Our first Christmas in Colombia.

Dear Friends and Family,

We've been in Colombia for one month now. It's been hectic, as we've crisscrossed the city trying to get our national ID cards, furnish our apartment, and occasionally do something fun with the kids to show them the upsides of their new home. But as the New Year approaches, the biggest tasks have been accomplished and the prospect of developing a routine seems not too far distant.  

It's hard to imagine a more kind and accommodating community than the one here at the seminary (FUSBC). As a former missionary professor of mine often quipped, "We have watches, but the Latin Americans have time." And the availability of my colleagues, their willingness to take me to hardware stores and explain cultural minutiae, has been a wonderful aid. Faculty members have had us to meals, those with kids make a point of reaching out to our children, and the boys are having a blast with their new handful of Colombian and TCK (Third Culture Kid) friends. It's hard to imagine an transition to Latin America going much more smoothly.

I'd be lying if I said that there weren't challenging pieces too. I get frustrated at the limits of my vocabulary and I very much miss having a regular schedule (I have always craved routine). I still miss life in England, especially so on Christmas day, as life in South America is ever so noisy. (The entire month of December is plagued with fireworks and parties with loud music that go all through the night and into the next morning.)  And of course the realities of being a rich person in a poor world--long familiar to me in statistical form--are being pressed upon my consciousness in new ways, especially at Christmas time. Colombia seems to be every inch as materialistic as the US and Europe, but people are not nearly so capable of gratifying their desires. I felt self-conscious throwing out the boxes and bags of wrapping paper on Christmas afternoon, and while I feel pretty comfortable with the way we allotted our funds this Christmas, I was also very aware that a few hours later people had rifled through my trash bags to see if my rubbish might have a place in their home. 

Next week I will turn my attention to developing the new semester's coursework. I'm teaching on the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). And while I know the material pretty well, I feel a bit daunted as I seek to reflect on how these portraits of Jesus could be best taught to students of whose lives I have such a limited understanding. So please pray for me to have sensitivity, creativity, and a listening heart as I develop my syllabus in the coming weeks, and as I have my first encounters with students. We've been preparing for this work for a long time, and now that we've arrived, we want very much to be found faithful.

By the way, I'd be remiss not to say that there is still time to make a 2013 tax-deductible donation to our ministry at the UWM website! Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous support.

Peace be with you all, and may God bless you in the coming year,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

From Michelle

There have been so many adjustments and new experiences in the last month that I am not sure where to begin! The astonishingly warm welcome that we have received from the community at the seminary has greatly eased our transition.  I have also started my lessons with a Spanish language tutor and she has been helpful especially in terms of teaching me how to navigate practical aspects of life here. So far, she has taught me how to use taxis and public transportation, how to find things in the grocery stores and she has given me a lesson in Colombian cooking. The boys have been processing the transition in their own ways, but in general I think they are doing fairly well. Asher made a small book today called "Colombia by Asher" and in it he drew pictures of what he was thankful for (cable cars and a special park we visited) and one thing he wonders about ("What is it like for the people who live in the poor neighborhoods in the mountains?"). Judah wrote a letter to God describing the parts of life here that he enjoys (awesome weather, tropical fruits like granadillas and the kindness of the people here) and the parts that are hard (having to learn a whole new language and not being able to take his camera out in the city due to theft). We would all appreciate continued prayer for God to give us peace in our hearts as we settle into our new home and new culture.
We felt so blessed when our shipment from the US arrived in time to decorate for Christmas.  Nearly everything arrived in perfect condition - thank you for your prayers!
Little by little we are learning to get around our new city. Medellín has very good public transportation for a Latin American city and some of it is run by cable cars (see right hand side of photo). As you ride the cable cars up the mountainside there are amazing views of the city. However, coupled with the natural beauty that exists in this tropical climate are the hard living conditions in the highest and often poorest neighborhoods (not pictured here).

Praise God!

  • For his abundant provision for our needs. It took a long time to build up the funds we needed to deploy, but as we completed the expensive process of moving and setting up house this month, we were so grateful for the generosity of our supporters in helping get us to Medellín and to create a new home in this city.
  • For the wonderful new friends we're all making in the seminary.
  • For the safe arrival of our shipment from the US. For the first time in over seven years, Michelle and I are able to use the dishes, bed, and linens we were given as wedding presents, and this is helping us make our new apartment feel like home in a way that was difficult to do when we were living in other (semi-)furnished residences in the UK and Germany. In some ways, it feels as though we are coming full circle, regaining some of what we left behind when I undertook my doctorate.
  • For Christopher's high school Spanish teacher. That may sound silly, but I have a clear sense that God placed me in high school Spanish with Señora Coates because he was preparing me for this move. When we first arrived in Germany, every conversation was a struggle; that's not the case here. However aggravating I may find my linguistic imprecision and ineptitude, I'm deeply grateful that I feel comfortable and confident in Colombia, that I am able to help get my family settled in a new home, and that I feel ready (if nervous) to begin lecturing this month. 

Please Pray

  • For wisdom and insight as Christopher prepares to teach his first class at FUSBC. 
  • For great excitement and encouragement as he begins teaching on January 28th.
  • For the boys to make friends at their new school when the academic year kicks off this month (January 21).
  • For the boys and Michelle to make quick progress in Spanish, and to develop confidence quickly. 
  • For God to provide us with the remaining 10% of monthly support we need to raise.
For a family day out we rode the cable cars up to a beautiful nature reserve just outside of Medellín called Parque Arví. Judah and Asher particularly enjoyed the chance to take a boat out on the lake. 
From one of the market stalls at Parque Arví we purchased lunch items to share including an empanada (pastry stuffed with meat and potatoes) and a fiambre (a package of rice, plantains, eggs, potatoes and meat all wrapped in banana leaves), and for dessert, some passion fruit candies. It was a fun day of exploring and trying new things!
Copyright © 2013 Christopher and Michelle Hays, United World Mission, All rights reserved.
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