FUSBC gets an exciting new partner in our biblical languages education, my students get ridiculously good grades, and the seminary gets to explore new possibilities for its work to help internally displaced people.

Dear Friends and Family,

It's been another break-neck busy month, but boy, the hustle has been worth it!

Perhaps the biggest piece of news is that we just signed an agreement with an organization called BibleMesh, which has developed cutting edge material for teaching Biblical Greek and Hebrew online. FUSBC has agreed to translate this material from English into Spanish, in exchange for the rights to use the material in all of our programs, including the new master's degree we are launching. The software is brilliant (developed under the leadership of my buddy, Dr. Nick Ellis, and contributed to my a number of my Oxford friends), and to my mind represents an approach to teaching Greek and Hebrew that is far stronger than one gets in most residential programs. Since we are trying to extend top-quality theological education well beyond the confines of Medellín, this adaptation of BibleMesh represents a huge opportunity, not just for us at FUSBC, but for all Latin American theological education. 

In other news, I just finished up my "Introduction to the New Testament" class, and I had a blast doing it. I played around with some different approaches to teaching and assignments this term, and my students reacted really positively to them. The quality of written work I got from them was down-right outstanding (these are sophomores, some of whom are doing work I'd be happy to see in a Master's program). My biggest problem was that so many of them got stellar grades that I think I will have to explain myself to the dean, lest he think I'm going soft! The high grades reflect the many extra hours of work the students are investing. But as Yaily (the student profiled in last month's update) said to me in the library, "the class requires a lot more work, but the time goes by fast because the assignments are all so interesting."   

Many of you were kind enough to pray for the sermon I preached in chapel at the beginning of the month; thank you for that. I think the message was well received, and many students wrote to ask me for a transcript of the message afterwards. (Nonetheless, I suppose that could just be taken as evidence that what I said was totally incomprehensible!)

I am currently coordinating the steering committee for the various projects FUSBC is developing to confront internal displacement in Colombia. This month I've been drafting a new proposal for research funding on how to help displaced people escape chronic poverty. Just these past couple of days we were lucky to receive representatives from the Templeton World Charity Foundation (including an Oxford friend, Dr. Robert Heimburger), to which we will be submitting the funding proposal. We are grateful to have so many people interested in supporting this work, and we are praying that God gives us wisdom about the best ways to proceed, and that he opens the right doors for us. 

Peace be with you all,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

From Michelle

This month I have been thinking about how thankful I am to be living in the community of FUSBC. When we first moved to some of the other countries in which we have lived, life was sometimes lonely and difficult. However, at FUSBC the idea of community is taking on new meanings for me. This year community is the sound of multiple doorbells being pressed almost simultaneously in our apartment tower in the afternoons, the high pitched tones stretching out down the stairwells. Some days community sounds like giggling children standing at my front door waiting to be invited in to play. I taste community when a dark, flavorful cup of coffee is given to me by a friend. I find community in the willing hands that meet me at the front gate are community, lifting the weight of my groceries off my arms and delivering them to my door. This morning community smelled like freshly sharpened pencils and new crayons while one of Christopher's colleagues volunteered to work with Asher in Spanish for homeschool. Community allows me to breathe a sigh of relief when a neighbor offers a much needed piece of advice or gives an explanation of something that puzzled me. On Fridays, community is the babysitter that lovingly cares for our children so that Christopher and I can go to dance lessons. In quiet moments I hear our community whispering heartfelt prayers together for a sick little child who is in the hospital. When students return from a break, then community can taste like gifts of food from many regions of Colombia. Oftentimes in the evenings community sounds like sweet laughter spilling out from full dinner tables in different parts of the seminary. Community is the unexpected gift I was given when I arrived at the seminary which at first I didn't understand. Layer by layer I am peeling back the wrapping paper and discovering what the gift contains.

Student Profile

Armando Verbel Duque is one of my sharpest students, and I have the pleasure of his company in my New Testament Introduction class and my advanced Greek reading group. He is married to Laura Paternina Benitez, who works in the student welfare office of the seminary, and both are from Sincelejo, a city on the northern coast of the country. 

Prior to coming to the seminary Armando worked as a youth pastor and then as the co-pastor of a church in Sincelejo, but when he became aware of the way in which his ministry was being hindered by his lack of formal theological training, he made the bold decision to leave his job and head to FUSBC. Still, Armando remains active in church leadership here in Medellín. He is on the preaching team at a church called Palabra de Vida and during the week he travels across the city to teach the Bible to prisoners in the Bellavista Men's Penitentiary. He is just one of many students who comes to the seminary to increase the long-term effectiveness of their ministry, but continues to serve the Lord intensely outside the seminary even while he studies. 

Easter is coming!

Children of faculty and students in the seminary enjoyed coloring Easter eggs with us.

Praise God!

  • For a wonderful term teaching New Testament Introduction. I personally found the experience really life-giving, which is something for which I had been praying as I developed the course. 
  • A shipment of books from the Theological Book Network has been dispatched for the FUSBC library.
  • We saw a real jump in support this month, which is a massive encouragement and relief. Thank you for all of you who have been praying for us, supporting us faithfully for years, and for those of you who joined our team or renewed your support for us this month. We couldn't be here without a big team of people alongside us, and we are so grateful!
  • For a writing retreat. Knowing that I have a couple different book projects hanging over my head, Michelle offered for me to leave Medellín for a couple days, in order to go into the mountains outside the city and draft the final chapter of a long-standing book project. I came home with the chapter in hand, and with a whole lot of gratitude towards my sacrificial wife!

Please Pray

  • For the accreditation of our new master's program. Sometime in April or May (we will only be given a few days' notice) we are supposed to receive reviewers from the Ministry of Education who will be evaluating the Masters program we spent the last year developing. Please pray that they look upon us favorably and that they do NOT come the week of April 13th, when I, the dean, and the president will all be traveling abroad.
  • For a new library cataloging system and access to a key librarian classification database. We are delighted that so many new books have come into the library, but our software is decades old, and the 2000+ books we acquired this year dwarfs the number of books we have received in past years (in 2013 the library received about 75 books). As it stands, the librarians are buried in books (most of the library tables are being used to support stacks of book boxes; the storage room is full and the head librarians office is filled with pillars of boxes of uncatalogued books) that they won't be able to process any where near in time for the Master's degree, unless the cataloging software is updated (about a 7,500 USD expense).
  • For the safe delivery of the books from the Theological Book Network.
  • I will be in Oxford for a week in April, attending a conference on Faith and Science and having perhaps the final meeting with my team of collaborators working on a book on eschatology. Please pray for safe travels and a productive visit. 
  • For baby Ester, the daughter of my assistant, Wilcar; Esther continues to be in the hospital experiencing complications from a surgery for her esophagus.

A peaceful place in a busy city

Amidst all of the busy moments that made up March, we made some time to relax together as a family at the botanical gardens in Medellín.  It was wonderful to rest a bit and take in some of Colombia's natural beauty.   
Copyright © 2015 Christopher and Michelle Hays, United World Mission, All rights reserved.

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