Greetings! Vanessa and I have just entered into the world of blogging (who would have thought!). We pray this blog will be a means for us to share what God has done and is doing in our lives. We desire that all who read will “stop and consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:14) which he has so clearly manifest throughout our relationship, and which we expect him to continue to manifest throughout our lives.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

אנחנו הללנו את־יהוה על דברים רבים – We Thank God for Many Things

It's hard to process everything going on in my mind right now. I'm reflecting back to last November when the seed of this dream was planted in my head and I shared it with Vanessa for the first time (before we were even married). By March we were praying for God to do a miracle and provide $14,000, which He did within three months and up until the day before we left! We got on the plane and it seems like in a flash we’re heading back home. It's difficult to describe the significance of what took place within that flash. God did much more than we expected. During our first week in Israel, we mentioned five prayer requests that we were praying for over the summer. Here is how God answered these prayers:

     1) Acquisition of Hebrew

Going into this summer I was convinced of the communicative method of language learning and was highly expectant of this program. I can honestly say the program exceeded my expectations. Though we are still at the beginning stages of the language learning process, we have a solid foundation to build on and the resources to keep progressing. Having internalized so much of the language makes reading it much more comprehensible and enjoyable, which was the goal for this program.

     2) Increased love for God and His Word

I briefly alluded to this above, but I have observed that the more a language is internalized (as opposed to merely translating in one's head), the more enjoyable it is to read. Thus, the more we learn Hebrew in this manner, the more we are able to focus on the actual meaning of the text without analyzing and dissecting the language itself, which can often be a hindrance to getting the feel for what the author is actually trying to communicate. Please keep praying that our knowledge of the language would be a means to knowing and loving God's Word more, and therefore knowing and loving God more.

     3) Clarity for our future

I've mentioned in previous posts some thoughts from this summer regarding our future. We see a massive need for people to learn the Biblical languages through this method. Being in Israel and seeing young children speak Hebrew effortlessly, along with the encouragement of our instructors, made me aware that the best way to learn Hebrew fluently is to be immersed in a culture where they speak it fluently. In other words, learning to speak Modern Hebrew is the most effective way to learn Biblical Hebrew well. We are seriously praying about spending one to two years in Israel after I graduate  from seminary in order to acquire the language to a level where I would be equipped to train others, especially Bible translators across the world who are working on translations into their mother tongue. There are many other factors to this decision, but please pray for us that God would open and shut doors in order to direct our future.

     4) Our marriage to strengthen through this summer

As newly weds we did not desire to spend our first summer apart since, in many ways, we still feel like we're getting to know each other.:-) This was one reason I did not go alone. This summer had a different rhythm than the steady school-work-school-work that characterized our first semester as a married couple. It was good for us to observe each other in a different context. I don’t imagine there will be too many times in our life when we will get to spend twenty-four seven together for seven straight weeks! We also experienced that being together that much provides our flesh with more opportunities to sin. It was a good wake-up call that we are both sinful and do not always love each other the way we ought to. We praise God for His Holy Spirit who did not allow sin to fester and destroy our marriage, but who convicted us and granted grace to love and forgive each other in ways deeper than we could have imagined, strengthening our marriage as a result.

     5) To be the aroma of Christ to the people we encounter this summer

Being involved in more of the “civilian” life (as opposed to the tourist perspective) of the Jewish people helped us better understand the way they think and what they believe. It is disheartening to see such ignorance and neglect of Christ. We were able on several occasions to point to the glory of Christ and show how he fulfills and completes everything that is written in the Tanakh (Hebrew Old Testament), which Jewish people esteem highly. Pray for Avi and Yossi especially as we had conversations with them explaining what we believe the Old Testament and New Testament say about Jesus.
We want to praise God for doing more for us this summer than we could have asked or prayed for. We look forward to seeing what he has in store for our future. Lord willing, we will post updates along the way on our blog.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

!הקץ בא – The End is Coming!

