Shakespeare, sermons, and the beginning of a new semester

Dear Friends and Family,

It is hard to slow down to write when the past month has been one of non-stop activity. At least there is no shortage of things to say!

I spent the better part of July in Europe for a wonderful whirlwind of work. My first stop was for a weekend at our home church in Bonn, Germany. I preached for the Sunday service and spent many beautiful hours with friends.

Then I flew off to the UK, where I ran about in a frenzy for two weeks: researching, meeting with collaborators about a writing project, connecting with friends and supporters, enjoying fish & chips and great ale. I recorded a lecture on Social Justice for a programme run by our former UK church, coordinated shipments of dozens of boxes of donated books for our seminary library, gave a small paper on the subject of cultural evolution at a conference on faith and science, and slept very, very little. Along the way, I popped down to London to see more magnificent friends, having dinner at the House of Lords (no joke; the after-dinner chocolates were off the hook) and enjoying exquisite penny tickets in the yard at Shakespeare's Globe (Julius Caesar, FYI; I cried publicly for the beauty of it).

Then it was back on a plane, across the Atlantic, arrive in Medellín at midnight, and start the new term the next morning. It was a bit of a rocky start, and I'm still huffing and puffing to stay on top of things, but the trip was tremendously productive (and I'll keep leaking more details from that trip in subsequent letters).

I have to admit, I was worried that it would be hard to visit Europe again (considering where we should be on the 'cultural adaptation curve'). Mission agencies generally don't allow missionaries to return home for at least a couple of years after their initial deployment because it can seriously undermine the process of adjusting to a new culture. When I got back, the seminary president asked me if the trip caused me any sorrow.... And I told her it did. We left a wonderful life behind in Europe, and we are still processing what we have lost. But, in spite of feeling sorrow, I don't feel regret. I am where I am supposed to be, doing when I was made to do, and that is thrilling (especially if I do get to nip back to England for the occasional scone).

Peace be with you all,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

From Michelle

Since we arrived I have been taking Spanish lessons from a lovely woman named Magdalena (pictured with me above) who has greatly eased my transition to Medellín. In addition to teaching me Spanish, Magdalena has taught me to prepare Colombian dishes, given me a tour of the city, visited prospective schools for the kids with me, and helped me to gain confidence in practical day-to-day things like taking the bus and making phone calls. In the process she has become a dear friend, interweaving genuine and heartfelt bits of her own story of following God with her teaching. This past month, we have been studying short stories by Gabriel García Márquez, one of Colombia's most celebrated authors, who is perhaps best known for his masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude. Reading his short stories has plunged me into themes that still capture the experiences of many Colombians (themes like love, death, loss, power, violence, injustice, unrealized dreams, the stark contrast between the lives of the poor and lives of the rich). I am grateful for this academic challenge which is also helping me get more of a sense for what elements make up Colombian identity and culture.
As a Teacher's Day gift, my students gave me a caricature portrait, which I rather like, as it improves upon my actual bone structure and makes me look tanner than I am.

        El Redil
"The Sheepfold"

This is a picture of a Sunday worship service in our new church home, a church pastored by graduates of the seminary. In addition to being a welcoming and loving community, this church has been a great encouragement to us in work, as it exemplifies how the courses at the seminary help to create some uniquely healthy churches in Medellin.   
We were ushered into World Cup fever this year as Colombia advanced to the quarter finals. Recently during a trip to get his hair cut, Asher asked the barber, "Can you please make me into a blond haired James (pronounced HAHM-ez)?" Asher was, of course, referring to his new hero James Rodríguez, Colombia's star player who won the Golden Boot as top goalscorer in the World Cup.     
As we have not owned a car for the last eight years or so, we have spent our fair share of time on different types of public transportation. However, we all agree that Medellín's Metrocable is the most interesting way we have ever crossed a city!

Praise God!

  • For safe travel and for keeping Michelle and the kids safe while I was gone. 
  • For a tremendously productive time in Germany and England. 
  • For one new supporter and for three long-time supporters who increased their monthly commitment!
  • For the new doors and possibilities for our seminary that opened while I was in the UK (yes, I am being intentionally coy...).

Please Pray

  • For safety for our community. There have been a two shootings in our neighborhood within the course of a month (one that Michelle and the kids almost walked out into); just a half a block from our home one of my colleagues was held up by a motorcycle-riding robber with a shotgun last week; and a child was hit by a motorcycle recently on our street as well. 
  • For wisdom regarding Judah and Asher's schooling. It is becoming increasingly apparent that we may need to change their school, both for academic reasons (*understatement*) and a rough playground atmosphere; we need to make a decision soon about the transition. Nonetheless, part of the reason we picked this school is because the comparatively low tuition. Sending the boys to a new school will require that we raise more monthly support.
  • For this month's conference on internal displacement in Colombia. The faculty has been working on this research all year, and we are praying that it would be the beginning of something really significant. In addition to theologians from Fuller Theological Seminary in California, a number of church and NGO leaders are coming along (two of whom will be responding to my presentation). We are asking that God would use this event to help fuel a movement of justice and mercy for the millions of people in Colombia who are suffering from poverty and violence.

Student Profile

Manuel and Loida Ramos are a particularly special couple. Loida is a recent graduate of the seminary. The daughter of a Colombian church planter, works in the seminary, as well as taking care of their adorable son, Miguel Ángel (who speaks more English that many adults we know here!).

Manuel, who also works as my assistant, is in his fourth year. He says, "I came to the seminary because I desire to prepare myself to form other Christian leaders to teach the Scripture responsibly, reverently, and passionately. I want to help others come to love God and his word, as my professors have done for me." 

"More than an
ything else," he says, "God has taught us to depend completely on him. Loida and I come from an abusive church context with no interest in theological formation; as such, we don't have financial support from our church. So we can see clearly that it is the Lord who has brought us here and who has sustained us miraculously. We live miracles daily."

Not without a little bit of cheek, Manuel ended his comments by saying, "If you want to stop supporting the Hays in order to support us, please send your funds to account number 413...."  I may need to fire him now :)
Copyright © 2014 Christopher and Michelle Hays, United World Mission, All rights reserved.
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