Hosting a major international research event for the Displacement project and traveling to Bogotá to give a presentation on science and religion.

Dear Friends and Family,

As I reviewed my March calendar in preparing for this update, I felt slightly shocked...so much work has been crammed into these past four weeks that I could hardly believe that only one month has passed since I last wrote you all.

The month began with the second half of the visit from Prof. Dr. Erik Eynikel (I mentioned his visit in the last update, but he stayed on at FUSBC for a few more days, and I translated for his big public lecture on the Septuagint at FUSBC). It was a privilege to have a top-tier European scholar here, and then next week, we received a whole slew of visitors from abroad (South Africa, USA, UK, Brazil, Germany), as we held the Second Intensive Collaborative Session of our research project on forced internal displacement in Colombia.

Our team of 25 international researchers converged for a second time on FUSBC this month, joined by a half-dozen US PhD students in psychology who have been grafted into the project. This cadre of sociologists, political scientists, psychologists, theologians (ETC!) got back together to work in their small teams and especially to analyse the results of the field research we conducted in December and January (the findings are SO fascinating!). A high-point of the event was a workshop some of the teams put on (as a side project!) for 250 Colombian church leaders, training them on how to respond to trauma within their communities. And as the teams worked and worshipped and ate together, it was rewarding to see how they have gelled together in their common work, notwithstanding our rigorous schedule and the complexities of interdisciplinary collaboration. We are engaged in an incredibly challenging and daunting project, but if everyone continues to pull together as they have this past month, we just might succeed!

This week I took a quick trip to Bogotá, in order to present a paper (co-authored with my friend, Dr. Michael Burdett) to the Philosophy, Science and Religion Network, which draws together scholars from the top universities of the capital city to talk about the intersection of recent scientific advances with philosophy and religion. This is the third time I have had the pleasure of participating in an event of the Network during the past year, and it has been a great joy interacting with these talented scholars from differing fields and developing friendships outside of Medellín. 

In the days between conferences and travels, I have been scrambling to grade my students' homework and write like mad, since I have a pretty hefty speaking schedule lined up for the summer and fall. My experience seems to be vindicating the old saying, that there is no rest for the wicked! But this sinner is indeed grateful to have so much good work to do.

Peace be with you all,

Christopher, Michelle, Judah, Asher, and Zoe Hays

Real Life Magic (From Michelle)

This month I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing Gabriel García Márquez as I have attempted to help Judah use every spare minute to internalize his Lengua Castellana book for first period. Oh, and I have been using a lot of food coloring between science experiments and making large quantities of icing for birthday cakes. Judah and I have been pouring over his book, waking up early and staying up late, soaking up everything we can before his final test. Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia´s most beloved author, is famous for his use of magical realism. Many of his stories hold a mixture of everyday mundane events and outlandish magical happenings, and interestingly, the characters in his books often perceive the magical elements as completely normal and legitimate aspects of day to day life. While the book we read was dark (ranging from slightly disturbing to great fodder for nightmares), I do feel stuck on the idea that under the surface of all of the monotonous, repetitive moments of life something extraordinary is rustling. Only, in my narrative--and now I am making a major break from García Márquez--I like to imagine that the something extraordinary under the surface that bubbles up is God at work, upsetting our “ordinary” and reminding us of His love. I was thinking about this again as I made a giant batch of white frosting and let tiny dark drops of food coloring fall into the white. With only the slightest movement of a toothpick, the bright colors swirl into plain view in the white frosting, taking something unremarkable making it beautiful.

Living in community here at FUSBC helps me to recognize the moments when God is stirring up my mundane moments with color. I am reminded that He is working when I find a pot of soup on my doorstep after I have been up all night caring for a sick child. I feel that divine rustling again when a friend drops by to take one of my children for a special play date so I can finish homework with another child. Maybe these moments are not exactly “magic,” but they are helping me to be aware of the fact that God is regularly breaking through into my “ordinary” with bits of His love. And I must say that I must prefer these kind of "extraordinary" happenings to those we read about in Judah´s Lengua Castellana book! 

Student Profile

Carolina Pineda is an 18 year-old sophomore at FUSBC and one of the new cadre of students that I am teaching in my Introduction to the New Testament class. She is also the newest member of my advanced Greek reading group, and in spite of the fact that she has to travel from the far side of town, she is always waiting on the steps of my building at 5:45 am, fifteen minutes before the group actually begins!

Although Carolina was born in Medellín, she has grown up all over the country, owing to travels of her missionary parents. She says, "I came to the seminary because I have the desire to know more about God and to learn to study the Bible so that I can interpret its message and teach it to others. Studying at the seminary was not in my previous plans, but I decided to come in obedience to God and as a step of faith."

"At the moment I work with children and youth at my church. Additionally, I support my parents' ministry by helping in their workshops of 'Integral formation'. I also help out in a weekly prayer group and teach English classes." 

"I am passionate about social work as well as cross-cultural missions. For that reason, after graduating from FUSBC I hope to continue my studies in a field in the social sciences (social work, sociology, or perhaps law). Although these are the desires God has placed on my heart, I am praying for the Lord's direction in the process and for the confirmation of my calling. In addition, it is my desire to form a family."

Carolina is smart, sweet, diligent, and detail-oriented. In spite of being one of the youngest students in her class, she has distinguished herself among her colleagues, even in comparison with those more than twice her age. I am pretty sure she will be a fantastic missionary (and while I hope she is no rush to get married, I don't doubt she'll be a great mom too).  

Praise God!

  • For the successful and encouraging collaborative session of the Theology and Displacement project. It is a delight to see how this project has come together.
  • For the privilege of travelling to Bogotá to share with the Philosophy, Science, and Religion Network.
  • That we have received enough new support commitments to help us meet our monthly support requirement! Thank you to all of you who have joined our team these past few months, and all of you who have been faithful partners with us over the past several years! We would not be here without you. 

Please Pray

  • For tremendous productivity this month as I engage in numerous academic writing projects AND as I begin to prepare for this summer's speaking schedule. In particular, I would be grateful for your intercession regarding a series of a half-dozen messages that I need to prepare for this July. I have been asked to be the keynote speaker at the annual pastor's conference of a major Colombian denomination, the AIEC (Asociación de Iglesias Evangélicas de Colombia). It is a lovely denomination that I've had the distinct pleasure to get to know during the course of my field research, and I feel both honored and intimidated by this invitation. More than a thousand church leaders are slated to attend this three-day event, and they hail from a wide range of educational backgrounds, both from major urban areas and remote rural communities. I do very much want to be a good steward of the opportunity. The topic on which I was asked to speak is "The Relevance of the Protestant Reformation for the 21st Century Colombian Church". 
  • For all our family to have a safe journey and a rejuvenating time as we travel to Peru for the UWM missionary retreat (April 18-23).
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