As our summer winds down, our minds have been preparing for what comes next. We thank God for the opportunity we’ve had to be here and are excited to see how God uses it in our future (both near and far). We have one more week of our Genesis course, which has a very different feel than our Jonah course did. It involves less acting out and more discussion of the creation/fall account. It’s encouraging to be able to speak about the Biblical text in the language in which it is written. Last week, we took a field trip to the Biblical Zoo since we studied Genesis 1-2. It was a unique experience!
As for our return, Marcus (BCS classmate of mine who’s here studying) and I have the opportunity to teach what we’ve been learning this summer at The Bethlehem Institute this year. It has been exciting to plan for this, though we know it is going to stretch us tremendously. Vanessa will be taking the class both to solidify what she’s learned this summer and to help us teach the feminine gender of the language.
We made our last excursion into Jerusalem today. It has been rich to spend time in the Old City, but we’re excited to explore the rest of the country during our last five days here (after this week of class). Pray that we will absorb as much of the language as we are able to this last week!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Life Beyond Class

The last several days have been refreshing and encouraging for us. Both last weekend and this weekend we visited some friends who live here in Israel. They moved to a different city and we helped paint both their new and old apartments. It was a good break from our studies! Both weekends we called the same taxi driver (for our 45 minute ride) who asked why we are so interested in studying Hebrew. We told him we love studying the Tanakh (Hebrew Old Testament) and knowing Hebrew better will help us. This opened a flood of questions: Why do you love studying the Tanakh? What do Christians believe? What is the New Testament about? He was very curious so we simply answered his questions explaining the difference between the Old and New Covenants and the person and work of Jesus. It ended with him asking where he can get a Hebrew New Testament, which we “just so happened” to have. Pray for Yosef!

On Shabbat, we visited our friends’ Messianic congregation and were blown away by the diversity! Four languages were used throughout the service. Hebrew was spoken from the pulpit, which was then translated into Russian, English (for the few of us visiting) and sign language! It was amazing to worship with these believers from around the world.

The is a picture of one of the song slides in the congregation. Top left: Hebrew. Top right: Russian. Middle: Russian phonetic spelling. Bottom left: Hebrew phonetic spelling. Bottom right: English.

On our field trip two weeks ago, we stopped at the Mediterranean Sea to act out and recite our Hebrew dialogue for that day––Jonah getting swallowed by the fish and then spit out onto the beach!

After acting out and reciting the reading, we had class under a Roman Aqueduct.
We also visited a Talmudic village. Here we are at the synagogue.
These were the students in our Jonah class. Unfortunately, we lost five students for the next two-week course, and we will gain one new student.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Final Exam

Tomorrow is our final exam for the Jonah course. Pray for us! Next week, we will start a two-week intermediate course on Genesis 1-3.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

העתיד - The Future

Before this trip, we were praying that God would clarify some things for us concerning our future, but we feel that this summer has opened more opportunities and possibilities. I’ve mentioned that I see my gifts and desires fitting into the ministry of Bible translation; however, the last several weeks have served to open our eyes to perhaps a greater need that is one step removed from actually translating the Bible––training Bible translators! A number of students in our class this summer have the same passion to see the kind of training we’re receiving here to be spread to more and more people. There are very few people who are equipped to teach the biblical languages in a communicative (spoken) manner, but there is a massive need for it. Perhaps God could use me in a greater capacity if I trained those who are doing the “grunt work,” that is, native speakers who are being hired to translate from a common language (such as French, Spanish, or English) into their mother tongue. The beauty of the training we are receiving here is that is transfers completely to another culture in another language. That is, there is no need to translate grammar books and other materials. I could teach the biblical languages the way they learned their other three or four languages (which is common for the average human being across the world!). This vision would require extensive training, though we are not clear what it would look like at this point. Please pray for Vanessa and I as we seek to use our gifts to spread His word to the nations.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

[Creative Title]

We just started the last half of the beginning Hebrew course (first course is four weeks; the second is two weeks), in which we use the book of Jonah to immerse ourselves in the language. I am VERY pleased with the program so far and I feel it has helped tremendously in understanding the Hebrew language. Last week I felt like I hit several mental walls and struggled to absorb the language, but after a refreshing weekend I have been doing better this week, which is encouraging. Vanessa is doing very well, though it is always more difficult the first time you are exposed to such a foreign language with squiggly letters and guttural sounds :-) Tomorrow morning we leave for on an overnight field trip to Jonah's birth place: Gat-Hefer (in Galilee). We've been told it's not a typical tourist highlight, though we will be making some significant stops along the way including: Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast where we will act out our Jonah dialogue for tomorrow (Jonah getting spit out of the fish's mouth onto dry ground), Mt. Carmel, Sea of Galilee, an old village (name?), and a winery. We're excited to get to see more of the country!

