We took our show on the road Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010, with a journey to the town of Piritu in the neighboring state of Portuguesa. There is another place called Piritu in the eastern Venezuelan state of Anzoategui, also known as Puerto Piritu because it is a Caribbean beach resort town. As such, it could not be more different than Piritu, Portuguesa, a small farming community with the usual array of basic services and agriculture-related businesses.
We visited the home of Dina de Solanillo. When I first met Dina in 2003, she and her husband, Elvis (yes, he is named after the late Mr. Presley) were members of La Fortaleza Lutheran Church in Maracay. Dina served for some time as the church secretary. When I last saw them, Dina, Elvis and their newborn child were living in a tiny apartment. It consisted of one room, and not a very large room at that.
About eight months ago, Elvis found a better job in a butcher shop in Piritu, Portuguesa, and the family moved there. Now they have a much larger house, big enough to accommodate them and their two children, Sara and Josue. The problem is that there is no Lutheran church in Piritu, or in all of Portuguesa, for that matter. Piritu is about a two-hour drive from Barinas and approximately the same distance from Barquisimeto. So we are sharing the responsibility of ministering to the Solanillos with El Paraiso Lutheran Church of Barquisimeto.
The most difficult part about this, of course, is that we do not have our means of transportation. Rather we have to rely on public transportation or hire someone to drive us. This time, Luz Maria's brother, Robert, took us to Piritu, even though his son's 15th birthday party was that afternoon (the 15th birthday is a very important event in Venezuela, as in most Latin American countries).
Cost is only part of the difficulty with hiring transportation, there are also the logistics of coordinating your schedule and those of the people you mean to serve with that of a third party. I dream of the day when La Caramuca Lutheran Mission might have a minivan for transporting people and/or equipment and materials.
Our school year begins
The opening of our preschool for another semester was delayed to October 4 due to an important national election the last week in September. We were able to complete the installation of our playground equipment as well as needed maintenance projects.
In this new semester we are introducing a new method of teaching basic reading skills. Yolanda Marquez, the author of the book and accompanying teaching materials, came to our preschool on October 8 to explain the concept to the families of our preschool children. Venezuela has 26 states and territories, roughly corresponding to the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet (from Amazonas to Zulia). Actually, there is some repetition (Amazonas, Anzoategui, Apure, for example), so the name of every state does not correspond exactly to a letter of the alphabet, but if not, the name of the state capital or some landmark does. Also there are some sounds in Venezuelan Spanish that are treated as separate letters, although they do not correspond to the symbols of the common alphabet. But the goal is for the children to learn to associate letters, numbers and colors with geographical locations, using sounds and images of the traditional dress, music, food and natural wonders of each area to reinforce the point.
We had more visitors on October 9. Luz Maria's mother, Carmen, brought her younger sister, Eloena, to visit the preschool. The family organized a big celebration of Carmen's 80th birthday on Oct. 10, so people came to Barinas from across Venezuela for the event. Eloena lives in Ciudad Bolivar in eastern Venezuela.
Finally on Sunday, Oct. 11, Pastor Luis Moya of La Reforma (Reformation) Lutheran Church in San Felix de Guayana attended and assisted me with our worship service. Pastor Moya is a member of the administrative council of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela, which met in Barinas that weekend. It was his first trip to the state of Barinas and he specifically was looking forward to visiting our mission.