Studying the Bible in the Darkness

13 Mar 2017

In Peru, expect the unexpected. At the moment, we’re visiting lots of churches to share our about the University ministry and invite students to join. On Saturday night, we visited a church youth group and peering in the front door, it was completely dark inside. I looked back out on the street and there were no street lights on. I looked back into the church and I could vaguely see a small group of young people at the front.

We enjoyed a Bible study from Exodus, led by the pastor. He had someone standing behind him with his phone, slightly illuminating the Bible so that he could teach from it. At the end we shared about our university ministry called "Comunidad Bíblica Universitaria” and I showed a short video from my laptop. After the meeting we chatted with students who were applying to enter university and got their details. Several had their entrance exam the following day so we took the opportunity to pray with them.

Here are two photos I took that night with my phone in the darkness. For the second photo we used the light of a mobile phone.


Please pray as we visit churches and connect with students, that many will be keen to study the Bible on campus. Pray that Christian students will be bold and not be afraid to identify with Jesus, in universities where many are embarrassed to stand out, especially with their faith.


Adventures in Biblical (Mis)Interpretation (Aventuras en la (mala) Interpretación Bíblica)

13 Mar 2017


This will be a blog to report on our adventures in Ethiopia (expected arrival: Aug 2017), as well as an occasional post on the challenges of biblical interpretation. 

For example, a common temptation is to ignore the original context and meaning of a biblical passage. A good example is found in John 14:26: ὁ δὲ παράκλητος, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου, ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἃ εἶπον ὑμῖν [ἐγώ]. (Eberhard Nestle et al., The Greek New Testament with McReynolds English Interlinear, 27th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Jn 14:26).

"But the Counselor/Defender, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, that one (he) will teach you (all) everything, and will make you (all) remember everything that I spoke to you (about)." (John 14:26; my wooden translation). 

After reading the passage, and being asked of its meaning, most will respond with something like, "It is a promise that the Spirit will guide us and give us wisdom." But they have ignored the meaning most important--what the passage meant for its first hearers. (Some may even take it as if it is not necessary to study and read--the Holy Spirit will teach us directly).

While it is true that the Holy Spirit does, in fact, teach us, it is doubtful that this is the principal meaning of the passage. It is better to understand this as a way to remind the disciples (who were the first to hear these words of Jesus) that the Spirit would play a very important role in the process of compiling (and writing) the New Testament. The responsibility to write down the teachings of Jesus was crucial and carried significant weight, and these words of Jesus would have been a tremendous encouragement later on, during the long process. They would have been able to preserve faithfully and accurately the words of Jesus because of the ministry of the Spirit that would "make them remember" all that Jesus taught (See also Richard Schultz, Out of Context (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 34). 



Este será un blog para informar acerca de nuestras aventuras en Etiopia (llegada esperada: Agosto 2017), tal como un artículo de vez en cuando acerca de los desafíos de la interpretación bíblica.  

Por ejemplo, una tentación constante es ignorar el significado y contexto original de los pasaje bíblicos. Un buen ejemplo: Al leer el versículo de Juan 14:26 (ὁ δὲ παράκλητος, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου, ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἃ εἶπον ὑμῖν [ἐγώ]. (Eberhard Nestle et al., The Greek New Testament with McReynolds English Interlinear, 27th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Jn 14:26); "Pero el Consolador/Abogado, el Espíritu Santo, lo cual el Padre enviará en mi nombre, aquel (él) les enseñará a ustedes todo, y les hará recordar a ustedes todo lo que (yo) les dije" (Juan 14:26, traducción demasiado literal)), y ser preguntado de su significado, la mayoría responde con algo como, "Es una promesa que el Espíritu va a guiarnos y darnos sabiduría." Pero, han pasado por alto el significado más important--lo que el pasaje significaba para los oyentes originales (Algunos incluso lo toman como si estuviera diciendo que no sea necesario estudiar ni leer--porque el Espíritu Santo va a enseñarnos en manera directa). Mientras que es cierto que el Espíritu Santo sí nos enseña, es muy dudable que esto sea el significado principal del pasaje. Mejor está enseñando a los discípulos (los que recibieron primero las palabras de Jesús) que el Espíritu jugará  un papel muy importante en el proceso de registrar (y escribir) el Nuevo Testamento. La responsibilidad de escribir las enseñanzas de Jesús fue bien importante y pesada, y estas palabras de Jesús hubieran sido un ánimo tremendo (más adelante) durante el proceso tan largo. Iban a poder preservar precisamente las palabras de Jesús debido al ministerio del Espíritu que les haría recordar todo lo que Jesús les enseñaba (ver también el libro de Richard Schultz, Out of Context (Grand Rapids, 2012), 34).

