Dear companions in mission,
Here in San Jose, we are enjoying chilly, windy days. There was even a bit of rain last week, a surprise during the dry season that the plants in the garden enjoyed.
Today, Sunday, February 2nd, Costa Ricans are going to the polls to elect 82 mayors and many other local officials. As confidence in democratic institutions declines throughout the Americas, it is refreshing to live in a country where there are high levels of participation. In addition to the national political parties, local parties organized at the canton level have also put forth candidates. There is a festive atmosphere out on the streets here this morning as folks wave banners for the parties of their choice.
At the Latin American Biblical University (UBL), we have been unusually busy at the beginning of our academic year. Enrollment is up almost 75% over last year’s levels. Our outreach through social media and other means has tapped into a hunger for serious theological education.
Part of my job as chair of the theology department is to help potential students explore their options. Two particular situations have been tugging at my heart. In Peru, two evangelical universities have recently lost their state recognition, which has left their students scrambling to find a way to finish their university degrees in theology and Bible. We hope the UBL will be able to provide a solution for some of them. Other people write to see if the UBL can accept transfer credits from their previous degrees in theology. Some have studied at institutions, including several based in the United States, that do not have any accreditation. These women and men are so disappointed to find out that their previous studies do not allow them to advance toward further studies. To me, this is educational fraud. Though at the UBL we are often frustrated by the bureaucratic hoops our recognition by the government of Costa Rica requires, we are proud to be able to offer students from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean university degrees in Bible and theology. We are also very grateful for the gifts that make our work possible. We know that the theological education we offer would not be possible without the commitment of folks from other places who believe in what we do.
This term seven students are taking my course on the life and thought of the churches in the Latin America and the Caribbean in the classroom. Another 11 students are taking the class on-line. Over the first three weeks of the class, much of our discussion has touched on how we can claim to be followers of Jesus when so many atrocities were carried out in the name of Christ during the conquest. Each Christian in Latin America must answer this question for himself or herself, but the classrooms of the UBL offer a space to debate and wrestle with such questions.
Today my husband, Javier, and I find ourselves alone in our home for the first time in over a month. Evelin and her children, the refugee family we have been accompanying, found a house within walking distance of our house. PCUSA mission co-workers Mark Hare and Jenny Bent, along with their daughters Annika and Keila, have just moved into a beautiful house a short bus ride from the UBL. As they get settled, Mark and Jenny will be getting involved in our ecological sustainability work at the UBL. Keila and Annika will be starting school this coming week. The girls were being homeschooled while their folks were on interpretation assignment in the US, so going to school every day in Spanish is an experience they have not had for a while. I am sure the Hare Bent family would appreciate your prayers as they continue to adjust to their new life in Costa Rica.
February 1st this year marked eight years since I was diagnosed with cancer. I am grateful for each day and for the possibility to share my life and work with people near and far. I regret that I do not always find time to answer every message, but I am thankful to have you accompanying me with your thoughts and prayers. Here in Latin America, the celebration of Valentine’s day is focused more on friendship than on romantic love. I hope you will join me in celebrating our friendship this February.