It was quite a week for graduation ceremonies. On December 11, Luz María's daughter, Wuendy Santana de Mogollón, and Luz María's brother, Moisés Henríquez, both graduated from the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas.Founded in 1721, the Central University is the oldest university in Venezuela and one of the first in Latin America. The present main campus was designed by architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva and declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2000. The campus is considered a masterpiece of architecture and urban planning.
Wuendy graduated with a degree in social work, while Moisés received his degree in statistical science. There were around 400 graduates, all social science majors (psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics and international studies were among the other disciplines). There are other graduation ceremonies for the university's 10 other divisions. Eighteen Presidents of Venezuela have graduates of the Central University.Wuendy almost missed the ceremony. She and her husband, Jesús, had taken a trip to Panama the week before and were scheduled to return the night before the graduation. But their flight was delayed until that very morning. Simón Bolívar International Airport is about an hour away from Caracas, even supposing no traffic jams. Wuendy rode on the back of a "moto-taxi" (hired motorcycle) from the airport to the university. Traffic rules do not apply to motorcycles and scooters; they weave in and out of traffic at will and often ignore stoplights. Thus she was able to arrive in time, but was not able to change into formal clothes. She threw her graduation gown on over a casual blouse and blue jeans.
My graduating class was smaller: four instead of 400. We received our assignments as vicars in the Lutheran Church of Venezuela December 15, 2007, at El Salvador (The Savior) Lutheran Church in Caracas.In Lutheran usage, the word vicar means a candidate for ordained pastoral ministry, serving in a vicariate or internship, usually in the third year of seminary training. Typically at the end of the year of vicarage, the candidate returns to seminary and completes a final year of studies. After being issued a call or assignment, the candidate is ordained as a pastor in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The role of a vicar in the Lutheran tradition is most comparable to that of a transitional deacon in the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, except that Lutheran vicars are not ordained.
In our case, we were invited to participate in an intensive program to train national pastors and missionaries for the Lutheran Church of Venezuela. Actually, ours is a five-year commitment. In 2008 we will serve our vicarages, then, God willing, be ordained as pastors. But we still will be obligated to take a certain amount of theological extension courses every year for three more years.The vicarage assignments are as follows:
- Sergio Maita, Rock of Ages Lutheran Church in the town of Quebrada Seca, state of Monagas, under the supervision of Adrian Ventura, pastor of Cristo Rey (Christ the King) Lutheran Church in Maturin, Monagas.
- Juan Carlos Silva, La Fortaleza (Fortress) Lutheran Church in the city of Maracay, under the supervision of Marco Valencia, pastor of La Fortaleza.
- Eduardo Flores and myself will share responsibilities for Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) Lutheran Church in the city of Barinas, and La Caramuca Lutheran Mission, state of Barinas. Eduardo will live in the pastor's apartment under construction at Corpus Christi.
Our plan for La Caramuca is to have a church planted by the end of 2008. I then would be able to receive a call to serve as resident pastor for our mission and to teach adult Bible classes.As graduation gifts, I received a copy of Luther's Works, Vol. 5, in Spanish, from Ricardo Granado, director of the Juan de Frias Theological Institute, and Introduction to the New Testament by Robert Hoerber, also translated into Spanish, from Dale and Sandra Saville, agricultural missionaries in rural Monagas. I believe my fellow seminaristas all received the same books. We greatly appreciate them because of the scarcity of theological works in Spanish. I have become aware of my advantage in being to read English texts. The books I "borrowed" from my late father's library proved very helpful this past year, especially the commentaries on 1 Corinthians. Also, I discovered Paul Kretzmann´s Popular Commentary on-line.
The lack of Spanish translations is somewhat surprising, given that Spanish is one of the six most widely spoken languages in the world. Mandarin Chinese is unquestionably in first place. The other five include English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic and Russian.
Later this year Luz María will complete the extension courses she has been taking from Ezequiel Zamora University and receive a degree fully qualifying her to teach from preschool through ninth grade. This will be an important step for our school. She received the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in basic education in 1983 from Liceo Alberto Arvelo Torrealba in Barinas. In 1993, Luz María received an additional degree in preschool education from Instituto San Rafael in Barinas.
We wish everyone feliz Navidad y un año prospero nuevo.