Feb 27, 2007

Ash Wednesday 2007

Juan Carlos Selva, Carlos Andreu, Sergio Maita and Eduardo Flores
My fellow students and I observed Ash Wednesday at El Salvador Lutheran Church in Caracas Following an ancient tradition of the Church, Pastor Alfonso Prada marked our foreheads with the sign of the Cross. He used a paste made from ashes and water.

Then we sang the Spanish words to this hymn:

Christ, the Life of all the living,
Christ, the Death of death, our foe,
Who, Thyself for me once giving
To the darkest depths of woe,--
Through thy sufferings, death, and merit
I eternal life inherit:
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.

I love Lenten hymns in general and especially this one because it was part of the music for our wedding service in Maracay, July 25, 2004.

The training in Caracas is going well. We continue to explore the nature of the Church and the relationship between its doctrine and mission. One of our textbooks is C.F.W Walther's "Law and Gospel." We are using a Spanish translation of the original German text.

Concrete-block wallMeanwhile, back in Barinas, we have nearly completed the first step in fencing our property for a playground. The property is roughly L-shaped with the preschool and our house in the small leg of the L. We are on top of a hill overlooking the alluvial plain of a small river. The long leg of the L slopes down to the paved road which runs along the perimeter of the large cattle ranch here the river runs through. There is an existing concrete-block wall, built many years ago, which separates our property from the road The wall begins on west end of the property at the bottom of the hill, angles north up the hill, then continues west on top of the hill, extending past our property line onto the neighbor's land. To completely enclose the property, we need to build along the east and south borders. We have built a new wall on the most difficult part of the south border, where the incline is steepest and a huge tree-stump had to be removed.

Our plan is to eventually turn the land at the bottom of the hill into a parking lot with a gate opening onto the paved road. The playground will be at the top of the hill Along the east side, which faces the street of our barrio, we want to build a masonry-and-ironwork fence as is the common practice in Venezuela. A few weeks ago we had some hogs that escaped from a farm up the road wander through our property, but livestock are really the least of our concerns in maintaining a pleasant and secure refuge for the children.

We continue to use some of the funds we have received for the preschool to support the hot-meal program. Because the attendance at our preschool has increased faster than the budget of the state program which provides most of the funds, we still are short of state money to provide meals a week or two every month. All of the preschool children depend on this service. If we do not provide the meals, the only breakfast they would receive would be a cup of coffee mixed with milk and their only lunch would be a thin broth. Many health problems in Venezuela are a direct result of malnutrition in childhood.

May God bless you all during this season of Cuaresma (that's Spanish for Lent).

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