Author Archives: Gary Shogren

About Gary Shogren

I am a professor of New Testament from the US, working in Costa Rica as a teacher at ESEPA Bible College and Seminary. Soy profesor de Nuevo Testamento, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica (http://esepa.org)

June 2016 Newsletter!

Let’s study the Evangelio de Marcos (Gospel of Mark)!

One of Gary’s courses this term is a study of Mark. Every Wednesday morning at 8am, they spend three hours on this wonderful book.

One big focus is “Who is Jesus Christ?” From the very first verse (“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”) to the account of his death (the centurion: “Surely this was the Son of God!”) the students trace how Jesus is God’s unique Son, who rocks the world by healing the sick, telling demons what to do, and even – gasp! – taking it on himself to forgive the sins they had committed against God. Besides doing their own analysis of Mark’s “christology,” the students have two other projects: talking to a youth group about the person of Jesus, and talking to a non-Christian about who Jesus claimed to be. This class is heavy on studying, but also doing and telling.

In the gospels, Jesus is Continue reading

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Special report – arrival of our first grandchild!

Ben and Stephanie would like to announce the birth of a healthy baby boy

Alastair James Lewis Shogren
Karen and baby Alastair

Karen and baby Alastair

born on March 3!

Grandpa and Grandma are over the moon with joy; Karen was there to welcome him, and we will both visit again next month.

Thanks for your prayers for the pregnancy, both Steph and Alastair came through it fine.

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February 2016 Newsletter

From Karen: January 15 – Gary was there when they finished the Bible!

[Note: When we teach ESEPA students how to study the Bible using the Inductive Method, one of the most important principles we must communicate is that in order to understand a sentence correctly, it must be read IN CONTEXT. I hope now you see why that is important; the title of this article could signify a lot of different things, depending on the context. Continue reading to find the context you need to know in order to understand what that title means!]

Last year Gary connected with Wycliffe Associates, who invited him to be part of a unique project: writing a guide for how to translate the whole Bible, verse by verse. The final goal would be to translate that instruction manual into 50 trade languages of the world (French, Hindi, Russian, Cantonese, etc.) and freely distribute it worldwide, along with open source Bible translations . Then, members of many new people groups will immediately be able to start translating the Bible into new tongues and dialects. This would truly jump-start spreading the gospel! (Read the story here – https://unfoldingword.org/)

Gary has enjoyed the project immensely, and it has been a great fit for his gifts and skills. It has also been an excellent opportunity for him to put a new layer on his biblical language abilities: learning to think from the perspective of a non-English Bible reader. He has worked on these Translation Notes for Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Revelation, Deuteronomy, Lamentations, 1 Chronicles. Here is a page he worked on for Rev 13:3-4 –

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Hundreds of people and dozens of committees were working toward a January 15 deadline. After some work on 1 Chronicles, Gary thought he had completed his part. Until the unexpected email on Jan 14, asking if he could finish the very end of Ecclesiastes by the next day! Fortunately, he was able to put aside other work and dedicate himself to this last job. When he pushed the send button late that night, he was submitting the draft of the last Translation Notes for the entire Bible, which now go on to another level of experts. But on this level at least, he was the one who “finished the Bible” for this project!

Late-breaking news – Gary has just been recruited to work on the next level, so it looks like he will be working with Wycliffe Associates in 2016.

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Prayer requests for 2016

  • For Ben and Steph Shogren, who are expecting their first baby in March! Steph suffers from acute diabetes and the pregnancy is high risk
  • For Sammy, as he begins 2nd grade on Feb 8
  • For Karen: next week she begins taking classes in counseling; and for her health (sciatic nerve)
  • That God will bring us up to 100% support level

Financial needs for 2016

Our support level now stands around 89%.

Thanks so much to everyone who gave a one-time gift over the last two months, you were very generous and it helped us to close the year well.

You can give us a one-time gift or become a partner through our mission’s website HERE.

