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Profound Grace

A Letter from Jed and Jenny Koball, serving in Peru

September 2018

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Dear friends,

It is with tremendous joy that we write to introduce you to our son, Thiago Koball Valles! Born on March 31, 2017 in the central Andes, Thiago came to live with us on June 23 of this year. Having spent the first fourteen months of his life in a Catholic orphanage in the mountain town of Ayacucho, it was clear upon meeting him that he was not only in good health but also the recipient of great nurture and protection throughout his infancy while he waited to be entrusted to us — his forever family. As we left the orphanage with Thiago embraced tightly in Jenny´s arms, one of the elder nuns approached us and said, “I know that with you, Thiago will get all that he needs: food, clothing, education. But please promise he will also get all that he deserves — everlasting and unconditional love!”

The first test came later that night, our first night together as a family. Lodged in a simple hotel in the heart of Ayacucho, Thiago spent what was also his first night ever outside of a crib snuggled tightly between Jenny and me. Within a mere hour or two, he had effectively commandeered about three-quarters of the queen-sized bed, as Jenny and I each resorted to opposite corners, both to keep Thiago from falling off the edge and to protect ourselves from his swinging limbs as his body fought for comfort in the midst of a deep sleep.

Before sunrise, we were up to catch a short flight back to Lima, hoping to be airborne before his morning hunger pangs set in. Sitting on the tarmac, strapped in with Thiago nestled on my lap and against the window, we prepared for take-off. It was then that the pilot announced there was too much air traffic in Lima and that we would have to wait on the runway in Ayacucho for at least another hour. Within minutes, Thiago awoke to greet the other hundred passengers on the plane with cries for milk!

Perhaps it sounds trite to say it, but grace has been the lesson we have most profoundly felt in these first months of parenthood: the grace of an elderly nun to dedicate her life to Thiago´s safety for the first year of his life and then with amazing trust and encouragement hand him over to us; the grace of a hotel manager in Ayacucho to provide us with hot water in the middle of the night in order to make milk and tea to help calm Thiago; the grace of passengers in the row in front of us to smile at and play with Thiago while he kicked the back of their seats as we sat on the tarmac; the grace of my wife, Jenny, who seems an absolute natural at mothering and yet still finds the time to hold my hand and encourage me as I take these early and clumsy steps at being a father. It is such grace that fuels an everlasting and unconditional love. It is not something that could possibly come to be through human creation, rather it is of divine making. It inspires faith!

If there is a counterpart to grace, it is the fragility of human life — the powerlessness one feels in the face of a baby wailing at two in the morning, seemingly unreceptive to my feeble attempts at comforting and calming. It is a weakness within that allows desperation to well up, praying that the neighbors not awake, but above all praying that this little one in my arms find peace and rest. Praying that I, too, may find rest and regain strength.

Finally, a smile appears. A giggle comes forth. A peace breaks the tension of the night, and all is well with the world again. This is the joy we speak of. It is the unexpected good news that arrives when the world seems nearing its end.

As you might imagine, our lives have been radically reduced these past few months to the small world of our growing relationship with our son, Thiago. And yet, what has not been lost on us — to the contrary, what has never been more apparent — is the echoing call from all corners of this broken world we share for such unexpected news to come breaking through in the dark and scary night.

The question for us, for you, and for the whole Body of Christ is — might we be so courageous and so willing to be the bearers of such news? Might we be the ones to share the grace of God that calms the tempestuous waters of restless babies and nervous parents? Might we be the ones to share empathy and kindness and everlasting and unconditional love to all who face adversity, fear and uncertainty in this world?

Jenny and I are excited to share with you in the months and years to come, not only about the grace-filled growth of Thiago, but also about the many acts of goodness and righteousness that we are so blessed to bear witness to each day here in Peru alongside our partners and the communities we serve together. God is at work here in Peru! And you are very much a part of it! For your prayers, your generosity, your compassion and so much more, we give thanks!

Please continue to hold us in prayer in the days and weeks ahead. And please continue to support us and the vital ministry of our partners in Peru.

With immense gratitude,

Jed and Jenny Koball

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