Dear companions in mission,
Five weeks have passed since I chose to remain in Costa Rica and continue my mission service here with the support of Presbyterian World Mission. I am very grateful to be here together with my husband, Javier Torrez, and my colleagues at the Latin American Biblical University (UBL). I have been keeping very busy, though I seldom leave our home. The rains have just started and the plants in our garden are rejoicing, full of new life.
As I write on April 25th, Costa Rica has registered 693 cases of the coronavirus, with only six deaths. Decisive government action guided by epidemiological principles has kept the spread of the virus to a minimum. Here there have been various restrictions and a curfew, but we have not experienced a full lockdown or quarantine as in other countries. The numbers of new cases reported each of the last few days have been in the single digits, so the government is expected to loosen some of the restrictions soon. As elsewhere, those who usually survive on what they can sell each day in the informal economy, including many refugees from Nicaragua, are the ones are suffering the most in the economic downturn.
The staff at the UBL are all working with reduced salaries as of April 15th. This is especially hard on those with families who depend on these salaries, so I ask you to keep all of my colleagues in your prayers.
Our first term of 2020 has just ended. My inbox is full of final papers waiting to be graded. Some students have written histories of their own congregations or denominations. Others have reviewed books that have been important in the history of Latin American Protestantism. In their final reflection paper for the course, I asked them to tell me their dreams for the churches in this region. Together with them, I hope for churches that will prophetically denounce injustices, proclaim God’s love in Christ to the world, and join together to work for more just societies and the care of God’s creation.
Our new term starts on May 4th. Several new people are joining our student body, which means even larger class sizes. Now that all of our students are studying through our online platform, we have the challenge of providing the personalized accompaniment that has characterized the UBL. I will be teaching the introductory history of Christianity course, fifteen centuries in fifteen weeks, to over 30 students. I will also be exploring contextualized hermeneutics and theologies from around the world with a smaller group. I look forward to reaching out to these students through Zoom, in addition to the online platform, and I hope most will be able to connect.
One of the gifts I am enjoying during this time is being able to connect to churches in the United States. When I can, I join congregations for livestreamed worship. I also watch recorded services and devotions throughout the week. I am grateful for the sermons, the songs and prayers that encourage me and remind me of how we are all striving to follow Jesus in these difficult days. Churches here in Costa are also learning to worship in new ways by using Zoom or Whatsapp. My cup runs over with options for joining together with God’s people in worship.
I am also learning to express myself in new ways. I hope you will take a few moments to follow this link to a video I put together for Eastertide to say thank you for walking with me, my colleagues, and our students. I hope the pictures from Costa Rica will help you know how to keep praying for us here at the UBL. I am also available to connect via Zoom or Skype. I look forward to staying in touch.