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April 2021 Newsletter

Thanks to all our supporters!

We are so grateful for you! Every day we are reminded that we could not do this on our own. Your faithful prayers and encouragement and financial support allow us to give our all to the work God has set before us. Missionaries we know have lost a lot of financial support over the past year, but ours has held firm.

This month, Karen shares: I am still amazed how much our ministries have exploded in the last year! Since many organizations are more comfortable with online communication our ability to spread the Gospel and train leaders worldwide is multiplied. For instance, tonight Gary is being interviewed by an organization in Australia, pertaining to his new commentary; his audience crossed 17 time zones. This morning I helped plan the roll-out of WorldVenture’s new child protection policy with coworkers in Spain, Montana, and North Carolina, then Gary and I met with our regional director who lives in Oregon. Tomorrow morning, I will be teaching people from Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Los Angeles (California), Bolivia, and Costa Rica. Next week we will start orienting all WorldVenture missionaries and I will be leading groups worldwide. Without having to travel, we can accomplish more with less effort.

I have just finished teaching the first 2 courses of our new certificate program at ESEPA, training church leaders how to prevent and respond to sexual abuse. It’s been a fascinating opportunity to create something new that is so badly needed in our world today.

Recently I was blessed when Marcela López offered to make me a logo for the ministry.  Our name, Levanta La Voz, means “Raise Your Voice”, taken from Proverbs 31:8-9, where we are instructed to raise our voice to help those who cannot speak for themselves. I believe that not only is it a good reminder every time we read the words, but also it is a great conversation-starter.  You’ll notice it has 3 leaves – one for each way Christians can confront sexual violence: make our churches and homes safe places, provide help and healing to those affected by sexual violence, and spread the word out into our communities.  Lastly, we have the universal broadcast symbol as one more reminder that staying quiet on this issue ALWAYS makes things worse.  I pray that you will help us by raising your voice against sexual violence.

If you work with children or teens, have them in your family, or know anyone in your church that does, I highly recommend a movie: Childhood 2.0. It came out a few months ago and is available free on YouTube and various streaming services. It would be instructive to get groups of parents and church leaders together to watch this prayerfully. Once you have seen it and are prepared, it would be a fascinating conversation-starter to watch with your tweens or teens. It is not a Christian movie, per se, but it is a clear portrayal of the challenges children and teens face today. If we do not understand what they are facing, it will be impossible for us to help them grow unto godliness.

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Gary in a conference! If you would like to see what it is like. Feel free to drop in! The action starts to pick up around 26:00 minutes.
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PRAYER:
* Praise! that our support level is healthy despite the pandemic. 
* Praise! Karen successfully launched her new program and taught two of the courses.

Blessings this month!

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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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October 2019 Newsletter – Karen shares!

At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen. (Philippians 4:18-20, NLT)

With just a few small changes his words are still applicable today for the Shogren family: “We too have all we need – and more! We have been generously supplied with the gifts many of you have sent online or through the mail. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of us will supply all YOUR needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now ALL GLORY TO GOD our Father forever and ever!”

Every day there are unlimited reminders of your generous faithfulness: every time we go food shopping or pay our electric bill, it is a testament to God’s faithfulness through you. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts! Without you we would not be able to focus on our ministries in Costa Rica and elsewhere, training church leaders and missionaries through teaching, mentoring, and writing.

Now there is a new reminder of God’s generous provision at our house – in the garage! Thank you, Rose family, for your over-the-top generous gift of a 2011 Nissan Murano with only 43,000 miles logged on it!

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Who are Gary and Karen Shogren?

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.

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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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August Update!

Since January our support level has risen from 59% to around 82%, and unofficially we might be in the upper 80s%. This is very good progress, and God has been very kind, blessing us with a generous team.

Our goal is to be in San José for Thanksgiving Dinner. Why? Because two new missionary families are just now moving to Costa Rica for the first time; look up the Mihalkos and the Footes on http://www.worldventure.com. We have been walking step by step with them as they decided that God was calling them to be missionaries. We want the Shogrens, Mihalkos and Footes to meet around the turkey in November.

To accomplish our goal, we still need to raise hundreds of dollars a month.
We would be happy to visit your church, or even your family or your small group; just leave a COMMENT below; we are very low pressure and won’t twist your arm!

Karen says: I’m having my other hip replaced on Aug 12 at Physicians Care Surgical Hospital in Royersford. In 6 weeks it just may be the first time in many years that I can walk normally! We have reactivated our CaringBridge page HERE.

Gary says: I’m probably on my way to a certain island nation for some weeks; if anyone wants more details, they can email me. Please pray that I get a visa and that I will be up to a demanding schedule while there.

And young Sammy says by Skype, Grandpa, ¿cuándo regresará? When will you be back? By God´s grace, we hope within a few months.

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How has our ministry expanded?

Gary has a new role, helping prepare a generation of Bible professors in a certain nation (you have to come hear us to get the details). He is now mentoring masters degree students through their final projects, a 75-page thesis in which they apply the Bible to their local needs. He also is in charge of making sure they get library material they need to do scholarly research.

Karen will be working more closely with our denomination, the Bible Fellowship Church. The BFC has a special department for caring for its missionaries and their families. Karen will help to prepare their missionary kids (MKs) for life overseas.

Still needed for us to return to the field: 78 people to commit to give $50/month

In the car Sundays, between ministry presentations, the talk naturally turns to ministry and fundraising. Presenting our ministry is a joy we wouldn’t want to miss:
1. We get to meet new and interesting people (this week at two new churches for us, Redeemer BFC in the morning and Franconia Reformed Baptist at night).
2. We “happen” to run into and catch up with old friends with whom we’d lost touch.
3. We get to encourage young people that serving God is always worth the sacrifice.
4. We stay focused. There are so many things we COULD be doing, that we have to work through, what  we SHOULD be doing. As we put into words why we do what we do, it puts the spotlight on our priorities.
5. We enjoy traveling, since we can spend some time together as a couple. Since we were newlyweds, we’ve analyzed everything from “How was my sermon/bible study/presentation?” to future ministry strategies. It helps us stay united in direction.

Please pray: Do you have Christian friends who might be interested to hear about our ministries and our financial needs? We’re still free  weekdays in April.

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Why we are in Pennsylvania, 2013

We are back in Pennsylvania for the next few months. In December, Karen had successful surgery to replace an arthritic hip.

We will also need to raise our level of missionary support – a number of our donors have finished supporting us, the cost of living has gone up, and we find ourselves some thousands of dollars short every month; more on this to come!

We hope to see our friends in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and New England over the next months. We would also like to make some new friends who want to invest in the church of Latin America.

We also invite you to follow this blog, by adding your name at SIGN ME UP! on this page.

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What does Spanish matter?

A cabinetmaker needs a professional router.
A programmer needs plenty of RAM.
A chef needs a serious mixer.
A missionary teacher needs a second language. For the missionary, language is the principal tool for doing ministry.

What are we trying to communicate when we use Spanish?

  • that we are here for the long term.
  • that we were serious about working in their culture.
  • that we want to speak about God in their “lengua del corazón” (language of the heart).

In Costa Rica, the central social event is to sit and enjoy a “cafecito” (a bit of coffee) with friends. Continue reading

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