May Update

From the Giffone Family

2016-10-23-15-44-04
“YHWH has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)
__________________

Even though we are well into the spring season here in Pennsylvania, it has felt more like a Klaipėda springtime, with rain, wind and cold! There has been plenty of activity to keep us busy, but those will drop off our plate one-by-one as we prepare to move out of our Hatfield apartment and eventually transition to Europe. The work ahead of us and many contingencies in our situation (read below) can be quite unsettling, and so we covet your prayers and encouragement.

Teaching Update

  • Spring 2017 Course — I (Benj) had the privilege of teaching a course on the Pentateuch for LCC via Skype this semester. This was my second time teaching through the Pentateuch and my second time teaching via Skype, so it was quite satisfying to be able to focus less on developing new course content and more on presentation and pedagogy. My ten students came from Lithuania, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, California and Indiana–quite a diverse crew! They all began with varying levels of experience with the Old Testament, but each one grew in knowledge and ability through the semester–especially through the process of writing their research papers. Some recurring themes in our readings and discussion were the role of God’s sovereignty in relation to human free will; the cultural context and peculiarities of the Mosaic Law; the presence of God’s grace in the Old Testament; and the ways in which the New Testament builds upon the Old.
  • Preparation for 2017-18 — The directorship will be a part-time role, so I will continue to teach courses for the Theology Department.
  • Regional ministry — In the coming school year, I am scheduled to teach the Book of Isaiah and OT Narrative Books for LCC, as well as a week-long Book of Chronicles course in March 2018 for Zaporozhye Bible College and Seminary in Ukraine. Please pray for me as I develop two new courses (Isaiah and Chronicles), and that the ZBCS staff and I will be able to find adequate Russian-language research resources for the course.

Lithuania, or Leipzig and Lithuania?

As we explained in our earlier updates, LCC has approved plans to initiate a new Center for Faith and Human Flourishing, for which I will serve as director. The goal of the center is promoting academic research and application of the Christian worldview in all areas of human activity, including business, psychology, social work, government, etc. The academic VP and I are very excited about this new Center, which will enhance the university’s research activities in anticipation of the 2021-2022 institutional reaccreditation.

Another piece of the puzzle for our mission for the next five years may be a research fellowship in Germany. Last summer, before we knew that there would be a role for us at LCC, I began applying for a research fellowship with the aid of my doctoral advisor, who is a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. A postdoctoral fellowship would be a great opportunity to continue to research and write about the Old Testament, improve my German-language skills, make important contacts in the German-speaking world, and become eligible for smaller research grants throughout my teaching career. My doctoral advisor helped me secure a host institution (Leipzig) and prospective collaborating senior scholar.

LCC fully supports my pursuit of this fellowship, which will allow me access to important research resources. It will also look good for LCC to have a Humboldt Fellow on their faculty when we return to LCC. The details of my role in the launch of the Center “from afar” are still under discussion, but the administration are eager to make accommodations if I am approved for the fellowship. They (and we) consider a fellowship to be a useful component in a longer-term plan to improve LCC’s research output and regional connections.

The acceptance rate for this fellowship is about 30%. We should know by mid-July whether I have been accepted; if I am, we will move to Leipzig sometime in September. If not, we will move to Lithuania in August. (Please read below to see how this affects our financial support.)

Transition to Europe

We plan to move out of our apartment on June 24. We will be getting rid of some things, but Claudia (Corrie’s mom) is making room in her house for what we will be keeping, including our beds and some other furniture. Until then, we will continue to get rid of things and make decisions about what to take with us.

After we move, we will wait to hear about the fellowship in Germany, and then figure things out from there. In the meantime, we will complete the paperwork and obtain visas as if we were going to Lithuania. (A Germany visa can be acquired while we’re there.) My last day of work at ICON Clinical Research will be July 14, and Corrie’s final piano lessons are in early June.

We are also working to ensure that we leave Claudia as comfortable as possible. We originally returned from Lithuania two years ago to support Claudia and Joe. These have been some of the toughest years of our lives, with many difficult decisions. We have not loved them perfectly. But we are confident that she is in a secure position in her home, until she decides that it is time to move (whenever that may be). Please pray for us as we finish off some things: legal/financial matters, remaining home-improvement projects, and downsizing.

Pray and Support 

– Pray for courage and strength for all of us as we make another challenging move.

– Pray for comfort and encouragement as we continue to grieve the loss of Corrie’s father, Joe.

– Pray for community and friendships (old and new) in Klaipėda.

– Pray for Daniel and Elizabeth as they start school in the fall.

– Pray for all of us as we (re-)learn Lithuanian language!

– Pray for spiritual growth as we learn to rely on the Holy Spirit.

– Pray for the work of LCC, especially the students who do not yet know Christ.

– Pray that God would provide all the funds we need for this endeavor.

  • Spread the word — Please share the news of our work with others who would be interested in praying for us and/or supporting us. If you think your church, small group, or a circle of friends would be interested in hearing about our ministry, we would love to present at some point—please email or call Benj (267-945-7354).
  • Moving/storage — We are moving from Hatfield to Perkasie on June 24 and would appreciate any help with moving and cleaning. Also, we plan to keep one of our cars for use when we are back in the USA. If you are in Southeast PA and have some space where we could keep our car off-street, please let us know.
  • Financial support — As stated above, we will need to raise a portion of our salary through donations. Please consider becoming part of our regular support team. If you cannot commit to regular support, please also consider making a one-time donation toward the other needs below. For more information on how to support our ministry, click here.
Regular Support Commitments Goal: $17,576/year ($1,465/month)

Committed/Received: $5,160/year ($430/month)

Non-LCC Teaching and Preaching Travel (Including Ukraine course) Goal: $1580

Received: $0

Outfitting Fund (one-time expenses) Goal: $4,368

Received: $1,350

If we end up receiving the Humboldt Fellowship, many of our basic expenses while we live in Germany will be covered by that grant. However, we still need to plan as if we will be going to Lithuania in August and continue to raise regular support for our longer-term mission at LCC. Any donations LCC has received on our behalf will be held for us, so please do not hesitate to give now if you are led to do so. Please contact us if you have any questions about these needs.

We appreciate those of you who are praying for our family through this time of transition and tumult. God continues to be faithful.

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, exiled to the land of Phillies fans…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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