Please continue to pray for us. We have been praying for God's direction for our future. There are many people here who are interested in the same things we are, which seems to present more opportunities and not narrow them down. But we know that God has already determined our future and will lead us in his time.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A Glimpse Into Our Daily Life

 This is where we're living for six weeks. Not too shabby! We've had sunny and eighty degree weather every day since we've been  here!
Our back porch where much studying, reading, and eating takes place :-)
Our study time involves much listening and performing drills to increase fluency.
These little guys are our friends this summer! They help learn verb persons and numbers.
Our classes are held across the street in these old school buildings where other activities take place on the kibbutz.
Here's the inside of our classroom (well, we've had to change rooms since then).
Class consists of many different activities including role playing, singing, demonstrations, skits, stories, etc. which all help to internalize the language.
Another activity...this time, I was the prop!
The stories in our class are quite comical. Some, like this one, were thought through; others, however, are made up on the fly using props and other ideas we throw in as the story progresses. All of the activities and stories prepare us for the readings we have assigned for homework.
Every Friday, we celebrate Shabbat which begins in the afternoon. Here, Randall Buth is explaining the bread and the wine before we enjoy the Lord's Supper as a class. The two men standing in the background are our teachers: Jordash (left) and Aaron (right).
This week we had quite the spread: flat bread, hummus (fyi, causes terrible gas), olive oil, apricots, figs, carrots, cucumbers, wine, and juice. Yum :-)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

עוד שׁבוע - Another Week

One week down and five to go. Vanessa and I both feel like last week was a great start. By the end we were experiencing information overload so this weekend was enjoyable and refreshing to our brains (though we still had a lot of homework!). The homework load really picked up by the end of last week and will continue so as far as we can see :-) Today we took a trip into Jerusalem and explored the Old City. It was good to get away and see some of the historical sites. And praise God for the opportunity to witness to a Jewish guy on the bus ride back! He wanted my contact information because he was interested in talking more. Pray for Avi! Tomorrow we will begin speaking more in class, which is hopefully going to internalize the hours and hours of listening we've been absorbing the last week and even the months of preparation we did before we came. We have to reproduce a short dialogue in class, acting out the different parts! Fun stuff :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

אנחנו פה – We're Here!

      We’ve had three days of class now, and we are thoroughly enjoying it! What a privilege this is! Here’s what our days look like so far. We have class every morning from 8:30am-12:30pm, with several mind-refreshing breaks interspersed :-) Don’t think of Hebrew class as tedious, arduous, or burdensome––its not. But that doesn’t mean we’re not learning––quite the contrary! The first week of our course involves primarily listening to our two teachers who are introducing new vocab and grammar to us via a method called Total Physical Response (TPR). This means they point to objects and say  the Hebrew word for it. They command each other to do things and then command us to do them. They describe things and tell stories with props. We are very involved in class––running around, singing, standing, sitting, jumping, pointing, giving, taking, smiling, crying, riding, touching, lots of laughing, etc., and it’s all being commanded to us in Hebrew! Occasional walks outside broaden our vocab and give us more exposure to the language. It is very intuitive. That is the beauty of this program. We are actually learning to think in Hebrew (literally, over 95% of class is spoken in hebrew)! After class, we go to lunch, and then have the afternoon/evening to study, taking breaks either to nap or to go for a run in the Judean hills. This is to “de-fry” the brain, as my wife says ;-)
      It’s amazing to see how God has worked in the lives of our fourteen classmates (all professing believers) to bring them all here from differing backgrounds. There is a lady from Switzerland, a few people from Australia (sweet accents!), but most from the U.S. There is already a camaraderie that has encouraged my faith. We had a small prayer meeting tonight organized by my classmate, where we read Scripture, prayed, and sang.
      Here are a few items to pray for:
  • Acquisition of Hebrew
  • Increased love for God and His Word
  • Clarity for our future
  • Our marriage to strengthen through this summer
  • To be the aroma of Christ to the people we encounter this summer

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    FINAL Provision Update - 100%

    As my wife and I sit here, pondering what to say, Paul's words to the Philippians come to our minds.

    Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
    (Philippians 4:14–20)

    We have seen God do an amazing work in our lives through this whole process. It began with a dream that seemed too big to come true––study Hebrew in Israel (I know, not the kind of dream most people have!). But as God began growing this desire in me, and with the support of my wife, we began taking steps toward this unknown opportunity. They were steps of faith since we had to make costly decisions before we had near enough money for the whole trip. As God began providing, it became more and more obvious that spending this summer in Israel was not just a dream, but God's sovereign purpose for our lives.

