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A letter from Karla Koll in Guatemala

February 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Greetings from Guatemala in this month of friendship and affection! In the United States, Valentine’s Day celebrates romantic love. Here in Latin America, the focus of the celebration is much broader. It’s a time for reaching out to friends and loved ones near and far. Thank you all for your friendship which helps to carry me through these busy days.

This Sunday (February 6) I find myself in Guatemala City. Activities here at CEDEPCA have prevented me from traveling to my home in Quetzaltenango. I’m glad to share part of this quiet afternoon here at the office with you.

I ask your continued prayers from those of us who work at CEDEPCA. We are constantly reminded that we live in one of the most violent regions of the world. At least once a week a member of the staff or one of their close family members is witness to — or the victim of — a crime. These criminal acts range from extortion to armed robbery to murder. We are increasingly aware of the emotional and spiritual toll this is taking on all of us.

Last Sunday, the lectionary offered a reading from Psalm 37: 1-3:

Do not worry yourself because of evildoers
do not be jealous of those who do wrong,
For they shall soon wither like the grass,
and like the green grass fade away.
Put your trust in the Lord and do good,
dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

Despite the growing violence, God’s call to us is the same, to do good and to cultivate faithfulness. This is, indeed, what CEDEPCA is all about.

Our academic year is starting for the Biblical and Theological Training program. Yesterday, February 5, was the first class of our new certificate program in Christian Education. We had 10 students for the first class, several of whom had never participated before in a CEDEPCA event. We are hoping a few people will join the group next Saturday.

Tomorrow, February 7, we are beginning our university-level courses with an opening worship that includes a graduation. Three of our university students, two women and one man, have finished 12 courses and thereby earned a Diploma in Theological Studies from CEDEPCA. Four women will also be graduating with diplomas in Theology from a Women’s Perspective, a two-year program offered by CEDEPCA’s Women’s Pastoral program. Please rejoice with us! Pictures will be posted at CEDEPCA’s website.

January was a time of many visits. It’s been wonderful to see friends and have time to share our lives here. The Intercultural Encounters program of CEDEPCA is also in full swing, preparing to receive more groups in the coming months. Yet we are also hearing from churches and other groups who would like to come to Guatemala but are unable to do so at this time because of the economic situation in the United States. Many of the organizations with whom we are in contact here in Guatemala are cutting back staff because funds are running out. We know that the economic situation is not likely to get better soon for many people and churches. We hope and pray both that CEDEPCA will have the resources to carry out our programs and that folks from the United States will be able to continue coming to Guatemala to learn from sisters and brothers here about faithfulness to Christ in today’s world.

This week CEDEPCA is looking forward to welcoming two new PC(USA) mission co-workers to Guatemala, Andrew Berg and Margarita Valbuena. Andrew will be working under Emerson Morales in the Intercultural Encounters program. Please hold Andrew and Margarita in your prayers as they settle in. They actually met here in Guatemala in 2002, so they are already somewhat familiar with the country.

At the moment, I’m missing my family. Javier, my husband, and Tamara, our daughter, came into Guatemala City on Thursday so that Tamara could go to an interview for Princeton University. We don’t know if she will get in, but she seemed excited by the interview. Reed College in Portland is still her first choice. Now that all the forms are in, we will wait. She also had her last orthodontist appointment on Thursday. Hurray!

Javier is still trying to turn in his licenciatura thesis. Every day it seems there’s a new hoop to jump through. The amount of bureaucracy here is just amazing. At the Latin American Biblical University we try very hard to keep bureaucracy to a minimum, but not so at other institutions here. Once he’s able to turn in his thesis, he is planning to go to Nicaragua for a couple of weeks to check on our farm and see his family. We are still hoping for a graduation soon, though it looks like Tamara will graduate from high school before her father graduates from college.

Reading corner

I’m often asked questions about religious change here in Guatemala. One of the best studies of religious change here in Guatemala focuses not on conversion to Protestantism, but on a movement known as Catholic Action. Ricardo Falla is a Guatemalan Jesuit priest and an anthropologist who worked in the community of San Antonio Ilotenango in the mid-1970s. His book, Quiché Rebelde: Religious Conversion, Politics, and Ethnic Identity in Guatemala, shows how religious change accompanies other kinds of changes in communities. It is also a good study of how Maya identity is being constantly reworked. I have had the privilege of being with Ricardo on different occasions in Quetzaltenango. He has a gentle spirit and a probing mind.

CEDEPCA Profile

This month I want to introduce you to one of our theology students, Lissette Ordóñez. She shared with me that she came out of a traditional evangelical church background that taught her to fear a God who was waiting to punish her if she did anything wrong. When she came to CEDEPCA, she came to know a God who is much more real, a God who, in her own words, “is as human as I am”. She has fallen more in love with God through her studies. She also has been able to open her mind to other religions and to view people who think differently than she does with respect.

Lissette has a licenciatura in marketing and a master’s degree in human resources. She has taught in various universities here and serves as a consultant and lecturer. She also serves on the CEDEPCA board and she is using her expertise to help us promote our programs. She has two sons, Jose Alexander, age 12, and Angel Esteban, age 8. Last February she married Carlos Antonio Martinez, a neurologist. They dream of serving God in some way as a family.

Lissette will be receiving her Diploma in Theological Studies tomorrow (February 7) at our opening worship service. She is working on the prerequisites for entering directly into the licenciatura program at the Latin American Biblical University. She wants to keep studying to be prepared for whatever God calls her and her family to do in the future. She asks for your prayers for herself and her family.

Closing words

This first month of classes promises to be very busy, so I’ll apologize in advance for not being about to answer messages right away. In many ways, this is a new beginning for the Biblical and Theological Training program. I’m very glad to be a part of this effort and to be able to count on your support and prayers

Blessings,

Karla

Mailing address (for letters and cards):

Karla Ann Koll
GUA 2120
P.O. Box 526125
Miami, FL 33152-6125

PS: If you would like to send something other than letters or cards to us, please let me know in advance so I can advise you on the best way to send items.

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 286

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