Tag Archives: missionary

Prayer requests for October 2015

  • 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%

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Filed under Bible, Costa Rica, ESEPA, Gary Shogren, Karen Shogren, Missions, New Testament, seminario, WorldVenture

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.


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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We follow Gary around for a day…

What’s it like to teach at ESEPA, in San José, Costa Rica? Let’s drop in on a Tuesday. It’s my busiest day, since I have one class in the morning, then another in the evening. There are “office hours” in between, where I work with the staff or talk with students.

All teaching and meetings are in Spanish, so I have to push myself physically and mentally. I leave home at 7am. Part of my routine is a morning walk, so the 40 minutes between home and ESEPA accomplishes several things: my exercise for Tuesday; getting the heart and lungs and brain moving; and it’s my time to pray. I pray for all the things that Christians pray for, and especially for my morning class. Today I’ll teach the Epistle to the Hebrews for three hours. See here for a quick video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nLSvFtfVKc&feature=youtube_gdata

I get a coffee and enter the classroom with cheerful greetings and then with an “¡Ay no!” as I break out the quiz. Hebrews is a new course for me. We use F. F. Bruce’s sturdy commentary as our text. This coming week we will study chapter 3, where the author uses Psalm 95 to warn against apostasy. We’ll work as one group. Then they will break into small groups to discuss some aspects of sin in the Old Covenant and how it applies to Christians. In this class they also have to do a Field Project: one man, for example, will visit the local synagogue to interview the rabbi about Jewish worship in the 21st century.

In the middle of Hebrews we gather together for 15 minutes, for a short Bible study and prayer led by a professor or one of the students. The students pray for issues that all of us face, but in this country that might include violent crime, poverty and serious family problems.

Then we go for our coffee break in ESEPA’s “soda”, which is the word for a lunch counter. The manager Dámaris whips up plenty of coffee, plus gallo pinto (rice and beans) and fried eggs, tortillas and cheese and meat turnovers.

Ah, have I mentioned coffee? Costa Rican beans are world-class, and they brew it up strong! It’s not as powerful as Turkish or Cuban coffee, but it comes out quite black. It’s the other thing besides exercise that keeps my blood moving during a long day. Two cups to get me going during Hebrews, another couple before my late class and then another one half-way through the evening.

After the break, it’s another hour or so of Hebrews.

Throughout the day, the principal enemy is fatigue. I don’t want my students to have a drowsy professor. We had a history teacher in high school; if his former students remember anything about him, it was his unfortunate nickname “Sleepy Pete”. For a person working in another language, there is a much worse problem: with fatigue it is more and more doubtful that I’ll be able to speak in proper Spanish. I prayed in the morning specifically about this, and pray during the day too. Usually if I’ve gotten to bed properly the night before, aided with lots of coffee and physical motion and prayer, three hours in the morning and I come out still speaking español.

Teaching in a second language is like running in knee-deep mud.

It’s Round Two where I’ll face the bigger challenger: my evening class. I eat a light lunch and delay supper until I get home; I can’t afford to fill up and get dopey. In the afternoon I might take another walk to try to perk up, or if it’s possible, squeeze in a nap somewhere.

When you teach at ESEPA in the afternoon or evening during rainy season, you have to be ready for an electrical storm and a power outage. Sure, PowerPoint is great, but you might end up teaching by flashlight, so always have a Plan B! On top of that, earthquakes happen every day, usually tremors you can’t feel, but every so often there is one that will get a shriek from the ladies in class.

Gary near the Soda at ESEPA

Tuesday evenings we up the ante, going from bilingual to trilingual. Direct your attention to the center ring, where Gary, an English-speaker, will teach Greek, in Spanish, without a net. I’ve been assigned to Greek I for the first time and have a record ten students in my group. The difficulty here is not just the Spanish. It’s that, to leap from Spanish to Greek one takes a different mental route than when one goes from English to Greek. I have to keep a short list of words that might trip me up: desinencia was one last week, a word I knew (it means “word ending”); but the first time out I mispronounced it. It came out sounding like the Spanish for “dysentery.”

Anyway, it’s closing in on 5pm and time to get ready. Again, much coffee, much splashing of cold water in the face and I enter the class with a cheery “kalespera!” (Greek for “good evening!”). They take their quiz. They ask Don Gary (yes, just like in that movie) or “Profe” (PROH-fay) questions about the homework. Then it’s on to: Tonight we study the genitive and dative cases of the Greek substantive. Two hours, then it’s time for devotions, given by one of the students. Over to Dámaris’ once again for coffee (for me) and food (for them), and back for another hour or so.

Fours hours of Greek: my students have had a long day at work and a commute, and it’s beginning to show. Every once in a while I’ll tell a joke or show them something so they can Amuse and amaze your amigos! I don’t just ask if they understand today’s lesson; I also ask, “How are you feeling? Are we holding it together here?” During the week I’ll also send them an email to encourage them.

We wind up at 9pm. One of the students happens to be going in my direction, so he drops me off at home; it would be dangerous for me to walk to the bus stop this late in the evening. At this point it’s hard to speak English. And, what’s this wonderful thing? Karen has left out a nice supper for me: homemade buffalo chicken sandwiches.

“Gracias, Señor Jesús. This is what I’ve always wanted to do, and by your grace, here I am doing it.” Now let’s eat something, finally, and watch the news before dropping into bed.


Filed under Bible, Costa Rica, ESEPA, Gary Shogren, Karen Shogren, Missions, New Testament, seminario, WorldVenture