Read letters from Elisabeth Cook
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Eli will next be in the U.S. in 2015. Email her to extend an invitation to your congregation or organization.
About Elisabeth Cook's ministry
Elisabeth Cook was appointed in 1990 to serve with the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) in San Jose, Costa Rica. Over the years her responsibilities have ranged from administration to publications, to teaching.
Elisabeth teaches Old Testament and Biblical interpretation courses at UBL’s main campus in San Jose and occasionally at UBL’s centers in Venezuela, Peru or other countries in Latin America. Besides her teaching responsibilities, she is coordinator of the UBL's publications department and is responsible for editing all materials. She also develops study modules for lay leadership, writes materials for the university level programs, shares with visiting study groups from the United States and contributes administrative experience to different areas of university life.
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“My experience in the classroom,” writes Elisabeth, “has helped me understand that theological education cannot be measured in the grades the students receive. The student’s life and ministry in his or her own country is a constant reminder of why we do what we do.
“The ministry of so many students is among the excluded sectors of society where they are making a difference: in the poorest and most discriminated Haitian neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic, with women throughout Guatemala who are struggling with domestic violence of all kinds, with street children in Colombia, indigenous communities in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, and in pastoral ministry in countless congregations where life is valued in all its richness and wholeness. These are the true measures of the importance of theological and biblical education. The opportunity to be in a classroom with men and women who as they are transformed transform the lives of others gives every class urgency and meaning.
“My concern has always been how, as a Christian to respond to the injustice of poverty and exclusion in Latin America. Working at the university is a way to contribute to the transformation of people, churches and communities.
“My time at UBL is enriching not only because I have a chance to give and participate, but also because of so much that I am given. Interaction with the students and working with the faculty keep me challenged and open to learning and growing as a person, as a Christian, and as teacher.
“UBL’s educational model integrates life with study. Our approach to theology and biblical studies is intentionally focused on the reality of the poor and excluded as the place from which we reflect on God and read the Bible, with the goal of responding to these realities.
“UBL has a combined residence-distance program. We have a relationship with 15 local theological education programs in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Perú and Venezuela.
“The input from students who are actively involved in their churches and countries enriches theological education and the opportunity for them to come together (all denominations, including Catholic) in an ecumenical experience in San José is also an important part of their learning process.
“This model also keeps staff in contact with the diverse realities in Latin America and the needs of the church—a vital component of our ever-changing and transforming educational approach. All the students need scholarships to come to Costa Rica, something that is increasingly difficult to provide due to reduction in support from churches and agencies worldwide. We particularly emphasize offering opportunities for women, indigenous people and Afro-Caribbeans to study.
“We have about 800 students in the university program, which offers bachelor’s, licentiate and master’s degrees in theological sciences and biblical sciences.
“The ’non-university’ program has about 2,000 students. These are students who don’t have access to university-level education or are not interested. Many are pastors as well as lay leaders. We train facilitators and provide materials, but the programs are run locally in about 20 church or theological institutions in Latin America. This program is vitally important because the majority of church leadership can’t access university-level education.”
Costa Rica borders the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. It has one of the highest life expectancies in Central America. Tourism and commerce are Costa Rica’s main industries, accounting for 68 percent of its GDP. It has a growing technology/computer chip industry, and its main agricultural products include bananas, coffee, sugar and beef. Although it is one of the most prosperous nations in Central America, 15–20 percent of the population live at or below poverty levels. About three-quarters of the population are Roman Catholic and approximately 15 percent are Protestant.
About Elisabeth Cook
Prior to her appointment by the PC(USA), Elisabeth spent four years working with the Fraternity of Evangelical Costa Rican Churches (FIEC), a small group of churches committed to serving communities in Costa Rica. In addition she served as co-coordinator of the FIEC’s Institute for Pastoral Formation, which prepares pastors to lead churches and ministries of the FIEC.
Born in Guatemala, Elisabeth is the daughter of two missionaries and the granddaughter of others. She has spent most of her life in parts of Latin America, including Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Brazil and Ecuador. She graduated from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a B.S. degree in accounting, and then attended the Fuller School of World Mission in Pasadena, California. In 1988 she received a bachelor’s degree in theology from UBL. Elisabeth is now studying for her Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible at the University of Exeter in England (distance program), and she hopes to finish in the Spring of 2014.
Birthday: October 29