Thanks to generous donations from the United States, we are moving forward with the construction of our new preschool facility. Up to this point it has consisted of a peaked metal roof and concrete floor, partially enclosed by low concrete-block walls, with the beginnings of a kitchen, bathroom and storage area.
Soon the walls and ironwork will be complete. Insteads of glass windows, there will be large open areas for ventilation made secure by iron bars. This is very typical Venezuela architecture as insulation is never a concern and the wind seldom blows hard enough to blow rain in. (There is virtually no rain for six months of every year anyway.) The next steps will be to finish the bathroom, kitchen and storage area, and cover the rough concrete with smooth, polished tile. Luz Maria's son, Pedro, has been our "maestro de obra" or foreman in this work. He has done much of it himself and has contracted other workers to do the rest.
The completion of this facility will allow us to greatly expand the scope of our activities. On Sunday, May 22, a record 60 children attended our Sunday school class. It is becoming more and more difficult to accommodate and supervise this many children in the space we currently have available. In addition, the new facility will enable to host more educational events provided by the public school teachers who periodically visit this area.
Luz Maria has had a vision of a Christian school here for a long time, but many people, inclusding members of her own family, have regarded it as a pipe-dream. The new preschool facility will be a (quite literally) concrete reality that will help convince them otherwise. We still have much to do, but this is an important first step.
Along that same line, we gained some recognition from the larger community surrounding us this first Saturday in June. In March we hosted the distribution of Christmas gifts to the chilren (better late than never) by Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical charity led by Billy Graham's son, Franklin. Because of this, we were invited to a meeting at the Baptist church in Barinas to give a report on our ministry in La Caramuca. Other reports were given by a group from the Baptist church and representatives of two Pentecostal churches.
We took five children from La Caramuca with us and they were given the opportunity to sing two songs they learned in our Sunday school. Luz Maria´s daughter, Sarai, made name-badges for the children in the shape of open Bibles. These drew attention on the bus from La Caramuca to Barinas and we took advantage of that fact to explain briefly what we were doing to people on the bus.
The state government's director of child and adolescent welfare programs also attended the meeting in Barinas. The Venezuelan government is very interested in what churches of all denominations are doing to address social problems that affect children and adolescents, such as childhood malnutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse and domestic violence, and alcoholism and drug abuse. Instruction in moral values that strengthen the traditional family unit is regarded as important in combatting these evils.
So this meeting was a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of our project within the Christian and secular communities, and build their perception of us as a legitimate and positive presence.
Please pray that God will continue to open doors for us.