A letter from Karla Koll on home leave from Guatemala
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
I know, September is already over. I'm sorry I didn't find time to write earlier. I arrived here in Chapel Hill on September 4. The next day I had appointments at the UNC Cancer Center with both my medical oncologist and the radiation oncologist. I was able to start my radiation therapy on September 11. My weeks here follow a routine of daily radiation treatments, long walks, physical therapy, yoga classes, and weekend visits to churches. My travels in September took me to Odenton, Md.; Granville, Ohio; and Richmond, Va. I'm very grateful to have had the chance to see friends and celebrate work in God's mission with various congregations.
As October begins, I'm halfway through my 30 sessions of radiation therapy. I'm starting to feel a bit of the fatigue that goes along with having part of my body bombarded by protons every day. I'll be visiting churches close by in the coming weeks. If all goes well, I'll be finished with therapy on October 23. I have a plane ticket back to Guatemala for October 30.
Folks at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and University Presbyterian Church have provided me with housing, a car, and lots of tender loving care. I feel I have been experiencing the connectional church at its best in both the care extended to me and the interest in engaging in mission with sisters and brothers in Central America.
Our daughter, Tamara, is well into her sophomore year at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She's complaining a bit about her heavy reading load this semester, but she seems content with her studies. My husband, Javier, has been in Nicaragua in recent weeks working on our farm. He'll be back in Guatemala soon.
While I'm here in the United States for treatment, the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) in Costa Rica and CEDEPCA in Guatemala continue their work in mission. At the UBL, the fourth bimester of the year is ending on October 5. The final bimester of the year starts on October 15. Lyz de Guerra, a student from CEDEPCA, has been at the UBL since February. Another CEDEPCA student, Sonia Gonzalez, will be joining Lyz to study in Costa Rica until the beginning of December. Please keep these two Presbyterian women in your prayers as they continue their studies. Please pray as well for my colleagues at the UBL who are busy reimagining the future of the university so that we can continue to offer theological education to students throughout Latin America.
At CEDEPCA the semester will end for university-level classes at the end of October. The Biblical Pastoral Institute groups will be finishing their courses in November. CEDEPCA is also rethinking its Biblical and Theological Formation Program since CEDEPCA can no longer function as a branch of the UBL. Please pray for this process, for the students and professors who have come to CEDEPCA to learn a new way of theological thinking.
If you at looking for a text that explores social conditions in Guatemala today, I suggest Securing the City: Neoliberalism, Space and Insecurity in Postwar Guatemala, edited by Kevin Lewis O'Neill and Kendron Thomas. As the editors note, there has been little discussion in Guatemala about the structural conditions that facilitate growing levels of violence. The essays in this volume look at both the structural questions as well as the ways different groups respond to increasing insecurities. The first essay presents a brief history of Guatemala City. The following articles explore how residents of a lower-middle-class neighborhood, street vendors, and men who migrate from the countryside to the city to work as security guards all respond to the threat of violence. Another article looks at the apparel manufacturers in Tecpan, a small city in the western highlands, who produce for markets in the capital.
I found the last essay in the book, which looks at the charitable activities of a large neo-Pentecostal church in Guatemala City, particularly thought-provoking. The discussion of how church members focus their charitable outreach in the countryside where the "deserving" poor live, rather than serve the poor who have migrated into the city, reminded me of how visiting groups often view the capital city.
The research for this book was done before the November 2011 elections that brought retired army general Otto Perez Molina to office, but the authors show how Perez Molina's promise of a mano dura (iron fist) against crime would appeal to people of all income levels in the capital who feel their lives threatened by crime. This book helped me think in new ways about the country in which I have lived and served for 12 years.
I am very grateful for the gifts these months of treatment have brought me, including the opportunity to reconnect with many friends as well as meet new friends. Thank you all for being part of this journey. Please write to me if you would like my U.S. cell phone number and/or the mailing address I am using here in North Carolina. And keep the messages coming, even if I don't respond right away.
Rev. Dr. Karla Ann Koll
Latin American Biblical University
Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America - CEDEPCA
firstname.lastname@example.org (use the "Write to" link below)
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 6