In December I had the opportunity to take a two-week Greek immersion class in Pennsylvania. There were about seventeen students and five teachers, depending on how you count. We had lots of fun, with over 4 hours a day of stories, role playing, and dialogue in New Testament Greek!
Since New Years we have been continuing studies with weekly three-hour video conference classes. The main teacher of the course is Joseph Neill. He exhibits considerable knowledge and patience and enhances our learning through good use of technology (Google classroom, Google docs assignments, video recordings of our classes on Zoom, audio excerpts, etc.). I’m really enjoying this opportunity to dig into NT Greek, especially since this program uses some of the same materials that I had selected for self-study several years ago.
One of our homework assignments this week is to record ourselves reading part of a story in Greek. We discussed the beginning of the story together in class, then we were each asked to write our own endings.
Here is a video of me reading the entire short story—the first half written by Joseph Neill, and the second half written by me. I must credit the Gospel writers for a couple lines I adapted!
You may notice that the pronunciation sounds different than you expect. The first reason is that, unlike most seminaries, we are following a pronunciation scheme developed by Randall Buth. This scheme is designed to more closely mirror the actual pronunciation of Koine Greek that was used in the time of Jesus. The second reason why my pronunciation may sound different is that my pronunciation, even by this scheme, is still amateur.
A poor child was very hungry.
So he asked a rich man for bread.
The rich man laughed and, going on a little farther, threw away the bread.
Seeing the sad child, a woman sent her servant to him.
“How are you?” [Literally, “How do you have?”] said the servant to the child.
“Not good” [Literally, “I have bad”], said the child. “I am hungry. I want fish. Do you have fish?”
“No, but I am going fishing,” said the servant. “Follow me and I will make you a fisherman.”
Thanks for listening! If you have any questions about the Biblical Greek Program, or any stories about learning biblical languages, share them in the comments below. Blessings!
Since our “churchfunding” house loan was a public adventure, I want to give public updates from time to time. How is it working for us by now? Very well, thank God! We remain deeply grateful for our house and are making monthly repayments as planned.
(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families.)
At the beginning of 2017, we owed $55,112.50 in house loans. By the end of 2017, we owed only $48,037.50. Here is the story of that $7,075 difference.
We repaid $6000 in loans in 2016 at the planned rate of $500 per month. All our “older lenders” have now been fully repaid and we have started selecting lenders of all ages for repayment, using prayer and a random number generator.
Another $1,075 in loans was forgiven this year. Two lenders turned loans into gifts, and a third clarified she didn’t want any interest after all. What a blessing!
When can the remaining lenders expect repayment?
At $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within 8 years—before the end of 2025.
(Note: Careful readers may notice that the figures here don’t match what I reported a year ago. My figures last year were too high. When we first invited loan pledges, we received more offers than we needed, so we declined several of the last offers. A simple glitch in our spreadsheet, however, made it record these offers as if we had actually received them. It was a pleasant discovery midway through 2017 to find we owed over $5000 less than I thought! If any lenders have questions about this, please contact me directly for more details from our records.)
Cash Flow and House Happenings
Our cash flow has stabilized a lot over the past year. It helps when you don’t have to install a $10,000 AC and heating unit like last year! I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books, and piano teaching is growing. I had about eight students a year ago but I finished 2017 with about eighteen. I have another half dozen ready to begin this month. Unlike a year ago, income is pretty much equivalent to expenses, thank God.
Some of our largest expenses in the past year included braces for our oldest daughter, a new washing machine, and our biggest 2017 house project—finally installing a kitchen sink! Mark and Marj Otto and their family generously volunteered several days to help us with this project.
Here is a “before” picture:
Zonya patiently endured the above for 15 months. Can you understand why she looked like this when things improved?
Here is a photo of the kitchen sink area today:
We hope to replace or add a couple more cabinet sections over coming years, but the most urgent kitchen renovation is definitely now done.
For 2018 I expect to turn sights elsewhere, probably first to unfinished closets and hopefully to several dead trees looming dangerously in the backyard. Other projects such as a leaky shower and an unusable basement entrance will await their turn.
