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The Legacy of Storytellers

Written by Judy Kenagy

Family Stories:

I have lived in the Southwest several times in my life, I have long been fascinated by the Pueblo Indian Storytellers. Colorful pottery figurines portray Native grandmothers or grandfathers seated and surrounded by children. The mouth of the grandparent is always large and open
depicting the sharing of oral history to the often mischievous squirming offspring.

I love the notion of passing down oral history from generation to generation. Having written several ancestral memoirs and stories for future generations, I can select a recitation during family gatherings and reunions to tell a story to the younger generations about a long-past relative who was brave enough to try something daring. One of my favorite stories is about my two times great grandmother who was widowed at age 40 and ventured with her six children from Scotland to America to make a new life.
Sometimes, at holiday or birthday gatherings, I ask our patriarch, my 101-year-old father, to share one of his old Navy stories of World War 2 for his great-grandchildren to hear from his own lips. There is method to my madness. I don’t care if the stories are met with disinterest or rolled eyes as mine were at their age. I know that when they are older, they will wish they had listened more carefully to the detail—so they can tell their own offspring.

Biblical Stories:

More importantly, I want my extended family to know of Bible stories. Whether they’ve read their own Bibles or not, I desire to relate stories of bravery, misfortune and doubt so that they can hear about a host of heroes who overcame adversity, trusting in God, their good Father. Not all had happy endings. Daniel was physically saved from the lions den, but Stephen was not saved from the stones hurled at him. Jesus’ disciples were saved from the waters of the Sea of Galilee, but Jonah was probably scarred for the rest of his life by the stomach acid of the big fish. My desire is that through the lessons learned from heroes of the Bible, like David, these children can face their own giants. I recently discovered a new detail about the Navajo storytellers. While the children gather around the patriarch after the evening meal, the tribal Elders participate as listeners to assure that the oral stories are repeated unchanged from generation to generation. Thankfully we are not solely dependent upon oral traditions, for we have the written Word of God that accurately guards the biblical lessons contained within. The Bible speaks for itself. Not
only does it contain stories of spiritual heroes whose examples we can follow, it also has precise verbiage regarding the gift of everlasting life through faith alone in Jesus. Additionally, requirements to be a devoted follower of Jesus in order to inherit eternal rewards are carefully spelled out. However, along with the Scriptures, we have an opportunity to join in the work of the Lord, by training and teaching others. All believers are called to evangelize, and disciple younger believers. We see this in Titus chapter 2:1-5, where both older men and women are exhorted to
train younger men and women. In short, we are all called to be storytellers!

Our Story?

No matter if our children are 3 or 53, as mothers and grandmothers, we need to be prepared when opportunities to tell the message of life arise. The pathway to everlasting life is clear and simple. Jesus’ words to his friend Martha, could not be more explicit. Jesus said to her,

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. John 11:25-26 NKJV

Likewise, those who aspire to rewards beyond the grave, are clearly instructed by the words of Paul, the apostle in 2 Corinthians 5:10,

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
that each one may receive the things done in the body,
according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

We also see this in Matthew 6:19-20 NKJV….

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Our children and grandchildren most certainly will hear mixed messages about the pathway to everlasting life. The concept of birth (salvation) and growth (discipleship) are often muddled or mixed together with unclear meaning. Children and adults may be confused as to what the qualifiers include. They may be asking questions such as: Do I need to pray a certain prayer? How earnestly must I repent of my sins? How can I really know for sure if I’m a child of God, when I know I sin? As we talk to our children and grandchildren about these issues, we need to keep it clear and keep it simple; not because children are weak-minded, but because it is what Jesus did, for children and for adults.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. John 6:47 NKJV

Although countless written stories of tribal history have been written down or portrayed in drama, the Storyteller uses his own words punctuated with variety in volume, emphasis and repetition. Likewise, a wide selection of children’s Bible story books will never equal words from your own mouth and clear expressions from the Bible that paint an eternal picture. Your
presence, being right there to answer any questions, will creates memories with everlasting results.


2 responses to “The Legacy of Storytellers”

  1. Especially with Thanksgiving coming up, I appreciate this reminder to not just be physically present at gatherings but to take the time to talk and share important memories and teachings. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and for sharing a little bit of your family history with us. 🙂


  2. This was SO GOOD. LOVED IT~!!! 🙂


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