On Thursday, July 2, 2020, we organized a small graduation ceremony for the six students of our preschool who will advance to first grade in the next school year. At this point, it is not certain whether the next school year will begin in September or in January 2021. We have not had the preschool meet on site since the COVID-19 crisis began about four months ago, but every weekday morning our teachers have distributed food and homework assignments to the families of the preschool children. The children completed the work required for their promotion to first grade at home and submitted the results on-line or by telephone. Our graduating students include:
July 2 is the traditional date on the church calendar to celebrate the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. So, in our opening devotion, I read Lucas 1:39-45.
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Elizabeth’s greeting echoes that of the archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38). Did you know there is a Lutheran version of the Ave Maria? It can be found on page 87 of the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal.
“Blessed art thou, Mary, among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. Behold, there shall be a performance of those things which were told thee from the Lord.”
This was more or less the form used in Christian devotions since at least the 11th Century. In 1522 Luther wrote a commentary on it (WA 10 II, 407–409; 17 II, 398–410; but see also 11, 59–61). It is interesting to note at this time that the part of the Ave Maria to which we Lutherans object, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us poor sinners now and in the hour of our death” was added in the 14th Century for “added protection” in the face of the bubonic plague and did not become the official Roman Catholic form until 1568. (Additional note: We do not object to calling Mary the “Mother of God”, but rather the invocatory nature of the second clause.)
Anyway, to apply this to our preschool graduation, I noted that this text is part of our defense of unborn children, because it shows:
Human life begins at conception
God has a purpose for every human life.
Furthermore, it shows children in the womb have consciousness and, in fact, may be aware of the presence of God. And that is part of our defense of infant baptism, that once the child has been separated from its mother it may feel the water on its forehead and hear God claim it as His child by redemption in Jesus Christ. Children are a gift and a blessing from God, and it is our privilege to care for them and bring them up in the faith bestowed on them through the Holy Spirit.
Our preschool program is subject to regulations by the secular government’s Ministry of Education. Over the years we have had to adapt to changing rules and requirements. When we reopen the preschool, there may be more modifications in store. There is a growing need for the care of children under two years of age, and we are being asked to shift the emphasis of our program in that direction. One proposal is that we limit our enrollment to children under three years of age. Another is that we convert entirely to nursery care of infants. In any event, we would have to purchase additional equipment and make other adjustments in our program. Thanks be to God, we just received a donation from the LeadaChild organization that will help us make a start in that direction.
Luz Maria’s afterschool tutoring program technically is on hold, due to the closing of schools, but we continue to meet with young people in the program for Bible studies and English classes.
Latest COVID-19 count
At last report, there were more than 7,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Venezuela. There are supposed to 123 cases in the state of Barinas, but the disease has not yet appeared in our community. The government’s efforts at control seem aimed at limiting traffic in and out of the major population centers like Caracas, Maracaibo, Maracay-Valencia, Barquisimeto, Maturín and Ciudad Guayana.
Pushing pedal power
We thank Ruth Carpenter for the suggestion and plans for building a pedal-powered generator for running our water pumps during prolonged blackouts. We are looking to gather all the needed parts. Once I regularly went on long bicycle rides, but it is too risky to wander alone on the streets and roads of Venezuela today. This would provide me, at least, with the opportunity for exercise, as well as additional electrical power.