    God has shown us that he answers prayer! As we began praying for this massive need, checks started coming from people we know did not have the means to give the way they did. How humbling this has been! Seeing the body of Christ work the way it has has been a real eye-opener for us. God works miracles through his body, the church. Thirty-eight different people gave to us to meet our $14,000 need. That's an average of $368/person! But like Paul said to the Philippians, "Not that [we] seek the gift, but the fruit that increases to your credit." We recognize each gift is a "fragrant offering, a sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to God." It is fruit, or evidence, of the Spirit's work in you. Of course, God is the Giver of all things, so we want to give him all the honor and glory. "To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen."

    We will keep you posted throughout our journey!

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Provision Update 6 – 68%

    Vanessa and I have seen God graciously provide through people giving beyond their means. It is quite humbling to be on the receiving end of such great sacrifice. We are praying that God's Word would become a reality in the lives of those who give: "...[Jesus] himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35). But we also realize that this means we are not as blessed as those who have given to us if we do not also give! We're learning that giving is contagious. As people have sacrificed for us, it makes us want to sacrifice for others. I truly think God designed the body this way. God has all the resources in the world and he will always bless those who give, whether monetarily or spiritually. So "Praise God from whom all blessings flow!"

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Provision Update 5 – 63%

    All I Have is Christ

    It's amazing how God's Spirit works! He uses pagan kings, donkeys, and roman soldiers to accomplish his purposes in this world. And in our day of technology, he can use Christ-centered computer art to sanctify his people. God used this video to break me of much sin and pride this week, and I commend it to you and pray it will have the same effect on you that it did to me.

    Sunday, May 01, 2011

    Provision Update 4 – 41%

    Well, God has provided more since our last update two days ago! We are seeing him work in incredible ways as we seek his face in prayer. Today's sermon in church was quite relevant for us. Mike Bartlett, Bethlehem's church planting resident, preached on taking bold risks for God in the confidence of his love to us through Christ (The sermon can be found on this link). As we step out in faith for the sake of his kingdom, we are confident that he will meet our needs and fulfill his plans for our lives. Thank you all who have been means of this provision through financial and prayer support!

    Tuesday, April 05, 2011

    How Beautiful are the Feet of Those Who Preach the Good News!

    You may have seen this video before, but I thought it was quite appropriate to put on our blog. It is a video of missionaries taking the Bible to a tribe for the very first time in their mother tongue. I cannot help but think of Isaiah's words:

    "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
    who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation,
    who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'"
    (Isaiah 52:7; cf. Romans 10:15)

    Sunday, April 03, 2011

    Provision Update 1 - 12%

    Well, we're seeing God provide! So far, He has graciously provided 12% of our need for this summer. We are learning to trust God during this time. Since we've been married, He has abundantly supplied for all our needs, just as he promised He would (Matt 6:33; Phil 4:19). Thank you to those who have been God's means of answering our prayers.

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Why "Canaan Bound?"

    We chose Canaan Bound as the name for our blog for several reasons. It originally came from Andrew Peterson’s song by the same name on his album “Love and Thunder.” The song speaks of Abraham and Sarah as they leave their home and everything comfortable to go to an unknown land to which God has called them. They do this by faith, trusting in the promises God made to them which included overcoming impossible obstacles. Yet they had confidence in God who is sovereign over all circumstances and who is faithful to his word.
    The song has been a consistent theme throughout our relationship. It was clear from day one that God was doing something impossible with us. Many people probably thought we were foolish for moving so fast, especially since we barely knew each other. But God gave us confidence in his sovereignty, and our “faith compelled and bore us on.” Now we’re married!
    A second reason we chose this title is because we literally are Canaan bound. Vanessa and I are planning to go to Israel this summer to study the Hebrew language at the Biblical Language Center. We have prayed much about it and feel this is the best way we can prepare for our future of Bible translation and theological education. You can read our vision here.
    The third reason we chose this title is because even after we go to Israel this summer, we are still sojourners here on this earth. God called Abraham and Sarah to go to an unknown land, but we read in Hebrews 11:9-10 that, “By faith [Abraham] went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land...for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Yes Abraham physically moved to the land of Canaan. But there was a greater promise to which he looked. By faith Vanessa and I are children of Abraham, heirs of the same promise (Gal 3:29), and we are looking forward to the same heavenly city Abraham was. It is God’s promise of eternal life in Christ that compels us to go overseas and make Christ known to those who do not know him. We are not sure what our future holds, but we are confident that God holds our future. So may this blog be a journal for us to track God’s working throughout our brief sojourn here on earth. One day we will receive our inheritance in full, and we will see our great God face to face!