Sometimes it is best when you have only a limited time to speak. It helps you focus on what is important. On Sunday, March 2, we presented a crash course on the Ten Commandments, the objective being to finish up that first section of the Small Catechism with our confirmation class students in La Caramuca and move on to the Apostle's Creed. Things did not work out precisely as planned.
The week before we invited not only our regular students, but all of their families, including parents, to attend our overview of the Ten Commandments. Eduardo and I were able to visit personally many of the students and parents in their homes. Our plan was to have Pastor Ted Krey, who would be visiting La Caramuca that afternoon, speak on the first three commandments, Eduardo would speak on the next three, and I would present on the last four.
The attendance was good, about 30 people including adults and children. The teaching was interspersed with Eduardo leading the group in song with his guitar. We also had someone keeping the rhythm with our pandareta (a kind of tambourine). One hymn that is becoming a favorite here is “Cristo, Vida del Viviente” ("Christ, the Life of all the living”).
The only problem that arose was that by the time it was my turn, the sun was going down (we had gathered in our covered patio which offers protection from the elements, but no electric lights) and the children were growing restless (they had been marvelously patient and attentive up to that point). So basically I had about 10 to 15 minutes to finish up the Ten Commandments.
I took Edwar José, Sarai's infant son, and placed him on my shoulder. “Look at Edwar José,” I said. “His parents, José and Sarai, share their home, their food and many other things with him. But what has he done to deserve this? If his father were to ask him to help with his construction work, would Edwar be able to do so? If his mother asked him to go in the kitchen and fix dinner, what would Edwar be able to do?
“Why do parents care for their children when their children can do nothing in return for them? Because every child is a gift to his or her parents from God, our Father in Heaven. If your father gave you a nice shirt, would you throw it in the dirt and stomp on it? No, you would take care of it so it always would look nice and show people what a fine gift you father gave you. Every child is a gift from God the Father to his or her parents, so it is natural for parents to love and care for their children.
“Likewise, since God is the Father of every one of us, we all are dependent on him for every good thing in life. All the good things we have are gifts from God that He given us out of His love and grace, not because of anything we have done to merit them. So we should be thankful for all that we have, and not look at the good things that our neighbors have and want those for ourselves as well. In fact, not only should we not jump on people, hit them and take what they have, like the men who stole Eduardo's cell-phone, we also should share what we have with those who lack the basic necessities of life, like food and clothing. For if we trust God, He will not only give us what we need, but more than what we need.”
I am not sure how much of that I got across, but at least I hit the high points.
The following Sunday, March 9, Eduardo, Luz María and I filled in whatever points we had overlooked about the 10 Commandments for the children in La Caramuca. For example, Eduardo talked more about what it meant to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. He emphasized that “the church” is not a grand building, but a community of believers gathered in one place for worship and prayer. “Each of us are the living stones that make up the structure of the church,” Eduardo said.
I also preached that morning at Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas on the resurrection of Lazarus. You can read the text of the sermon (in Spanish) here.
We give thanks for recent generous contributions from Chuck and Chris Hewitson of St. John's Lutheran Church, Vancouver, Washington, and Children's Christian Concern Society of Topeka, Kansas. Thanks to these gifts, we were able to purchase a desktop computer for $300 (including the monitor). This opportunity coincided with the offering of a class in computing taught by Zulay Puerta, a member of Corpus Christi. As part of her teaching position with the public school system, Zulay was assigned to teach a course in Ubuntu Linux in the nearby town of La Mula. Luz María has been taking about a dozen children from La Caramuca to this course every week.
Ubuntu Linux is the operating system that I have installed in the old desktop system that I brought down from the United States. I have used various iterations of Linux since 1997, starting with Caldera OpenLinux and progressing through Mandrake, SuSe and now Ubuntu. I think Ubuntu 6.06 is the best so far, although all the distributions have their strengths and weaknesses. I have had experience with other operating systems as well, including Windows, OS/2, Macintosh OS 7, OS 9 and OS X Jaguar. Linux is the best and keeps getting better. Lack of security and vulnerability to viruses alone makes me wonder why anyone uses Microsoft products.
Anyway, about the time that Zulay started teaching her course, we heard that Eliana Carrasco, a member of El Paraiso Lutheran Church in Barquisimeto, had a son who was closing his cybercafe business. So he had a lot of inventory he needed to liquidate at a discount.
The computer we bought is a Compaq Deskpro ESX. I recall using an earlier model of the Compaq Deskpro as managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Ridge-Till Hotline for Lessiter Publications in Brookfield, Wisconsin. I always appreciated the quality workmanship. This one is a little different than that 1980s-vintage Compaq: It has a 1.4-gigaHertz processor, 128 megabytes of RAM and it did have a 20-gigabyte hard drive until I replaced that with a 40-gigabyte disk from the no-longer-functioning computer that Luz María had.
Then I wiped the system clean of Windows and installed Ubuntu Linux and placed the computer on a mobile cart. The idea is that the children will have a computer with which they can practice their lessons while leaving our “office computer” free. God willing, as we expand our school, we would like to join the computers in a wireless network to share an Internet connection. That way several people (teachers or students) could access the Internet for study.
Internet access is important to our project as most education, but especially theological education, is by distance learning. As Luz María and her daughters, Yepci and Charli, work toward their public certification as teachers, they have received more and more assignments that require on-line research. Also, hard copies of Christian educational materials in Spanish are rather difficult for us to obtain, but it is easier to download and print what we need.
We have received an invitation from the family of Sarai's husband, José, to travel to the neighboring state of Apure during Holy Week and lead a vacation Bible school. Actually, a number of our preschool and Sunday school children are members of the same family (like many small towns, La Caramuca really consists of three or four large, extended families to whom everyone is related either by blood or marriage). This is a great opportunity because, to our knowledge, no representatives of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela have ever visited Apure. At first we thought we would all go, but Eduardo and I are committed to leading Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services at Corpus Christi. If we had our truck or van, we would be able to take a group from La Caramuca on a flying trip to and from Apure on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week b,ut we are limited by the logistics of public transportation. So now the plan is for Luz María, Charli, Sarai, José, Edwar José and maybe one or two other children to travel to Apure while Eduardo, Yepci and myself stay here.
May God bless each and every one of you this Holy Week.