Jul 20, 2009

Giving thanks for a successful semester

Sandro's diplomaOn July 5, the first Sunday in July this year (and also Independence Day in Venezuela) Sandro Perez requested a special prayer of thanksgiving for the completion of another semester of school. Our summer break has begun and the new semester begins in mid September. Sandro, who suffered a couple of bouts with dengue fever this past year, will start seventh grade. This is an important moment for Sandro, because many children in our community drop out of school after sixth grade (the maximum amount of education required by law).

Angie Perez and Noel Marquina also will enter seventh grade next semester. Sandro and Noel have been confirmed, while Angi is preparing for her confirmation this fall. She and Sandro are not related; Perez is a name like Smith, Jones or Johnson in the United States. The Venezuelan equivalent of "John Smith" would be "Pedro Perez".

We also prayed for the health of Angi s brother, Jimmy Perez, who was ill to the point of coughing up blood, but who now is recuperating and for the nations of the world to peacefully resolve their problems. Amid our everyday concerns, all eyes have been glued to the television for news of -- well, not so much the aftermath of Michael Jackson's death, although the pop star's funeral was enough of a spectacle to merit extensive coverage. People here are more concerned with the civil unrest in Honduras and what it means for all of Latin America.
Later in the week Luz Maria went to town with Sandro and some of the other children receiving scholarships from Children's Christian Concern Society of Topeka, Kansas, to help them buy school uniforms with their scholarship money. Almost all Venezuelan schools, public or private, require school uniforms. The children in our preschool wear a uniform that consists of a red shirt and blue slacks.

On Wednesday, July 15, we had a graduation ceremony for 12 children who will be leaving our preschool and starting first grade next semester. The group included Luz Maria's granddaughter, Oriana Montoya, who will celebrate her seventh birthday in December. Oriana was born just six months before my arrival in Venezuela in 2003, so strange as it seems to say, I have known her nearly all her life.
Oriana receives her diploma
The other graduates were:

  • Kelvis Artahona
  • Yerika Galindez
  • Kemberling Altuve
  • Gianny Roa
  • Jeiximar Arellano
  • Yorman Poveda
  • Maikel Caraballo
  • Jhon Piñero
  • Ana Garcia
  • Gaudis Rangel

Only Gaudis was not able to attend the graduation. The rest were there with their families. I opened by reading from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 18, verses 1-10. Then, since the children learned the Lord's Prayer this semester, I led them in singing a version of it set to music. I liked this song from the first time I heard it. Ruth Witte, wife of Pastor Henry Witte, a former missionary to Venezuela, sang it to a group of vacation Bible school children at Roca de Eternidad (Rock of Ages) Lutheran Church in Quebrada Seca, Monagas.

Padre nuestro, que estás en los cielos,
Santificado, santificado sea Tu nombre.

Venga a nos, Tu reino, Señor, hágase tu santa voluntad.
En el cielo y la tierra, haremos Tu santo voluntad.

Danos hoy, dánoslo Señor, nuestro pan, el pan de cada día,
Y perdona nuestras deudas, así nosotros perdonamos.

No nos dejes caer en tentación; antes bien, líbranos del mal.
No nos dejes caer en tentación, líbranos del mal.

Porque tuyo es el reino, Señor, el poder y toda la gloria,
Por los siglos de los siglos, para siempre, aleluya, amén.

I cannot sing like Ruthie Witte, nor can I play the cuatro (four-stringed guitar). But the children sang from memory and with impressive volume and enthusiasm, which was the main idea.

Later on, Vicar Alonso Franco arrived from Barinas to lead the children in more songs to the accompaniment of a guitar. He was delayed by rain and road construction, but that really did not matter. Alonso has begun teaching the guitar to a group of boys in La Caramuca on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have given up trying to learn guitar chords for the time being so these guys will have the chance to practice with our guitar.

After saying a prayer for the coming semester, for the children passing on to first grade and for those returning to our preschool, the graduation ceremony continued with the awarding of diplomas, and, of course, cake and refreshments.

Homilectics and hermeneutics

Dr. Douglas Rutt in CaracasFrom June 29 to July 3, 2009, I attended a seminar in homilectics in Caracas, taught Dr. Douglas Rutt of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Actually, the course combined the study of homilectics (preaching) and hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation) as the two are closely related. It is a course generally taught to second-year students at the Fort Wayne seminary. Our thanks to Dr. Rutt for his willingness to travel to Venezuela to teach this course.

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