I hope that everyone had a most joyous Easter.
Saturday, April 15, we paid our next-door neighbor, Vicente, $20 to drive the two of us, Luz Maria´s daughter, Sarai, and about 10 children from La Caramuca to Punta Gorda in his pickup truck. Vicente´s truck is old and weatherbeaten, but it runs very well. The children sang songs that they have learned in Sunday school all the way to Punta Gorda, about a 20- to 30-minute trip. If you have ever been in a bus or van with a church youth group, you perhaps can picture it.
In Punta Gorda the children presented their musical dramatization of the Passover story to the Sunday school that we have organized there (interestingly enough, the Spanish word "Pascua" may mean either Passover or Easter). There are 30 or more in the Punta Gorda group; their teacher is Maira Ramos, sister of Armando Ramos, resident pastor at the Tierra de Gracia agricultural mission in eastern Venezuela. After the presentation, the children from Punta Gorda responded with some singing and dancing of their own.
Jordi Duque assumed the role of Pharaoh this time. Jordi is one of the children in our community who has received a scholarship from the Christian Children´s Concern Society in Topeka, Kansas. These scholarships enable kids from families who are more financially strapped than most to continue their educations, with an emphasis on Christian instruction. Jordi is part of a single-parent household with his two older brothers and their mother, Thaís. Jordi, like his oldest brother, Jordan, is named after sports hero Michael Jordan. The third brother is named Mai Taison, which is a transliteration of Mike Tyson.
I am not sure I can adequately describe Jordi´s house. It is just a shack made of plywood and corrugated metal sheets slapped together. The only plumbing is a hose connected to the public water system in a basin out back. Once Thaís had to leave town for a few days to see her daughter who was hospitalized after an automobile accident in San Cristobal (a town on the Colombian border about five hours from where we are). The boys were left on their own, so we gave them some of our produce and some cash for food.
When the trees are bearing, we have more oranges, avocados, grapefruit, mangos and bananas than we could possibly consume. But we are not set up for commercial production, so we give a lot away. Lately Luz Maria has been taking sacks of avocados to Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas on Sundays.
Our Easter Sunday school class provided more explanation of the connection between Easter and Passover, and why Jesus is called "el Cordero de Dios" or "the Lamb of God." The children are coming up with many good questions on their own, such as "Did Jesus have any brothers or sisters?" (for the answer, see Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3 and Galatians 1:9).
We continue to make some improvements around the place. Recently we put up a swingset consisting of a metal pole lodged in the forks of the trunks of two trees, and swings made of wood and rope. We have also made a jungle gym out of old tires. The neighborhood children love these things because there is no public playground here.
Lately I have been out in the yard when Luz Maria´s four-year-old granddaughter Karelis and her friend, Vanesa, have come over to play on the swings. Vanesa is about the same age as Karelis, but she is a tiny girl. With her long, beautiful dark-brown hair, she looks like a pixie princess. Since she is too small to mount the swings by herself, I have had to help her. This usually leads to me pushing both girls on the swings in turn.
Last time the two girls were determine to swing along with their dolls, a bit of a problem since they need both hands to hang on to the ropes. But they managed to do it. Karelis´ doll is a Teletubby (the purple one) and Vanesa´s, although it looks a little worse for wear, I think is supposed to be Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
Karelis has taken to calling me "abuelo" (grandfather) and Vanesa decided to do so as well. I asked Vanesa, "Who is your grandfather, really?", but she just replied "Usted (you)."
Luz Maria tells me Vanesa would have no idea who her real grandfather is, which pretty much leaves me at a loss for words.