FUSBC wins a huge grant to work with people displaced by the armed conflict in Colombia

Dear Friends and Family,

For several months many of you have been praying for us as we at FUSBC developed a major research grant proposal to the Templeton World Charity Foundation. I am thrilled to report that our proposal was indeed approved!

This is a massively important step for FUSBC as a seminary and for us personally. It will take a good deal of time to share about this project adequately, so in the coming months I will be explaining more and more of what the project will entail.

For the past two years, FUSBC has been researching the phenomenon of forced internal displacement in Colombia. For decades, Colombia has been in a state of violent conflict between the government, guerilla armies, paramilitary groups, and drug cartels. As a result of this violence, more than 6 million Colombians have been driven from their homes, just since 1998. That's more than 11% of the nation's total population. These people tend to live in grave poverty; the families have often been torn apart by murder or the forcible recruitment of child soldiers; it is estimated that 50% of displaced women are victims of sexual violence. This is the defining issue for this generation of the nation of Colombia.

The seminary has now received money to assemble a team of 25 experts for a three year project to tackle the problem of displacement. Combining economists, sociologists, psychologists, political theorists, theologians, and heads of multiple NGOs (including the Colombian branches of Tearfund and Opportunity International), we will study the obstacles generated by displacement and ask how the local churches of Colombia can be mobilized to accompany the long-term and holistic recuperation of the displaced persons. We will then develop programs and materials, launch them, and measure the impact of the interventions. 

The seminary has never run a research project on this scale; indeed, it would be a major undertaking for a theology faculty even at an elite university in the North. But it is a important moment for us, since we need to produce cutting edge research as we build towards a graduate program. Furthermore, this is an influx of much-needed funds for the seminary. But please know that I don't get a dime of this money, even though I am the project director. So don't cancel your support!

We'll share more details in the future, but for now, please celebrate with us!

Peace be with you all,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

From Michelle

This month I have been working on becoming more aware of God´s presence in my day-to-day life. My tendency is to get lost in a to-do list of monotonous "Mom" tasks and miss some of the ways God is speaking to me. Here´s a poem I wrote to illustrate how I've been feeling as I try to find God in the midst of busy days:

Catching Joy
I wake up early.
The bats are flying in the mango trees and I begin to breathe in life´s everyday moments.    
Joy is the best hide-and-seek player. She tucks herself away into little pockets of time between mundane tasks without making any noise.
Scrub dishes, rinse dishes, dry dishes, repeat
After a while Joy peeks out playfully to see if I notice her yet.
Wash laundry, hang laundry in the sun, fold laundry, repeat
Most days it takes me longer than you would think to spot Joy.
Chop, blend, cook, cool, repeat
But with practice my eyes are getting sharper.
Sweep up dust, mop dirty floor, repeat
On some days I feel worn out . . . .
Think in Spanish, think in English, switch, repeat
Wild taxi ride, long errands, wild taxi ride, repeat, repeat, repeat
And I can´t find Joy anywhere.
Sliding out of her hiding spot, Joy seems to sense how I feel and she ends our game early.
“Rest tonight and we´ll give it another go tomorrow,” she whispers.

Student Profile

This month's profiled student is Hanz Herrera Rayo, who has just finished his term as student body president of FUSBC. Hailing from Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, Hanz has been my student in various classes and is currently an enthusiastic member of my course on Faith and Science. He says:

"I grew up in a Christian home, but I was not a believer. I was quite rebellious, and yet all along I had a deep conviction that the day I converted I would have to serve the Lord with my whole heart and entire life. My conversion took place when I was 27; today I'm 31. I came quickly to the seminary (I'm now in my third year) because I knew that the moment had arrived to serve the Lord full time."

"I've been married for  one year to my sweet and loving wife, Andrea Porras; she is a secretary and currently studies at the seminary's Instituto Ministerial de Medellín [a program for pastors and church leaders who are not in a position to do university-level study]. She loves photography and used to be a youth leader; she is a blessing in my life!"

"During the last four years I have served in the Lutheran Church and in Young Life, and I now teach in the Instituto Ministerial de Medellín. My desire when I graduate is to serve victims of this country's armed conflict, and so I am excited about the research group that Dr. Hays is starting." 

"Right now I am a student in his Faith and Science course, which has impassioned me because it has brought me to see God in a greater and more sublime way. Ever since his arrival, Dr. Hays has demonstrated a desire to serve the seminary, the students, and now--with this research group--my country. He is an excellent professor."

[Disclaimer: Hanz was informed that nothing he wrote here would impact his grade in my class...but perhaps he was feeling hopeful!]

Praise God!

  • For winning the grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation!
  • For a wonderful administrative team at FUSBC that helped us pull this proposal together. 
  • For time for the boys to relax over the Easter break.
  • For a great father-son trip to Bogotá to renew Judah's passport. We had a wonderful two-day trip and were able to do a lot of fun activities together, after we finished our business at the embassy.

Please Pray

  • For the appointment of a couple of remaining participants to the Templeton project (a sociologist, a business professor, a psychologist, and an administrative assistant). Please pray also that team members follow through on their previous commitments, as we have had a couple of people back out of the project. 
  • For Christopher's travels to Sucre, in the North of Colombia, to teach a big group of pastors from the Colombian Evangelical Alliance Church. (This trip was scheduled for March, but the denomination pushed it to April.)
  • For decisions being made (hopefully!) in the coming month about whether Asher can remain in his current grade at his school. His grades have been excellent, so we are optimistic. Thanks for praying with us! 

A Special Time in Bogotá

After Judah's passport renewal appointment finished at the embassy, Chris told Judah that they were headed to pick up some groceries. It didn't raise Judah's suspicions when Chris asked the taxi driver to take them to a grocery store that had the word "magic" in the title (perhaps he wasn't listening at that point). This meant that Judah was completely surprised when they arrived instead at an amusement park and spent the rest of their day enjoying some good father/son time. 
Copyright © 2016 Christopher and Michelle Hays, United World Mission, All rights reserved.

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