Leading an international research event on forced displacement, hosting a brilliant scientist, and giving my own conference talk on religion and science.

Dear Friends and Family,

October has not been a dull month! The cognitive science of religion dominated the first two weeks, as we received a wonderful visit from Dr. Justin Barrett, thanks to a generous grant from the Ian Ramsey Center in Oxford (The Templeton Visiting Fellowship to Latin America). Dr. Barrett gave a public lecture and a workshop at FUSBC, and then we travelled to Bogota to give a similar series of talks. As the grant leader and translating monkey (you can check out one of the talks here), I had a wonderful time learning from Dr. Barrett and strengthening my network in Bogota. And last week, here in Medellín, I also gave a presentation of my own on science and religion at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana. 

In the meantime, I graded final papers for my class on the Acts of the Apostles and prepared for the BIG event of the month: the investive collaboration session for the theology and displacement project.

This weekend, a group of 25 scholars and professionals from four continents have gathered at FUSBC to work on the mobilizing the church to respond to the humantarian crisis of forced displacement in Colombia. We have been working together long-distance since July, in six interdisciplinary teams focused on economics, psychology, politics, pedagogy, sociology and missiology. So after months of conducting independent research, we are meeting together for an intensive weekend of collaboration. We have been working in small teams to share our subject-specific research and to prepare for the field research we will undertake in December and January. But we also have set aside time to worship together, develop friendships, and learn about research and pedagogical techniques that will be vital for the second and third years of our project.  

High points of this weekend have included: 1) a fascinating workshop from our pedagogy team, focusing on how to implement programs in non-literate populations; 2) taking communion with research colleagues from South Africa, Germany, the UK, the US, and Brasil; 3) a homily/testimony on forgiveness from one of my students who has been repeatedly affected by the violence in Colombia. 

This event (which concludes today) is the second that FUSBC has held to address the displacement crisis. Our first was in 2014, and I am pleased to report that this month the book produced by that conference--Conversaciones teológicas del sur global americano: violencia, desplazamiento y fe--has finally made it to print. 

I feel distinctly grateful to have the chance to lead a project of this scope. It continues to be an enormous amount of work, and I am being stretched far beyond the limits of my previous expertise. But we are committed to giving the very best of our efforts to benefit the church and the displaced community of Colombia. Thank you for supporting us throughout this process.

Peace be with you all,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

From Michelle

Both Judah and Zoe celebrated birthdays this month! Amidst all of the activity of October, we loved having the chance as a family to thank God for Judah (12) and Zoe (4).  I remember getting ready Judah´s 8th birthday when I was very pregnant with Zoe and praying for Judah, who at that time did not want a new baby to share his birthday month let alone a baby GIRL. As we celebrated their birthdays this year, I am thankful for the special relationship that has developed between Zoe and Judah. He teaches her, reads to her, plays with her and brings such a sweet smile to her face. It is also amazing to see that when Judah is really sad about something, one of the things that comforts him most is a hug from Zoe. 

Student Profile

Tatiana Mejiana is a local girl, born just on the other side of Medellín. Smart, sweet, and very dedicated to her work, she is finishing her second year at the seminary and is a student in my Synoptic Gospels class.

When invited to tell a bit about herself, she wrote, "I was born in a dysfunctional family, and for that reason I took refuge every day in my church and the pastors who took care of me as I grew up. Since I was a little girl, in my heart I have had the desire to teach and learn from others, and in my adolescence, I fell even more in love with teaching as a profession. I thought about how I could serve the Lord in my job, and he guided me to the seminary, to be formed holistically in order to serve with excellence in theological education. Right now I serve in the worship ministry in my church, where I also teach (both children and leaders). It is my desire to keep growing in love and knowledge, in order to bless and help educate the Church." 

Praise God!

  • For the incredible chance to work with a team of 25 experts to help prepare the Colombian church to respond to suffering of the forced migrants in this nation. 
  • For the chance to continue to speak and help raise awareness in South America about the compatibility between Christianity and modern science, in order to help resist a form of anti-intellectualism that is so damaging to the Church.  
  • For the successful completion of my Acts class.
  • For a couple of new friends who have expressed a desire to join our support team.

Please Pray

  • For God to call new supporters to partner financially with our ministry. Since the Euro and Pound have lost a lot of value this year, and since we have new expenses (i.e. Zoe beginning school in January), we are praying for God to expand our support base and introduce us to new friends!
  • For the development of new relationships, and faithful preaching, when I get to visit one of our partner churches, Triangle Presbyterian, in Durham, NC (Nov. 12-13).
  • For rich ministry and engagement with students as I lecture at the Trinity Fellows Academy in Maryland (Nov. 14-17). 
  • For a successful conclusion to the academic year (Nov. 11).
  • That my new research on collective trauma and Christian theology would be well received at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Antonio, TX (Nov. 18-22)
  • For our first field research on forced displacement (Nov. 26-29) in El Granizal, just on the other side of Medellin.
  • For Asher's visa. We have had a nightmare getting our visas renewed. After countless hours of frustration (unlike anything we have experienced in our years abroad), we have four of the five visas, but Asher's is still being denied (in spite of his documentation being identical to Zoe's). Please pray for this to be resolved, and QUICKLY, since his visa already expired and we are now nearing the end of the one-month extension we have been granted for our visa renewal process.
Copyright © 2016 Christopher and Michelle Hays, United World Mission, All rights reserved.

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