A letter from Karla Koll in Guatemala
Dear companions in mission,
Greetings in Jesus' name.
The first week of August has arrived and we are still here in Quetzaltenango. Every day we fill up more boxes, but it's a slow process. I'm packing up my books without knowing exactly when I will see them again. I'm also working my way through years of papers. We've already taken more than 500 pounds of paper to be recycled (and we are very grateful that we can recycle paper here in Quetzaltenango)! I am very glad to be over the bronchitis that was slowing me down last month.
I have been taking time out from packing to visit with groups who have come from the U.S. to learn from sisters and brothers here through the Intercultural Encounters program of the Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA). This week two groups will be here in Quetzaltenango. One group is from a church in Rockfish, Virginia. The other group has come from the Presbytery of Western North Carolina to study the educational system here with some folks from their partner presbyteries. They are seeking to move beyond the scholarship program offered by the presbytery partnership and engage more effectively with education here.
Other aspects of CEDEPCA's work continue as well though I'm no longer directly involved. The second semester of university-level courses is under way in Guatemala City. Most of the students who took courses with me last semester continue to study. The group of women in La Estancia, Cantel, who are taking courses through the Biblical Pastoral Institute will be finishing their diplomas in a few months. I started with this group of Maya women three years ago and it is wonderful to see how they have grown in their ability to think theologically.
My dear friend Marina de Monterroso has taken over the coordination of CEDEPCA's prayer shawl ministry here in Quetzaltenango. We started in April. There are four women in the group. Thus far they have made and given out four prayer shawls. These sisters in Christ have lots of practice with prayer, but this ministry is helping them see how their prayers need to take physical form. We've also been making hats for people affected by the earthquake in San Marcos last November. CEDEPCA's Disaster Ministry continues to work with groups of women in San Marcos. The women here in Quetzaltenango have knitted and crocheted their way through most of the yarn they had, so they are looking for more donations of yarn. The women have decided to keep meeting each Tuesday and they invite you to pray with them.
Work continues as well at the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) in San Jose, Costa Rica. Members of the faculty have just completed an online on teaching strategies for online courses. It was fun to discuss pedagogy with my colleagues as we look toward providing contextualized theological education to people throughout Latin America and beyond. I am so looking forward to being there in San Jose soon to be part of the discussions and the plans. I expect to be there before the beginning of September. Please hold the faculty of the UBL in your prayers.
We don't have the details of our move to Costa Rica worked out yet. Every time we think we have a plan, we get more information that makes us rethink our strategy. We hope to take most of our belongings to Nicaragua, then move what I'll need in Costa Rica later. I have an appointment at the Costa Rican consulate on Wednesday, August 7. Then we will have even more information. Please pray for my husband, Javier, and me as we go through this process. Moves are very stressful.
Our daughter, Tamara, is getting ready to start her junior year at Reed College. Thus far her job hunt has been unsuccessful. We are hoping she will find something part-time for the school year, both to help the family budget as well as provide her with some job experience. She is enjoying Reed and Portland.
Even though I am leaving Guatemala, I ask that you continue to pray for people who are involved in ministries here. Violence continues unabated here and at times it is directed at church people. In the past four months two friends who work in different ministries have been kidnapped. Each was held for fewer than 24 hours and both were released unharmed. Please pray for all here who witness to Christ's love and work for justice even in the face of intimidation.
No reading corner this month. I'm too busy packing to read.
PC(USA) Mission in Central America
Tracey King-Ortega, our PC(USA) World Mission regional liaison for Central America, gave birth to twins on July 31. Please welcome Ruby Amanda and Benjamin Desmond to our mission family. Mama, babies, big sister Katherine, and Papa Mainor are all doing well. They are in California right now but will be returning to Nicaragua soon.
There have been many goodbyes in recent weeks. There will be many more in the coming days. My heart is heavy with sadness but also with gratitude for the privilege of walking with folks here during the last 13 years. Thank you as well for being part of this journey with your prayers and your gifts.
Rev. Dr. Karla Ann Koll
Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana
San Jose, COSTA RICA