We closed the 2010-2011 school year July 11 with an informal graduation ceremony for the eight children who will be leaving our preschool for first grade in September. Our graduates are:
- Marli A. Albarran P.
- Karla V. Altuve R.
- Dayimar A. Aranguren F.
- Brayan J. Arteaga P.
- Geiver J. Cordero U.
- Marlenis J. Piñero R.
- Solibeth del V. Sanchez S.
- Lorianny P. Vivas. M.
All of these children were born in 2005, three years after my first visit to Venezuela.
We also were delighted that many of the older children in our afternoon tutoring program finished the school year with overall grades of "A" or "B", a fact for which we gave thanks during the Sunday service.
My second bicentennial
I am experiencing a national bicentennial celebration for the second time this year. The first time, of course, was in 1976 in the United States. Now, in 2011, Venezuela is marking the 200th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence from Spain. Actually, not just Venezuela, but also Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico are celebrating their national bicentennials.
There was a big parade in Caracas and formal ceremonies in other parts of the country, but no fireworks to mark the bicentennial on July 5. That's Independence Day here, but fireworks are not part of the Independence Day tradition in Venezuela, but rather are associated with the Christmas season (setting off fireworks in the nighttime to early morning hours is supposed to mimic the appearance of the angels to the shepherds watching their flocks by night). By the way, Venezuelans also observe April 19 as a national holiday since April 19, 1810, was the day when revolutionary forces deposed the Spanish governor of Venezuela, effectively ending Spanish rule. However, July 5, 1811, was when Venezuela formally declared its independence.
The last decade has been one of economic and political upheaval, conflict and controversy in Venezuela. Despite being on different sides of the issues, I have been impressed from the beginning with the common desire of Venezuelans for a strong, independent nation. No one wants outside interference in Venezuelan affairs, which perhaps reflects the fact that despite winning independence from Spain 200 years ago, Venezuela has since struggled to be free of foreign economic domination and to realize the ideal of equal economic opportunity for all.Venezuela has enormous potential with abundant natural and human resources waiting to be used in the right way.
And what do I remember about my first bicentennial? Apart from the U.S. flag-themed license plates, T-shirts and other paraphernalia, more than a decade of scandal, disillusionment, inflation and unemployment, with still a few dark, depressing years to go.
But in the decade that followed, there was a renewal of national hope and confidence, buoyed by nearly 10 years of sustained economic recovery and the unexpected collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. It was an exciting time to be alive to be alive and to be an American. I saw really grand fireworks displays for the first time during this period, over the waters of Lake Michigan. This occurred at at various times in Chicago, Racine, WI, and Milwaukee. It was one great bicentennial decade.
Those happy days came to an end, of course. Both the best of times and the worst of times in this world pass. The ultimate triumph of good over evil will not occur in the political arena, and the interests of one nation, or alliance of nations, cannot be equated with the kingdom of God (for the elect of God will be gather from all nations, Isaiah 66:18, Revelation 7:9) God will raise up a nation or alliance of nation as a judgment against those that tolerate immorality and injustice (Job 12:23, Jeremiah 25:14). Yet for this reason, all kingdoms and empires of the earth eventually crumble to dust, for all are tainted by sin. Thus the counsel of Psalm 118:9, "It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes." We should beware of political movements that promise the complete elimination of war, poverty and other societal problems, for only the Gospel of Christ can transform sinful human nature.
Nevertheless, God Himself ordained civil government to execute the first use of the divine Law: to restrain the outward manifestations of sin, maintain external order and the safety of its citizens. Good government is a blessing and so St. Paul in 1 Timothy 2:2, admonishes all Christians to pray "for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" and so we do every Sunday in La Caramuca, first for the peace of the whole world, but especially for the national leadership of Venezuela, that it, too, may know a period of confidence, independence and hope for the future.