Tag Archives: Church

June 2020 Newsletter

Karen shares this month:

To see Karen’s online class, search out “Training Churches to Speak Up” on YouTube. 

I love the old doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all creatures here below, praise him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.” Every time I hear it I have beautiful memories of singing it in church as a child accompanied by organ and piano, 50 of us singing it in 4-part harmony before meals while on Chorale tour in college, and singing it a cappella with Grace Bible Fellowship Church short term missions team up in the mountains as the fog cleared to uncover the beautiful Central Valley of Costa Rica as the city lights came on at dusk.

Lately the song has been repeating itself in my mind as I watch God work around me here in San José. After years of work and preparation, in February I began teaching my new course The Church Confronting Sexual Violence. We had 17 adults in our first English cohort, a mix of US missionaries and Costa Ricans, and met here in our home. Just about the time I started to get the hang of everything, exactly half-way through the 8-week course, quarantine changed everybody’s world. Within a couple of weeks, we had figured out Plan B: we were back at it, studying together via live video conference. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

Even while we were finishing up those last 4 weeks, it dawned on me that switching to an online format had truly opened up new possibilities. There were fellow missionaries around the world who wanted to take the course, plus some workers in the US, and some of them had extra free time while they were waiting for quarantine to lift. We opened cohort #2 to start immediately after the first one and have now gotten through the first 5 weeks. Taking the course are adults who work in Russia, Spain, Mozambique, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the USA. “Praise him all creatures here below!”

One of my students shared with us recently about her experience in Honduras. She is fairly new there, so asked someone whether their large church had any type of child safety policy. The question got to the pastor, who replied that they did not have one, and was so troubled by it that he couldn’t sleep. The next morning, he got in touch with their denomination’s leaders to ask if any of their churches had such a policy. They did not, and the denomination’s leaders were so convicted about it that they asked us to please help ALL of them set up a child safety policy as soon as possible! I am still stunned and in awe of how God is clearly moving in the hearts of church leaders here in Central America! “Praise him above ye heavenly host!”

Needless to say, I am already making connections with people who can help translate everything so we can train those church leaders, plus anyone else who will listen! And now while I work, that familiar song of praise is in my heart, tying the old to the new, and my strength is renewed with gratitude that God has finally let me see the first true fruit of years of hard work and uncertainty! “Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!”

ANNIVERSARY! We praise God too as we celebrate a personal milestone: our 40th wedding anniversary! We were having trouble deciding how to celebrate in quarantine, so our dear missionary friends Nancy and Paul Mauger treated us to a delicious breakfast!

Many blessings this month! Gary and Karen

anniversary breakfast 2020

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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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The Parable of the Little Toe

Once upon a time there was a church, a body of Christ.

On the platform stood various members. One man led the worship and read a Psalm aloud. A woman was the main singer; she too held a microphone. Two other women and a man were backup singers. There was a guitarist who played the chords; a drummer who provided the rhythm; a man with a trumpet, another with a bass guitar. Each member of one body, each one with his or her special contribution.

But what is this? What’s the hold-up? The worship leader asks that the church sing louder, with more joy and enthusiasm, but the people don’t follow his lead. Are they, as he suggests none too subtly, unspiritual? Well, it’s not their fault: they’d like to sing with more energy, but something is holding them back. They don’t know the words of this song, and the screen is blank!

Because up in a little control-room in back of the church, there’s a member of the body who handles the technology: the projector and the PowerPoint in order to show the lyrics. But he seems to be dreaming and his attention is wandering. He answers his phone, he chats with his girlfriend, he sends a text, he updates his Facebook.

The people want to sing with all their might, but without this one member, the hymn doesn’t fly.

“Just look,” he complains, instead of doing his job. “I can’t sing like her, I can’t play an instrument like they do. No wonder I skip rehearsal, since my part in the ‘show’ hardly matters. I’m not important, my part in this is tiny. In the body of the Lord, I’m just a little toe!”

Now you see the point of my little story: Everybody has their gift, whether they’re an elbow, a hand or an ear. And if one member doesn’t work, the body doesn’t function; when one little toe is missing in action, the whole body ceases to worship.

All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be…On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. 1 Cor 12:11-12, 15-19, 22

“The Parable of the Little Toe” was  originally written in Spanish for a Latin American context and is here presented in English. By Gary Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica. For more essays, visit Gary’s blog at justinofnablus.com

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