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Planting Peace

A Letter from Jed and Jenny Koball, serving in Peru

Spring 2021

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Write to Jenny Koball

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Dear friends,

How do we find peace and hope in the midst of darkness? As I ask this question, I know that many of you are already bathing in the warm glow of the light at the end of the tunnel. From here in Peru, Jed and I can see how the pandemic is subsiding in your part of the world, and we celebrate with you the newly found freedoms of social gathering that many of you are now enjoying. Such joy is palpable and even hopeful, as we can imagine that one day, we, too, will know again what it feels like to be physically present with those we love.

At the same time, such celebration seen from afar is a stark reminder of the disparate worlds in which we live. Here in Peru, throughout Latin America, and across the global South, we still have so far to go. The light is still so distant; the tunnel is still so long. And so I ask myself, from where will my help come? How do I find peace in the darkness? When will the light shine again?

When I was a child, I sought refuge among the plants. When war prevailed around us in the high jungles where I grew up, and later when economic difficulties fell upon my family, I found peace among the flowers, the fruit trees, the vegetable plants, and the medicinal herbs that filled the land around us. The colors of the flowers helped me see beyond the black and white versions of life that only serve to divide us. The sweet aromas helped me take deep breaths and embrace the moment. The prickly thorns and soft petals intertwined taught me about our interconnectedness. The fruit of the vine reminded me that when we care for one another, God saves us. God provides. The plants not only gave me comfort, but they also gave me courage, purpose, and hope.

I do not know where my love of plants comes from. Perhaps it comes from my aunts and uncles, grandparents, and parents who tilled the soil and made it a way of life. Perhaps it was passed down through the blood of ancestors long before – those who sought to live in harmony with the Earth before the Spanish arrived. I still tremble at the thought of those who came not only to conquer a land and its people but to bury its spirit, too.

Today, I work to restore that spirit. As much as I do it in honor of those who came before me, I do it for those who come after me. I do it for my son. I love and care for the plants so that my dear boy Thiago may also find the wonder of the divine in the land that surrounds us. I do it so he may find peace and hope even in times of darkness.

Like millions of others in Peru and around the world, these past fifteen months and counting have taken a toll on us. From the 16th floor of our apartment, where we have spent most of every day for nearly 500 days, we are able to look out upon the concrete jungle of Lima that is built in the middle of a desert. There are no flowers or fruit trees, vegetable gardens, or medicinal herbs. It is a reminder that those who came to conquer and exploit peoples and land alike have secured immense power that continues to divide us and generate inequalities. I look out the window, and I see no place to take refuge, to find peace, to find hope. I see so little green.

And so, together with my son, Thiago, we have dedicated this past year to creating our own refuge. We have planted and nurtured our own tiny little jungle inside the walls of our tiny little abode on the 16th floor. The colors of the flowers tell us the story of God’s diversity. The scent of lavender brings calm to the moment. The feel of the soil between our fingers reminds us that we are part of something bigger. We are part of God’s Creation.

Our tiny jungle gives us peace. And, it gives us purpose because to plant a seed, to nurture it, and watch it grow is nothing less than an act of resistance in the face of the powers that tell us we are anything less than a valued member of the One Body of God the Creator.

Friends, I write all this to say that we are doing well. We are strong. We are hopeful. And we know that we are not alone. Together with our partners, we continue to accompany those in greatest need – those who are hungry, those who are sick, those who seek shelter. Together with you, we continue to pray for those who are forgotten and those we cannot see. Together, as God’s people, we continue to plant, even in the darkness of a concrete jungle, so that God’s garden of hope takes root wherever we may be.

For your continued support of this ministry we share, we are so grateful!

Jenny Valles

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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