Come! Let’s Play Together!

A Letter from Jed and Jenny Koball, serving in Peru

Fall 2021

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Write to Jenny Koball

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Dear friends,

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” – Matthew 19:14

¨Dear God, take care of the children, the plants and the animals. And make the virus go away soon so that I can play with my friends. And bless Mommy and Daddy, too. Amen.¨

This is the bedtime prayer our son Thiago recites most every night. He was three weeks shy of his third birthday when the pandemic started here in Peru, and he will likely be about five years old when many of his regular activities return, such as in-person preschool. It is fair to say that the only cognitive memories he has in his life are of pandemic times. He does not recall what it was like to go to daycare before we were quarantined, yet he seems to know that online preschool is not the ideal way of interacting with other children his age.

We are quickly approaching two years of being with Thiago 24 hours a day. Jed and I have learned to divide the days into work hours, cooking and cleaning hours, and Thiago hours. Jed is often up as early as 4:30 a.m. to squeeze in some reading, writing, emails and even Zoom calls across the world before Thiago gets up a couple of hours later. From there we take shifts with Thiago to play with him, do his homework with him, and more recently to take him to the parks that are just now opening up. And then, late at night, I will take a couple of hours more for work after both Jed and Thiago are sound asleep. Like every family in every part of the world, we have had to adapt.

And, like every parent of small children around the world, we are exhausted. We long for the freedom we see returning in so many other places. At the same time, we are grateful. We know that here in Peru, as in the United States, most parents have not had the liberty to stay at home and make ends meet. We know that so many other families have had to make tremendous sacrifices and even risk their health to put food on the table. We know that many children have not had access to online school yet alone in-person classes and that many may never be able complete their education going forward. Being exhausted is one thing. Being left hopeless is another. Like Thiago, I pray for children everywhere and for this virus to go away.

One group of children that has been of particular concern to me are the hearing-impaired students at the School for the Deaf in the impoverished high-jungle region of San Martin. Nearly five years ago, by way of global partner Red Uniendo Manos, we established a partnership with the parents of the students and the head teacher, Jessy Chavez. At that time the students were gathering in a make-shift classroom made of scrap wood on a dirt floor and a single light bulb to brighten the space. The dream of students, teachers and parents alike was to one day construct the first public school for hearing impaired children in all of Peru. Through years of advocacy, they were granted land by the regional government and permission from the local school district to begin such construction in 2018. This is when we were able to come alongside them with the support of Presbyterians from the U.S. who offered their time, resources and talents. By the end of 2019, together we had built a two-room schoolhouse.

Of course, a mere few months later, the pandemic hit, and the schoolhouse was locked up as everyone was quarantined at home. Nearly two academic years have passed since then. Like teachers everywhere, Jessy has adapted. With the support of the Peru Mission Network, the students were able to continue their studies virtually thanks to enhanced technological capabilities. While the schoolhouse itself has been somewhat abandoned in that time, the dream was never just about a building. Through partnership and prayer, the hopes of children who have historically been neglected are still very much alive. At its heart, their dream was simply about not being forgotten. It was a dream about being remembered.

I confess. It is hard to remember. It has been so hard to remember those beyond the walls of our living spaces these past two years. It has been so very hard to remember that we are better and safer and stronger when we work in partnership with those on the other side of the walls we live behind. It is hard to remember that at the very heart of God’s dream for humanity and all the earth are the youngest and most fragile among us. And so nearly two years later, I know it has been an absolute privilege to have one such child exhausting my energy day in and day out because he has reminded me that we are most alive and most full of hope when we are together – when we are able to play with our friends.

We consider you to be our friends. And we know that you have been a blessing. Your prayer, outreach and support has brightened the days of so many children and helped sustain the lives of so many families, including ours! We are so grateful for you. And know that we remember you, too, in our prayers as we long for the day to come together, playfully and prayerfully as the one kindom of God here on Earth that Jesus calls us to be.

Your friends and family in Christ,

Jenny, Jed and Thiago

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
World Mission
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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