It is never too late for Christmas in La Caramuca.
Luz Maria's sister, Rosaura, a member of the Baptist church in Barinas. has been involved with Operation Christmas Child, a project sponsored by Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational Christian relief agency headed by Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham. Families in the United States contribute to this project by filling shoeboxes full of school supplies and small toys as gifts for children in poverty-stricken areas. For more information on Samaritan's Purse and its activities, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.
There were still boxes of gifts available for about 50 children in our neighborhood and their needs haven't changed in the last three months. Because of the limited supplies, we organized a by-invitation-only event at the main preschool in La Caramuca. The preschool has a chain-link fence and gate that allowed us to keep people from just dropping in to grab a free box of goodies. The boxes were presented to the children after songs, games and Bible stories.
But one thing that made this event truly different was the involvement of the children's parents. We went door to door with our invitations and stressed that each family was required to have an adult representative at the party. So we had nearly as many adults at the party as children, a real first.
Another distinctive feature of this event was that a group of four boys aged 5 to 10 were directly involved in the preparations. As a reward for their hard work, we took the boys out for pizza in Barinas a few days later at the pizzeria that Luz Maria and I like the best. This place offers octopus as a pizza topping, but I have not worked up the nerve to try that yet.
The best part is that this Palm Sunday the boys and some of their friends accompanied us to Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas. Pastor Edgar Brito and the congregation warmly welcomed this large group of visitors from La Caramuca.
It is still the dry season and it has been extremely hot here, even hotter than normal for this region. Water levels in the rivers keep dropping to the point where it becomes a real challenge to provide the hydroelectric power that people depend on here. That is why we have been having power blackouts for two to three hours every day for the past few weeks.
No doubt you can imagine some of the problems we face being without electricity for extended periods of time. But beyond the obvious inconvenience of the blackout itself is the fact that the faulty wiring so common in houses here often cannot handle the surge of powering back up. Many refrigerators and other appliances have been damaged. In fact, our main refrigerator is not working now, although I am not sure whether that´s because of the blackouts or not. Fortunately, we have a smaller refrigerator provided for the preschool program that we can rely on until the larger one is fixed.
But an even more serious consequence of the power surges is the number of people have been injured by electric shock. In fact, two people in the neighboring village of La Mula died through electrocution. These incidents have really been the talk of the territory.
Through a mutual acquaintance, Luz Maria has been invited to counsel one of the relatives of one of the victims. Please pray for her as she searches for the right words to share God's love with this family.