Watering the Seeds of Hope

A letter from Jed Koball serving in Peru

October 2016

Write to Jed Koball
Write to Jenny Koball  

Individuals: Give online to E200447 for Jed and Jenny Koball’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507513 for Jed and Jenny Koball’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

¨A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots¨ (Isaiah 11:1).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black mounds of slag, several stories high, sit precariously on the edge of the highway. Mere steps across the pavement, the river hugs the road’s shoulder. A sign placed on the bank by the Doe Run Peru metals smelter reads, ¨We do not contaminate the Mantaro River.¨ But as a gust of wind whips up a whirling cloud of black dust, one cannot be mistaken as to why the river is dead.

It has been over seven years since the smelter has fully operated. It shut down after filing for bankruptcy when it could not meet its environmental responsibilities to control the emissions. But during the seemingly unending liquidation process the black mounds on the edge of town continue to grow, higher and higher. Some in town claim that the smelter turns on in the middle of the night when no one is watching. But even during the day puffs of smoke can be seen escaping from the chimney.

And yet all that anyone talks about—anyone outside of the families and friends who have lost loved ones due to the chronic health problems associated with the contamination—is when the smelter will start operating at full capacity: when will investors get their returns? when will workers get full-time contracts? when will the economy get a boost? From the union to the banks, to the mining companies, to the President of the Republic all they talk about is making money. And so, together with our Joining Hands partners and alongside the families and friends of La Oroya, and with the support of Presbyterians in the U.S. we work to change the narrative. Secure in our understanding of Scripture that we speak out with mandates on behalf of the sick, the suffering and the marginalized, we fight to change priorities.

Just a few weeks ago, leaving Lima at 3:00 on a weekday morning, we raced up the mountain to arrive at La Oroya in the waking hours of the day. At a local parish that partners with us we waited as the children and their parents arrived one by one to meet with the doctor and technician. They brought their urine samples with them and courageously extended their arms to offer blood. With the full cooperation of the families, we covertly (to protect the identity of the families) executed a new medical study, testing for the presence of heavy metals. The samples, being analyzed right now in laboratories in North America, will provide the evidence that despite the minimal operations of the smelter, the population continues to be at risk due to the decades of contamination that have poisoned the soils, air and river.

In coordination with a few sympathetic lawmakers we will use this evidence to write and promote a new national law that will prioritize environmental health in all parts of the country impacted by mining activity. Such a law at the national level will give us the support we need to implement a similar law that we got passed at the local level—with great thanks to the advocacy work of Presbyterians in the U.S.—that requires the regional government to provide specialized human, public and environmental health care in response to heavy metals contamination. It is no longer enough (nor has it ever been!) to say that economic growth will pave the way to a better world for all. The welfare of all of God’s children and this common house we share must be the top priority of any human endeavor.

During a break in the day, while the town slowed down for lunch, several of us took a walk through the streets of La Oroya to see how the environment was caring for itself after seven years of minimal activity of the smelter. It was amazing to see trees and flowers blooming where once they never dreamed of sprouting up. But as we walked through the narrow streets I couldn’t help but worry someone might start hurling rocks at us, knowing that our work is considered a threat to the smelter. I had to be persistent in reminding myself that the God I believe in did not create us with a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love. And as I looked to our partners, my friends who walked with me, that love and power was so evident. I began to feel gratitude for simply being included among them—being allowed to walk with them!

I also felt great pride for what has been achieved working in partnership over the years. But above all I felt tremendous humility, most especially when we returned to the parish later in the afternoon to take more samples and the children were lined up patiently waiting to literally give up their blood for the cause. Their names will likely never be seen on a plaque, honoring them as heroes. But they are heroes. And after giving blood, they gave us hugs and smiles to say thanks. Sometimes I just don’t know how to respond to that. Sometimes tears are the only words I can speak.

May my tears, the tears of their mothers and fathers, the tears of us all water the seeds of hope buried in the darkened soils and poisoned hearts of the people—but not left for dead. And may we rise up together like the stubborn trees and flowers of La Oroya, like a shoot out of the stump of Jesse, proclaiming new life for a new day.

In this season of Advent, as we wait for the One who comes before us and beside us with Love, Joy and Peace, Jenny and I want to express our gratitude to each one of you who accompanies us on the way—through your prayers, your voice, and your gifts. And we would like to make a special petition for donations to this gospel ministry we share. This year, as in recent years, a group of committed Presbyterians has pledged to match all gifts sent for mission personnel support, up to $56,000, before the end of the calendar year. Please consider supporting us, our partners, and our brothers and sisters in faith in this special way. Thank you!

In Christ,

Jed and Jenny Koball

Please read this important message from Tony De La Rosa, Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1b-2, NRSV)

Dear Friend of the Presbyterian Mission Agency:

Thank you for your prayers and for your financial support of Jed and Jenny Koball this year, and any previous year. We hear from our mission co-workers how much your prayerful financial support has meant to them. Please know that you are a vital part of ministries throughout Peru.

Even as I thank you, I want to let you know that this is a critical time for our congregations and all people of faith to commit themselves to support mission co-workers like Jed and Jenny. Our global church partners greatly value their service, and you well know how important this ministry is in building connections between the body of Christ in the U.S. and Peru.

We have historically relied on endowment interest and the general offering from congregations to sustain the vital work of all of our mission workers. Those sources of funding have greatly diminished. It is only through the gifts of individuals and congregations that we are able to keep Jed and Jenny doing the life-giving work God called them to do. A year ago, in May 2015, we had to recall some mission workers due to a lack of funding. World Mission communicated the challenge to you, and you responded decisively and generously. Through your response, we heard the Spirit remind us, “Fear not!”

Today, I’m asking you to consider an additional gift for this year, and to increase the gift you may consider for 2017. Sending and support costs include not only salary but also health insurance and retirement contributions, orientation, language training, housing, travel to the country of service, children’s education, emergency evacuation costs, and visa/passport costs.

My heartfelt thanks for your prayers and support of our Presbyterian mission co-workers. In the coming season, we will celebrate God’s sending of the Christ child, the source of the good news we share. May you experience anew the hope, peace, joy, and love that are ours because “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18).

Thank you for saying “yes” to love.

With you in Christ,

Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


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