Spanglish with Zoe, desserts with my students, and a continually growing team of international researchers that is forming to help the seminary understand and develop responses to forced internal displacement in Colombia.

Dear Friends and Family,

This week, Facebook reminded me that we left Oxford two years ago, meaning that I am in my fourth semester here at FUSBC. It was a great chance to reflect on the work we have already seen God doing here in Medellin.

Last year and this year I helped teach the course on research methods, a required course for first year students with the purpose of orienting them to basic tools for theological research and essential subjects for university writing (like citation and academic integrity). The students who were in that class last year have now worked their way through their introductory Bible classes and are in my class on Synoptic Gospels (which is a hard course). Juxtaposing the newest generation of seminarians with my current batch of students in Synoptics is tremendously exciting, since I am reminded that students who are currently doing some hefty exegetical work were only a year ago being taught how to write a footnote. It's fantastic to see how much progress our students make under the steam of their own great enthusiasm and under the guidance of a wonderful team of professors. 

Each semester, Michelle and I invite my students over (in small groups!) for desserts at our house, for the purpose of getting to hear their testimonies at leisure (so that I, in turn, can help guide them more effectively). During the first of those desserts this month, I was reminded of how unique the seminary is in Latin America. One of those students has come to us from Costa Rica; another student eating cake with us, who is Colombian by nationality, came back to Medellin from Camaroon where her family lives. They talked about how much they appreciated FUSBC's combination of academic rigor and close, residential community. It's a balance that's hard to find in Latin America, and it made me proud to be part of this faculty. 

This month I have been busy writing essays, continuing to elaborate a big grant proposal, and working on the committee for high-quality accreditation. But it's also been a month in which I have enjoyed the mere fact that I am getting better at Spanish, that I am increasingly able to cut loose while I lecture, to trust my tongue. Words have always been important to me, a big part of who I am. So, when I first got to Medellin, I felt somewhat like I lost my voice. But now I feel like I am regaining it.  

Peace be with you all,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

From Michelle

August has been busy as we have continued to settle into our new house. Bit by bit boxes are being put away and pictures are going up on walls. This month we also got to celebrate Asher's 7th birthday and Chris' birthday.

As August comes to a close I find myself wanting to write about a topic that I keep coming back to--and that is how grateful we are to be a part of the community exists at FUSBC. One of Chris' students asked me the other day what I like most about living in Colombia. My answer was that I love living in a community where others genuinely take care of us and share in our lives. Many of the students that came to our house for dessert the past couple of weekends shared some of their own stories of why God has called them to come study at the seminary. As I listened to them recount different ways in which God is working in their lives, I was struck again by what an amazing gift it is to be here with these students who will soon be serving God all over Colombia.    

Student Profile

Jennifer Porras Pabón is a seminarian from the city of Cúcuta, in the northern part of the region of Santander. Her husband, Camilo, studies engineering at another university here in Medellín and they have two sons: Samuel and Christopher. When I asked about how she came to be at FUSBC, she shared, "I came to the seminary in response to an explicit call from God. It wasn't previously in my plans to study here, but the Lord progressively arranged the desire, the love, and the finances to make it possible. So here I am, very happy to be where God has placed me!"

"In my church, the Iglesia Cristiana Monte del Rey, I am in charge of the children's ministry, which means that I organize themes and schedules and special activities like an annual camp. I am also in charge of training teachers and I write a monthly article for the evangelistic magazine the church publishes."  

"After I finish my seminary degree, I hope to keep studying, since academics are a real pleasure for me. Nonetheless, I am very attentive to whatever God may want to keep doing with my life." Jennifer is a smart student, regularly in my office refining her writing and research (with materials in English and Spanish); she is one of many students here who hold together a love for the life of the mind and a commitment to the service of the local church.

Enjoying the park

Using long bamboo poles, our kids collect ripe fruits from the trees and share them with friends around the seminary.

Praise God!

  • For a new water heater for the seminary house we just moved into.
  • For the increasingly warm relationship I am enjoying with my students. (For my birthday this year, a number of my self-appointed "favorites" feted me with a song, a card, and a CD of Colombian reggaeton music "to help your continued transformation into a Colombian".)
  • For the progress we continue to see in the whole family's Spanish. Zoe in particular is now developing a rather darling dialect of Spanglish. Last week she showed one of our students a box she had painted, explaining "Esta es mi caja. Hay some cosas in it." She also runs around the house naked after every bath, singing a Spanglish version of the Frozen song "Let it Go", which in Zoe's rendition is "Libre soy. Libre SOY! The cold doesn't bother me anyway." 
  • For new international researchers who have agreed to join our team researching internal displacement in Colombia (including Canadian-Jamaican psychologist and a South African sociologist specializing on the role churches can play in confronting sexual violence in times of armed conflict)!

Please Pray

  • For continued productivity as I write essays and especially as I work on the big grant proposal that has so occupied me these past few months. Pray that I can balance creativity, efficiency, and excellence.
  • For me to learn better to be emotionally present with the kids during the times that I am "off the clock", that I would be able to relax and, indeed, to play.
  • For Asher's admissions application to the school at which Judah has thrived this past year. Our paperwork (transcripts from the UK and Colombia and a year of homeschooling) always creates bureaucratic challenges in admissions process, and Asher is very young for his grade in Colombia as well. Please pray that he does well on his entrance exams and receives a spot in the right grade, rather than being obliged to repeat a year just because he is younger than the other students.
  • For us to recover the 15% of our missions funding that we lost when a fixed-term donation reached its conclusion. We are grateful for the recent changes in the dollar-peso exchange rate, and we pray that God would provide us with new supporters to help compensate our current short-fall. 

Looking for a snack?

One of the perks of living near the seminary's park according to Judah is that you can find mangoes, lulos, mandarin oranges, and madroño fruits to munch on.
Copyright © 2015 Christopher and Michelle Hays, United World Mission, All rights reserved.
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