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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
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
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.
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
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)
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.