Many blessings to you! Gary and Karen Shogren

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Christmas and Year-End Summary, 2015

Picture1Gary

Gary served as Academic Dean for the last two years, managing the teaching faculty of ESEPA. His term has just come to an end; from now on he can concentrate more on teaching and writing. This gives him the chance to enjoy his new home office – his “Tower”, hidden away on the 3rd floor of the new house.

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His new project in ESEPA is a master’s degree that he has been dreaming about: Masters in Pastoral Leadership. This will be our first degree aimed specifically at the person who is already an experienced pastor or church leader.

This year Gary was also working with Wycliffe Associates on an exciting project, helping write a new Bible translation manual. When finished, this will be translated into all 50 trade languages, and freely distributed in order to speed up Bible translation into new languages. It’s been a great opportunity to use his Greek and Hebrew training, as well as learn some new technical translation skills. He also served as interim pastor for an English-language congregation over the summer.

His two theology blogs now get about 15,000 hits a month. He has written particularly about the phenomenon of people setting dates for 2015 or 2016 for the Second Coming. See: http://www.openoureyeslord.com

Karen

Picture4This year has included some more “firsts” for Karen. Her teaching load at ESEPA has expanded to include 4 different sections of 3 courses, which is about 50 students per course. Definitely a record! This is also the first year she has traveled to teach in church satellite campuses. Since Sammy is just finishing first grade, it has been interesting to learn how to be a parent in the Costa Rican public education system!

Fortunately there were some familiar things: she taught the teen missionary kids again at the annual Honduras retreat, and enjoyed a blast from the past as interim pastor’s wife for several months.

There were big events too. We moved into a beautiful new rental house which was just built for entertaining. Karen suspects God has special plans ahead in that area! (Extra thanks go to Cel & Andy, who chose to spend a romantic Valentine’s Day in sunny Costa Rica moving heavy stuff and cleaning bathrooms!) In May it was wonderful to celebrate Vikky’s graduation from Arcadia University. She is now enjoying her first year in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Arcadia. The year’s last big event is still on the way: Ben and Stephanie are expecting our first grandson’s arrival in early March!

Sammy

Our godson Sammy is growing in every way! First grade has been a huge success, thanks to God’s provision of a wise and caring teacher. Sammy loves learning new things, so we give him every possible opportunity to do so! Drawing is still his favorite hobby, but he has enjoyed a year of pottery lessons and Boy Scouts too.

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Thank you so much for your faithful support!

Your financial help continues to free us up to teach seminary students and missionary kids. We are honored to serve God on your behalf!

Looking Ahead – Prayer requests for 2016

  • That Stephanie’s Type 1 Diabetes will stabilize during the rest of her pregnancy
  • For a safe delivery for mom and baby
  • That Karen’s arthritis will improve
  • That God will give us wisdom as we confront new challenges
  • That God will clearly guide our path
  • That God will supply our current month’s shortfall of $1500/month quickly without having to return for an early home assignment

Merry Christmas to all! Gary and Karen

 

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Prayer requests for October 2015

  • For Ben and Steph Shogren, who are expecting their first baby! Steph suffers from acute diabetes and the pregnancy is high risk
  • For Cuba! Both Karen and Gary have been invited to teach, and we need to squeeze the trip into a very busy schedule
  • For Gary, as he works on his 1 Corinthians project for Wycliffe, and also on Revelation this week in Orlando
  • For Karen, as she has many classes to prepare; and for Karen and her team as they give a conference in Honduras in October, for Missionary Kids
  • That God will bring us up to 100% support level. We are currently at about 89%

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October Newsletter – A Video Report from Gary!

This week is a busy one for me – I spoke twice at a Christian school Wednesday; then this weekend I have a two-part conference on the same theme: “Can We Trust the New Testament? or Have they changed it throughout the years?” I am showing pictures of New Testament manuscripts and arguing that the text of the New Testament has been marvelously preserved. Here I am testing my material to middle school students.

Gary teaching at Middle School - VIDEO

Gary teaching at Middle School – VIDEO

And here is my Tuesday night class on the General Epistles. These are my advanced Master’s degree students, and they have already taken two years of Greek, usually more. They also happen to be terrific Christian people. In this class, we study the Greek text of Hebrews-Jude, and we also learn how to decipher ancient manuscripts. Let’s begin with Nani, who was assigned two pages of handwritten Greek. Click the manuscript!

