblical Story Telling and he said, “This is the future of the Navigators.” We, Navigators must consider the value of disciple ship through Biblical Story Telling- like Jesus did. He never required his disciples to know how to read. They learned by walking with Him daily.

  3. I come from Indian reservation that is enclosed in 2-5 million acres of land called Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. It is located in both North and South Dakota. I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in 1992. I am 1/2 Native American and 1/2 Irish. I would love to create a group and tell them the good news of Jesus and how he changed my life and enabled me to lead my whole family to Christ and many extended family members as well. The people there are mostly taught the traditional upbringings that they don’t embrace Jesus Christ as God in the flesh. I do pray and witness to many through FB. I am beginning to have positive results that come slowly. I am not going to give up. Pray that God will open doors for me.

    1. So good to hear of Helen’s ministry on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation. I have a special heart for those living in the Dakotas. I grew up in Mitchell S.D. and know some of the hardships living on the reservations. I will be praying that God will truly open doors for her.

  4. Amen! How wonderful! I believe many people in today’s culture (I live in North America) would benefit by this “Bible Telling.” How can I get more information about this, please?

    1. Denise, my name is Mike and I work with The Navigators in Discipling for Development. Our team is preparing an exciting on-line, self-directed course on Bible-Telling skills. We’re still a couple of months from launch, but I encourage you to check it out at in the near future!

  5. So encouraging to hear of the power of the Word and wisdom in how best to communicate the gospel message..

  6. On Thursday Jan 6,2022 3 of us r going to Kampala Uganda to use Multiplying Hope, UMBs Bible story plan to teach leaders and share with people there. Please pray that we opportunities in the midst of COVID to share the stories and teach them to the people so they can share them. We have 2 weeks.

  7. I would like to learn more about this . Even though I’m not in a foreign land I feel like the lost here in my little town would be easier to reach .

  8. I would like to add that Corrie ten Boom she was teaching girls in clubs in Holland before the war, felt to tell stories that were based on the Bible. She limited her Bible time to 5 minutes per meeting. The girls ate up the stories and many years later they would tell her they were led to Christ by hearing about how God worked through these Bible stories.

  9. This really blessed me because many in my fellowship are getting carried away w dream interpretation. I told God in frustration I don’t want to have dreams! When reading Matthew I was reminded how God spoke to the wise men and Joseph to instruct them. I knew the Lord was saying to me that he still speaks today in dreams. I repented and this morning I read this story and navigators about this man having a dream about how to reach people!

  10. What a thrilling story of a 20th Century AD “Woman at the well!” May the Water of Life continue to spread.

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