One year after departing Oxford: laying the foundation of a graduate program, coordinating large book donations to our library, and hosting a cadre of international scholars for this month's conference on internal displacement in Colombia. 

Dear Friends and Family,

Today, one year ago, we left Oxford. Over coffee this morning, Michelle and I reflected on all that's transpired in the intervening orbit around the sun. We went through cross-cultural training, raised sufficient funds to get us here, and saw the retirement of all our student debt. We crisscrossed the country repeatedly and then flew to Colombia. We spent our first Christmas in South America, figured out the logistics of government bureaucracy (well, sort of!), grocery stores, and banks. The boys have completed 3/4ths of a school year in Spanish, and I've become a teacher. I've finished a couple writing projects, and now we're diving into some of our most ambitious collaborations yet.

Last week we welcomed a handful of scholars from Fuller Theological Seminary, who joined us for a conference on internal displacement in Colombia (and how the Church should respond to this humanitarian crisis). The conference was very well attended, the papers were very good, and the students were very engaged. Perhaps most heartening, there is a strong desire to continue this line of work, and to see how we can elaborate practical resources to help the Church pastor and accompany the psychological, economic, and spiritual recovery of displaced persons. 

At the time of this conference we also received a lovely visit from my friend and colleague, Dr. Seth Tarrer. Seth is an Old Testament missionary-scholar who spent the last two years working in Buenos Aires and is now discerning where God would call him (and his wonderful wife and four children) next. We are praying for God to put Seth in a place that his gifts could be optimally used, and would be thrilled if they ended up feeling called to contribute in some capacity to our seminary here in Medellín. 

This month has also been stuffed with earnest and rapid work developing our new master's degree in theology. It's been a little bit of a dizzying challenge to try to imagine what the first graduate degree for our seminary should look like, but the dean and president have given me tons of encouragement and support, and I'm pretty excited to see how this is shaping up.  Please pray for the next month of meetings as we fashion syllabi for the new courses that will comprise this degree, courses that we pray will be key resources for a lifetime of service for church leaders and a new generation of theologians.

My horizons this month have also been dominated by book donations. While in England in July I was able to meet with four different donors (three Oxford Colleges: Exeter, Linacre, and Mansfield, as well as a wonderful Catholic priest in London) who together will be donating around 1700 volumes to our library! Their generosity is wonderful, and in order to honor that generosity I have been scrambling to attend to the logistics of international shipping and customs bureaucracy.  

So, one year since we left Oxford, I feel like we can see God's plans unfolding quickly. And that is great. Hopefully in another year we'll see much of this coming to fruition. And I also hope that, in another year, this will feel like home. 

Peace be with you all,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

From Michelle

Asher celebrated his sixth birthday this month and I found myself remembering that his last birthday party was also a goodbye party. One year ago our house was full of moving boxes and we were visiting our favorite friends and places in Oxford "one last time." It has taken an incredible amount of emotional energy to undertake the transition from our Oxford life to our new life in Medellín. We are nine months in, and as a mother, I still feel that I spend a significant amount of my time helping my children navigate the bumpy patches that accompany this type of transition. At times I feel great pressure to be more and do more as a "missionary wife," but I am coming to realize that for our family all of the things that I do behind the scenes to make our home a place of refuge and rest really matter. 
Chris presented some of his research at the displacement conference hosted by the seminary.

So many holidays!

One major cultural difference that we are experiencing is the amount of holidays and celebrations that happen in Colombia. With great frequency, the boys are coming home from school announcing, "Guess what! Another día de festivo! Hurray!" One of the more recent holidays was the celebration of Antioquia's Independence Day. (Colombia is divided into 32 departments and Medellín is part of the department of Antioquia.) The kids wore traditional Colombian dress, enjoyed traditional foods, and participated in a mini-parade (see Judah's friend, Sara, holding Zoe above).

Flower Festival

Every August Medellín hosts its annual flower festival. One of the most famous events is the Parade of the Silleteros in which elaborate flower displays are mounted on wooden frames and then carried throughout the city. Though we only witnessed a few of the cultural events that were happening around Medellín, it was fun to be part of the celebrations for the first time.

Praise God!

  • For a successful and moving conference on the Church's response to the humanitarian catastrophe of internal displacement in Colombia.
  • For the auspicious progress in the development of our masters program.
  • For the generosity of the book donors in England. 
  • For visits from so many international scholars, and for the prospects of future collaborations with them.

Please Pray

  • For the development of our master's course syllabi: that they would be strategic, efficient, rigorous, and finely tuned to strengthen Colombia's Christian leaders and to launch a new generation of Latin American theologians.
  • For wisdom and vision about future directions for our seminary's response to the crisis of displacement in Colombia. 
  • For God to safely conduct the books across the oceans and through the ports/customs without any delays, bureaucratic hassles, or high taxes.
  • For wisdom for Dr. Seth Tarrer and his family as they discern God's calling in the coming months.
  • For the decisions we need to make about boys' schooling in September. Right now we have nearly enough funds to send one of the boys the school we'd like for them, and we need prayer a) for their admissions to the school, and b) for further monthly funds if we are to send both of them to that school.
This is a view of Medellín taken from the top of the kite-flying hill near our house.
We enjoyed some special time as a family on Asher's birthday.
Copyright © 2014 Christopher and Michelle Hays, United World Mission, All rights reserved.
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