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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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2012 for Karen

In the last newsletter I went into detail on this year’s ministry highlights for me.  So instead of a repetitive repeat, this is what I have to say at the end of 2012:

Thank you, thank you, thank you!  My heart is overflowing with thanks these days!  There are so many people to thank regarding so many blessings in our lives!  This is by no means a complete list or in any kind of order, it’s just my best attempt at conveying our gratitude to God (and you) for what He’s done all around us in the last 12 months.

  • Thank you everyone who has taken the time to read our newsletter, pray for us, call or email  us, visit with us, and host us!
  • Thank you everyone who has supported us financially and therefore made every other one of these thank-you’s possible! Continue reading

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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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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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