A Letter from Jed and Jenny Koball, serving in Peru
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This season of Lent seems to be as good a time as any to make a confession. Here goes: I am an unrepentant materialist.
Sure, I try to recycle. Even better, I try to re-use. And even better than that, I try to limit what I consume. So, maybe I´m not completely unrepentant. I walk to the office as time permits. I take public transportation that was definitely not made for my 6-foot-4-inch body. I bring my own bag with me to the market. I have nearly eliminated beef from my diet, for both health and environmental reasons. I even sweat it out at times — my home does not have air conditioning, and it is hot here in Lima in the summer.
But, to be honest, I very much wanted to install an air conditioning unit, but our building does not permit it. And there you have it — at the end of the day, there are certain things that I have become very used to in my life. There are things I want. It´s my way of life. It´s the way I was raised. It´s my right … right? That´s how the argument goes at least.
As a mission co-worker, someone who strives to follow in the ways of Jesus, and who wants to be a responsible citizen, I can easily get caught up in what is the right way or wrong way to live. I look at the world around me — the Amazon Jungle being deforested at unprecedented rates; the Andes Mountains pock-marked by open pit mines; the Desert shoreline littered with plastic bottles and human waste; and the streets of Lima in constant gridlock and filled with fumes — and it is so very clear to me that we as a human race are doing something so very wrong.
For those of us accustomed to a first world standard of living, we have participated in creating a way of life that is not even remotely sustainable. Even with the hope of technological advances, the growing population of the human race and the increasing demands on the resources of the earth have led us to dire circumstances in many corners of the world: environmental despair for sure, but also heightened conflicts and increased hatred towards peoples and nations living under very real or presumed threats to their lives and futures. It is upsetting to me, not only because of the real devastation and suffering it has brought to so many people in the world, but because in some indirect way I feel responsible. I feel guilty. And, I feel scared because the problems are getting worse. Not having air conditioning is one thing; not having water is another, and that is a distinct possibility in several major urban centers in the world today, including Lima.
But is guilt going to motivate us to new life? Will fear make us change?
Well, perhaps a little bit. I can´t deny that fear and guilt have inspired me somewhat to write this letter and confess what is on my heart. Perhaps some of you have been similarly motivated to challenge yourself, your neighbors, communities and nation to live more responsibly and share more equitably. But in the end, I know that fear will not fix the problem. I know that guilt will not save us. Only God can do that. Only love can do that. Only God´s gift of faith can lead us to new life.
I became a mission co-worker because I believe in the value of partnership for better understanding our faith. I believe that as much as we may have to offer to our global partners, our partners have just as much, if not more, to offer us. This is something I have tried to articulate over the years. I have tried to illustrate the expertise, the wisdom and the knowledge of our global partners in reshaping this world in which we live. But, what I have perhaps failed at is sharing the faith of our partners that underlies the way in which they engage the world. It is a faith in Jesus, the God of Love, that is informed through the lens of thousands of years of Andean and Amazonian tradition. It is a faith that reveres God´s first act of love — Creation itself. It is a faith that continually seeks understanding of such love as part of our spiritual journey for the sake of harmony and balance in the world. And, it is a faith that deeply values joy.
Leaders from nine communities impacted by mining contamination gathered for a press conference calling for a National Strategy for Human and Environmental Health. On the floor in front of them is an offering expressing gratitude to God for the gift of the Earth.
Early this year our partners made a significant step forward in their work to defend communities impacted by mining contamination in the Andes. They successfully advocated for the national Ministry of Health to adopt a Strategic Plan for Environmental and Human Health in Peru that will address not only the acute health impacts on people from toxic metals but also the remediation of lands poisoned and destroyed. While the struggle is far from over, I have been so inspired by those who have dedicated countless hours with limited resources in achieving such success. Yes, sadness and anger over the impacts of mining were a motivating factor, but what sustained the work was joy — the simple pleasure of being together in a journey shared.
I honestly do not know if God is calling me or any of us to live like Saint Francis of Assisi or in austere solidarity with the original peoples of the Amazon. But, what I do know is that what God wants for all of us is not to obsess over living rightly or wrongly, rather to live joyfully — in awe of God´s gift of Creation, sharing with our neighbor, and forever seeking understanding of God´s love that never dies.
For all of you who prayerfully walk with us in this journey of faith, I am so very grateful. May these days of Lent bring each one of us to renewed understanding of God´s hope for us and all of Creation.
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Tags: Amazon, Andes, climate, creation, environment, guilt, materialism, partnership, pollution, Strategic Plan for Environmental and Human Health in Peru
Tags: Jed and Jenny Koball
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