May 24, 2006

Venezuela wet and dry

When I lived in Minnesota, people would constantly joke that there are only two seasons there: winter and road construction. In Venezuela it's no joke. There really are only two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The rainy season has arrived. Torrential rains in the past two weeks at times have turned streets into rivers, blocking traffic. But the biggest concern at
this time is illness. All that water provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes (carriers of yellow fever, dengue and malaria). Also the rains bring sharp drops in temperature, sometimes below 70 degrees F. The temperature change along with getting soaked to the skin is enough for many people to contract a bad cold or perhaps pneumonia.

But we really did not have much of a dry season this year. Our plan was to clean out the well on our property and connect it to our water system once the lack of rain caused the water level in the well to fall. But that never happened, because although we had lighter rains earlier this year, we continued to receive regular precipitation. So, although we have all the supplies, our well project may have to be delayed until September.

We are grateful that the water system is working wonderfully as it is. The underground concrete tank is connected to the municipal water supply, which automatically shuts on and off depending on the level in the tank. There have been times when many of the neighboring homes have been without water and we were not made aware of the situation until the end of the day.

Our attention has shifted from the well to building a new roof over our patio. Anticipation of two important groups of visitors in June and July has highlighted for us the need for facilities to host gatherings of people over three to four feet in height. We can afford to cover the patio with a caney, which is a traditional Venezuelan type of thatched roof. Also we are shopping for more adult-sized chairs.

Next month the administrative council of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela will meet in Barinas. They will be checking in on us and Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas. The council includes five men and one woman.

In July we plan to host a group of eight to nine people from Minnesota. This group, to be comprised of members of Woodbury Lutheran Church, Woodbury, Minn., and St. Michael's Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Minn., will engage in Bible study activities with the preschool and Sunday school children in La Caramuca and the children enrolled in tareas dirigidas (tutoring) at Corpus Christi. We plan to bring the children from the Sunday school in Punta Gorda to La Caramuca to participate in the activities as well.

The electrical situation has improved in the last few weeks to the point where the power goes down for only 10 to 15 minutes every couple of days. The lights had been going out for four to five hours at a time at least once a week. Even with the improvement, it is difficult maintaining electrical appliances under these conditions. We have found a partial solution to this problem with a voltage regulator/uninterruptible power supply for our computers and voltage regulators for the refrigerators in the preschool and the family kitchen.

We have my laptop computer and a desktop computer with printer. Access to the Internet is made possible by a dialup connection from modems in both computers. There is also an old Hewlett-Packard scanner that needs to be repaired. If we could get the scanner working, we could save some money in photocopying costs for Sunday school materials by scanning the materials and then printing copies as needed. At times we have more children show up for Sunday school then we expect and we run short of materials. The scanner-printer combination might solve this problem as well. We already are relying heavily on the printer to print materials for adult classes.

Unfortunately, due to the lengthy period of use before we obtained the voltage regulator/uninterruptible power supply, I had to replace my laptop. It has been deteriorating rapidly over the past year. While I have been receiving more and more requests for CDs of the photos that I have taken for the Lutheran Church of Venezuela, my CD burner has not been working properly for nearly a year. (And the national church wants me to continue doing this work for them.) Finally, the laptop screen just died.

Luz Maria's sister, Carmen, and her husband, Luís, run a computer business in Barinas. They offered us a good deal on a laptop (made in Venezuela!) and I put the purchase on my MasterCard. We pray that we will be able to raise enough money in the coming year so that this will not prove too much of a setback. (Carmen and Luís also sold us the voltage regulator/uninterruptible
power supply. It works very well; the computers can continue to operate for as long as an hour without external power and the laptop can keep going on its own battery even longer.)

The dialup connection is becoming something of a problem with increased use of the phone line for voice calls and Internet access. Luz Maria and her daughters, Yepci and Charli, are all taking courses in education that they need for us to make our school a completely private institution (currently visiting teachers provided by the public school system teach the children non-religious subjects). They find Internet access at the house invaluable. I think we could afford DSL Internet service If we could find the right rate plan for voice service, we could have DSL without paying much more of a total phone bill than we are now.

Eventually we hope to make our school a pilot site for distance learning in the Western Zone of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela with a computer room for downloading and printing of materials as well as perhaps on-line courses.

Again, we give thanks to God for the blessings that we have received so far. It is a privilege to be able to maintain an oasis of hope, love and peace amid widespread poverty, discontent and despair. We give thanks also for all of you and your support.

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