Category Archives: Uncategorized
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.
Christmas 2021 Newsletter
August 2021 Newsletter
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
February 2021 newsletter
Gary checks off an important box!
This month it’s Gary’s turn to share: This week, Editorial CLIE of Barcelona published my commentary on 1 Corinthians, Spanish edition. To give you an idea of what this means to me: I began the project in 2003. We were still fairly fresh to the mission field. All four kids were still living in Costa Rica. After many rewrites and negotiations, it was picked up by the good people at CLIE. Available on Amazon!
Instead of just writing a few words to describe it, we will go high-tech and show you a video of me talking about it! Click HERE.
To pick up a copy in English, it’s available on Logos Bible Software (click HERE) and, at some future date, it will come out on Amazon.
SPAM Warning – some of you might receive our newsletters in your Spam box. Please check that they are “safe” for your Inbox.
Gary again: On Friday night we had graduation. A number of master’s degree students with whom I have worked for years got their degrees – for example, here I am with Ana Rita, Masters in New Testament Exegesis!
* Praise! that our support level is healthy despite the pandemic. And many thanks to Calvary Baptist Church, Riverhead NY, for adopting us as their new missionaries!
* Prayer! Karen will be launching her new year-long Certificate program, Saturday Feb 7. Please pray for this vital work!
Blessings this month! Gary and Karen
2020 Christmas Newsletter
October Newsletter: What’s it like to be a cross-cultural missionary?
I made myself a promise that, just to mix things up, this newsletter would not be about, “So, we are trying to adapt to COVID.”
Gary writes: The following observations come after 22 years on the field. They apply to us: your missionary mileage may differ.
- You are no longer one culture or the other, but a mixture of two. Rather than “home” we sometimes use the language, “What is your passport country?” And here is a book on sale for 99 cents about missionary children, Karen highly recommends it! Move quickly, not sure how long the sale will be on.
- Language is a constant journey. We went to a full year of language school when we started our work. Yet we still learn and look things up, daily. I would guess that my ability to express myself as a professor is only about 60% of my ability to do so in English. Imagine trying to run a race in knee-deep mud. Or perhaps this Ginger Rogers quote is more relevant to Karen’s work, in Spanish as opposed to English: “I did everything Fred Astaire did! But I did it backwards and in high heels!”
- The New Culture. Costa Rica is, in my opinion, one amazing country with a great culture. The people are wonderful – and very forgiving of my accent! But it’s not just a question of learning Spanish words, but local culture. For example, last week we had the Desfile de Faroles, Independence Day with a long parade of kids carrying lanterns, and all in traditional costume. Costa Ricans also greet every person in the room when they enter, and say farewell to each individual when they exist. They make a big deal of “despedidas” (farewell parties) and of course, the “quinceñera” (a formal party for a girl who turns 15, much more important than a Sweet Sixteen).
- Church is different! A two-hour service is considered on the short side. Salsa rhythms predominate in the music. I remember that, one of the first times I was preaching, a truck passed by and tooted its horn. To my surprise, half the congregation ran to the windows for a few minutes, to gaze at what was going on!
- Reverse culture shock (going home) is harder than living in the new culture. The philosopher said, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.” And so, pretend to do this: look at a scene, then close your eyes for 10 months, and open your eyes; close them for a year, open your eyes, etc. It’s like one of those fast-motion films. To us, the US looks different every time we step back in, and so does the US church. A hint: ask your foreign missionaries how the church has changed over the past few years, you may be surprised.
- Living in the region, but outside the US. Living in Central America gives you a vastly different perspective on the US. The US is “that superpower to the north” and often appears on local news; by contrast, Costa Rica rarely appears on US news!
- The internet is a godsend. When we first went on the field, email was still only a few years old, and a phone call to the US was $1/minute. Now it’s free, and Karen talks to our kids almost daily. When I study, I can access many more resources online. And this year we have been giving regular international courses and conferences on Zoom.
- You miss the big things from America! Circumstances are unusual this year, but still: I haven’t seen my mother, siblings, cousins, or our own children, for over a year. Also, we miss our churches, or in fact, any church meeting in English.
- You miss the medium-sized things! Well, my personal “miss” is having a serious theological library nearby; when we are in Pennsylvania, there are two, within a half-hour. This makes any sort of research or writing I do – and it’s a lot – seriously more difficult as it should be. Occasionally I’ll post on Facebook, “Could someone find a copy of this book and take a picture of page 58 for me?”
- You miss the little things! People in Pennsylvania and NJ will understand why, every time we drive somewhere in the US, our first question is “Stop at Wawa?” (It’s a chain of wonderful gas-and-grocery stores, with running fresh coffee). No Wawas in CR!
- We thank God for letting us serve here; hardly a day goes by when I don’t think, “How blessed am I?”
Shogrens’ February 2020 Newsletter
Karen shares this month:
Gary’s commentary on Thessalonians was published in Spanish! And he is happy to be back teaching at ESEPA Seminary in San José, Costa Rica after the holiday break, and working on a new book.
He’s still working with Wycliffe Associates, helping to edit a new Greek-English dictionary for Bible translations. He loves what he does, so it is a double blessing to be able to serve the Lord doing what he enjoys most! (And from the perspective of a proud wife, I, Karen, think he is exceptionally gifted in this area!).