“The house that God bought” has seen many ministry opportunities over the past year, such as:
Many house church gatherings
Overnight guests, including Irma evacuees
Lending a listening ear to senior piano students
Sharing our yard, bike pump, and cups of water with neighbor children
A couple video discussion evenings with neighbors and friends
A “living room recital” with piano student families
Sheltering neighbor children during a domestic dispute
Hosting international students
Homeschooling our children
We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters, and we welcome prayers that we will faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2018.
For Christ and his Church,
Dwight & Zonya Gingrich
Today was a busy, grace-filled day. Tonight, as darkness settles onto our neighborhood, I feel tired but satisfied. This was truly the Lord’s Day.
This past week was not all easy. We had some difficult conversations with our dear church teammates. Yes, it is possible to hurt people you deeply love. I have done so; have you? I am thankful that, as recipients of God’s grace, we can each give the grace that we each so desperately need. Then yesterday was a difficult day for me. Emotionally drained, I found my mind did not want to focus on the writing assignments before me. Let’s just say it was not my most productive day (though I did enjoy some good times at the piano).
Today was a day that was better than I deserve. (Aren’t all?) Tomorrow will be another battle. I will need fresh grace. But today was a day where the grace was heaped onto our plates, impossible to miss, sweet to the taste. Let me recount a few of the sweetest morsels.
Today was our turn to host church. The spring Georgia weather has been amazing lately, so we swept the freshly-fallen tree blossoms off the concrete pad just over the stream, and gathered for church in our backyard.
The gathering spot was delightful, with birds and stream blending with our voices and sunlight dappling the sanctuary. The blend of friends who gathered was also delightful—if a little raucous at times. Our family of five was there. So was the Smucker family of five. Then about another dozen joined us. Our international student friend was here. So were several adults from a house just down our street—some for the worship time and some for the meal. And so were a whole passel of children from two different houses on our street. (That was the raucous part. The fact that our “sanctuary” was just next to the “gymnasium”—a trampoline—didn’t help. The day’s bouncing started about an hour before our stated “start time,” which didn’t ease setup. But I reminded my wife that Rich Mullins would have been delighted.) At one point during our morning worship Zonya looked around and counted 10 white, 11 black, and one Asian present. Not exactly representative of ratios in our neighborhood, but so much better than if we had each gone our separate ways today.
We sang with piano, we prayed “popcorn praises” (great for children), we read from the Gospels the stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we sang a cappella (revealing a lovely singing voice brought by a first-time visiting neighbor), Steve shocked the children by making the “body” of one of his sons “disappear” from a card-table “tomb,” we sang some more, and we marveled over the 1 Corinthians 15 promise of our own resurrection. One person present expressed how glad he was to be celebrating his first Easter. Others learned to answer “Jesus rose from the dead” rather than “we look for Easter eggs” when asked “What is Easter all about?” Some had their hearts strengthened as they identified all too well with Peter while singing “He’s Alive!” (with guitar this time) and then sharing in the Lord’s Table.
Lunch was delicious (lovely ham, Dearest!), if a bit of a zoo, what with refilling several hundred cups of tea and lemonade and water—“No, I want tea and lemonade together, with ice”—for about a thousand demanding children who were fighting for turns on the trampoline (or ignoring turns completely) and riding bikes up and down the drive and along the street. But how lovely to include several neighbors whose children have often enjoyed our backyard, but who had not yet been inside our house!
Shortly after lunch several unfamiliar young men appeared out on the street (we were still in the backyard), calling something out to us and apparently looking for, or expecting, trouble. First they ran away, but the second time this happened several of us men wandered out front in their direction. We managed to calm some mutual fears, shake hands, exchange names, and send the hungry visitors off peacefully with plates of leftover lunch. More on this later.
As outdoor cleanup ended and various guests left, my international student friend and I stole off to the piano studio for a little, where we practiced our duet (Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No. 8) that we are preparing for my upcoming piano recital. He also shared pictures and videos of a “piano club” concert that happened in his home country yesterday—a special event that he helped plan months ago, but then ended up missing thanks to now being in school on the other side of the globe. I find it fascinating and delightful how an English literature major and a math major born poles apart can find such common ground in their shared enjoyment of music. I am already starting to dread the day when our friend will leave Atlanta for the next destination in his educational journey.
Then the house was quiet. Just our family. I settled onto the sofa to relax, and my two youngest girls settled with me—one on top and the other beside, reading us “a scary story—but not too scary” about Horton hearing a Who. (Because “a person’s a person, no matter how small,” including the little ones we help parent in our backyard while trying to share in the Lord’s Table, right?)
