Rev. Dr. Karla Ann Koll
Serving in San Jose, Costa Rica
Latin American Biblical University
Presbyterian Church (USA) Mission Co-worker
Dear friends in mission,
“I had never seen a person die before,” said the young man from Masaya, Nicaragua sitting at my dining room table. He was speaking about the Mother’s Day march in Managua on May 30 of this year. On that day, he saw three people die around him when the police opened fire on the march. At least fifteen people were killed that day.
Since I returned to Costa Rica from the United States on August 5, my life has been entwined with those of people who have fled Nicaragua and sought refuge here. On August 7, Javier and I welcomed a family of five into our home. Their house had been burned down by the paramilitaries, forcing them to flee. After that family relocated to an apartment in another area of San Jose, we took in two university students, one from Leon and one from Matagalpa. In addition, we have been helping others with food and with paying rent, as well as listening to their stories to help them process their trauma and consider their options here.
The Nicaraguans who have fled to Costa Rica are in vulnerable situations and they fear for their safety. Costa Rica has received over 23,000 applications for asylum from Nicaraguans and more arrive every day as police repression continues in Nicaragua. Many are young adults, away from their families for the first time. I am not yet at liberty to share their stories with you, but I ask that you accompany me with your prayers as I listen to them, try to connect them with services they need as they look to find a way forward in this country.
And in the midst of this crisis, the academic year marches on at the Latin American Biblical University (UBL). This term I am teaching an on-line course on feminist historiography in the masters’ program in socioreligious studies of genders and diversity that the UBL offers jointly with the Ecumenical School for Religious Sciences of the National University. The nineteen students from seven countries are working on new interpretations of the lives of women who have been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as we explore interactions between women and forms of ecclesial power in different historical moments. Our fascinating on-line conversations take lots of time, but I am learning a lot from the perspectives my students offer.
We are also moving forward with plans for the installation of solar panels on the roof of our administration building. Donations are still needed for this project. On September 21, we held a community breakfast outside to celebrate our trial community garden. We are also looking for ways as the UBL to offer more systematic pastoral accompaniment to Nicaraguan refugees, though at the moment with lack funding for staff resources to do more than offer limited counseling.
I apologize for my long silence. I have just not had the time or the emotional energy to reach out to all of you as I have been caring for people here. If you would like more information about what is happening in Nicaragua, let me know. Please join Javier and me in praying that the police repression will end, that the political prisoners will be freed, and that the different sectors of that society will find a path toward greater democracy through dialogue. Also pray for those who have fled and found refuge here in Costa Rica.
In the hope of God’s coming reign,