Aug 31, 2006

VBS in Barinas

Venezuelans love cars, although many cannot afford one. People often are amazed when I tell them I sold my Toyota pickup truck to move to Venezuela. Standing on a busy street corner last week with 12 children in tow, I found it hard to believe myself.

We had brought them by bus from La Caramuca into Barinas for vacation Bible school at Corpus Christi Lutheran Church. That is a 20-minute ride, but then it is seven or eight blocks from the nearest bus stop to the church. It is a long walk for Luz Maria and myself, but even longer with the kids to
watch out for. Fortunately, all of them were preteens (ages 10 to 12) except for Luz Maria's two youngest grandchildren, Elias and Oriana. Elias, who is not quite two years old, had to be carried most of the way.

After vacation Bible school, we walked all the way back to the bus stop, then waited nearly a half-hour for a bus with our group in a state of high excitement. If my hair had not turned completely gray a long time ago, it would have done so this past week.

Our neighbor, Vicente, who once drove the kids to Punta Gorda in his pickup, was not available. We could have hired taxis, but we would have had to take two at a cost more than 10 times that of the bus.

I really missed my Toyota truck at that point.

But it was worth all the worry to have our group participate with other children in VBS at Corpus Christi. The event was a great success with the
highest daily attendance of 58 and a total attendance of 195 from Wednesday through Sunday. Forty-four children attended the Sunday morning service which
served as the closing ceremony for the VBS. The only setback was that we planned to have the children from Punta Gorda there as well, but for somereason that group failed to show up.

The first day of VBS focused on the doctrine of creation, or how God made the world and everything in it. The second day dealt with the impact of sin onGod's creation. The third day's lesson was about how God sent a Savior from sin, Jesus. The final lesson on Saturday explained how Jesus left His church with the command to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28: 19-20).

The children were asked to invite their friends to VBS and many of them did. There was quite a show of hands when Pastor Edgar Brito inquired how many were visiting Corpus Christi for the first time.

VBS teachers included Pastor Edgar, his wife Mariel, Luzveidis Pinzón, Luz Maria and Yelitza Valderrama, who tutors children at the church during the week. Luz Maria' s daughter, Yepci, was able to help out although she was finishing up her physical therapy last week. There were other members of
Corpus Christi, as well as myself, helping out, too.

On Sunday, Luz Maria's daughter, Charli, led our group from La Caramuca in the musical presentation that they had prepared. The children from Barinas gave their presentation and then the two groups joined together for even more music.

Adults from the congregation presented a skit dramatizing how knowing the love of Jesus changes lives. Ludy de Tarazona portrayed a prostitute; Mariel de Brito, a drunkard: and Lusveides, a thief. Perhaps these types of portrayalsmight be shocking as part of a children's program in the United States, but Venezuelan children see these kinds of behavior on the streets every day. Eligia Narvais played Satan who was out to destroy the prostitute, thief and drunkard, while Ludy's husband, Adonay Tarazona, was Jesus.

Of the 44 children in attendance Sunday, 20 received T-shirts identifying them as having received training in evangelism as part of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela's "Semilleros" ("Seedbeds") program. Five of our 12 kids from La Caramuca who have made this commitment were present. The T-shirts are light green with Luther's seal (black cross in a red heart on a white rose) on the front. The back of the shirt reads "Sembradores de Cristo el Rey" ("Sowers of seed for Christ the King").

The children from La Caramuca who received T-shirts were Solanyi Barreto, Yexi Altuve, Karina Torres, Yexi Torres and Andrelis Morales.

In addition to the vacation Bible school, on Friday evening Luz Maria, myself, Yepci, Charli, and Wuendy, Luz Maria's daughter who lives in Caracas, attended the wedding of Luz Maria's niece, Rebeca Vergara, to Ernesto Niño. Rebeca is the daughter of Luz Maria's sister, Denise (Pina), so the wedding
was at La Mazorka restaurant in Barinitas.

It was a civil ceremony. In Venezuela only civil magistrates are empowered to perform legally binding unions, but there is never a high wall of separation between church and state here. The magistrate delivered a long lecture about how marriage was ordained by God according to the testimony of the Bible, and how husbands and wives had the responsibility to remain faithful to each other and care for the children that resulted from the marriage.

Later we talked about the ceremony with Wuendy and her husband, Jesús. We agreed that in one sense, it was good for the civil authorities to recognize the divine Law, but the message was only Law not Gospel. Without the Gospel and the working of the Holy Spirit, people are not able to obey the Law of

This week, Charli, Luzveidis and Froilan Meiias, a young man who was just confirmed as a member of Corpus Christi, are attending the Lutheran Church of Venezuela's national youth convention in Barquisimeto.

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