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Trees for Life

A Letter from Jed and Jenny Koball, serving in Peru

Summer 2022

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Write to Jenny Koball

Individuals: Give online to E132192 in honor of Jed and Jenny Koball’s ministry

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Dear friends,

Fasten your seat belts and prepare for take-off! Once again, planes are lining up on tarmacs and racing down runways throughout the world as people travel the globe, reconnect with others, and return to business (somewhat) as usual. Following an 18-month grounding of my own here in Lima, I, too, have found myself back in the friendly skies. In the 12 months prior to the pandemic, I took 26 flights (mostly for work). In these past 12 months, since receiving my first round of vaccines, I have taken 20 flights (both for work and personal reasons). The frequent flier miles are adding up. So are the carbon emissions.

One travel venture of particular importance was a two-flight trip from Lima to Louisville this past June for the 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I had the honor of serving as a Missionary Advisory Delegate and was assigned to the Environmental Justice Committee. I encourage you to read about some of the important decisions that came from this committee and were approved by the larger assembly, such as divestment from five major fossil fuel companies, investment in a  green future, and creation of the Presbyterian Tree Fund.

Dozens of Presbyterians have traveled to the central Andes of Peru in recent years to participate in ongoing tree-planting and conservation projects orchestrated by global partner Red Uniendo Manos Peru. (Photo credit: Jed Koball)

The Presbyterian Tree Fund was of special interest to me because it was born conceptually in Peru. In 2014, our global partner Red Uniendo Manos Peru, hosted an international conference on climate change that ran parallel to the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP-20) that was hosted that year by the city of Lima. From across the United States, dozens of Presbyterians traveled to Peru to learn from our global partners about the impacts of climate change and the strategies needed to adapt to it and to mitigate global warming. In jest, a colleague of mine pointed out the irony of people jet-setting across the world and generating carbon emissions in the interest of slowing down global warming.

Of course, many a truth is said in jest, and I took these words of irony to heart. In the subsequent years, I wrestled with my own personal carbon footprint attributed to my air travel as well as the footprint of the many Presbyterians who travel to Peru to visit our partners. During that time, our partners began supporting a reforestation project in the central Andes that serves both to address the impacts of climate change in the high mountains as well as the contamination from nearby mining activity. Presbyterian visitors took great interest in this work and got their hands dirty planting trees. But even then, something felt amiss that such good-intentioned and thoughtful people would travel so far to accompany our partners in this work without taking into account the carbon emissions they were generating to get there. It was in one such visit that our partners and Presbyterians planted the idea of creating a carbon offset program in which Presbyterians could contribute to a fund that would provide grants for global and domestic partners of the PC(USA) who are engaged in tree-planting and other carbon sequestration projects.

Jed Koball speaks before the Environmental Justice Committee during the 225th General Assembly held in Louisville, Kentucky. Jed served as a Missionary Advisory Delegate. (Photo courtesy of Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri)

In the Fall of 2019, the Peru Mission Network – a collaboration of Presbyterians from across the U.S. who are engaged in God’s mission in Peru – gathered outside of Houston, Texas, along with invitees from Peru to discern how they might work together more collaboratively with one another and hold each other accountable. On their agenda was the carbon offset program first envisioned in Peru. Together they articulated the objectives and concept of the program, which they named the Presbyterian Tree Fund, and in the early months of 2020, just prior to the start of the pandemic, they brought the proposal to their respective presbyteries as an overture to go before the General Assembly. To have participated in the very General Assembly in which the Presbyterian Tree Fund overture was finally approved was indeed nothing less than a very special honor.

In the coming months, you will hear more about this fund – how you can contribute to it and how global and domestic partners will benefit from it (or, more accurately, how we will all benefit from it). Beyond the pandemic that impacted all corners of the globe, there is no singular issue that threatens humanity more today than climate change. While the Tree Fund itself is far from a solution to the world’s woes or even our own behaviors that contribute to global warming, it is meaningful and faithful action that reflects prayerful partnership rooted in solidarity and accountability.

I am grateful to each of you who have supported such partnership over the years through your generous donations, bold actions and courageous voices. And I confess that I look forward to your visits here and/or our travels there since God seems closest when two or three are gathered together in the Spirit of God’s love and hope.

On that note, I end this letter to say that Jenny, Thiago and I continue to be encouraged and comforted by your prayers, as the way is still not clear for us to visit the U.S. together as a family. We pray for your continued patience and understanding. As soon as we have travel documents in hand, we will be quick to let you know!

In the Spirit that binds us,

Jed (on behalf of Jenny)

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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