A letter from Karla Koll in Guatemala
Dear Companions in Mission,
Greetings from Guatemala as the month of February begins. In this part of the world the celebration of St. Valentine's Day focuses not only on romantic love but also on friendship. The month of February has come to be known as the "Month of Friendship." I invite you to celebrate with me the friendship that binds us together this month.
February is also known as the month of crazy weather here in Guatemala. Most of January this year was not as cold as usual, then at the end of the month snow fell in parts of San Marcos to the west of Quetzaltenango. We are now in the middle of the dry season, which is why there is almost never snowfall even though temperatures drop below freezing. We'll see what surprises February has in store.
Monday, February 4, is World Cancer Day. The focus of the World Health Organization this year is dispelling myths about cancer. February 1 was the first anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I'm feeling well and my energy is slowly coming back. This would be a good day to write to a friend or acquaintance who has or who has had cancer. May we all look forward to the day when cancer treatment will no longer be cut, poison and burn.
At the Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA) we have begun our program year. At the opening celebration on Tuesday, January 29, Violeta Rocha, the rector of the Latin American Biblical University (UBL), shared her vision of the role of theological education in the mission of God today in Latin America.
Classes begin in the Biblical and Theological Training Program on Thursday, February 7. This will be my last semester teaching at CEDEPCA before I move to Costa Rica. I will be offering two courses. On Fridays I'll be teaching the history of Christianity, a course that covers the first 15 centuries of the church's existence. I hope my students will learn from the ways Christian communities in different cultural contexts in the past struggled to be faithful to Jesus Christ. We pay particular attention to the contributions of women to the life of the churches.
This year CEDEPCA will be trying something new by offering three classes each Saturday. I've claimed the first time slot, starting at 8:00 a.m. I'll be teaching the history and theology of salvation. This introductory course invites students to reflect on God's action within history. Often this requires folks to think beyond what they may have learned in their churches and see God at work to redeem all of creation. Please accompany our classes with your prayers.
The team of psychologists from CEDEPCA's Disaster Ministry will continue throughout the month of February their work with people displaced by last November's earthquake. They will aid the psychological and social recovery of people in shelters in the departments of San Marcos and Quetzaltenango. The team asks you to continue to support them through prayer.
This month I am expecting a visit from our friend David LaMotte, a musician and peace activist who started a small organization several years ago to provide infrastructure grants to public schools here in Guatemala. David and I will be visiting the school in Pachaj, Cantel, where his organization paid for a railing that goes around the second story. With the railing in place, the school received other donations that permitted the construction of five new classrooms. The school year began last month with children enjoying the new classrooms.
Our daughter, Tamara, has returned to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, for the second semester of her sophomore year. She enjoyed her month with us here in Quetzaltenango, though she wasn't home very much. The cats and dogs really liked having her here to pay attention to them. My husband, Javier, came back from Nicaragua to be with Tamara for her last week here. He will be heading back to Nicaragua in mid-February to continue working on our farm.
Profile in mission
This month I invite you to pray for the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) in San Jose, Costa Rica, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s mission partner with which I serve. As the new academic year begins, the leadership of the UBL is in transition. Violeta Rocha, a biblical scholar from Nicaragua, is stepping down after eight years as rector. She will be staying on as a professor of New Testament. Violeta was one of my first theology students in Nicaragua many years ago. The new rector of the UBL is Nancy Cardoso, a Methodist pastor and biblical scholar from Brazil. The formal installation won't happen until April, but Nancy is already assuming her duties as rector. The faculty of the UBL is working very hard to get students who were close to the end of their studies under the former system through their degrees while they work on developing new modalities for distance learning that will allow the UBL to continue to provide quality and alternative theological education to students throughout Latin America and beyond.
It seems that the Congress in the United States is finally willing to work on immigration reform. I invite you to read a book I am currently reading, Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother by Pulitzer Prize winner Sonia Nazario. The book recounts the harrowing trip of a Honduran teenager to join his mother in the United States. Nazario describes the desperation that has driven millions from Central America to risk life and limb for employment and a better life in the United States as well as the pain experienced by those left behind. The United States needs an immigration system that is just, focused on maintaining families together, and responsive to the real needs of the labor market. The office for immigration issues of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) offers information and suggestions for action at http://oga.pcusa.org/section/departments/immigration/.
Thank you again for your accompaniment and your commitment to mission here in Central America. I value your messages, even if I don't always have energy to respond.