Little League Baseball claims to be the largest youth sports organization in the world. This year, almost 2.5 million children participated on 200,000 teams in every US state and more than 80 other countries. Little league is a pretty big league.
Earlier this week I took a few days off from work, and my family attended some tournament games of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA (less than a 90-minute drive from our home). We also can’t wait to watch the championship game this weekend on TV. We invited our whole teeball team over for the big game.
My favorite part of the Little League World Series is its international flavor. Williamsport is a small town, but it morphs into an extravagant melting pot for these 10 days each year. You can’t chuck a happy meal into a garbage can without hitting a foreigner of some stripe.
For example, we saw one game pitting the Czech Republic against Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Before the game, they played national anthems from both countries. Children and parents read the “Little League Pledge” and the “Parents Pledge” in both Czech and English. Czech coaches even required a translator to argue an umpire’s call.
Upon exiting the stadium, we bumped into the team from China. We exchanged greetings with a young couple from Chinese Taipei. We drove right past a squad of seriously focused Panamanian coaches. I loved it.
Regardless of what words came from their mouths, every person there spoke the same language: baseball.
Most of the spectators sported jerseys for one team or another. Crowds applauded impressive plays executed by either team on the field. Pitchers would shake hands with batters after accidentally hitting them with wild pitches. Non-verbal communication reigned through strikes and balls and fouls and outs and hits and runs. Such things were universally understood.
What did the experience teach me about Bible study? That the OIA method (observe, interpret, apply) works. It matters.
An Australian adolescent with bat in hand doesn’t have to think too hard about communicating with a Puerto Rican pitcher. He observes the ball coming his way, he interprets whether it will go over the plate, and he applies the interchange by swinging for the fence. A Californian shortstop can observe the ump’s clenched fist and understand that he threw the ball to first base in time. The crowd can apply the ump’s gesture by applauding wildly.
OIA is communication. Every person on the planet does it all the time.
As I sat there with my kids, instructing them on the game’s nuances, I gained more confidence in our Bible study method. OIA is the best method you can use; it will work for anyone of any age in any culture. Master it, and you won’t be disappointed.