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.
Who are Gary and Karen Shogren?
Filed under Bible, Costa Rica, ESEPA, Gary Shogren, Karen Shogren, Missions, New Testament, seminario, Sexual abuse, WorldVenture
June 2023 Newsletter
A Week in the Life of Gary Shogren!
Come away with me on an adventure! This is not an exact 7-day period, but a composite of the things I do in any given week.
I Pray. 7pm is my time for prayer, and different days of the week have different themes. Thursday, it’s “Thanksgiving Thursday.” Tuesdays and Wednesdays, close Bible reading and prayer, right now through Ephesians. Along with this: since last year I have a monthly meeting with, not a counselor, but my “spiritual director”. This is an ancient discipline that evangelicals have recently rediscovered.
I Read. Quite a lot, actually! I normally read 4-6 books at a time, about half of which are theology books and the other half novels, culture, history.
The Tree of Knowledge sculpture
Among the books I have read, here are my favorites from 2022. My mp3 player reads to me at Planet Fitness. I also run an annual reading club in ancient languages. 2023 it’s (some of the) “Hebrew Poets and Prophets”. We have finished Jeremiah, now we’re in Ezekiel.
I Blog. I have two theology blogs, Openeyeourslord.com and Razondelaesperanza.com (“The reason for our hope”). Mondays I open messages and feedback and spend a few hours with them. Questions are almost always in Spanish. They range from, “can you explain the Greek participles in Hebrews 6” (hard one!) to “What do you think of this course about Christian chakras supposedly found in Bible?” (easy to answer!)
I Am in Touch with Spain about my New Book! In September, my publisher will come out with a collection of my essays: El Don del Espíritu y su Poder en la Iglesia (The Gift of the Holy Spirit and his Power in the Church). These days I have to answer a few questions from its editor, plus invite a friend to write the Preface. I am also writing the 1 Corinthians section for a new work Spanish, the Culture Study Bible, which will be full of notes on the ancient world. Example: what was the “meat sacrificed to idols”?
I Speak at a Conference. It’s 7pm their time, 8pm in Pennsylvania. Leaders of the Bible Society of Argentina had seen a blog post of mine, about the importance of Bible reading in our church meetings. My presentation lasted about an hour. I was pleased that over 300 listened in and we got a good response. I haven’t received the link to that video yet, but here is another, where I speak about 1 Corinthians – start watching at 4:00 minutes.
I Assure People I am not Retired. This week I turned 65! And no, we have no plans for retirement. However, one of the reasons we relocated to the US (not retired!): Medicare doesn’t work in Costa Rica but it does work in Pennsylvania.
I Teach at ESEPA. This after all is my regular job, my primary “hat”. We just finished off Greek 3 on Wednesday nights. Right now, I’m in my second week of teaching “Exegesis of 1-2 Thessalonians”, in which the students translate both books, analyze their teaching on the End Times, writing a major paper on 3-4 verses of the Greek. This term I am not teaching through Zoom. This not only helps me, but also my students: one is a missionary in West Africa, and our Greek class used to run from midnight to 3am his time.
I translate articles written by Cuban dissidents against the Marxist regime. My main political activism these days is translating articles to English, then uploading them for all the world to read on translatingcuba.com. Here is an older example that I did during the height of COVID. I work under a pseudonym, but I trust you readers not to reveal my secret identity! 🙂
Sundays! Half our Sundays we go to our local church; the other Sundays we visit our supporting churches to update them on our work and preach God’s Word. We just saw our old friends at Redeemer Bible Fellowship, north of Philly. When on the road, we listen to a book: right now, it’s Subversive: Christ, Culture, and the Shocking Dorothy L. Sayers by Crystal Downing.
Dinner for our anniversary! We just celebrated 43 years. If you can remember when Mount St. Helen’s erupted, that was the weekend we got married.
