We are WorldVenture missionaries to Costa Rica. Gary is professor of New Testament at Seminario ESEPA and is a blogger and author. Karen teaches at ESEPA and also specializes in sexual abuse and the church. They have four adult children who live in the USA.
Since this is a short announcement, we’ll put it at the top: we are calculating our budget for the coming year. Due to inflation, etc., etc., we have a $1223/month shortfall in our pledged giving. We encourage our friends to be regular backers of our work. You can start at https://worldventure.com or call WorldVenture at (720) 283-2000 or write them at firstname.lastname@example.org. We do not give away tote bags or mugs, but each new regular donor will get one of Gary’s books in the mail. Many thanks!
THIS MONTH, IT’S GARY’S TURN TO SHARE
Gary! You are a regular professor at ESEPA and just gave an online course on how to read ancient Greek manuscripts! And you are editing the Old Testament in SUN, for deaf non-readers! So, what do you do in your spare time?
GARY: Well, go to the gym. Read a lot, sometimes at the gym. Watch foreign movies while Karen teaches online. Do the New York Times crossword puzzle.
And importantly, I just finished a new book in Spanish:
MYTHS THAT CHRISTIANS BELIEVE. AND CIRCULATE.
As a kid I was captivated by stories of pirate treasure, Bigfoot, UFOs. Years later, we visited Loch Ness. And one of my pet topics lately has been to either confirm or debunk those stories that get circulated among believers. So when my publisher in Spain asked, “What is the next book you want to publish with us?”, we hit upon that theme.
In the book I examine about 35 such stories. A few turned out to be true, but most were false rumors. Several have to do with Hebrew and Greek. Some have to do with the Bible. Some have to do with current events or the End Times.
Why is this book important just now?
First, because we are living in a crisis of truth, where we tend to accept a story if it agrees with what we already think. We then circulate them without determining if they are fact or fiction. Second, as Christians, we should be a model of telling the truth in love, of not bearing false witness. My book is not just to fact-check past or present myths, but to teach Christians how to value the truth, and how to be discerning when the next one lands in our In-Box.
Here are a few of my topics. Which do you think are True and which False?
- The Soviets dug a well so deep that they broke through into hell and heard the screams of the damned.
- “The Eye of the Needle” was a low gate in Jerusalem.
- NASA proved Joshua’s account of how the sun stood still.
- The Hubble spotted the New Jerusalem approaching the Earth.
- There is a computer in Belgium called The Beast and it contains all your data (the picture that comes with that rumor is on the front cover of my book).
- Archaeologists have found Egyptian chariots and horse skeletons under the Red Sea.
- Christian pilots are always paired with non-Christian ones. “In case of Rapture.”
Each one is False, as I go to great lengths to demonstrate.
My publisher liked the book and said, “Why don’t we also publish it in English?” So possibly we will see that in a couple of years. In the meantime, go to my blog, openoureyeslord.com, and look up “myths” to see a few.
- Gary is planning to teach a course in Cuba in mid-October. Pray he gets his visa and travel plans settled
- Pray that our support level comes up to 100%
- Pray for Karen’s course from Levanta la Voz
You may remember that this year Gary was given permission by the Seminary to spend half his time on the SUN project of Wycliffe Associates. He is working his way through the entire Old Testament as a final editor, checking for consistency of phraseology. It’s taking up a lot of time, energy and thought. You can imagine that it comes up a lot over meals or drives too! It’s interesting work from an intellectual perspective, but wonderful to know that it is spiritually meaningful.
Videos about SUN that you might find interesting:
SUN Program at a glance – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LPosz4RTUA
What is SUN? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCCSZsfZ-Xc
Thank you for praying for my new focus on social media! God has put it on my heart for some time now that it would be important to develop a strong social media presence with my new ministry Levanta La Voz. Since my entire focus is to train church leaders how to combat sexual abuse, the information about what we offer has to get in their hands. And we’ve been told many times that social media is the place to communicate with younger generations. Since the ESEPA seminary did not have enough students to run my program this year, it has given me time to work on this new part of the project, and with the help of my coach Nikole Hahn from WorldVenture, it is finally in progress.
I know that many of you use social media, but you may not know that your involvement can make a big difference in our ability to spread the word. If you will get involved on my social media and encourage family members and friends to do the same, my posts will actually be visible to more people in the general public. (I honestly do not understand how it all works, but I know that it’s true.)
