Mar 10, 2004

Living on the farm

We're back on the farm after an eventful week in Caracas. In fact, Luz Maria and I have moved out of an apartment in Maturin and are living on the farm.

There are two reasons for this. First, and most important, is that we are moving forward
with the farm's evangelism program and Luz Maria, who is qualified as a deaconess in the Lutheran Church of Venezuela, is an important part of it. She begins every day with prayer and Bible study for the workers on the farm and is making visits to people in the surrounding communities. Today she is in Quebrada Seca. Later this week she will be teaching Sunday school classes at the farm.

Luz Maria will work closely with the farm's pastor once that position is filled. There are three candidates under consideration. Soon there will be a special account for contributions to the evangelism program.

The other reason we have moved to the farm is the increasing need for security on the property. The farm looks more well-tended and prosperous every day. Unfortunately, that means it is becoming more of a target for thieves. There must be as many people as possible on
the property at all times.

We have already lost a portable irrigation pump due to a security lapse. For the first and only time it was left in the river while not in operation. The workers near the river left for lunch and when they returned, it was gone.

Despite this problem, it is very peaceful here. Compared to the turmoil in Caracas, it's like a
different country here. The protests and marches are something we watch on television, not part of everyday life. While Caracas might be compared to New York City and Washington, D.C., combined, Monagas is Venezuela's answer to Iowa. Maturin is as wild and wicked as Des Moines.
The other day as I was hoeing some weeds in front of the farmhouse, Rafael, an older fellow who is a frequent visitor to the farm, stopped by to talk. He was eager to share his faith in Jesus Christ with me. I asked him if he believed Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. He said that he did and that because of that fact all who believe have the assurance of eternal life. But Rafael was quick to assure me that he was Roman Catholic, not "evangelical."

In Venezuela, the word "evangelical" means almost anything that isn't Catholic, including non-Christian cults like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Most Venezuelans will tell you that they're Catholic if you ask them, but unlike Rafael have only the vaguest idea of what Jesus' death on the cross might mean. To them, being Catholic means you might have a priest perform a ritual on appropriate occasions and that's about it.

On the other hand, the most common alternative to Catholicism are independent "evangelical" churches that are as far from being Catholic as you could imagine. They rely heavily on emotionalism and subjective experience, have leaders with little or no pastoral training, and often are close to being cults. These churches also impose a lot of rules on their members, such as no drinking, no dancing, and women must wear skirts that fall below the knee. No
makeup, either, ladies.

This is, of course, largely a reaction to the prevalence of alcohol abuse and sexual infidelity in Venezuela and the enormous damage to family relations due to such things. But it also means to the average Venezuelan, the term "evangelical" has the connotation of a religious nut, the kind of person who knocks on your door early in the morning and tells you exactly what kind of fun you can't have.

One has to take all these things into account when sharing one's faith in Venezuela, not putting them down for beliefs that you might not agree with, but affirming them when like Rafael they realize what is truly important. And, of course, pray that more might come to know what "evangelio" or Gospel really means.

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