Michelle's recipe for a year in Colombia, a new student profile, birthdays, and an old friend who is now a new colleague!

Dear Friends and Family,

This is one of those months when I have to remind myself that having lots to do is a good problem, since it means that I'm not wasting my time here in South America! This month of course included lots of lectures for my Acts class, of which there is only one week remaining; we spiced things up with debates on speaking in tongues and we also had some great guest speakers, Tom and Jennifer Atwater, who are fellow UWM missionaries here in Medellín. I also spent a good deal of time teaching the course on Research Methods, especially helping the students learn to manage key software and also learn how to avoid committing plagiarism. Less spicy, I admit, but hopefully those classes will save everyone a lot of grief in the future!

I felt like I was in a dead sprint much of the month, however, largely because of the work we're doing on the new master's program. There's been a lot of dreaming and strategizing, and a WHOLE LOT of syllabus writing (in which I had a ton of support from my professorial colleagues). Happily, our major proposal and accreditation documentation is nearing completion; we hope to submit the whole package in just a couple of weeks. 

As I juggle these tasks (and continue to write articles for conferences and publication), it's easy to get anxious. Even though I think I do a pretty good job of controlling the amount of hours I spend at work, I find myself caught up in worries about work while I am at home, ostensibly focusing on my family. So I have been meditating on Luke 12:25-26 ("And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?") as I seek to find a way to work diligently and energetically, without that commitment edging out my peace and tranquility. I am trying to figure out how to rest in God's providence, even as I labor in the parcel of earth he's entrusted to me. 

Peace be with you all,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

From Michelle

I have been talking with the boys this week about the fact that we are coming up on our one-year mark in Colombia. A fair bit of my time is spent in the kitchen cooking for our family (especially since I am doing much more cooking from scratch than I have had to do in the past). Partially due to this, I began to think about my first year here in the form of a recipe. Hope you enjoy it!
Recipe for a first year in Colombia: 
Crack open adventure and tip in a heaping tablespoon of vulnerability. Mix in a large bowl, 50 strokes. Crush up the warmth of the equatorial sun and the blessing of a welcoming community. Add a pinch of tropical rains to taste. Generously sprinkle with God's love and faithfulness and fold in a pint of human brokenness and grated mistakes. Simmer with the crowing of a rooster and toss in a palmful of firework explosions and four overflowing cups of the neighbor's music. Let boil the rolling beauty of the Spanish language until it begins to caramelize. Drizzle in an ocean's worth of previously undiscovered fruits, plants, birds and butterflies. Measure out one cup of children's emotional needs, puree completely and then add it to the mix. Bake the mixture for one year at high degrees. Place on the kitchen table, open the windows and let cool with the breeze that comes in from under the mango tree. Flavors will continue to deepen with time. Serve to anyone in need.

Student Profile

Erika Parra Cortés and her 11-year old son, Samuel, live in the apartment next to ours. From Bogotá, Erika's first degree and career were in business administration. She became a believer around the time of Samuel's first birthday, and from that point on she has had a desire to work in full-time ministry. This initially seemed incredibly unlikely for Erika, being a single, working mother. But, in Erika's words, "after a mission trip, the Lord strengthened my calling and took away my fears, and I made the decision to come study at the Biblical Seminary in Colombia. I have lived here in Medellín for three years now, and God, in his infinite mercy, has sustained us."

"At the moment I am serving in my local church and I volunteer in the seminary's prison ministry, teaching classes in the Bible Institute the seminary runs in Bellavista Men's Prison. Although it is not an easy ministry, it has become a passion of mine. It is a joy to see how God transforms the lives of men who have been excluded from society." 

In spite of being a single mom and serving in her church and in Bellavista prison, Erika is one of my top students. She has excelled in both of the classes she has taken with me (Synoptic Gospels, Acts of the Apostles), and she also is a member of my advanced Greek reading group, a small group of especially talented students who meet with me every week and wrestle through challenging extrabiblical Greek in order to hone their ability to interpret the New Testament. 

Happy birthday, Judah!

Here is Judah celebrating his 10th birthday with Asher and some of his friends from school. Judah and Asher only have two weeks left before their first school year in Colombia ends. One of the most pronounced cultural differences coming from England is how physically affectionate Colombian culture is (notice how many people are touching Asher in the above photo). We are extremely proud of Judah and Asher for all the adjustments they have made during their first year in a new country, a new language, and a new culture!

Happy birthday, Zoe!

Zoe turned two this month and now takes her favorite gift (baby doll above) everywhere we go. Many of the conversations I (Michelle) have with strangers are initiated by people who want to know more about the sling I use to carry Zoe. On a couple occasions people on motorcycles have pulled over to ask me questions about it! Zoe is very pleased to have her own sling now and to be the center of attention in these little chats. 

Praise God!

  • For a new ministry partner! Some of you will know about my good friend, Dr. Seth Tarrer, who is an Old Testament scholar. We grew close with Seth, his wife, Mary, and their kids (now four in number) during our PhD studies in Scotland, and we had planned to serve together in Argentina. After working in Buenos Aires for two years, Seth has just been approved to join our faculty (working 25 hours a week while he seeks to raise full support), contributing to our new Master's program, and traveling to Medellín multiple times a year from his family's home in Alabama. This is a huge joy to us, and a massive gift to the seminary!
  • Many of you have been praying with us about the donations of books for our library. This month we finally received the last of the licences we need for that donation, and the books were shipped from England, due to arrive in November.
  • For a decade with Judah and two years with Zoe, both of whose birthdays we celebrated this month.
  • For the compilation of all the syllabi we'll need for the new Master's program. 
  • For the approval of the new Master's program by the FUSBC board of directors and academic senate (important hurdles in advance of the accreditation process with the Colombian Ministry of Education).

Please Pray

  • For safe travels. We are heading back to the US at the end of this month, so that I can attend a conference, do some recruiting for the Theological Education Initiative, raise some further funds, and then spend Christmas with our extended family. 
  • For the people in Medellín whose houses have been damaged or destroyed by the tropical storms we have been experiencing.
  • For the safe arrival of the books in Cartagena (without water damage!), for quick processing through the ports, and for prompt delivery to the seminary. I would love to see them safely here before I leave for the US.
  • For a new shipment of books that we are just currently beginning to have compiled by the Theological Book Network. This organization exists to resource Majority World seminary libraries, and we hope this to be the first of multiple shipments from the TBN. Pretty cool, eh?
  • For productive fund-raising while in the US. We still have to gain a lot of ground for us to be able to stay in Colombia long-term, so we are hoping that these coming weeks in the US will prove fruitful and relieve us from having to continue worrying about support levels next year.

UWM Retreat

This month all of the individuals and families that serve as missionaries in Colombia with United World Mission got together for a weekend retreat about an hour away from where we live. We were greatly encouraged there as we heard about what God is doing in other ministries in Colombia and as we spent time worshiping and praying together. Our kids had the opportunity to make and solidify friendships with other missionary kids who really understand what their lives are like. This weekend away was a refreshing gift for all of us!
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