But we had not even finished the story when our oldest bounded in with news of an Easter egg hunt that the neighbor children were about to head off to. Well… Easter isn’t really about egg hunts, but we had already shared the real meaning of Easter with these children, so… And they had come to our house, and now if they seemed to be inviting us to join them in their fun…? So I took the girls to go see what was happening. Turns out our van was needed to help carry all the children (10 total) who wanted to go to a nearby park for the hunt. Time there brought more friendship-building conversation with adult neighbors while our children, like a bunch of Energizer Easter bunnies, expended yet more energy.
I’ll skip over the bit about helping my wife accomplish her project of building a birthday gift for one of our daughters to say that part way through that activity yet another neighbor called across the yards to invite our daughters to join her son with his bubble machine. Our oldest drove her bike through the bubbles a few times then headed in the opposite direction to spend more time with the older church-and-Easter-egg-hunt friends from earlier in the day. Our two youngest enjoyed the comparative quiet of chasing bubbles with only one young friend.
Meanwhile, Zonya and I headed a couple houses further down our street to visit yet another house. There was a big family party there, and one of the children from this morning’s church gathering had invited us to drop in there, since it was his house.
That was a strange moment for Zonya and me. It was only one year ago that Zonya and the girls first joined me in our new house. We had not even officially moved in yet, and we knew almost no neighbors. Now, one year later, we were leaving two of our daughters at one neighbor’s house, the other daughter was hanging out with other neighbor friends at another house, and we were walking childless to follow up on an invitation to a third house, all on our block.
Two parts of that little visit stand out.Two, our hostess neighbor insisted on loading our hands with delicious food from their party—chicken and ribs done on her backyard grill, baked beans, macaroni salad, and cake. Mmm. And one, several men mentioned that they had seen our interaction with the young “trouble-makers” on the street earlier that afternoon. It turns out the same young men had been called out to their party, too, prior to meeting us. I was roundly praised (“Are you a pastor?”) for not doing what one of them said he would have done if he hadn’t been wearing a cast, and for defusing the situation by sending them off with food. More on this later.
We returned to the bubble-bursting daughters and invited this neighbor and her son to accomplish the oft-mentioned goal of letting her son jump on our trampoline. This brought more neighbor conversation opportunities for my wife and a chance for me to do a little more trampoline-side Jesus-shaped child training and encouraging. Chances like this aren’t hard to find these days, for some reason.
As Zonya walked this neighbor home, they bumped into a neighbor who lives between us. (She grew up there and is truly a gracious person to have next door.) Turns out this neighbor, too, had witnessed the food giveaway that happened on the street in front of her house. Wow. And to think that it never once crossed my mind that anyone might be watching. What might have happened if I had blown it? God, help us to be faithful in the little opportunities to live like Jesus! (More on this later?)
By this time day was dying in the west, so we retreated into the house that God bought and enjoyed the supper provided by the grandma of one of our regular backyard bikers and jumpers.
If I’m counting correctly, we visited in the yards and/or houses of four households on our block today. People from two of those households showed up at our own place as we hosted church. Plus, we exchanged friendly greetings as we passed a couple more houses on our block. And gave food to several passers-by. Oh, and I forgot the lady biking past this morning who stopped in just as church was about to begin to see if I could fill her bike tire. Yet another opportunity to share names and invite a new friend to join us for church sometime.
If you’ve read this far, you may feel as tired as I do.
I thank God for all the dear people with whom we shared this day. We feel both welcome and useful among our neighbors. I thank God for placing us here in Atlanta, here in West Lake, and right here on this block. I thank God for a day full of opportunities to offer our voices and hands for Jesus. And I thank him for a day when his grace is as sweet as the strawberry shortcake my wife served us last week.
Please pray for us. Tomorrow will be another battle. I have battled discouragement from time to time and expect to face this giant again. My wife needs God’s grace in her heart and on her lips. Our whole church team needs your prayers. But Christ dealt Satan his deathblow on that first Easter weekend, right? Satan is a wounded lion, roaring in anger as he goes down. Christ has the upper hand. May his hand be strong in West Lake! And may every day be the Lord’s Day this week, in your heart and mine.
May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.