Category Archives: Missions
It’s my turn to share! (Gary)
Hats versus Hats
Missionary professors wear many hats. Here are two of mine.
A typical Thursday Night – for 4 hours it’s my class in Advanced Hermeneutics. It’s one of the more strenuous courses at ESEPA, with six of our top students in the master’s program. We talk at length about how best to interpret the Bible and wrestle through issues of semantics, context, contextualization, etc., etc. The students are expected to be self-starters: so student Nani spoke for an hour on how the doctrine of inspiration affects our Bible reading, just for a start. Then Esteban spoke for a while, comparing how the ancient church fathers Clement of Alexandria and John Chrysostom interpreted the Word. They led the discussion for a while, then I jumped in with some teaching on how we need to depend on the Spirit in Bible study: exegesis, linguistics, theologizing, applying the text.
Exhausted yet? Yeah, well, just wait 24 hours!
A typical Friday Night – We go over to see Heather, another American missionary. Her garage is a magnet for kids from the barrio. And while she leads a Bible study for adults, I work with between 5-7 kids, including our Sammy. These are “kinesthetic” learners, which is Greek for lots of noise, motion, running around, games, me shouting: “Ready! Last chance for the bathroom! Line up! Attention! Shout your name!” We are going through the miracles of Jesus, so we are hearing about how he resurrected the son of the widow of Nain, just as they were carrying his body out of the city (Luke 7). I had unhooked and taken over our garden hammock. As a graphic part of the story, the boys took turns hauling the “dead man” around in it; then to top it off I gave them wild rides, spinning each boy airborne in a circle. Then games. And just when the garage seems about to burst, Heather pops in with cookies, along with an ice-cold Diet Coke for the overheated “Grandpa.” She spells me while I go and visit with the adults for a few minutes.
One of my professors, years ago, would teach complex academics during the day, but then every week head out to lead a group of boys at his church. I’ve never forgotten it. The boys’ group is my main ministry in our church and a way I teach the gospel in Costa Rica.
Yes, missionary professors have to avoid distractions; they have to make sure they do the main thing; and they have to do the main thing most of the time. But in the work of the gospel, they will probably wear several hats.
Many blessings! Gary and Karen
Being a Missionary in Costa Rica
Proverbs 8:13 says that “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” Being a missionary doesn’t mean just moving from one place to another, or even learning a new language. It also means listening and learning how people think and express themselves, and then responding with God’s Word. Our work helping the process of Bible translation with Wycliffe Associates teaches us the same thing, that communicating the gospel in another culture is not a simple process.
What’s it like to live in Costa Rica?
- If you are a Costa Rican, you call yourself a Tico (men) or Tica (women).
- For breakfast you probably had “gallo pinto” – black beans with rice – maybe with eggs or “farmer’s cheese.”
- In the morning, you ask your friends “How did the day dawn for you?”
- When you leave, you say Ciao (like “chow”).
- When you sing Happy Birthday, it’s the same song sung in Spanish, but after each line you sing “cha-cha-cha.”
- When someone asks how you are, you say “I’m well, thanks to God.”
- If you see it’s drizzling outside, you say “It’s doing cat fur”!
- If someone tries to “kid” you, he is not pulling your leg, but “pulling your hair.”
- Your wife is not your “better half,” but “my half-orange.”
- I had a wisdom tooth extracted last week – I learned that in Spanish, it’s a “molar of good judgment.” You leave it, not for the Tooth Fairy, but for “Tooth Mousie Perez.”
- If truckers or bus drivers are going slow and clogging the highway as a protest, in English it’s a “slowdown.” In Costa Rica it’s a tortuguismo, from the word for turtle. They are “turtling.”
- The day of the Virgin Mary is August 2; Mother’s Day is August 15.
- Drop by the Chinese restaurant and you can order an eggroll, or as it’s called, a Chinese Taco.
- If you think an issue is clear-cut, it’s not black-and-white, but white-and-black.
- Fall out of an airplane? Hope you have your paracaidas on! (literally a “fall stopper”)
- In Costa Rica, the answer to just about any question (How are you? What’s up? How’s the family?) is Pura Vida, literally “Pure Life.” It means something like, “Life is good!”
- And finally – a Costa Rican holiday is the Anexación del Partido de Nicoya, on July 25. This celebrates the adding of part of our country to Costa Rica, and is celebrated with country dancing. Click HERE to see a video!
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
Ben and Stephanie would like to announce the birth of a healthy baby boy
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.
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 –
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.
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.
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
This 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!
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.
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
- 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%
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.
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!
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!
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