I'm a welder. Why do I get sick when I heat up leftovers in plastic containers?

09 Mar 2017

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of teaching a basic medicine course at the Bible Institute that SIM partners with here in Arequipa.  The main subject was, "How to stay healthy and productive in the ministries God has called us"  We were discussing all sorts of subjects from filtering one's drinking water to immunizations.  I like to keep my classes interactive, so I let the students ask any questions that they might have.  Sometimes I have a hard time hearing because they are so timid and soft spoken and other times, despite 17 years in Peru, I just don't understand some Spanish words that they choose.  One question in particular left me baffled as to what he was asking, "I'm a welder.  Why do I get sick when I heat of leftovers in plastic containers?"  His question was kind of out of the blue and it didn't seem to make sense.  "I'm sorry.  Could you repeat your question?" I asked as I moved closer to hear better and maybe get some clues from his body language what his question really was.  He repeated the question.  That really was his question.  I briefly discussed the lack of studies on microwaving food in tupperware and told him to use glass or ceramic in the microwave before surrendering with, "I don't know."

I guess they weren't too disappointed with my  lack of knowlege about leftover food as they invited me back in two weeks for a course on first aid!

Reaching the unreached, deep in the Amazon jungle

01 Mar 2017

Javier is a graduate of Computer Science in Arequipa. He volunteers his time to encourage and help students to serve Jesus on campus. Several times a year he travels to other cities in the south of Peru to do the same.

Javier and I catching up at a Cafe after a long time.

Javier is now somewhere I never expected. He’s in the Amazon jungle in the neighbouring country of Bolivia where he will work for a month. He’s helping to create a translation of the Jesus movie in an indigenous jungle language. This will enable people to see the Jesus movie in their heart language - reaching many who may have never heard the name of Jesus before.

This is a huge operation with several specialised teams - voice actors, editors, and linguistics experts. Javier is part of the technical team who work on editing the audio and synchronising it with the video. He got involved in this ministry, following his passion in missions and then doing a course in this type of work. Last year he helped complete a translation into a Peruvian jungle language.

So thank you for praying for the work with students in Arequipa. It’s exciting to see the University ministry having such a strategic impact. Please pray that more graduates from Arequipa, like Javier, will go on to help reach the unreached for Jesus.

Here’s more information on the Jesus film and the local organisation that is facilitating the translation of the film.

It's on Facebook, it's official now.

26 Feb 2017

Yesterday, Mary Beth and I went to a funeral/burial of Elizabeth's mother who died in a freak auto accident on Thursday.  Mary Beth was Elizabeth's camp counselor in the past, so they have grown close over the years.  I was amazed at Elizabeth's dad who directed a lot of the funeral himself without a tear or quivering voice.  I think people here get so used to tragedy they become hardened to it.  

This year we have had an unusual amount of rain for the desert and yesterday it continued.   We got rained on at the cemetery and were thankful that another friend loaned us her umbrella.  Since the city isn't prepared for rain, the streets become rivers and on our way home the traffic was so bad that at one point it took over 30 minutes to go half a mile.  Since we were sitting in traffic we decided it was a good time to change our 'relationship status' on Facebook.  We had initially thought we would do it on Valentine's Day, shortly after we started going out, but there were a few people that we needed to tell in person, and Elizabeth was one of the last ones.  

So yes, it's true!  I have an 'enamorada' now.  Mary Beth is a fellow SIM missionary from Canada, whom I have known for about 12 years.  Over the years she has spent a lot of time with my family, working with the horses with Sarah out at camp and coming over after youth events.   She puts Christ first in her life, has a servant's heart (at yesterday's funeral she got up to help serve drinks), is sincere and genuine, and funloving.  I feel so fortunate and think often of James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

I feel even more blessed than usual!