These are the specific actions that will help me:
- Look up my social media sites and click “Like” or “Follow” (whichever appears on the site)
- Read the posts and respond somehow – give a reaction such as “like” or “love”
- Leave a comment on posts that you appreciate – it can be a question, an observation, or something else related to what is in the post. I will respond to you, and hopefully we can generate some interesting and helpful conversations
- Share posts with other people that you think may find them helpful, especially leadership in your church
- Encourage friends, family members and church leadership to follow our pages. I am writing things that will be helpful to teens too, and they love to find new places to follow! PLEASE encourage the teens in your life to take a look.
Levanta La Voz means “Raise Your Voice” in Spanish and is a quote from Proverbs 31:8-9, where we are told to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. That is what this ministry is all about – speaking up for those who cannot speak up about sexual abuse. It is pervasive in our society today and it seems that most men and women in our world are hurting from some sort of sexual assault in their past. As representatives of Jesus Christ, we should be ready to call sexual harm evil and we should be ready to apply the Gospel to those who are hurting because of it.
I have English and Spanish social media pages with the exact same material.
I also have Facebook and Instagram pages with the exact same material.
These are the exact locations:
I, Karen, will be flying to Manila, Philippines, to co-teach a course for the Child Safety and Protection Network. This is an exciting opportunity to prepare new workers in the field of child safety, as well as collaborate with coworkers.
I am also planning to teach my 8-week course starting in mid-September. This is a free course, meeting by Zoom for a 3-hour lesson each week. It is designed to prepare church workers for how to prevent sexual abuse and respond appropriately if it happens. Why is this important for church workers? Because everything we do reflects what Jesus Christ would do, and that means we must be safe places and safe people. Because we can all use more information about how to make our churches safe locations, how to help our workers be safe people, how to train our parents to protect and help our children, and how to help our children learn safe behavior.
Karen: “I will never look at kazoos the same way again!”
Perhaps a bit of background on that one!
March and April were extremely busy for my ministry. One conferences after another, presenting material on all sorts of subjects and age level. .
When that combined with the involved spiritual warfare, travel, lack of time to regroup between events – and most of our belongings still in boxes – it was an extraordinarily stressful time that left me feeling isolated, exhausted and disoriented.
Then came my last event, the spring women’s retreat of Woodlyn Baptist Church at Camp Sankanak. I didn’t have much to do except to give a very short ministry update and to be a small group leader. The 4 of us in our group enjoyed lively discussions comparing Bible passages in various translations and applying them to our lives. Soon we all felt so comfortable together that one woman shared some personal concerns. The rest of us rallied around her with prayers and offers of help and it was a special time of ministry. It wasn’t until later that it dawned on each of us how perfectly suited that particular group of women had been to help our sister. It was a group so perfectly put together that only God could have done it. And that got us thinking.
Usually small groups are pre-organized. But this time it had been different: each small group leader was given a differently colored kazoo ahead of time (my kazoo was red).
During our first large group meeting everybody else picked a kazoo from a large bag without looking or understanding the significance of the different colors. The colored kazoos assigned us to groups. But obviously, it was God who grouped us together. So God used a bag full of kazoos to make sure we were all in the right place at the right time to be his voice and arms so he could love and help one of his precious daughters.
We will never look at kazoos the same way again. We will never look at God the same way again. Praise him!
Welcome to new newsletter friends from:
Faith BFC Harleysville women’s retreat
Woodlyn Baptist Church women’s retreat
North Chester Baptist Church
June 12—Tasker Street Missionary Baptist Church morning service, 9am at 2010 Tasker Street, Philadelphia, PA, or online https://www.facebook.com/TSMBC2
- Household focus: Finish and move into Karen’s home office, finish unpacking and organizing
- Karen’s ministry focus: website and social media presence for recruiting new students
- Gary’s ministry focus: doing the final edit of the SUN Old Testament for the deaf non-reader; giving ESEPA courses.
In April, all of the WorldVenture missionaries from the Americas got together in Orlando. A milestone, after years of COVID!
This month we will catch up on three of Gary’s ministries.
One: Authoring a Catechism for the Deaf and Deafblind
I have now finished two years of work on the SUN Bible for Wycliffe Associates. This is a Bible translation for the Deaf and the Deafblind, written in an entirely new language that the blind can read with their fingers. The whole Bible is available, and one last step is that in 2022 I will be going through the entire Old Testament one more time, to make sure of its “consistency” – that is, the same symbol is used the same way every time. So far, I have done Genesis, half of Numbers, Ecclesiastes, and Jonah.
We have other materials too – for example, we now offer “Our Daily Bread” in SUN!
Plus: last summer I had one of those “Aha!” moments. It occurred to me that, since SUN is such a simplified code language, it would be an ideal medium for a CATECHISM, a short-cut to learning Basic Christianity. The deaf can see/the deafblind will read with their fingers, and they can even memorize them and write them back to their teacher.
