Preparing to provide transformational theological education to Latin American pastors and scholars
United World Mission
Dear Friends and Family,
Now that Michelle and I have committed to working in Buenos Aires, we've been able to move into the next stage of our missionary preparation. Brochures, magnets, and prayer cards have been printed and are being shipped to us, and with those traditional trappings of missions on their way, our work feels imbued with a renewed legitimacy and importance. (The miracles of marketing!) But leaving aside promotional materials, however helpful they are, I wanted to share a bit more with you about last month's trip to South America, since during that time I felt an especially strong conviction of the gravity of our vocation.
I spent my first week in Latin America in Lima, Peru, at the Seminario Evangélico de Lima. There I gave full semester's course of lectures in six days; in grad school we affectionately referred to such classes as "Suicide Courses", but I didn't realize then that 28 hours of lectures in a week was a lot harder on the prof than it was on the students! That time in Lima was both encouraging and confirming. I felt encouraged by the fact that I successfully delivered a rigorous course of lectures in Spanish (a first for me) and because the students were so eager and grateful for the class. But that week also confirmed the importance of our vocation to Latin America, insofar as I saw how the students were desperately unprepared for graduate studies, being weak in languages, lacking interpretive awareness, and sometimes wanting for even basic essay-writing skills. While they were all clearly committed to their course of studies and put in a lot of time and effort, they demonstrated a profound need for more rigorous training.
After departing Lima, I went to Medellín, Colombia, to lecture at the Seminario Bíblico de Colombia. I taught the undergraduate course on Synoptic Gospels for six hours, and was pleased by the enthusiasm and raw talent of the students. Theirs is a warm Christian community with many talented teachers. Still, the need for missionary scholars was impressed upon me by the fact that the professor of this BA course was himself only an MA student; the seminary has no New Testament professor with a doctorate.
I also gave a public lecture to approximately 100 students, faculty members, and local pastors. (This was a surprise, since I was under the impression that I'd be giving a seminar paper to a half dozen academics!) The lecture was well-received, and I again felt excited to see the way that my Spanish matured even during a mere two weeks in South America. But I clearly was discussing topics that were completely foreign to all present, save perhaps a couple members of the faculty.
That half a month in Peru and Colombia highlighted the profound need for top-notch theologians in Latin America. Both of the schools where I lectured are run by faithful and diligent teachers, and are full of energetic and bright students. Numerous students expressed to me their desire to pursue graduate and doctoral studies, though lamenting the lack of a Latino doctoral program and the nearly insuperable challenges posed by trying to travel to the North for studies. I graded a great many essays that cried out for better teaching and I talked to a number of pastors with troublingly theology and dangerous ethics. But I also read a couple of papers that, for all their rough edges and short-comings, revealed an exciting and raw talent, students with potential to become theologians, if only they could receive the right training. The harvest is plentiful, and in Latin America, the laborers are plentiful too; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to equip those who would reap.
Before I sign off, allow me to ask for your prayers that this month's many ministry opportunities would be fruitful. (I've included dates, for those of you who mark prayers on your calendars!) In June I will be speaking on the topic of the resurrection to our church's post-graduate ministry at an outreach event (June 7th), teaching on Mark at our new church small group (June 2nd), and giving a day-long talk on Acts to the interns in our church's "School of Ministry" (June 6th). I will also be giving academic presentations to the Oxford Patristic Seminar (June 21) and to the Oxford New Testament Seminar (June 23). Please pray that I would be able to write these many papers and lectures, and speak clearly and effectively.
I will also be flying to Germany to preach at our German church's missions conference (June 17-19) and to do further fund-raising. Please intercede for the congregation as a whole to continue to grow in passion for missions, and for our personal success in fund-raising amidst a church that is already generously supporting us. Finally, I will be attending another event (on secular economics and ethics) in London (June 26-27th), and I would be grateful for your prayers that this event would be enlightening for me, and that Michelle and the boys would have a smooth time in my absences. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement!
Peace be with you all,
Christopher, Michelle, Judah, and Asher Hays
These past few weeks the boys and I were often found out in the back garden, jeans rolled up, bare feet in the soil, dirt in our hands, planting seeds. We have never had an outdoor space before and we are delighting in our little experiments, but the boys and I are also discovering that gardening is a lot of work. It has got me thinking about how God might continue to use our time in Oxford to grow things in each of us. In myself, I have felt God growing an awareness of His goodness to us. In a book I have been reading, the author is dared by a friend to come up with a list of a thousand gifts or a thousand ways that God has blessed her. Inspired, I started my own and keeping this simple list everyday where I capture God's special gifts to me in words and pictures is making me aware of God's love for me in a new way. It is also helping me to be on the lookout for God and what He might be doing instead of hurrying past all of the day's moments. Even Asher has caught the vision lately. It is increasingly likely that we will arrive a few minutes late for things, because I can't help but pause when Asher shouts out "Stop, Mom! We have to take a picture for the list! I found another way that God made the world beautiful for us!" As my I look upon each face at our dinner table, I am encouraged because I am beginning to see the things that God is planting and growing in us.