A Letter from Jed and Jenny Koball, serving in Peru
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When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. Genesis 9:16
Roy G Biv sets the rules in our home. When Thiago was two years old, Jed was inspired to teach him the colors of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet (although Purple often suffices for the last two). To Jed’s surprise the lesson stuck! It was later reinforced when Thiago started pre-school at a day care center that happened to be named Nido Arco Iris – the “Rainbow Day Care.” However, for Thiago the lesson was more than just the names of colors, it was also a matter of how the world should be ordered. So, to this day, you will find all of Thiago’s belongings (toys, action figures, magic markers, etc.) grouped and lined up around our home by color and in perfect order as dictated by Roy G Biv.
Such order and routine can bring comfort amid uncertainty. It can help make sense of what otherwise feels chaotic. And yet, fixation on the way we order our world also has its limitations as it can unintentionally teach us to exclude and discriminate.
Recently, Thiago’s school celebrated its 20th anniversary with a week of special activities. Among the events, the parents of each classroom were charged with creating and presenting a playful and educational skit for the children. One of the parents from Thiago’s class took the lead and wrote a short play about the colors of the rainbow, all of whom were friends and got along well with one another. The skit reached a critical moment when a new color came along – the color black – who also wanted to be part of the rainbow group of friends. In the original version of the skit, the color black was depicted as sad because it did not fit into the colors of the rainbow, and to join in the fun it had to change itself and become a new color.
As you might imagine, Jenny was concerned about the underlying message of the skit, and so she started asking questions: What does this say to those who feel like they don’t fit in? Must they change their identity to be part of the group? And what does this say about the color black? In our racist society, will this not perpetuate discrimination and exclusion?
Mind you, this entire conversation with the parents was taking place in a WhatsApp group. For nearly 24 hours after Jenny posted her questions, there was not a single comment or reaction. Certainly, there were conversations happening offline though because the next day several parents – almost in unison – responded that they agreed with Jenny. And together, they re-wrote the skit so that the color Black was welcomed into the rainbow group of friends just as it was.
You might ask – what does this have to do with our ministry in Peru? What does this have to do with the work of global partners? The answer – directly, very little! And yet, indirectly, everything!
It is not a giant leap to connect the teaching of colors in pre-school to the ordering of society at large. In a land once colonized by outside forces that established a hierarchical caste system in which the color white was at the top and black at the bottom, it is not insignificant to consider the value we place on colors today. Just as importantly, it is imperative that we practice welcoming one another just as we are created – with no expectations that others will change to fit our paradigms. To the contrary, it is we who aspire not to discriminate nor exclude who must change our ways of ordering the world so that others can be their most true and freest selves. This is the practice of ministry. It does not happen only during office hours, rather in every aspect of life – a life we are grateful for and privileged to share with you.
On the day of the big show at the pre-school, there were still a couple of parents concerned that the inclusion of the color black in the rainbow might confuse the children. To our surprise, another parent in support of Jenny’s suggestions responded that it would be more confusing for them when they get older and are unable to recognize their hidden biases of color. In the end, it was the children themselves who gave the final verdict. When asked if the color black should be included in the rainbow, they answered together with great enthusiasm, “Siiiii!!!!”
And so it is that the law of Roy G Biv has been amended in our household. Thiago now insists black and brown and white and pink and gray and every other color have a place in the rainbow. You could say that this is our sign and our covenant – a reminder to us that we must always be open to changing our ways so that all of life may be revered.
For the ways in which you have expressed welcome, kindness, love and support to us and to the global partners we walk with, we are so very grateful. And know that you, too, are forever welcome in our home.
In the Spirit of Covenant,
Jenny and Jed
Please read the following letter from Rev. Mienda Uriarte, acting director of World Mission:
Dear Partners in God’s Mission,
What an amazing journey we’re on together! Our call to be a Matthew 25 denomination has challenged us in so many ways to lean into new ways of reaching out. As we take on the responsibilities of dismantling systemic racism, eradicating the root causes of poverty and engaging in congregational vitality, we find that the Spirit of God is indeed moving throughout World Mission. Of course, the past two years have also been hard for so many as we’ve ventured through another year of the pandemic, been confronted with racism, wars and the heart wrenching toll of natural disasters. And yet, rather than succumb to the darkness, we are called to shine the light of Christ by doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.
We are so grateful that you are on this journey as well. Your commitment enables mission co-workers around the world to accompany partners and share in so many expressions of the transformative work being done in Christ’s name. Thank you for your partnership, prayers and contributions to their ministries.
We hope you will continue to support World Mission in all the ways you are able:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel (E132192). This unified fund supports the work of all our mission co-workers as they accompany global partners in their life-giving work. Gifts can also be made “in honor of” a specific mission co-worker – just include their name on the memo line.
Pray – Include PC(USA) mission personnel and global partners in your daily prayers. If you would like to order prayer cards as a visual reminder of those for whom you are praying, please contact Cindy Rubin (email@example.com; 800-728-7228, ext. 5065).
Act – Invite a mission co-worker to visit your congregation either virtually or in person. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to make a request or email the mission co-worker directly. Email addresses are listed on Mission Connections profile pages. Visit pcusa.org/missionconnections to search by last name.
Thank you for your consideration! We appreciate your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Acting Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give, please visit https://bit.ly/22MC-YE.
For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
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