Andrew and Julie Halbert - September 2019
Greetings from Costa Rica!
As I write you, we are preparing to head down to the hospital because Julie will have surgery later today (12pm MST). She has experienced pain and discomfort in her wrist since college but there was a significant increase in the pain this year. The doctor diagnosed Julie with carpal tunnel syndrome and has decided that the best course of
action is to go ahead with surgery.The surgery is outpatient so we plan to be home later this afternoon. We are told she will expience general discomfort for a couple of days and she will limited in what she can do (i.e., lifting, exercising, etc.). The timing is very good because yesterday was a holiday and, since it fell on a Thursday, the kids were given today off from school as well. We are glad that we don't have to incorporate the typical pick-up and drop-off in addition to getting Julie to and from the hospital.
Please pray for her as you think about it this weekend. She has thought ahead and purchased and prepared meals that I can quickly put together and put in the oven. The kids are also trying to be extra helpful with their chores and such. Pray also for patience in Julie's recovery because she will not be able to teach her exercise classes for several weeks. She really loves her classes and her students so this will be tough for her.
PhD in Old Testament
As many of you saw in a recent Facebook post, I have applied and been accepted to a PhD program in Biblical Studies, specifically in Old Testament. I came to the conclusion rather quickly after becoming the Dean at ESEPA that further education was necessary. The search for programs has been long because initially I didn't qualify due to my lack of coursework in Hebrew. Three years ago I discovered that ColumbiaInternational University offered a Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Biblical and Theological Studies that would allow me to take the necessary Hebrew coursework online.
As I moved through that program, I continued to discuss possible PhD options with my teachers, colleagues and friends. Julie and I continued to ask the Lord to close the doors if this was not the direction that I should be moving in, but he did the opposite. When I began searching, the options seemed to be limited to programs that would require regular travel (two or three times per year) or a move to study full-time. Neither Julie nor I felt that these were viable options due to the costs or the requirement to set our work here aside for a time.
Last year, while in our Home Ministry Assignment, I visited CIU. During that visit I was informed of a new PhD program that they were opening in Biblical Studies. The degree would be offered fully online and was developed with people like myself in mind, that is, people who are in full-time ministry and cannot move to take courses on-campus full-time. The degree is based on the European model of studies, so I will take three seminars over the course of the next year and then work with a mentor to produce my dissertation.
Needless to say, we are excited about God's provision in this area. I can continue my work at ESEPA and I don't have to dedicate money and time to travel. I covet your prayers as my first seminar begins August 26th and as I prepare for my Hebrew Comprehensive Exams.
I want to quickly update you on the status of our residency. A couple of weeks ago we went to immigration to submit the additional documents that they requested. Unfortunately, they denied our application for renewal. The result of that denial is that we are currently on tourist visas that require us to exit the country every 90 days for a minimum of 72 hours and then re-enter. We did one such trip to Honduras before our meeting with immigration and so our visas are good through mid-October.
What does this all mean? Well, not much actually. The biggest issue is that we will have to start our residency process completely over. Related to that is the inconvenience of
trying to get all the right documents signed and stamped by all the right offices in the US and then sent down here. We have a list of everything we need from our lawyer and will be working on that in the coming days. Please pray for us as we move through this process again.
Finally, my coursework at CIU was helpful for more than just my Hebrew. I learned a great deal about course design for online courses from my teachers, which I have been able to apply in my courses this year at ESEPA. In addition to my growing knowledge about online courses, I have also been working closely with a friend in the US who is developing a new delivery system for on-campus courses. I don't want to say too much because I will be sending out a follow-up email with more details about this, so stay tuned...
I will say, however, that ESEPA struggles, like many institutions, to offer afforable prices that still cover our operating expenses. One of our strategies has been to offer reduced pricing to groups of students who pay a monthly amount of money instead of regular tuition. The downside is that these "agreements" reduce the cost of tuition by up to 70%, that's right, 70%! Essentially we are subsidizing the cost of our own courses without receiving any exteranal financial assistance. Normally a subsidy like that would be covered by donations to a scholarship fund or something of the like.
One way to help our financial situation is to increase student enrollment, which is what this new modality is all about. I invite you, whether you are "into" education or not, to sit in on this one-hour demonstration to learn how we are trying to reduce one of the main barriers to education in the majority world - geography!
Thank you for taking the time to read this update! We deeply appreciate each of you and your faithful prayers. Please lift us up in prayer, especially in the coming weeks
How you can pray this month...
Pray for Julie' surgery and subsequent recovery
Pray for Andrew's PhD coursework that begins soon
Pray for our residency
Praise and Thanksgiving this month...
We are grateful for God's provision of a great doctor and hospital for our care
We are thankful that Andrew has the opportunity to explore new modalities for course delivery.
Andrew, Julie, Ann Renee and Bryan
United World Mission, Costa Ria