A letter from Jed Koball serving in Peru
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“Riding on the back of a dirt bike down the dusty streets of a small town in northern Peru, waiting for a call from your supervisor, sounds like something out of a spy movie. Except, of course, I’m probably the furthest thing from a spy. I’m a Young Adult Volunteer. This is my life now; I live here now!” So writes Daniel Pappas in his blog from the jungle town of Moyobamba, where he serves alongside our global partners in the struggle to protect the land rights of indigenous communities. Daniel is a member of the newest class of YAVs to join us in Peru. Together with Shaina Miller, he forms part of our Christian community.
From Lima, where Shaina serves alongside our partners in an after-school program for impoverished children whose families have migrated to the city in search of opportunity, she writes at the end of a long day: “I lie down and put my head on my pillow. I close my eyes and pray. I thank God for what He has given me. But mostly I ask for answers. I ask for some sort of understanding of the cruel realities of this world. As I lie here in the comfort of a warm bed, just outside these walls hundreds of people are going to bed praying for something as simple as a full stomach. Lord, I wanted humility, and at the end of the day I feel as though I might have found it.”
Now let me suggest first that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.—Martin Luther King Jr., Christmas Eve Sermon, 1967
Soon many of you will receive year-end reports from church agencies and other organizations. They will tell of measurable results achieved this past year. In fact, in a separate e-newsletter that will reach many of you, Jenny and I will speak to advances we and our partners have made over the past 12 months in the fight for specialized health care in the polluted town of La Oroya, increased sales for Fair Trade artisans from the Andes, and growing participation from Presbyterians in our international trade reform campaign to protect human and environmental rights. These reports are important. They tell a story. They speak to progress, to commitment, to relevance. But they do not always tell the full story.
What they do not always speak to is how we have come to pray differently because of the hungry child we encounter day after day. They do not always tell the ways in which we challenge one another to live more simply in response to an unsustainable human demand for natural resources. They do not articulate how our daily encounters shape our faith as we learn to live together in our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities, our jungles, our mountains, God’s Creation. The fuller story rests in this faith we share—a faith whose sustainable impact cannot always be measured. A faith that grows in community.
For us, God’s mission for the Church was never really about going somewhere else to fix a problem. Certainly understanding and addressing poverty and injustice are central to our work, but such work reflects the deeper purpose of God’s mission for us—learning to live together in Peace. This learning begins with a new perspective—a world perspective. Perhaps I should not be so struck by the relevance of words preached by Martin Luther King Jr. nearly 50 years ago. After all, the story on which it is based happened over 2,000 years ago and bears a message that will be relevant for generations to come.
On that Christmas morning so many years ago a child was born who was Christ the Lord. And in that birth God opted to be present in this world by choosing a life on the margins of earthly powers—in the jungles of northern Peru, in the streets of urban Lima, in the poisoned haze of La Oroya, perhaps in a neighborhood near you. God chose the vantage point of human struggle and suffering from which to understand the “cruel realities of the world” and commence the long and arduous walk toward the Kingdom Come right here on Earth.
May the gift of faith this season lead us to seek such understanding, too. May the gift of Advent set our paths straight, leading us toward the Beloved Community God hopes for us. May the gift of Christmas morning reveal the fuller story in each one of us in the will to live together as sisters and brothers all across this globe.
For all of you who join with us in living the story of our faith—through your daily living, your financial offerings, and your heartfelt prayers—we thank you! On behalf of Shaina and Daniel and our global partners, we thank you and we encourage you to stay true to the story—Peace on Earth! Good will to all!
With gratitude for a faith that never stops growing,
Jed and Jenny
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 54
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