Sleeping on the street in Lima

26 Jan 2017

Sometimes you need to go to extraordinary lengths to get something you want. I know friends who have camped overnight to get tickets to their favourite band, but I never expected to have to sleep on the street to get my residency visa.

When moving to Peru we need to do lots of paperwork to get our residence in the country including checks at the Interpol office. We get ourselves fingerprinted and provide a bunch of personal information so that the Peruvian government can give us permission to live here after confirming that we don’t have a criminal record anywhere else. Normally this is a simple process that takes a few hours. However, today was no ordinary day.

Damaris, a lady from our mission, who helps us with the paperwork, arrived at 6:30am to what was already a massive line of people waiting. This was 2 hours before the Interpol opening hours and there were more people than could possibly be processed in a single day. Damaris called us and we got there as soon as we could with just our son Samuel. Damaris was able to get Christine on the preferential queue which is reserved for people with young kids, disabilities or older people. No amount of pleading would get me to be processed along with Christine. It was obvious with the huge lines at 7:30am that there was no way I would get processed today.

It wasn’t hard to work out why there were so many people because basically everyone waiting was from Venezuela. Thousands are leaving Venezuela, a country in crisis, where it’s now impossible to buy the basics like food, medicine and toilet paper. Peru is allowing Venezuelans to stay and unfortunately the systems are not setup to handle such volumes of foreigners entering the country at once. To the credit of the Interpol office, they had increased the number of people they were processing from 60 per day to 100 and some staff were working 12-hour days to cope with the influx.

I was told to come back at 4am the next morning and join the queue. Doing some simple maths it was clear that coming at 4am wouldn’t be enough - given the number of people who missed out today. So Damaris went to the Interpol office at 7pm and held a place for me. I arrived at 10pm with warm clothes, pillow, food and water for the night. Unfortunately the police wouldn’t let me into the Interpol office complex. A police officer told us that if we wanted to wait overnight we couldn’t come into the complex, we had to wait in the street. There were a lot of people already waiting on the street.

I sat down on my pillow for awhile and later curled up on the pavement sleeping as best as I could. I kept waking from dreams where I had missed the line in the morning. I was afraid to drink water as there were no toilets around. The only toilets in the Interpol office were broken. At about 6am there was movement in the queue. No one wanted to lose their place. At 7am some officials arrived and handed us paperwork to fill out.

I was 10th out of 100 people they saw so by 8:30am I had been fingerprinted, someone had checked my teeth and made some notes and we started the process to confirm that I had no criminal record. After the long wait, I asked twice to be sure it was all over and I could go home.

Praise God that our family's residency in Peru is progressing. Thank God for people like Damaris who can help us navigate the complex paperwork required in countries like Peru. Please pray for the people left in Venezuela in a terrible situation.

Washington State University

25 Jan 2017

Last night we arrived in Pullman, Washington, home of Amy's brother Mike Kessler and his wife Michelle.  This is where Ben will be living for the next six months, hopefully finding a job and making some money before starting university in the fall. Pullman is also home of WSU (Washington State University) which has a good engineering school.  We got Ben's car registered without difficulty this morning, but he won't be able to take the driving test for his driving license until February 16th.  Yes, he already had a Nebraska license, but it expired while we were overseas.  Let's just say it's complicated...



College Campus Tours

21 Jan 2017

Thursday, Ben went on his first college campus tour.  While in Peru he used the internet search engines to look for good engineering schools, and Colorado popped up repeatedly.  Since it is kind of on the way to Amy's parents' home, we went to Boulder and stayed with our friends the Henzes (Gregor is an engineering professor and their daughter Sophia is an engineering student at Colorado so we felt like we got a bit of an inside look at things).  It is an impressive program with a good reputation so Ben is still interested in finishing the application process.  Boulder is a beautiful city with running/biking trails all over that contribute to its ranking as the 'fittest city in America'.  One can even skateboard to class and lock up his board on the rack (I've never seen one of those before):

Pray that God guide Ben to a university where he will grow spiritually and be academically prepared for the world.


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