A Letter from Jed and Jenny Koball, serving in Peru
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¨Then God said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…¨
(Exodus 3:5-8, NRSV)
It began with a cry. A blazing inferno hot enough to turn rocks into metal emitted billowing clouds of toxins into the Andean sky day after day, night after night, year after year, falling upon the land, the people, the children. With itching skin, burning eyes and a fearful heart, a mother cried out. From where would her help come?
Esther Hinostroza, friend and partner in ministry, was among the first to respond to the mournful cries from the town of La Oroya. She was among the first to respond to God´s call for deliverance for a long-suffering people. She was indeed among the first to sound the alarms, to speak out for justice, to demand solidarity. And the solidarity came.
A movement that began over 20 years ago has reached a momentous occasion! Driven by the decades-long effort for justice in La Oroya – for a people whose land and bodies have been poisoned by a foreign owned and operated metallurgical smelter – a new law has been established. In June of this year, following years of advocacy by our partners and allies, the government of Peru issued federal law 31189 that will pave the way for comprehensive health care and environmental measures to protect communities impacted by heavy metal contamination.
It was this same God who called Conrado Olivera and Julia Huari and Yolanda Zurita and Paula Mesa and Raquel Coca and Hector Amaya and so, so many more who have articulated the demands and organized the efforts for legislative change in defense of La Oroya.
It was this same God who called Rafael Goto and Elias Szczytnicki and Rolando Perez and Javier Jhanke and Rodrigo Maslucán and Laura Vargas and the Archbishop of Huancayo, Monseñor Pedro Barreto and so many, many, many other people of faith and leaders within traditions across Peru who have stood against the ruthless tides of growth and development to amplify the voices of those left in its wake.
It was this same God who called mission co-worker Hunter Farrell to beckon the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) so many years ago; the very same God who called Ellie Stock to extend that invitation to the pews of Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery and beyond. It was this same God who spoke to Karen Wilson and Mark Strothmann and Barbara Northrup and Pam Lupfer and Charlie Berthoud and dozens and dozens and dozens more Presbyterians, clergy and lay alike, across the U.S. who have preached from the pulpit, reached out to the press, conversed with Congress, walked the streets of La Oroya and continue to this day to pray for those that they love.
It was this same God who spoke to those both young at heart and those wise beyond their years, who called to students from Washington University to Colorado College, from Arizona University to PS 58 in Brooklyn, New York where grade school kids gathered with children of La Oroya online and then spoke truth to power on the nightly news.
It was this same God who opened the hearts and minds of journalists from Lima to St. Louis and throughout the world, from Vanity Fair to CNN to New York Times and Bloomberg News. It was the very same God who spoke to doctors and scientists, and experts of all kinds. It is the God of Fernando Serrano and Hugo Villa and Matthew Reuer and Fernando Osores and so many others who dedicated time and resources and energy to discover facts and proclaim the truth.
It is the God of friends and co-workers who have traveled here to Peru to grow the movement and make it global. It is the God of the Presbyterian Hunger Program; the God of Lionel Derenoncourt and Valery Nodem, of Ruth Farrell and Rebecca Barnes, of Alexa Smith and Eileen Schumann and Jennifer Evans and Jenny Oldham. It is the God of Presbyterian World Mission, of Maria Arroyo and Valdir Franca, of mission co-workers Dennis Smith, and Sarah Henken and Chenoa Stock and Cindy Corell who came from Argentina and Colombia and Bolivia and Haiti to share in prayer and in power with their siblings of faith in La Oroya. It is the God of global partners who journeyed from faraway lands deep into the Andes mountains, from El Salvador to Sri Lanka. It is the God of Jaff Bamenjo who came all the way from Cameroon to remind us that an injustice anywhere is not just a threat to justice everywhere but intricately tied to oppressive systems the whole world over. Like them all, he came to say, I see you…I hear you…I AM you…and I stand with you. We stand together.
It is in standing together from across the globe, across creeds, across race, across culture and nationalities, across generations and any other barrier or boundary that might divide us that we hear God´s call. From Christian to agnostic, from left to right, from North to South, this has been an ecumenical movement. And in this movement, on this journey, we have learned and are still learning how to walk with one another. And we are learning that the walk is not over. Yes, a law has been passed, but that law has yet to be implemented.
And so, on this day in which we celebrate, we remember that it took Moses 40 years to get the people through the desert. We have been on this trek for barely 20. And with perhaps decades to go, we know that like the people´s trek through the wilderness, it will not be without challenge or contention or even questions or doubts; it will not be without misdeeds or missteps or misspoken words. What is will be though is led by God – the God who calls us to embrace our shared humanity and demands we take off our shoes and treat as holy the very soil on which we stand. This is the God who will take us to the land of milk and honey – if not a new place, then certainly a new day when the rivers are pure, the skies are clean, the soils are fertile, the children are free and the mothers are filled with joy because on that day even the scarred and crusted hillsides of La Oroya will be known for what God intended them to be: a Promised Land.
For your continued support and solidarity and for adding to the names above, we thank you!
Jed and Jenny
Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:
Dear partners in God’s mission,
I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.
God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.
How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it? Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.
We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.
Act – Visit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe: pcusa.org/missionyearbook.
Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.
Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year. We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.
In the light of hope,
Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give please visit https://bit.ly/PCUSAmission
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
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Tags: joining hands, La Oroya, Matthew 25, mining, peru, Smelter, systemic poverty
Tags: Jed and Jenny Koball
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