Sep 9, 2005

Dengue fever

Please pray for Ada, a woman that we have been visiting for prayer and Bible study. She is confined to her bed with what appears to be dengue fever.

Dengue fever is a nasty tropical disease that I contracted myself nearly a year ago. It causes a high fever and extreme pain in the joints. One usually recovers from the first bout of common dengue fever, although if you contract it again there is a good chance that it will escalate into its typically fatal second stage, dengue hemorrhagic fever. There is no vaccine or cure for dengue fever in either of its forms.

If this is dengue fever, it will be Ada´s first experience with it, so the odds of her recovery are good. However, she cannot get out of bed and has two young boys to take care of. Her husband, an electrician, had been working on a job in Puerto Ordaz, which is on the other side of the country (two days of travel by bus). He will return sometime tonight.

Dengue fever is spread by mosquitoes and the local health department has been waging an aggressive campaign to eradicate the offending species from this area. They fumigated every house in La Caramuca this spring and also sprayed all the roadside ditches. I don´t know what pesticide they used, but it smelled awful. I only hope its action is as powerful as its odor.

The health authorities also distributed packets to everyone for treating water supplies. Because of the generally poor condition of public waterworks in Venezuela, it is common for households, even the more well-to-do homes, to have some system of catch-tanks to store water for when there is no running water. Since these are often just open barrels or troughs, they represent more places where mosquitoes might breed.

The water situation has improved for us. We used to have municipal water only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but now we have running water past 9 p.m. Except, of course, when there is a heavy rain, in which case both electricity and municipal water will go down for a couple of hours. We have a well on our property, but at this point no pump to move the water up to the house.

We began visiting Ada and her family this past spring when problems with the electric power grid resulted in the deaths of several people by electrocution. Ada is very anxious to understand why such things happen and if there is reason to believe in a God of love and mercy. We are doing our best to help her.

Last Sunday we attended the morning service at Cristo es Amor Lutheran Church in Barquisimeto. I had the opportunity to hear Miguelangel Pérez preach for the first time. His sermon was about how the world is more interconnected than ever before, what with the Internet and satellite television, but the most important connection for Christians around the world is being part of the Body of Christ. Miguelangel has a passion for the faith which carries over into his preaching, but he needs more training to achieve his goal of becoming a pastor.

Miguelangel, who is in his late 20s, is leading the Barquisimeto congregation along with Jesús Franco, an older man. They are both diáconos pastorales, or lay ministers. His problem is that both his responsibility to the congregation and his pursuit of ordination require great commitments of time. Miguelangel has been traveling regularly to Caracas or Maracay to continue his pastoral training. It is not quite as far to Caracas from Barquisimeto (about five to six hours) as it is from Barinas (about eight hours), but it is still some distance.

That is why we hope that our school in La Caramuca will eventually serve as center for training of adults as pastors, teachers and evangelists as well as Christian education of children in this part of Venezuela.

After the service, when Jesús Franco asked if there were any announcements, Luz Maria stood up and made a plea for the congregation to allow Miguelangel the time he needs to complete his pastoral training because the Lutheran Church of Venezuela has such an urgent need for pastors.

Later Luz Maria led a confirmation class for the youth. She has been doing this on Saturdays, but this past Saturday we attended a workshop on evangelism at Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas.

Dr. Jaime Paredes, director of Cristo Para Todas Las Naciones (CPTLN) in Caracas, led the workshop. CPTLN, or "Christ For All The Nations," is the international extension of what began as "The Lutheran Hour" radio ministry in the United States. CPTLN began broadcasting on Venezuelan radio in 1940. Today CPTLN is not only responsible for radio and television programming, but also produces a great volume of printed material. This usually takes the form of booklets that treat common problems in life for Venezuelans, such as alcohol and drug abuse, or marital discord and divorce, from a Christian perspective.

One highlight of Dr. Paredes' presentation was his discussion of "postmodernism" in Venezuela. Again thanks to new media like the Internet and satellite television, postmodernism, with its rejection of moral absolutes and its antipathy toward the very concepts of sin and salvation, is gaining more of a foothold in Venezuela.

Dr. Paredes also talked about the problem of persecution, which may not necessarily take the form of imprisonment, but rather social disapproval which intimidates Christians into being silent about their faith.

However, he said, the early church grew because Christians could not help but talk about what they had seen and heard of Christ.

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