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Christmas Greetings

A Letter from Mark Hare and Jenny Bent, serving in Costa Rica

Fall 2021

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But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13

Hello friends!

Greetings to each and every one of you from San José, Costa Rica!

I hope that this Christmas season feels for you as it does for us, less tense and fraught with menace than 2020. Our family is blessed to be nearly three-quarters COVID vaccinated. Jenny and I are fully vaccinated, and yesterday afternoon Keila received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. All vaccinations for COVID are part of Costa Rica’s public health system, one of the best in all of the Americas. Only Annika, who is 10 years old, will not be eligible for vaccination until sometime in 2022. Overall, 60 percent of everyone in Costa Rica has been vaccinated, and new cases here in Costa Rica have dropped to their lowest level in a year. All of this is especially good news for us as my mom and three of my nephews prepare to visit us in December. It will be a special time for all of us, but especially I think for Keila and Annika. In January, Jenny’s mother will come from Nicaragua to spend time with us, along with Jenny’s sister, Hypatia, one of Keila and Annika’s favorite aunts.

At the same time, the ongoing worldwide disaster of flooding and droughts, massive storms and pernicious sea level rise provides a sobering note to the joy of this season. Climate change is upon us, and it is not yet clear that our political leaders, business owners and the leaders of financial institutions are willing to make the necessary choices that could lead us away from the brink.

Here at the Latin American Biblical University (UBL for its initials in Spanish), the Green Team recently meditated together on the 2 Peter 3:10-13. Although the text is full of doom, our reflections led us to understand that the passage presents challenge and promise, as well as warning. We are called, the team agreed, to act as agents working towards God’s promise of a new earth and new heavens—for “…the creation itself [to] be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory…of God.” (Romans 8:21).

Putting ideas into action, the university has committed to producing up to 80 percent of our electrical needs with an extensive set of solar panels installed three years ago. In addition, administrators are installing low-flush toilets to reduce water usage. Our colleagues Karen and Mía are working with three local farmer markets on a campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags in those markets. Victor, a UBL student of the third age, is helping the university become a member of a government program that will help us to further reduce water and electricity consumption. The UBL Green Team also puts together worship services that celebrate the connection between our actions and our faith in word and song.

We are also gardening. For the last two years, I have been working alongside Joseline, a recent graduate of the UBL and Pablo, the librarian, to keep the small university garden going during the pandemic. Joseline has returned to Peru, her home country, and Pablo’s time is much more limited as work in the library goes back to normal. But now we have the help of five university students volunteering with us. Individuals in the administration are finding more time to help as well, including Elisabeth Cook, the president, who waters the garden on Tuesdays. Together we are expanding our garden work. We are working to produce more compost, and we have started producing vermicompost with the help of California red worms. We will grow our own vegetable seedlings, and we’ll make biochar from bamboo bits and other woody debris. We are building benches of bamboo and putting old tires on to with manure and compost as food for the worker worms. For our other systems, we will build simple structures with tin roofing. Incidentally, the structures will provide around 850 square feet of surface area that we will use to harvest rainwater for watering the garden.

That’s not all. Early next year, we in the UBL Green Team will begin recruiting prospective gardeners in the surrounding community interested in working alongside of the UBL to create an even more extensive garden on about a quarter of an acre of semi-forested land right next to the main campus. This past October, members of the team presented our vision to four local community leaders, including a Scout leader. All four responded enthusiastically, describing our plan as a win-win for everyone. In particular, the Scout leader seemed ready to bring his youth in to work with us any time—tomorrow, if we’re ready! In the meantime, I am spending time working alongside of and learning from community gardening groups already established around San José. Working with these groups, I hear and see their enthusiasm; it is very encouraging.

Jenny, Keila, Annika and I would like to invite you to come alongside of the UBL in this work of repairing and renewing Creation. As individuals or as a congregation, you could think about joining Presbyterians for Earth Care ( The UBL is also a member of GreenFaith (, an ecumenical and interfaith network of groups and individuals working for climate justice around the world.

Christmas is a blessed time to hear again the good news of God’s love for us and for the living world of which we are one part. Loved unreservedly by the Creator, we are called to also love without limits. May this Holy time be for you as it is for us a chance to be renewed, restored, re-created and made ready for new challenges in the new year.

Thank you so much for being part of our network of support. A joyous and grace-filled holiday season to each of you!

Mark, Jenny, Annika and Keila

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:
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
World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give please visit

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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