A letter from Karla Koll in Guatemala
Dear companions in mission,
Grace and peace to you in Jesus' name.
On July 4 I received my final round of chemotherapy. I'm very thankful that I only suffered minor discomforts during the eight rounds of drugs I received. The muscle pain is slowly subsiding and I'm regaining energy. I think it's time for a serious exercise program, as I have lost muscle tone. I know I still need to rest, but I'm looking forward to feeling closer to my normal self very soon. Thank you all for your prayers, your notes, and the care packages.
During the later part of June much of our attention as a family was focused on my hometown, Colorado Springs. The Waldo Creek fire started near Manitou Springs and roared through a subdivision of Colorado Springs before it was contained. A total of 346 homes were lost to the blaze. The house my parents owned for years, and where my father still keeps some of his antique cars, was in the evacuation zone but wasn't hurt. The fire is now contained but not out. Several other fires continue to burn in the western United States in this, the worst fire season in decades.
Meanwhile North America is experiencing the hottest year on record accompanied by a record-breaking drought. Finally I'm beginning to see articles making connections between high temperatures, wildfires burning out of control, and global warming. Central America is considered one of the areas of the world most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In recent years the region has been experiencing shifting weather patterns, including more extreme weather events. Thus far the hurricane season hasn't been too destructive here. There have been more named storms than usual this early in the hurricane season, but thus far only Hurricane Carlotta has made landfall in Mexico. There are four more months of hurricane season left. How I wish we could send some of this moisture to the western United States.
CEDEPCA's work in mission continues here. The Intercultural Encounters program is receiving visiting groups coming to learn from sisters and brothers here about what it means to follow Christ and work for change in this context. I'll be able to see at least one of the groups when they come to Quetzaltenango in the coming weeks. In the Biblical and Theological Formation program the new semester of university-level classes started the first week of July. As always, please keep the CEDEPCA team in your prayers.
As many of you know, I am assigned by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to work with the Latin American Biblical University (UBL). The campus of the university is in San José, Costa Rica. Since being approved as a university in 1998, the UBL has worked with institutions around Latin America, including CEDEPCA, which have administered the UBL's programs. This has allowed students to do the majority of their theological studies in their own countries, supplemented by short periods of study in Costa Rica. Recent bureaucratic and court decisions in Costa Rica are forcing the UBL to rethink its model of theological education. As part of this process, representatives from the different institutions that relate to the UBL will gather in Costa Rica August 19–25 to discern together a way to continue to offer theological education that is contextualized and liberating throughout Latin America. I ask your prayers for our gathering. I'll be going to Costa Rica a few days before the meeting to meet with my colleagues at the UBL and make plans for our move to Costa Rica in the middle of next year.
The annual conference on Women and Theology will be held here in Guatemala City August 24 and 25. My friend, Rev. Dr. Ofelia Ortega, will be here to share her wisdom and experience with the gathering. We're expecting about 200 women to participate. Ofelia was the first woman pastor ordained by the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba. At one time she worked for the World Council of Churches. She has also been the rector of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba. Currently she directs a center on gender and theology in Havana. She also serves as one of the presidents of the World Council. The theme of the conference this year is "Weaving New Forms of Power." I'm very excited to have Ofelia here.
Now that chemotherapy is over, I can move forward on planning the next steps of my treatment. On August 29 I'm going to fly to Colorado Springs to visit my father and his wife. I'll also be preaching at First Presbyterian Church in Pueblo on September 2. The following Tuesday, September 4, I'll fly to North Carolina. I will be receiving radiation therapy at the University of North Carolina Cancer Center for seven weeks. I'm looking forward to visiting churches on the weekends as well as being involved in churches close to Chapel Hill during the week. I hope to be in touch with many of you during that time. Please let me know if you would like my mailing address in the U.S.
The closing of one cycle of the Mayan calendar this coming December has awakened a lot of interest in Mayan culture. I would like to invite you to read A Mayan Life by Pedro Gaspar Gonzalez. Written in Q'anjob'al, this work is heralded as the first novel by a Mayan writer. The novel narrates the story of Lwin, a Q'anjob'al Maya living in the highland village of Jolomk'u in the department of Huehuetenango. Though not all of the book works well as a novel, it does portray the experiences and dreams of Maya born in the middle of the last century. Some things have changed here in Guatemala. The army no longer forcibly recruits young men. With the expansion of bilingual education, I hope that school is no longer such an alienating experience for young Maya. I'm not sure, however, that much has changed in terms of corruption. I hope the country has moved closer to experiencing Lwin's dream of people from different cultures living in peace with one another. A Mayan Life, as well as other books by and about Maya here in Guatemala, can be ordered from Yax Te' Books, www.yaxtebooks.com.
Profile in mission
This month I'd like to ask you to pray for participants in the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) here in Guatemala. During the past 11 months four young women have been working in different organizations here. This year I had the chance to get close to two of the volunteers who were in the Quetzaltenango area. Jackie Wonsey comes from Chicago. Before coming to Guatemala, she worked in the student activities office of Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Jackie lived with Juana Herlinda Yac Salanic in the community of Pachaj and worked at the community health post. Among other duties, she accompanied the health promoters as they visited house to house. Jackie also worked at a shelter for battered and abused women run by Nuevos Horizontes. Kristi Click took a year off from her studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary to serve as a YAV. She worked at the lunch program for senior citizens run by St. Mark's Episcopal Church. She also taught for CEIPA, an organization that provides educational opportunities for working children and youth.
Jackie and Kristi have already returned to the U.S. Jackie will be working with the Episcopal Volunteer Corp in Newark, New Jersey, for the coming year. Kristi will be studying social work at the University of Texas at Austin on her way to a joint MSW/M.Div. degree. Please keep these young women in your prayers as they face reverse culture shock. Please also pray for the four young women who will be coming to Guatemala at the end of August to begin their year of service as Young Adult Volunteers. PC(USA) mission co-worker Marcia Towers coordinates the Young Adult Volunteer program here. I'm sure she'll appreciate your prayers as well.
My family and I are very grateful for the way people in many places have accompanied us in recent months. Thank you all so very much. May you all also find strength for the challenges you are facing as we all seek to be faithful in God's mission.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 6