After our first academic year in Colombia, we're back in the US, trying to recruit a new cadre of scholars to apply their gifts in the Global South.

Dear Friends and Family,

I'm writing this note the day after Thanksgiving, which is the precise date on which, one year ago, we awoke at 3 am, bundled the kids in blankets, belted them into car-seats, drove through the snow to the Chicago O'Hare airport, and disembarked for Medellín. When we arrived that night in Colombia, warm rain spattered our suitcases as we trundled to a small mini-bus. The kids looked at the faces in the crowd with confusion, the words of the taxi drivers all clattering roughly against their ears, a barbarian cacophony apparently devoid of meaning. As we careened down the highway into the Andean valley in which Medellín's millions of orange lights shimmered, we clutched the unbelted kids on our laps and tried not to gasp as the van swerved in and out of traffic, flirting dangerously with the edge of a thousand-foot mountain slope. I wondered to myself, "What is Michelle thinking right now?", while Michelle thought, "We're all going to die here." 

Last week, we drove up that mountain road again, returning to the US so that I could attend a conference as well as recruit for our mission agency. Judah was at my side, and when I asked how he felt about returning to the US, he remarked, "I'll miss our apartment. Colombia feels like home now." And then, quite unsolicited, he added, "And you know what? Spanish feels as natural to me as English does now. We should make sure we keep speaking Spanish while we are in the US, so that I'm ready for school in January." The difference a year makes... 

I've now wrapped up my academic first year at FUSBC. The learning curve has been steep; the work has been hard; the results, however, have been exceedingly heartening. I've seen my students flourish this year. I've been given wonderful freedom in developing our master's program. I've been marvelously supported by my bosses and colleagues. One year into this ministry, and I think it's succeeding.

I've been back in the US for a week now: presenting at a conference, chairing a new research consultation, speaking about the importance of theological education in the Majority World. And in the coming three weeks, I have some pretty demanding travel and speaking responsibilities, especially as I recruit more scholars to UWM's Theological Education Initiative. I'll tell the folks I talk to that it's hard to work in the Global South. I'll tell them that they shouldn't go do it unless they are certain that's what God wants for them. And I'll also tell them that the work, the ministry, the opportunities, are absolutely exquisite. 

Peace be with you all, and Merry Christmas,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

From Michelle

During November, the boys wrapped up the end of their first school year in Colombia. Hurray! At the same time, we were busy attending interviews and organizing all the paperwork Judah needs for the admissions process at his new school. All month I have had stacks of school records and official grade reports cluttering up our desk. We are back in the US now for a visit, but in the back of my mind I am still making lists of the books I need to order and the preparations I need to make so that Asher and I can begin homeschooling when we return to Colombia in January. All that to say, school related matters are taking up the majority of my thinking energy these days. In Colombia, the grading scale ranges from a 0 to a 5.0, with a 5.0 being a perfect score and approx. a 3.0 being a passing grade. Looking back on my year, I think some things have gone well and in other areas I have some obvious room for improvement. Reading through the following list of calificaciones I have created for myself may give you a little window into what I have been learning this year. Here is a piece of my grade report for year 1:
  • Navigating doctor appointments, dentist appointments and school paperwork in a second language (4.0)
  • Understanding phone calls in what Judah calls "rapid-fire, phone-voice Spanish" (2.5)
  • Willingness to keep trying after making mistakes (4.0)
  • Discovering beauty and friendship in unexpected places (4.5)
  • Riding through Medellín traffic in a taxi without closing my eyes or gasping (3.0)
  • Seeing God in my day to day life (4.0)
  • Learning to hear stories of loss, pain, poverty or violence while holding tightly to the belief that God is powerful and good (4.0)
  • Drinking large amounts of coffee (5.0)
  • Relaxing my tight grip of control and letting God guide my days (3.5)
  • Having patience with the others in my family who are also in transition (3.5)
  • Ability to laugh and be flexible when plans change (3.0)
  • Maintaining a calm and collected state when cockroaches and/or lizards appear in surprising places (1.0)
  • Trusting God to be our family's protection (4.0)
You may have noticed that I only received a perfect score in coffee drinking . . . evidence that I still have LOTS to learn as we continue life and ministry in Medellín:)

Last day of school

On the last day of school, I (Michelle) went in a bit early to take pictures of Judah and Asher's classes. Both Judah and Asher have made some good friends this year. Judah's teacher led a goodbye activity in which each classmate thanked Judah for something he has contributed to the class. By the time we got around to taking the pictures, one of his best friends was crying because he was so sad to see Judah go. Hopefully, we will be able to maintain contact with some of their close friends even though they will change school situations next academic year.
We enjoyed a very festive afternoon cutting down our own Christmas tree with Chris' parents and his sister and her husband.  A very sleepy Zoe was carried during the first part of the outing, but later she perked up in time to enjoy a ride on Santa's sleigh (see picture above "From Michelle" section) and hot apple cider.

Praise God!

  • For the completion of our first academic year in Colombia!
  • For the wonderful success of my students after a semester of hard work.
  • For Judah and Asher's completion of their first year of school in Colombia (see Judah with his classmates above), and for the wonderful advancements they have both made in Spanish.
  • For the chance to connect with so many close friends and supporters while at a conference in California this month. 
  • For the many friends and colleagues who are working to set up talks and meetings as I travel to four different schools to recruit for the Theological Education Initiative. 

Please Pray

  • For the submission of our new Master's degree to the prospectus to the Ministry of Education. May their evaluation of our proposal be timely and may we receive an enthusiastic response to our proposal. 
  • For safe travels during my recruiting trip.
  • For the many talks/lectures/sermons that I have to give in the coming couple of weeks. May I have energy, lucidity, and enthusiasm.
  • That I'd have the chance to hear from and share with a number of students considering missionary scholarship, and that God would generate a vision for Majority World theology amidst a new cadre of students at Fuller, Wheaton, the Trinity Forum Academy, and Duke Divinity School.
  • For the chance to preach at my home church, Valley Church, on the 14th of December. 
  • That God would provide us with additional missionary support/funding during the coming month in the US. 

Student Profile

This column is profiling Carolina and Gregorio, both of whom are students at FUSBC; I met them when speaking to their student group about issues of faith and science. Since Gregorio was in my Acts class this term, he kindly agreed to share with us a bit about their calling to FUSBC.

"My name is Gregorio Restrepo, and I'm a 42 year-old paisa, (meaning that I'm from the region of Antioquia, where Medellín is located). My wife is Carolina and our daughter Agustina is 16 months old. I studied advertising in Colombia and then specialized in marketing at Southern New Hampshire University."

After Gregorio finished his studies in the US, he worked in a Colombian company called Productos Familia where he met Carolina. "Caro and I worked for more than six years there; we became friends and then started dating. The love and pursuit of God, along with an increasing discontent at the prospect of working at something that was not fulfilling, moved us to contemplate applying to the seminary in order to prepare ourselves to serve the Kingdom of God. Caro started studies at FUSBC a year before I did. Today, we are both student and young adult pastors at the church El Encuentro con Dios. We divide our time between being parents, studying, and ministering in the church. We are happy doing God's work and we feel very privileged to be able to be students in a seminary of FUSBC's stature and talent. We don't know what will happen when we finish our degrees; we only know that today we are living a dream, and that we can't imagine anything better in which to be investing our days."
Copyright © 2014 Christopher and Michelle Hays, United World Mission, All rights reserved.
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