General Epistles class - Nani shares

General Epistles class; Nani shares- VIDEO

And here I am, helping to draw some conclusions: it was a text that dealt with skin diseases (!); it was in Greek; it was written on papyrus; and it used a set of symbols that Christian copyists used but Jewish ones did not. Click on it!

General Epistles class - Gary sums up what we know about this manuscript

General Epistles class; Gary sums up what we know about this manuscript – VIDEO

Our conclusion? They were two pages from Leviticus in the Greek version (called the Septuagint), and they had been hand-copied by a Christian in the very early church. (At the beginning of the video clip, by the way, I am pointing here and there and using the word “tape”, which is the same in Spanish as in English – I was complaining that someone had used Scotch tape to hold the pieces together!).

Now why, you may be asking, was it necessary to put hours of time into deciphering and translating this and two other ancient documents?

It’s because the students on the Master’s level are preparing to be teachers, writers, thinkers, conference speakers. And it happens that the Enemy is attacking the authority of the New Testament from several directions: Self-proclaimed scholars make their own new “versions”. University students hear that the Bible has been changed beyond recognition across the centuries. Many question whether the New Testament has authority over our personal ethics.

Latin America needs all sorts of leaders – including those few individuals who have the intellectual depth to explain the New Testament on a technical level. These students will have an impact on how the church proclaims the New Testament over many decades.

Blessings, Gary and Karen

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Gary’s new (very part-time) ministry – June 2015 Newsletter

What if you had to learn, let’s say, Romanian if you wanted to read the Bible?

Gary says: I have long admired the work of Bible translators, as they do the hard work of taking the Scriptures to the 1.3 billion who do not have the whole Word of God in their own – not in someone else’s – language.

I have just been offered a chance to lend a hand to this process (visit https://unfoldingword.org/). I am now working some hours a week to write a handbook that will help translators around the world. It’s called Door 43, named after Colossians 4:3 – “pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word” (Now, wasn’t that easier than read it in Romanian? “Rugaţi-vă totodată şi pentru noi, ca Dumnezeu să ne deschidă o uşă pentru Cuvânt”).

This handbook will then be translated into 50 languages that are used all around the world. And from those 50 “Portal Languages” (e.g., English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, etc.) it will be possible to translate the Bible into every single language and dialect in the world. In theory, 100% coverage.

To give an example, we know that in Mexico people speak Spanish, right? But did you know that the government recognizes 68 other indigenous languages? That means that plenty of people cannot hear or read the Bible in their first language, and the Bible forever remains a “foreign” book.

So what will happen is this: Christian leaders in Mexico who speak both languages will use an app on their tablets, and bit by bit translate the Bible from Spanish into their own local dialect.

It is amazing that in the 21st century, people in remote areas, without electricity or telephones can start translating the Bibles into their own languages, using kits that donors have supplied (click here).

Wycliffe Associates just tried an experiment: they set up 13 native speakers in a remote area of Asia – and working in 12-hour shifts, they were able to translate half the New Testament in just a month.

We have nine people on our committee, and we are working on Acts. Our task is to go carefully over the text, and to write Translation Notes that will help people in the field to render the Bible accurately. For example, in Acts 16:31, Paul says “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, and your house.” We have a note about the word “house” – we remind translators that it doesn’t mean the physical building where people live, but rather the people who lived with the Philippian jailor – his extended family, workers, and servants. Now no-one will make the mistake of having the Bible say that “your hut can be born-again”!

Here are two notes that I wrote for Acts 20:7 – On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul spoke to the believers. He was planning to leave the next days, so he kept speaking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we had come together.

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This project will run for 3-5 years, and has the potential of reaching every language on earth, and within a much abbreviated period of time. In fact, they will be flying me to their center in Orlando on June 20, where I will work with a team to write the Romans material in just a week.

