A letter from Karla Koll serving in Costa Rica
February – March 2016
Write to Karla Ann Koll
Individuals: Give online to E200373 for Karla Ann Koll’s sending and support
Congregations: Give to D506645 for Karla Ann Koll’s sending and support
Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).
Dear companions in mission,
Greetings from Costa Rica. The winds blowing through San Jose these days are rather chilly, especially in the early morning. It’s fun to be able to wear sweatshirts and corduroy, at least for a few weeks, even though I live in the tropics. I am enjoying the freedom the dry season gives me to walk almost everywhere I want to go these days.
Classes began at the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) on January 18. This semester I am teaching the course on mission. Six students gather in a classroom of the UBL on Monday evenings to study God’s mission in the Bible, throughout the history of the church, and today. Three of these students are undergraduate women from Valparaiso University who are spending a semester here in Costa Rica. They are struggling with their Spanish as they are also learning to think about their faith in new ways. I am also working with six students—two in Costa Rica, two in Peru, one in Puerto Rico and one in Bolivia—who are taking the class as distance students. We are all learning to use the UBL’s online platform and the possibilities it offers for interaction. Please pray for all of us as we reflect together about what God’s mission requires of the followers of Jesus Christ in Latin America today.
As the chair of the School of Theological Sciences, the start of the academic year has brought me a lot of administrative work. The fun part is getting back in touch with our students throughout Latin America and the Caribbean to catch up a bit on their lives and ministries as I encourage them to continue their studies. Many of our students start the year with a lot of enthusiasm for their courses, but soon the reality of their lives takes over. Many are already combining some form of ministry with another job. All it takes is a health problem, the illness of a family member, or an unexpected expense to force theological studies to be postponed. Our students need your prayers and they need to know that sisters and brothers in other parts of the world believe in them and their capacity for ministry.
Here at the UBL we are very grateful for your prayers and support. The UBL is facing a very tight budget this year due to both changes in exchanges rates and a decrease in support from one of our international church partners. Already a staff person who worked at the UBL for more than 20 years, Francisco Blanco, has been let go. Please pray for him and his family. The leadership team and the board of directors are looking at ways to rent out more space on our campus as well as expand our programs. We need to increase our self-financing as well as diversify our bases of support. We continue to dream of reaching more and more students with contextualized theological education. We invite you to dream with us.
We know that not everyone who wants to learn something about theology is interested in a university degree. On March 5 we will start offering a five-month certificate program in pastoral counseling. We will also be teaching Saturday courses on a variety of theological topics. Soon we will have certificate programs online that will be available to folks anywhere in the world.
Last month I asked your prayers for Irene Foulkes, a retired faculty member who suffered a stroke in December. She is being cared for at her home. Though her memory is intact, she is physically very weak. We welcome your continued prayers for her. I also ask you to pray for Violeta Rocha, our former president who officially retired at the end of December. She is finishing her doctoral work at the National University before she returns to her native Nicaragua in a few weeks. Both her mother and her sister continue to have serious health challenges. I know Violeta will be grateful for your prayers as she enters this new phase of her life and ministry.
My husband, Javier, was here in Costa Rica for most of January, but now he is back on our farm in Nicaragua. The dry season is the time for tasks like repairing fences. As the drought brought by El Niño shows no signs of abating, we continue to look for sustainable ways to produce food and raise cattle. I expect Javier back in Costa Rica sometime in early March.
Perhaps by now you have heard that Presbyterian World Mission surpassed our fund-raising goals for last year. In my own case, I am not yet fully supported through designated gifts, but I am closer to that goal than I have ever been. Thank you for the part that you have played in helping Presbyterian World Mission to continue to serve with our mission partners around the world. It is not yet clear if there is enough support to prevent mission co-workers like myself from being recalled at the end of this year, so we need your ongoing giving.
I will be in the United States from mid-May through mid-August this year. I am looking forward to the opportunity to share about my work with the Latin American Biblical University. Please let me know if you would like me to visit your congregation. I need to make arrangements in the coming weeks. I will try my best to respond to all invitations, though my time with be very limited. I hope to hear from you.
This month I invite you to get to know Wendy Garro, who has worked at the UBL for the last 19 years, all of her adult life. Wendy told me that she first took a temporary job with the UBL to organize the activities of the 75th anniversary. Then she worked for 11 years as the receptionist, a position she loved because she interacted with students and visitors. Currently she splits her time between her administrative duties as the assistant to the president and running the UBL’s bookstore. She also helps students and faculty members with immigration procedures, a very important function at our international institution. Wendy and her husband, Geovanny Sanchez, have two children. Denzel is now 15 and Saleth is 11. Wendy and her family participate actively in the Roman Catholic parish in Tres Rios, just east of San Jose. Wendy asks that you pray for the UBL at this difficult time, especially for the administrative staff. She also asked for prayers for her family as her children navigate adolescence.
Ash Wednesday on February 10 marks the beginning of Lent, this period of the year when we focus on the brokenness of the world and the need for God’s love. May this time of reflection draw us closer to the pain in the world as well as to God so that we might bear witness to the resurrection with renewed commitment to God’s coming reign of peace and justice.
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 66, 67
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