We have had a lot of family adjustments lately, the most recent one is that Sammy (our 12-year-old “foster son”) and his grandmother Rosi have moved out and are living with her sister and extended family about 3 hours away. They have been with us for 13 years, and we all love each other dearly, so it is a terribly difficult adjustment for everyone. But it was clearly God’s will, so we know it is what is best for all 4 of us. So that leaves the two of us alone, true empty-nesters for the first time since Steve was born 34 years ago. All of you who have been faced with an empty nest know what a huge adjustment THAT is on its own, so we are actually adjusting to 2 major changes at once. Not for the faint of heart! We are putting a lot of effort into how to re-arrange the household and divvy up the chores to keep us both free for the work God has given us to do. It has been a huge challenge but also we are finding unexpected fun in it.
I (Karen) am finally ready to start my new program training church leaders how to combat sexual abuse! It is very exciting and overwhelming! The first cohort will begin Feb 13, 1-4pm US Central time, every Thursday for 8 weeks. It will be a pilot program in English for missionaries here in San José, so that we can work out the kinks before translating everything into Spanish, and so that they can help recruit local churches to take the course beginning mid-year. We know that we are heading deep into enemy territory and he won’t take it lying down. The last 2 years working on this have been filled with obstacles, crises, and other types of spiritual warfare. It is obvious that God has been directing this project from the beginning, so we are trusting his timetable and his provision, and it seems as though God has finally cleared the deck to make way for the project to begin!
We are so deeply grateful for your faithful prayers, encouragement, and financial support! We cannot do this without you, and are very proud to serve God here on your behalf. We praise God for his generous provision through you: we received a number of generous year-end gifts in December and January, which pushed us into the black for the end of the year and allowed us to claim some past expenses. THAT gave us cause for much rejoicing, and means we will have the money for upcoming ministry expenses over the next few months. To God be the glory, GREAT things he has done!
PRAISE AND PRAYER
- Protection from spiritual warfare (health, time, distractions, protection)
- That God would send the right people to attend Karen’s pilot program, and use them to provide critical feedback for final adjustments
- That God would provide someone who is willing to translate a lot of material free of charge
- That Karen will have clarity of thought in these last days of writing the course
- If you think of it, please pray during each lesson, that God will give Karen clear mental focus, that God’s compassion and love for the helpless will flow freely, that his Spirit will change our hearts, and prepare us and lead us forward in this ministry
- That Gary and Karen would persevere in pursuit of new and healthy household routines, that we would keep our sense of humor through any rough patches of adjustment, that we would become an even stronger team in God’s service
Filed under Bible, Costa Rica, ESEPA, Gary Shogren, Karen Shogren, Missions, New Testament, seminario, Sexual abuse, Uncategorized, WorldVenture
August 2019 Newsletter
WE LIVE IN 100 HOUSES!
“I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property – along with persecution.” Mark 10:29-30
9pm on a recent summer evening, I (Karen) found myself making an unexpected call to my friend Cel: “Um, so, I’m on a plane which will arrive in Philly in about 4 hours, and, uh, I need a place to sleep tonight. If Nancy picks me up at the airport, can she drop me off at your house so I can sleep on your couch?” The logistics of delayed flights and missing car keys had shattered my original well-laid plan, and I was in the middle of a string of urgent phone calls and texts hoping to come up with a new one before my flight took off. In spite of sounding understandably confused, Cel replied without hesitation: “Of course! But not on the couch, the guest room is empty, so you’ll be up there.”
As I smiled gratefully, the above verses came to mind. I thought back to 21 years ago when I clung to those verses while we were trying to sell our beloved Quakertown farmhouse before moving to Costa Rica. They had comforted me then even though it didn’t make sense. A hundred times as many houses now? In a few weeks I wasn’t even going to own ONE house. But now, many nights in many guest rooms later I could guess that Jesus probably was talking about something we now describe using the phrase “mi casa es su casa” (Spanish for “my house is your house”). I started counting in my head: Cel’s, Steve’s, Karen’s, Sharon’s, Betty’s, Geni’s, Vikky’s… Yes, there probably ARE literally a hundred homes where I know I would be welcomed on short notice and treated like family! Where I already HAVE spent many wonderful nights sharing old memories and making new ones.
I think this is a prime example of how God’s beautiful promises to his children are fulfilled in wonderful ways, going way beyond mere provision: also bringing love and joy and community. Don’t wait for your plans to go awry to take some time to look at your own life and identify the extraordinary ways God has fulfilled his promises to you and your family. Thank him for what he has already done, and trust that he will continue to do more than you can ask or think.
To all the hundreds of you who have housed us and fed us and loved on us over the years, there are no words to adequately express our gratitude. We love to accept your generous hospitality and to return it whenever we can mostly because we love you and love to be with you! And when you have days where you feel as though you are not making a difference in the world, please remember that to us (and surely many others) you have been and continue to be the hands of God. Karen
FAMILY NEWS: Vikky married Chris Pierdomenico on June 29!
Chris and Vikky got married in a beautiful June wedding! Karen and friends handled the details of the wedding and reception, Gary gave away the bride and performed the wedding! We had a large group, that included many old friends, people who flew in from all over, family, including Tim from Albuquerque. All the kids together again!
A super special thank you to friends and family who went WAY out of their way to help prepare, serve, and clean up the wedding celebration: Sharon and Cassie, Juli, Laura & Michael, Joann & Vince, Steph, Tim, Cel and Karen. We could not have done it without your help!