Now, back in 1969, when I was preparing for baptism, we memorized a catechism. For those who haven’t used one, it traditionally has a question-and-answer format. Here we are, just after being baptized.
Hello friends,We have some news for you that just can’t wait until our scheduled newsletter!
For some time, we have been asking for God’s guidance about when would be the right time to relocate back to the US and continue our missionary work from there. Now it’s obvious that God’s answer is NOW. We will permanently return to the Philadelphia area on November 15.
Please click here to see a VIDEO (click the link) that explains our decision in more detail, and we are also including the script of the video below.
We want to emphasize that:
We are not retiring.
We are not changing jobs.
We are not changing what we do,
But we are changing where we do it.
We will still be missionaries, supported by you, the churches and individuals that have been behind us financially and spiritually all this time.
We will continue to work full-time: we’ll both still teach at ESEPA Seminary (virtually, still, because of COVID), Gary will continue to write and to work on the SUN Bible translation for Wycliffe Associates, and Karen will continue to develop her ministry Levanta La Voz.
We have a few requests:
From here on, send all mail to our new address: 49 Germantown Avenue, Christiana, PA, 17509.
Please consider giving a special donation towards our moving expenses. As you might imagine, this will be a very costly transition. If God puts it on your heart to do so, you can donate through WorldVenture in several ways:
- Send a check payable to WorldVenture, 20 Inverness Place, Englewood CO 80112. If you send a check, please do NOT write our name on the subject line of the check, but instead include a small note indicating that your donation is intended for the work of Gary and Karen Shogren, number 4000-055, as well as your own contact information.
- OR Make a donation online at www.WorldVenture.com. Click on the following buttons beginning on the first page: How to Give, under Support World Venture click Give Now, select an amount, click Next, click on Select a Worker or Project, scroll down the list to find and click on our account 4000-055 Gary and Karen Shogren, click Next, and fill out the remainder of the form and information.
- If you have any questions, please contact WorldVenture directly at 720-283-2000 or Giving@WorldVenture.com
Please pray that God will continue to smooth our way as we continue working full-time. Many blessings, Gary and Karen
When we first talked about moving to Costa Rica, we emphasized that we were not changing what we were doing (Gary was teaching in a seminary, and Karen was homeschooling the kids), but we were changing our location. Long before online education, there was more of a need for seminary professors outside the US, and God led us to work at ESEPA seminary in San José, Costa Rica.We have been serving there, face-to-face since 1998. During that time, Karen too joined the faculty and started an entirely new ministry training church leaders about the prevention and intervention of sexual abuse.
We have the same important message for you now, 23 years later: we are not changing what we do, but we are again changing the location from which we will do it. We are moving back to the United States, and will both continue teaching overseas, online, full-time.There are a variety of reasons why this is the smart decision:
Online education is becoming the norm worldwide – it reaches people far beyond what was possible in-person, it is cost-effective, and it is efficient
We now have been working exclusively online for a year and a half, and it has proven to be a game-changer for both of us, expanding our ministry scope and efficiency in ways we never could have imagined.
Gary is now doing all his teaching online, also conferences, as well as his writing and Bible translation work with Wycliffe AssociatesKaren’s work with her ministry Levanta La Voz has been exclusively online, and that allows people to be involved from all over the world
COVID is still a significant threat to in-person communication, and will continue to be so for quite some time, especially in underdeveloped countries
Costa Rica’s incidence of COVID is still very high and the new variant is now present. 1 in 10 Costa Ricans have had COVID.
We have been in quarantine for a year and a half. It does not look like that will change in the medium term.
Our living expenses will be cheaper for us back in the US, making it easier to maintain full missionary support during this time of economic uncertainty.
Our employers are convinced that allowing us to work from the US will be a benefit to everyone. WorldVenture (our mission agency) and ESEPA Seminary (the organization to whom we are seconded) have given us the go-ahead to move back to the US and continue working with them.
We will be in Costa Rica until Nov 15.
From then on, we will continue to work full-time from Pennsylvania, training Costa Rican church leaders and leaders in all other countries of the world, writing resources for them, and being involved in the Bible translation efforts of Wycliffe Associates. With both of us continuing to work full-time, we expect that God will use us to have an even greater impact on the world in the future!
To sum up:
We are not retiring! Just relocating.
We look to be financed by our donors for the long-term.
Gary’s turn this month.
We have seen many, many of you in the past few months! We popped up to Pennsylvania in April to get vaccinated and see the family, and decided we should make the rounds of some of our supporting churches. There were only so many Sundays, so we are sorry we didn’t see all of you: you will be at the top of the list for next time!
