A letter from Karla Koll in Guatemala
On May 3 the Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA) inaugurated the Julia Esquivel Theological Library. Why put the energy and effort into organizing a theological library here in Guatemala, a country with so many problems and needs?
Throughout history Christians have been known as "the people of the Book." This isn't completely accurate. The word "Bible" comes from the Greek work biblion, which means "books." Christians, like those in the Jewish tradition, don't have one book; we have a collection of books, a library that serves as a guide for our faith. No single perspective, no single literary genre, no single historical moment is sufficient to communicate the breadth of God's walk with God's people. The Bible is a library that was compiled over the course of more than 1,000 years.
In order to interpret the library that we have in the Bible, we need other libraries as well. The Bible doesn't exist in isolation from other areas of human knowledge, but in dialogue with them. We need the tools that have been developed by Biblical scholars to help us understand the text in its original context. The Biblical and Theological Formation Program of CEDEPCA is dedicated to training women and men to be able to interpret the Bible for themselves and their communities. To do this, we need a library.
I like to think of a library full of books and journals as a room full of conversations waiting to happen. Theological works allow our professors and students to discover the reflections offered by Christian communities in other places far away from Guatemala where people seek to live out their faith in different cultural contexts and under different circumstances. The theological conclusions reached by Christian communities and thinkers in the past continue to inform our faith today. Christians here in Guatemala need to enter into these conversations to expand their vision of the world and their knowledge of God.
CEDEPCA decided to name the library after Julia Esquivel, a Guatemalan theologian and poet who is a longtime friend of CEDEPCA and many of us who work there. Through her poetry Julia has taught many of us the importance of the written word. She loves reading and books. Already she has donated some of the books from her personal library to CEDEPCA. (For those of you unfamiliar with Julia's work, two bilingual collections of her poetry have been published, Threatened with Resurrection and The Certainty of Spring.)
As a young woman in the 1950s Julia applied for admission to the Presbyterian Seminary in Guatemala, but at that time the seminary did not admit women. She went to Costa Rica and studied at the Latin American Biblical Seminary (SBL), the institution that today is the Latin American Biblical University (UBL). During the dedication ceremony on May 3 she spoke a bit about her seminary experience. Professors at the SBL told students that they were not to believe that they knew everything just because they had a seminary degree. Studies in seminary serve to train students to be able to study the Bible and theology throughout the rest of their lives.
During the 1970s Julia worked for the Evangelical Board for Social and Cultural Service here in Guatemala as part of the team that published the journal Diálogo. The Board sent the journal to all of the evangelical pastors in the country in the hope that they would read and inform themselves about what was happening in Guatemala. Julia told of visiting churches during that time only to discover that the no one had even taken the journal out of its envelope. Pastors often showed no interest whatsoever in reading. Julia fears that even today many pastors still don't read and end up preaching from their ignorance. The Biblical and Theological Formation Program of CEDEPCA, with its theological library, trains pastors and church leaders to think critically about their faith. Julia expressed her hope that the CEDEPCA library will encourage pastors and students to ask theological questions and to seek continually the truth of God's Reign.
The beginnings of the Julia Esquivel Library go back to a documentation center organized by the communications program of the Latin American Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies, CEDEPCA's parent organization, in the mid-1980s. From that time the collection has focused on the role of churches in the social struggles of the region. The construction of a new classroom building finally allowed us to move the library into an ample space appropriate for receiving visitors at the end of 2010. Recent gifts, including donations from the Student Stewardship Committee of Princeton Theological Seminary and the Presbytery of the Peaks, have allowed us to expand the collection.
The Julia Esquivel Library is unique here in Guatemala. The collection specializes in Bible, Latin American theology, women, gender, and the Central American context. Already in 2011, before CEDEPCA has even publicized the existence of the library, students and professors from six other theological institutions have come to consult materials that are not found elsewhere.
Monetary donations for the Julia Esquivel library can be made through ECO #E047879, Extending Theological Training & Reflection, CEDEPCA (CEDEPCA's Biblical and Theological Formation program). The Julia Esquivel Library has a limited need for books in English in the following areas: Biblical studies, theology, mission, and books about Guatemala/Central America. We also need Hebrew Scriptures, Greek New Testaments, and related study aids. If you have titles you would like to donate, please let me know. If CEDEPCA can use the books, we’ll help you figure out the best way to get them to us.
Thank you for your support of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) World Mission and CEDEPCA. May the theological conversations continue.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 6
Write to Karla Ann Koll
Give to Karla Ann Koll's sending and support
Give to E047879, Extending Theological Training & Reflection, CEDEPCA
This is good news indeed. As Julia's friend through the years, I am delighted to hear that she has been so honored, and at the same time is able to confer honor, through CEDEPCA's decision to name to their library after her and by her acceptance of that honor. The relationship cannot be other than a fruitful and productive one. Blessings.
Karla has summarized our perception of "the people of the Book" beautifully and succinctly. Isn't this mission exciting! I'm so glad for Karla Kroll's ministry and pray that her work will continue to bear fruit. I also pray for her health as she copes with challenges. Thanks to Karla and her family!