Editing a Bible translation. This is my second major “hat”. You can read here about the SUN version for deaf non-readers. [SUN New Testament will allow millions worldwide to read the Bible – Metro Voice News] I was asked to do the final edit of the entire Old Testament – all 925 chapters – before it is published; working part-time, it took me about two years. I just finished Job. When I finish 2 Chronicles and the OT will be finished! As I work today, Yo-Yo Ma is playing a cello adaptation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
April 2023 Newsletter
Update from Karen Shogren and
Levanta La Voz ministry
As you know, I am a missionary with WorldVenture and the Bible Fellowship Board of Missions. Several years ago, I founded Levanta La Voz (the Spanish phrase for “Raise Your Voice”, taken from Proverbs 31:8-9), an international ministry dedicated to training faith communities to prevent and respond to sexual harm, both as individuals and as organizations.
You are getting this email because you have helped me with this project, expressed interest in staying updated, or I thought you might want to hear more about the work I am doing. I plan to send out regular email newsletters from Levanta La Voz, so if you do not want to continue receiving them, please let me know and I’ll take you off the list.
I want you to know about two upcoming trainings so that you can participate and help me spread the word. That is an easy way you can raise your own voice in the fight against sexual harm.
February 2023 Newsletter
OUR TRIP TO COSTA RICA! ON VIDEO!
We returned to Costa Rica for the first time since we relocated in November 2021. It was to celebrate ESEPA Seminary’s 40th anniversary. This included Karen speaking twice; and all the former presidents spoke over the course of the week – Gary gave a speech on the theme “The Christian Leader and Lifelong Learning” (click HERE to read it). Then Gary marched with graduation on Friday night. Plus, lots of time with old friends! And very specially – much time with Rosie and of course Sammy. Yes, that’s Sammy in the picture. 15 years old and he is now taller than Gary! They are thriving in western Costa Rica, where Sammy is in high school and also studying art.
Care to see some pictures and videos of our trip? Click HERE and see a collage.
OUR FINANCIAL STATUS
Thanks so much for your regular support and prayer for our work!
Due to inflation, etc., etc., we have about a $1000/month shortfall in our pledged giving. We encourage our friends to be regular backers of our work. You can call WorldVenture at (720) 283-2000 or simply click HERE. Each new regular donor will get one of Gary’s books in the mail, either his book Iceberg Ahead: when God’s workers collide with cold, hard reality as a pdf file, or his 1 Corinthians or 1-2 Thessalonians commentary in hard copy. IF YOU HAVE BECOME A NEW DONOR IN NOVEMBER THROUGH TODAY, CONTACT GARY at email@example.com and your gift will be on the way. Many thanks!
- Gary is working away on the SUN Old Testament. Please pray that he finishes – he is about 75% done and later will move on to a second edition of the New Testament. Learn all about it HERE.
- Pray that our support level comes up to 100%
- Pray for Karen’s program… especially that God would provide enough students so that we can offer it at ESEPA. If you know of anyone who might be interested in a 9-month training program for church leaders in Spanish, please share this link with them:
- We will see our friends at Perryville Bible Church, Rhode Island, Sunday Feb 12
Our calendar is flexible for the much of 2023 – we would love to visit our churches, particularly those we haven’t seen in a while. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org
OCTOBER 2022 NEWSLETTER
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 email@example.com. 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
Filed under Bible, Costa Rica, ESEPA, Gary Shogren, Karen Shogren, Missions, MYTHS, New Testament, seminario, Sexual abuse, WorldVenture
August 2022 Newsletter
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.
June 2022 Newsletter
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!
Filed under Bible, Costa Rica, ESEPA, Gary Shogren, Karen Shogren, Missions
Extra, extra February newsletter!
Filed under Bible, Costa Rica, ESEPA, Gary Shogren, Karen Shogren, Missions, WorldVenture
FEBRUARY 2022 NEWSLETTER
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.
Filed under Bible, Costa Rica, ESEPA, Gary Shogren, Karen Shogren