January 2018 Update

giffones-xmas-2017

“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord YHWH, “Though I had removed them far away among the nations and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I was a sanctuary for them a little while in the countries where they had gone.”’” (Ezek 11:16)

__________________

Greetings from Klaipėda! Here’s what’s been going on, and what’s up next…

Benj

I finished off my Isaiah course, including a special worship service featuring songs based on the book of Isaiah, led with my student, Jessica. Corrie and I each participated in leading music at church (KLKB/Free Christian Church of Klaipėda), which made Christmas feel more like Christmas for us. We celebrated with a group of faculty, staff and students who stayed on campus for Christmas Day.

Now that we’re past New Year’s and well into our semester, the darkness and business is starting to take its toll. It is encouraging to see the daylight hours extend ever so slightly, but we have a long way to go until Spring. This sounds trivial unless you’ve lived at a far northern or southern latitude and experienced how important sunlight is for mood, sleep, and general health.

This semester, I am teaching OT Narrative Books for LCC, and also compressed courses on the same books at a seminary in Šiauliai (Feb 10 and Apr 7) and on Chronicles in Zaporozhye, Ukraine (Mar 10-16). The seminary courses will be taught through interpreters (into Lithuanian and Russian). I will also preach twice in Ukraine in Russian-speaking churches. I’m grateful to those of you who gave especially to fund my teaching in these seminaries; these institutions operate on a shoestring budget and are rarely able to pay visiting professors with PhDs to teach in their accredited programs.

The Center for Faith and Human Flourishing is starting to take shape, with a more coherent research focus and an interesting slate of speakers for this semester and next. I continue to work on papers and proposals for conferences and journals, and a colleague and I are organizing a small biblical studies conference for August at LCC.

I will be leading a Bible study for men in our home on Wednesday evenings, working through the Ten Commandments along with the LCC Chapel theme for the semester. There are also some relationships that God has orchestrated that I don’t feel quite comfortable sharing about in detail, but please pray for the folks that God places in our path, that we could point them to Christ and encourage them.

Corrie

I enjoyed the holidays mostly, and survived the emotions of homesickness and depression from the long hours of darkness here. I also have been wrestling with God about some decisions and in my life, but am thankful in the process to be learning more about what brings me joy, what I want to be doing with my time, and areas in my heart where I need to grow.

I enjoyed accompanying the choir for the LCC Christmas program, and making Christmas cards for residents of the retirement home near LCC with our freshmen seminar students. The holidays brought more time for reading. I have been enjoying Music for Piano, A Short History. The public library has a great selection of piano music and I love making time to practice again. I also read Culture of the Few, a wonderful read on discipleship and changing the world.

This semester, I am working hard to learn more Lithuanian in the second level class at LCC. I also get to practice what I’m learning with a part-time job in Elizabeth’s class at school. I am an aid to her teacher about 9 hours a week and am thankful to get to know the school and teachers better in this way. I will continue participating in a women’s Bible Study, helping organize and lead (also on the Ten Commandments). I also hope to plan two music events giving opportunities for students to share their musical talents, and maybe form a small choir for those. I enjoy any chance to have students in our home and the discussions are always great.

Daniel

Daniel continues to do well with Lithuanian language, now trying to read simple books. He loves learning cursive handwriting and makes up exercises for Mom. He likes to stay later at school and ride the bus back to LCC campus with a friend (and chaperone), where he consistently checks the vending machines for loose change. At home, we have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia, The Story of the Word history curriculum and corresponding stories, and the book of Ezekiel with Daddy. Daniel received Strat-O-Matic Baseball board game from Grandpa Ralph for Christmas, so he spends hours in the basement playing on his own. He loves that we got some snow, and he is following the Eagles and rooting for them in the playoffs.

Elizabeth

She continues to feel more comfortable at school and loves having Mommy in her class. She also is transitioning to an older class where she will learn more Lithuanian and make more friends. At home, she is still learning to read and to play piano, and loves doing any kind of art, but her favorite thing is playing with Daniel. She loves the snow and sledding, and she is looking forward to a visit from Grammy at the end of February. Elizabeth does have friends here, but we continue to pray for her to feel connected to them and to others here.

Financial Support and Contact Information

We are thankful to have raised all of our regular salary for the first two years of our ministry. Please also consider making a one-time donation toward other needs. For more information on how to support our ministry, click here, or contact me directly.

You may view our contact information here.

Thank you for praying for us, and for your emails, texts, and calls. God continues to be faithful.

Tik kristoje/In Christ Alone,

Benj, Corrie, Daniel and Elizabeth

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Hannah, Josh and Josh…uncle to Marshall, son-in-law to Claudia.
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