In my last newsletter I mentioned the problem here with power outages due to the hot, dry conditions and declining water levels in the rivers. The outages themselves were not as bad as the surges when the power returned. Damage to property and injuries resulted from these surges, including two deaths in the neighboring village of La Mula.The good news is that the power situation has improved. The electricity still may go off at any time, but the blackouts now last only 15 to 30 minutes and only occur two to three days a week. Even better news: No more casualties and we were able to share the Gospel with someone in La Mula. At first I thought this person was a relative of one of those who died, but it turned out that she was just a close friend. She knew Luz Maria and something about our project here in La Caramuca, so she invited us over perhaps to help her find some kind of personal faith to help her cope with situations where people die for apparently no good reason.
Personal faith is something many, if not most people lack here. They have some knowledge of Christianity acquired through Venezuela's long historical and cultural connections to Spain and the Roman Catholic Church, and perhaps also from some experience with the small evangelical/pentecostal churches that have sprung up here like mushrooms in recent years. But usually what they absorb is a distorted, legalistic idea of Christianity. When I asked the children last Sunday why the Bible was written, the first answer I got was "to give us rules for living." So close, yet so far from the truth. You will find rules for living in the Bible, but that is not the main point. I had to read to them again from John 20, verse 31: "But these (things) are written that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
We visited the woman in La Mula on Maundy Thursday. As it turned out, she had a Bible, but only because the Jehovah's Witnesses, who have a Kingdom Hall in La Mula, had visited her once and left her with one of their "New World translation" Bibles. We had to explain that this "translation" alters the meaning of the original text to fit the teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses. For example, unlike all other Bibles, John 1, verse 1, in the "New World" version reads like this: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." This is a clear violation of the Greek text, but the Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in the Trinity, do not believe that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God who died on the cross for our sins, and so they changed the verse to suit themselves.
Then we explained that although there were different translations, all legitimate versions of the Bible support the idea that there is a Triune God, that the Second Person of the Trinity became incarnate as Jesus Christ, died and rose from the dead that we may have hope of eternal life. She invited us back to talk more about these things.Luz Maria is taking courses to obtain the Venezuelan equivalent of a public school teaching degree or certificate. When we are ready to set up our own school, it will be a legal requirement that someone involved have such accreditation. The classes she is taking are free of charge thanks to one of the Venezuelan government's educational initiatives, Misión Sucre.
This week one of her instructors expressed the fear that with the death of John Paul II, the Catholic Church soon might start consecrating avowed homosexuals as bishops as the Episcopal Church in the United States has done. Luz Maria and others in the class thought this was highly unlikely, but I think the incident illustrates something of what John Paul II meant to many people in Latin America and around the world. He was seen as a bulwark against totalitarian governments on the one hand, and the secularist ideology which has undermined the sanctity of human life and marriage, especially in the United States and Europe.
Let us pray that there will continue to be leaders who will use their power and influence to speak out against this "culture of death" no matter what form it takes.