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A letter from Katie Griffin in Argentina

Advent 2013

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.  Isaiah 9: 2

“The image in Genesis 1 of the Spirit (or wind, or breath) of God moving over the primordial chaos, readying to birth order and wonder in creation, is a powerful image for me of how the Lord is stirring in our midst to give birth to new life in the future”  (Steve Plank, Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery, presbytery e-circular, “Monday in Ministry” Oct. 28, 2013).

Dear friends,

Here in Argentina, the themes of light and hope flourish at this time of year. Spring is upon us. Even though there remains a ton of work to do before the year closes, the longer days and the promise of life renewed make it easier to breathe. Literally, the darkness is falling behind us, and the promise of summer fun and sun is before us. Halleluiah!!!

The words from my home presbytery, above, poetically express the search and hope for life and order in the midst of what sometimes seems like chaos in a dark, struggling world.

Where have we been this year?

Personally, I have embarked upon the writing of my doctoral thesis, and I am about half way through now. To speak honestly, and in the sense of a prayer request, teaching, travelling, studying, raising a family, have taken their toll on my body, mind and spirit.  I had a minor throat surgery in July after about three years of working with an endocrinologist to figure out why I was having problems with kidney stones. Once I recovered from the surgery, I had the shingles for about five weeks. These are minor health problems, but they alert me to the reality that the human being is a frail creature. By God’s grace, nothing worse has happened, and by God’s grace, I am learning to slow down, take life one day at a time, and not try to insist on deadlines. If I can walk by God’s grace, my thesis will get done. If I continue to insist on my own will power, my body will continue to break down. God’s grace is the light of my life, whereas I am my own darkness.

On a family note, my children and husband are doing well. The kids have enjoyed their new school and are flourishing in the midst of the more structured and consistent challenges. Noelia, in fourth grade, is turning into an excellent student. Brian, in first grade, is still struggling to develop consistent study habits, but he loves the extra physical educational stimuli that their new school provides. Both are happy with their new friends. All in all, the opportunity that Presbyterian World Mission gives us to send the children to a private, bi-lingual school has been a wonderful blessing!

We have bitter-sweet family news. Two of my husband’s closest cousins died of cancer in the first part of the year. Esther died after a long battle with liver cancer and Pablo, after a very rapid development of prostate cancer that metastasized rapidly throughout other organs. Both loved and served God throughout their lives. The passing of these two cousins has been difficult for my husband and my in-laws.

The drama of Argentine social inequalities can be represented acutely by comparing two hospitals. The health insurance I have through Presbyterian World Mission offers me the possibility of seeking the nation’s best health care professionals. My surgery was done in one of the best clinics in the country. Yet, outside my window, across the street, was the huge, broken down public hospital where cousin Pablo died.

The contrast between light and darkness is too great for words. One hospital well painted, well illuminated, with an incredible nursing staff; and the other, dark, with broken light fixtures, missing light bulbs, paint peeling off the dark cement walls, and basic nursing care provided by family members. My husband had to take his turn as nurse in Pablo’s last days. The doctors at the public hospital are excellent, some of the best teaching doctors in the school of medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, which in turn is one of the best medical schools in South America. But the rest of the hospital is a shamble.

It is not that cousin Pablo and his family are poor, but since he was self-employed, he did not have health insurance. A common problem in Argentina for the large part of the population without health insurance is that they wait until symptoms are serious before they seek adequate care. Preventive care is difficult. The death rate due to cancers and cardio-vascular diseases is high.

Light and darkness. Life and death. Hope here and now, hope in the life everlasting. God calls upon the people of God to carry hope and joy into the chaos.

I have so many stories to share about life, work and faith in Argentina.

Fortunately, I am now at the beginning stage of planning my next interpretation assignment in the States. My family and I will be staying at Mission Haven in Decatur, Georgia for the 2014-2015 U.S. academic year. You can start planning for me to visit your church and presbytery. If you would like to hear more about faith in the Living God in our broken world, please communicate with me at kathleen_m_griffin@yahoo.com.ar and with Rachel Anderson at rachel.anderson@pcusa.org. I expect that I will take three or four long distance trips to visit various presbyteries around the country. I hope that your Presbytery will be one of them.

Thank you for your prayers and gifts that enable me to be your ambassador in Argentina.  If you have not yet engaged in God’s mission here, I invite you to prayerfully consider joining my support team through your prayers, correspondence, continued learning and financial gifts.  Together we can bring about God’s reign in this hurting part of the world.

May Christ be your JOY in this Christmas season!

Katie Griffin
Daniel Fratea
Noelia and Brian

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 36
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