For those we did not see: all summer I have been preaching on the Two Great Commandments – to love God and to love our neighbor. My sense has been that while the church always pledges allegiance to those two priorities, we often get diverted into other crusades.
You can watch our missionary update and read my whole sermon HERE (https://openoureyeslord.com/2021/08/01/the-two-greatest-commandments-do-we-really-believe-that-the-bible-got-it-right-luke-1025-42/).
People who tell you or even imply by their tone of voice that before doing the First and the Second you need to, that before Loving God with all your being some other box must be checked, to create a political or family or cultural or social environment and THEN we can begin to do Commandment One and Two, is telling Jesus he got it wrong. He or she is like the man who is plowing the field and keeps looking back over his shoulder. It doesn’t matter if you zig left or zag right, you’ll be plowing a crooked row. And the apostles agree on this: look at Romans, 1 Peter, 1 John, and even Revelation: the church of Ephesus was perfect except for this: they had lost their first love; and Jesus said he would snuff out their candle for that one error.
The Good Samaritan demonstrates his love for his neighbor
No, Commandment One, Commandment Two are correctly labeled and in the right order: Love for God – by developing intimacy with God (which would require a whole series of sermons) – concrete steps to know him intimately, spend time with him, learn his ways; for the first commandment is to love Him with all your being – can you begin to find and help your neighbor. Love your neighbor as yourself – spend time with them, learn about them, put yourself in their shoes, and love them as God does. Jesus did both commandments perfectly, and it sent him to the cross. And both these commandments we do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and only through the power of the Holy Spirit who teaches us to love.
I realized that not everyone was up to date on my work with Wycliffe Associates. I am the final editor through the entire Old Testament in a new symbol-language Bible for the deaf-and-blind and the deaf illiterate. (My final exam was to translate Jonah 1 into SUN). The SUN Bible New Testament is already available, and the Old Testament will be out as soon as possible. HERE is a full description (https://www.mnnonline.org/news/symbolic-universal-notation-a-new-way-to-reach-the-deaf-and-blind/). And you can take a look here (https://bibleineverylanguage.org/processes/sun/) and you can download a book to see what it looks like (actually, for the deaf-blind, feels like – they read it with their fingers!).
Blessings this month! Gary and Karen
Gary’s turn this month
2020 and 2021 are apparently the years for my books to get published. My 1 Corinthians commentary was just released English by Kerigma, Salem OR. It’s available on Amazon (only $25!) or on Logos Bible Software; the Spanish version is available on Amazon as well.
It was written in the first instance for the Latin American church, and to prepare it I did a lot of talking with Costa Ricans about how it can be applied to daily life. It should be useful for North Americans too. In fact, when people read it in English, they will have the chance to feel what it is like for us in the south, where many, many commentaries are translations of US works, and often include American cultural assumptions on how the Bible should be applied. Some American Christians I know regard their own exposition as “scientific, objective exegesis” and that of others as “culture-bound, subjective eisegesis (= reading our ideas into the text).” I disagree, or, at least I assert that life is more complicated than that. In fact, I have never met anyone- including the face I see in the mirror every morning – who opens the Word, free ideas of “what the Bible should say.”
In addition, writers – or preachers or teachers – do not just study the biblical text; they also “exegete” the audience in order to bridge the gap between God’s Word and God’s people.
In the commentary we go verse by verse through the text, and also give analyses of many key topics: marriage and divorce, the spiritual gifts, Christian leadership, pastoral ministry, poverty and wealth, unity. As an example:
True unity does not live in terror of disagreement, nor does it give up in disgust when disagreement occurs. I say this again: a person who is truly loving and living in unity with the church will at times say hard things, not because it is pleasant to do so, but because it is loving. Unity means that in a sinful world, even godly people will have occasional frictions, even sharp arguments. Unity leaves room for loving disagreement over details and disagreement over major issues. Unity does not seek calm for its own sake, but because that peace is the best way to represent God’s truth.
Spoiler: I should have another book in English being published this year; will announce it when it comes out! It will have an iceberg on the cover.
And a summer 2021 update: Greetings from Pennsylvania!
We were unable to get vaccinated in Costa Rica, so we decided to pop up to the States for a couple of months; and as soon as we flew up, Costa Rica when back on strict shutdown. So, this will be our summer to meet some of our churches and individual reporters, in order to bring them up to date on our work. Our calendar is filling up! Contact Karen at email@example.com or call her at 717-413-1764. Meanwhile, we are doing our regular work of teaching and writing in beautiful Lancaster County. We will see many of you over the next weeks.
Our son-in-law Chris, Vik’s husband, just graduated with his master’s degree! Congratulations Chris!
Blessings! Gary and Karen