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A letter from Karla Koll in Guatemala

May 2012

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Greetings from Guatemala.

As May begins, I have been through three rounds of chemotherapy. I'm glad to say that I am feeling quite well most days. I have been working almost full time from home with my computer, my books and the telephone, accompanying CEDEPCA's work from a distance as well as catching up on tasks for World Mission. My new rhythm is giving me more time to read and write, a nice change. I'm adjusting to wearing scarves and hats all the time, though options for headwear here are rather limited. For those of you under the mistaken notion that I am too thin, I assure you that I am eating well. In fact, I feel like I'm eating all the time, as my stomach feels more settled when there is food in it. My husband, Javier, has returned from Nicaragua and is here with me. We are grateful to live in a city where good private medical care is available. Dr. Rodolfo Gutierrez, the oncologist who is treating me here, is wonderfully kind and caring. My next rounds of chemo are scheduled for May 9 and 23.

On Wednesday, May 2, we will be going to Guatemala City. It will be my first trip to the capital since I started chemo. I'm looking forward to seeing folks at the office and other friends. On Thursday, May 3, CEDEPCA will dedicate our library. We are naming the library after Julia Esquivel, a Guatemalan poet and theologian whose poems of faith and struggle have inspired many around the world. Over the last couple of years, with the help of churches and the Stewardship Committee of Princeton Theological Seminary, we've been able to purchase books to support our theological curriculum. CEDEPCA's library is a one of a kind in Guatemala, focusing on Bible, Latin American theology, gender studies, and the Central American context. We are glad to be able to offer this resource not only to CEDEPCA students and staff but to the wider Christian community in Guatemala.

Aside from this one trip, I imagine I'll be spending the rest of the month at home in Quetzaltenango. Our daughter, Tamara, is finishing her freshman year at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She'll be returning to Guatemala at the end of the month. I'm looking forward to fascinating conversations. She seems very excited about her studies in literature and history these days. We may even have time for working on jigsaw puzzles.

CEDEPCA Profile
This month I would like to introduce you to Carolina Gonzalez, who has joined CEDEPCA as a facilitator for courses in the Biblical Pastoral Institute. Carolina first came to CEDEPCA last year, looking for support and bibliography on women's leadership in early Christian communities. Carolina has a licenciatura and two master's degrees from the Central American Theological Seminary (SETECA), but she identifies theologically with CEDEPCA. Her specialty is New Testament and she has also studied counseling. Though she also teaches classes in other institutions, she told me she likes working with CEDEPCA because we are working within the context of the different communities. CEDEPCA encourages women's leadership and is open to people from different Christian traditions. Carolina is working with two groups of CEDEPCA students. She is facilitating the Bible courses that CEDEPCA is offering at the Reformed Theological Institute of the Kakquikel Presbytery in Chimaltenango. The other class is a group of women close to Quetzaltenango in La Estancia, Cantel. Carolina finds that CEDEPCA students tend to have better critical thinking skills than her students in other institutions.

Carolina's husband, Ludwig Sandoval, works in the Interior Ministry. He has finished his course work for his law degree and is working on his thesis. Their son, also named Ludwig, began his studies in mechanical engineering at the University of San Carlos this year. Carolina asks that you pray for the courses she is facilitating as well as for her family. They are in the process of soliciting a scholarship for their son. She and her husband are both working on theses, so they can use prayers as well.

Reading Corner
Recently one of my students lent me a fascinating book, Thomas Gage's Travels in the New World, edited by J. Eric S. Thompson. Thomas Gage was a British Dominican in the 17th century, a time when being a Roman Catholic priest in Britain carried a death sentence. After studies in Spain he was sent by the order to the Philippines. However, he and three others jumped ship in Mexico and made their way to Guatemala, where Gage taught and then served as a parish priest from 1625 to 1637. His account of his time in Guatemala, first published in 1648 after his return to England and his conversion to the Church of England, contains vivid descriptions of colonial society and the role of the church, including the treatment the indigenous peoples received. Gage also noted the widespread presence of enslaved Africans in Guatemala, a population that has often been ignored by historians. His work provides readers of English with some of the first descriptions of a drink widely used in Mesoamerica—chocolate. Gage's return trip from Guatemala to Panama and then through the pirate-infested Caribbean reads like an adventure novel. I highly recommend this book to those who would like to learn more about Guatemala's history.

Closing Words
Thank you so much for accompanying me and my family on this journey. I am so grateful for the notes and the Skype calls that keep coming. Please let me know if you would like to send me anything, as groups will be coming to Guatemala in June. And do keep praying for the work of CEDEPCA in God's mission here in Guatemala.

Blessings,

Karla

The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 6

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