France's victory over Brazil in World Cup competition last Saturday ended any chance of a South American nation claiming the championship. But with Venezuela gripped by football fever, admiration for the winning team overrode regional loyalty as people took to the streets of Barinas waving French flags. On any given day there are usually boys playing football (soccer)somewhere on the unpaved streets of our barrio. With mounting excitement over the 2006 World Cup, the games on our street have lasted longer and have been played with more intensity.
We had our own bit of excitement over the weekend as the administrative council of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela visited Barinas. It was an opportunity for communication between the leaders of the national church and our rather isolated group in western Venezuela. The largest and most
well-established Lutheran churches are all located in central and eastern Venezuela. Here there is hardly any Lutheran presence at all.
Most of the council members stayed at Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas. We had as our guests in La Caramuca Edgar Rojas, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Lecherias and Alcides Franco, a former president of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela.
For us one high point of the council's visit was dinner Saturday night at El Budare restaurant with Pastor Adrian Ventura, current president of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela, Edgar Coronado, council secretary and member of Fortaleza Lutheran Church in Maracay, and more than dozen of the 26 adults who have completed the basic theology course for adults that Luz Maria has been teaching.
There is no Lutheran seminary in Venezuela, but the Lutheran Church of Venezuela offers theological education by extension. The courses begin at a very fundamental level, open to everyone, and continue to advanced studies which prepare qualified individuals for ordination as pastors. Luz Maria is a certified instructor and in fact has attained the highest level of theological training of anyone in the Lutheran Church of Venezuela who is not an ordained pastor.
I am working toward certification so that I can help Luz Maria with this work. She paid me a special compliment at the dinner by noting one of her students had completed two extension courses concurrently. I have finished both the course in basic Christian theology and the second unit in Gospel of Matthew course. Once I have completed the sixth unit in the Matthew study, I will be certified to teach basic extension courses.
A good number of Luz Maria's students in basic Christian theology are not Lutherans, but one now is. In addition to Luz Maria's course, Froilan Meiias finished adult catechism classes with Pastor Edgar Brito of Corpus Christi and was confirmed Sunday.
The Sunday morning service was the other high point of the weekend. In addition to Froilan, another man, Nestor Rojas (no relation to Edgar Rojas)was confirmed that day. Pastor Adrian Ventura assisted Pastor Edgar in a very moving service.
We eagerly anticipate the arrival of volunteers from Minnesota July 11. They will spend the week in La Caramuca and Barinas, participating in activities with children and adults.
Luz Maria and I plan to visit the United States during the first three weeks in August. Our time will be limited, but we hope to visit as many supporters and prospective supporters as we can.