United World Mission
Dear Friends and Family,
I spent the better part of this month in the air and on the road, so we've got lots of exciting things to report. The month started out auspiciously, as I had a delightful one-on-one dinner with the famous biblical scholar NT Wright, and things just continued to improve from there. After kissing Michelle and the boys goodbye, I hopped on a couple of planes that took me to San Jose, Costa Rica. There I attended CLADE V, a brilliant conference that occurs only once a decade, gathering the cream of Latin American evangelicals (theologians, church leaders, heads of mission agencies, leaders of a myriad of Christian charities and NGOs) so that they can collaborate, worship, and cast vision for the next decade of Christianity in Central and South America. It was an utter priviledge and delight to be there, as I was connected to old friends, made numerous new ones, and was thrilled to see the myriad of ways that God's Kingdom is coming in the Latino Church. On the flip side, the time in Costa Rica galvinized my sense of the urgency of our calling, as I felt that the great growth in the Latino Church does not seem to have been accompanied by a similar flourishing of a new generation of top-tier theological leadership (with a couple important exceptions!). So I left my week at CLADE feeling both inspired and convicted.
I flew from Costa Rica to San Francisco, California, and then drove down to the Central Coast of CA, visiting my family and a dear old friend along the way. I arrived on Saturday afternoon in Arroyo Grande, finalized my sermon, and then preached the next day at Grace Bible Church, the community of faith in which I first received a call to Latin American missions (the sermon is available here
; I preached the same message in Spanish the next week at a local congregation called Divino Salvador, but that message was not recorded). It was a beautiful thing to preach amidst the group of people that had been so influential in my own spiritual formation, and I was deeply blessed by the time I spent that week in Arroyo Grande. I reconnected with old friends and mentors, spoke with Grace Bible Church's missions committee about future partnership, raised funds among the same people who once supported me on short term missions, and was prayed for by the same people who prayed for me as a high school student. Absolutely moving.
One of the most lovely things about being back in Arroyo Grande was having old friends remember for
me, having people encourage me with their recollection of God's work in my life. One youth leader reminded me of a time my senior year of high school, after I had preached in a Mexican church, when he had asked me what I wanted to do when I "grew up". I paused, pondered for a moment, and said, "I think I'd like to train hispanic pastors". This moment of insight (better, this moment of divine leading!) came five years before Rene Padilla convinced me that the most important missionary work I could do in Latin America would be training Latino pastors and theologians. Another such blessed recollection came from the parents of a highschool friend, who had asked me (just before my second year at Wheaton) how they could pray for me; I thought a moment, and then asked them to pray that I wouldn't waste time dating, but would be led quickly by God to a wife, so that we could move ahead with our calling to missions in Latin America. Two months later, Michelle and I went on our first date; fourteen months later we were married! I had forgotten both of these moments until my friends reminded me of them, and it has been an enormous blessing for me to see, through their memories, how God has been coordinating his plan for us far in advance of our own awareness.
During my week in Arroyo Grande I drove down to LA, reconnected with other friends from most chapters of my life (highschool, Wheaton, PhD studies), and also made some exciting new connections with missiologists (that is, scholars of missions) at Fuller Theological Seminary. Again I was blessed by those friends, especially those who decided to partner financially with our mission. I was struck by the fact that God has been utterly lavish in his kindness to us; he could well have been far more parsimonious, far more thrifty, in calling and cultivating us, and yet God seems to have delighted in giving us an overwhelming abundance of mentors and friends to love and encourage us. The trip was a tremendous grace.
After 10 days in LA and Arroyo Grande, I made a trip back to Northern CA, and finally returned home to Oxford. The trip was wonderful but long, and I'm so grateful to be safely back home with my family, to enjoy a brief spell of English summer and a month without travels. God be praised for his abundant gifts to us.
Peace be with you all,
Christopher, Michelle, Judah and Asher Hays