May 19, 2007

Preschool graduation pending

Mother's Day at the preschool
Twelve of our 30 preschool children soon will leave us for first grade. We are not worried about finding children to replace them; some families already have tried to enroll their children under two years of age. Of course we are not prepared to care for infants at this time, even as we do not have the facilities for children older than six, either.

We try to do what we can with what we have. Even that is often a struggle as it has been nearly a month since the state program which is supposed to provide breakfast and lunch for the children has given us any support. We have had to use our own funds to buy the food, since it is a service these families depend on. As I have mentioned before, many of these children otherwise would receive only a cup of milk and coffee for breakfast and a thin broth for lunch.

But beyond that, you can also see here, as I have also observed over the years, the importance of education in its fullest sense in people's lives. Luz Maria continues to take weekend classes to earn the accreditation she will need when we establish a private day school. The classes, which are offered through the nearby state university, do not deal explicitly with religious topics, but Luz Maria often feels the need to speak in defense of the faith anyway. This is because a recurring theme is that morality has no basis in divine or natural law, but is simply a set of rules devised by human society to facilitate the peaceful coexistence of its members -- rules which can be changed to suit the agenda of the state. Although adults, many of Luz Maria's classmates are much younger than she is, and Luz Maria worries how their minds might be formed if there were no one to present a different point of view than what their instructors are teaching.

That is why we have a vision of a school that will incorporate Biblical teaching into all aspects of life for the complete formation - physical, intellectual and spiritual - of human beings.

Presentation of baptismal certificatesSunday, May 6, a group from Corpus Christi Lutheran Church came to La Caramuca to visit our Sunday school. Luzveidis Pinzon and Adonay Tarazona presented the baptized children with certificates of baptism signed by pastors Edgar Brito and Ted Krey.

Then Luz Maria, Luzveidis and Eligia Narvaiz went to visit Jordi Duque and his mother, Thais, in their new home. Jordi, who is about 11 years old, benefits from a scholarship from Children's Christian Concern Society intended to help defray the costs of expenses for keeping him in school. Jordi, his mother and two brothers had been living in a shack built of plywood and corrugated metal with a water-spigot out back. Now, thanks to a government housing program for destitute families, they are living in a nice three-bedroom cottage.

Jordi (yellow shirt) and his brothersThais was born in San Cristobal, a town on the Colombian border about a three- to four-hour drive from Barinas. So was her former husband. Once when their four children were small, her husband while high on drugs burned down their house for the purpose of killing the children whom he believed to be trapped inside. They were able to escape, although the oldest, Thais'only daughter, has psychological problems to this day because of the incident.
Inside the Duque home
Thais came from a very poor family, but her husband's family was quite rich. As happens all too often in Venezuela, his family's wealth and influence was able to keep him from being brought to justice for the attack on his own children. In order to protect herself and them, Thais fled from San Cristobal to Barinas, where she had no family or friends. Her life, therefore, has not been easy.

To speak of more concrete subjects, we have been able to buy some cement for building a wall around our property as preparation for building a playground. Now we are waiting for a truck to deliver sand to mix the cement.

For those of you who wish to contribute toward our cause, I would like to say a few words about Venezuela Lutheran Mission Partnership (VLMP), the mission society where we would ask you to send your donations. I have the utmost confidence in this group because, well, I am one of the founding members. My signature and that of the current VLMP president, Frank Janssen, are on the original VLMP charter as a non-profit organization in Minnesota. Of course, VLMP now is recognized by the federal government as a non-profit organization, too, and is an accredited member of the Association of Lutheran Mission Agencies (ALMA).

Frank Janssen as Paco the ClownHow well I remember driving with Frank and his wife, Kathy, to our first ALMA meeting in St. Louis. Frank was kind enough to point out all the sights to be seen in Iowa, like the biggest and best bowling alleys. (I believe we bypassed the John Wayne museum in the Duke's hometown of Winterset,)

Also never to be forgotten are all those nights spent drawing up a constitution and by-laws for our mission society. Those were some long evenings.

One of Frank and Kathy's three daughters was supposed to get married this weekend. Best wishes to the bride and groom, assuming all went as planned. All the children here remember Paco the Clown and I am sure they wish your family the best as well.

Actually I am the only original member of VLMP who had never been to Venezuela when VLMP was formed. Everyone else had been on short-term mission trips to Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. VLMP has organized short-term mission trips to Venezuela every year since that time and has been instrumental in accomplishing many good things here, such as the construction of a new worship-and-education complex in Maracay and much development at the Tierra de Gracia agricultural mission in Monagas. Certainly Luz Maria and I are grateful for all the support we have received from VLMP.

So, again, if you are interested in helping us, please send checks to:

Venezuelan Lutheran Mission Partnership
3089 Leyland Trail
Woodbury, MN 55125

Mil gracias.