Everything we do as missionaries to Costa Rica is aimed toward one goal: “Y este evangelio del reino se predicará en todo el mundo como testimonio a todas las naciones, y entonces vendrá el fin.” – Oops! That’s the Spanish of Matthew 24:14. Better say it in English! “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Please pray for this new open door! Blessings this month, Gary and Karen

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April 2015 Newsletter

On Friday, our community San Francisco de Dos Ríos celebrated its annual Passion Play. To my surprise, while “Jesus” hung on the cross (tied in this version, not nailed; see picture below) a literal earthquake shook the ground beneath our feet.

Then over the weekend I listened to Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, which reminds us that at Jesus’ death, “the curtain of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And the earth was filled with quaking”. The way to God was opened, and the power of the grave was nullified.

All because of a cross.

The Romans regarded “cross” as one of the worst curse-words in their language. Their darkest obscenity was “I in malam maximam crucem!” which roughly translates to “Go and get really badly crucified!” It was a shocking profanity. Yet this curse of Jesus has become for us the way of salvation.

As Bach went on to write: “Ah, Golgotha, hapless Golgotha! The Lord of Glory must wretchedly perish here; the blessing and salvation of the world is placed on the cross like a curse. From the Creator of heaven and earth, earth and air shall be taken away. The guiltless must die here guilty. That strikes deep into my soul! Ah, Golgotha, hapless Golgotha!”

Take away the cross and we might as well dismiss the preachers; call the missionaries back home; tuck the Bible back on the Ancient Literature section of the library; turn Sunday School into playtime. But no! “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And for those of us who were called to believe in the gospel, “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (see 1 Cor 1).

We can draw a direct line between the cross of Christ and our work in San Francisco de Dos Ríos. May all God’s children enjoy that same clarity!

(I invite you to read my sermon on the shame of the cross at http://openoureyeslord.com)

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Why Are Missionaries So Expensive?

Reach Global has just published a great article that explains line by line missionary costs. Enjoy! Click HERE

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February 2015 – Long-Term Planning at the Shogren Household!

Two months ago our landlord asked us to leave our house so that he can renovate and sell it. We took that as our cue to think about long term plans.

First, we intend to keep teaching at ESEPA here in San José, as well as online. Gary is full-time, and while Karen is part-time, she has been urged to teach as much as possible in ESEPA’s certificate program. Gary also plans to continue teaching intensive courses in Cuba, plus keep up with his writing. As Karen would say, “Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise”, there’s no reason to leave CR until retirement age.

That was the easy part! ESEPA wants us, we want to stay, there’s every reason to stay and none to leave.

Karen: And more than ever we have a great sense of urgency. When we first came to Costa Rica in 1998, our aim was to work our way out of a job. That meant training new professors for ESEPA and preparing leaders for the Church. We’ve worked hard towards that goal, and seen a lot of beautiful fruit along those lines! But there’s still SO MUCH to do! So Gary is now serving as Academic Dean and focusing more and more on preparing our Master’s degree students to be our present and future professors.

Gary says: “A picture is worth a thousand words”: here is our roster of professors from last term. The 15 people circled in red, we have helped to train during our time here at ESEPA. Ten others are Latin Americans from other institutions.

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But Karen asks: Yes, that’s all fine, but where are we going to live? Well, God has stepped in and we have been offered a wonderful house 2 blocks away, for just a little over $200/month more than we pay now! This dear couple is giving us a BARGAIN the likes of which we never would have even dreamed of. Plus it’s completely and beautifully furnished. We are due to move Valentine’s Day weekend. Pictures to follow!
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Prayer requests for 2015

  • That Sammy will be ready to return to school next week
  • That our move will go well – around Feb 15
  • That God will bring us up to 100% support level

Financial needs for 2015
As we noted last month, the rent on our new house will be a few hundred dollars higher than what we are paying now. In addition our health premiums did in December what they always do, rise.

You can give us a one-time gift or become a partner through our mission’s website at www.worldventure.com and search for “Shogrens”.

Many blessings to you! Gary and Karen Shogren, Missionary Professors to Costa Rica and Beyond

Visit us on http://shogrens.com

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