The same day that Venezuelan newspapers were running banner headlines about the new Pope, the administrative council of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela (ILV) began its own "conclave" in Maturin. As the hours wore on, the inevitable question was asked: Where's our fumata blanca (puff of white smoke) signifying mission accomplished? But for the ILV the issue was not the selection of a new leader, but approval of new mission projects. For Luz Maria and myself, the fumata blanca was the announcement that the national church had formally approved our work in La Caramuca.
In fact, we were commended for a proposal that fit in very well with the ILV's long-term plan for growth, focusing on personal evangelism, religious education and training of new leaders for local churches. We were in Maturin to present our vision of an educational center encompassing evangelism within the surrounding community, instruction of children and adults, and training of pastors and evangelists. We are strategically located for this purpose because if you travel in one direction, Barinas is the gateway to the Venezuelan Andes. If you travel in the other, the city is the gateway to los Llanos, Venezuela's answer to the Great Plains of the central United States. These are very different geographical regions, but a lack of Lutheran churches is one thing they have in common.
We have had as many as 52 children attend our Sunday school so we have split them into two groups and if we continue to have 40 to 50 show up every week, we may have to divide them into three groups. Luz Maria's daughter Yepci and her husband, Eliezer, are now both involved in teaching the children.
In our most recent visit to the family in La Mula we discussed what it means to both fear and love God. We did our best to explain that fear of God means a proper sense of awe toward a Being more powerful and wise than human beings can comprehend, and whose righteousness makes us conscious of our own sinfulness. However, love for God is the response inspired by the grace and mercy He has shown us in Jesus Christ.