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How Odd! A Birthday at Home…

Big Milestone: I Turn 17 (for the Fourth Time)

28 May 2020

A birthday party in Guatemala in May 2018In Guatemala, the birthday boy gets to help
pass out the cake…
Another birthday celebration in Guatemala, complete with a Mexican hat…but sometimes they make him wear
a small silly hat on his large pointy head!
A fondly remembered special birthday lunch
with Atilio and Gladys Chávez

Dear friend,
This feels… odd. I’m spending today, my birthday, at home. Why is that so strange? Well, usually at this time of year, I’m in Latin America, most frequently Guatemala, and some hermanos wind up singing “Feliz cumpleaños a ti.” I’ve got birthday-party pictures from multiple years to prove it. Just to change things up a bit last year, I spent 20 hours of my birthday flying from Guatemala City, Guatemala to Lima, Perú by way of Atlanta. (Shortest route? Absolutely not! Cheapest? You bet, and we’re all about making donations stretch as far as possible.)

I haven’t traveled now for nearly two and a half months. Am I disappointed? No way! Do I miss the brethren to whom I would have been teaching? Sure. But in this “work from home” environment, uninterrupted by lengthy trips, we’ve marched past two significant milestones since my last report.

Milestone #1: The Gospel of the Glory Translation

When I left Perú last June, Superintendent Jorge Watanabe from Lima, Perú was threatening to translate one of Percy Gutteridge’s Bible-study articles so that we could get it published. I encouraged him to pick the article that blessed him the most and work on that. By the time the beginning of August rolled around, Jorge made good on his threat, and an e-mail from him appeared in my inbox — with his translation of The Gospel of the Glory attached.

Although I keep progressing in Spanish, I’m not nearly fluent enough to fine-tune such translation work. So over the ensuing months, my Spanish tutor, Inés María González Valdés, has taken me through the translation paragraph by paragraph during many of our Skyped classes together. Jorge’s hard work has provided a wonderful learning experience for me as Inés and I have discussed, analyzed, corrected, and clarified the translation before us; and I’ve learned to appreciate nuances and turns of phrase that would have eluded me previously. Then over the last two days we have spent nearly six hours together polishing the last little bits, for today’s launch on our website.

The result is that El evangelio de la gloria (capitalization rules are different in Spanish) is now up on our FinestOfTheWheat.org website, our first full-fledged Bible study in Spanish. This is something I’ve asked for in prayer for a long time — a cooperative effort of volunteers translating Pastor Gutteridge’s work. (And perhaps some of mine, too — this summer we may revive and finalize the work on La bendición rechazadaThe Rejected Blessing. As I recall, we lack only the endnotes and bibliography to complete our first draft.) It’s a “baby step” towards a bigger goal, namely, a Spanish-language website for our ministry, LoMejorDelTrigo.org (a domain name we’ve had reserved for many years, along with its .net equivalent). Once we get, oh, say, a dozen translated Bible studies, we’ll launch that new site, and transfer all the Spanish-language articles there.

It’s not the same as teaching my friends and co-laborers in person in el mundo hispanohablante (the Spanish-speaking world), but this milestone is exciting in its own way!

Milestone #2: An Unexpected Invitation

Image of adult students at a North Florida Theological Seminary class April 2019What my class looked like in 2019…1Screenshot of a Zoom class session with multiple attendees visible on the screen …and what it looked like this year!
Screenshot from an NTFS class lectureNevertheless, we moved through 9+ hours
of teaching total, and experienced God’s blessing. If you're interested in the free videos
of these classes, drop us a line.

Less than two weeks ago, I “Zoom-ed” through nearly my entire day Saturday teaching the second half of our Woman in the Kingdom of God series to students and auditors at the North Florida Theological Seminary, a small Bible school in the Jacksonville area. (I had taught the first half of Woman on 18 April last month.) When I finished, I was exhilarated; and less than an hour later, I was also exhausted. Teaching that much in a day, with that intensity and passion, requires an all-out effort. (Just to be clear, I said I’m turning 17 times 4 today, not 17 times 1!)

Perhaps it was the passion; possibly it was in part the content; no doubt it was mainly the blessing of the Holy Spirit on the material. Whatever the reason, this week the president of the school asked if they could put my name in the 2020-2021 course catalog as part of the regular teaching team.

What an invitation and honor! I guess that would make me what the academic world calls an “adjunct professor.” Huh. “Who woulda thunk it?” No, it’s not a paid position. The “pay” — or the “payoff” — is the same blessing I experience in Latin America: teaching Christian leaders, living out 2 Timothy 2:2, enjoying the blessing of being able to work out what Jesus has been preparing in me and working into me for nearly 52 years (if you count “years since salvation”), perhaps for my whole life.

Milestones in June?

I’m often reminded of — and sobered by — the words of the apostle James:

  1. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
  2. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
  3. James 4:14-15

Well, the Lord didn’t will that the Iowa Holiness Association camp meeting should take place this year, so I won’t be teaching in Iowa, as was planned. However, they have scheduled me for Camp 2021 next June, so “if the Lord wills,” Denise and I will be there next year. Meanwhile, rather than just sit and listen to my beard grow, here, as we see it, are the milestones/goals ahead for the coming month:

  • Publish El evangelio de la gloria as a Kindle e-booklet;
  • Publish Percy Gutteridge’s message The Double Portion of Elisha as an e-booklet. (This will be part of the forthcoming book The Emblems of the Holy Spirit. The entire series can be read online on this website.)
  • Publish Isaiah Reid’s insightful, but long-forgotten, devotional book, Soul-Help Papers (already in e-book format), as a paperback;
  • Post Pulling the Mnemonic Trigger (a portion from my in-progress book manuscript for The John the Baptist Experience) on our website. This piece deals with an especially fruitful discipline of Bible study.
  • Begin subject/teaching preparations for our visit to Guatemala and Perú in the October/November time frame.

Many Milestones More Together (Lord Willing)

Photo of a birthday cakeA shot from another year’s birthday in Guatemala.
Cake by Tirsa Chávez

Just like the translation of El evangelio de la gloria was a team effort, so, too is all the rest of what we do — emphasis on WE. It wouldn’t happen without your encouragement, your giving, your praying, and you sharing our ministry with others. Thank you for your gifts; they keep us going. We offer our ministry freely to those who can’t reimburse us, even though it’s costly for us to do so. Thank you for your intercession on our behalf; your prayers help us to hear from the Lord as He opens the Scriptures to us and as He directs our travels and activities.

And, speaking of “team effort,” please — If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and help us finish eating the birthday cake Denise is baking downstairs. I don’t want it to go to waste, but I don’t want it to go to (my) waist, either!

Much love in Jesus,

Jim

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  1. Photo by Rennard (“Rick”) LeSesne.
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