|With Denny Rosen in Perham, Minnesota.|
Nearly 15 years ago I joined a group of people who were forming a society to organize and raise funds for short-term mission trips to Venezuela. Most of them were members of St. Michael's Lutheran Church of Bloomington, Minnesota, and Woodbury Lutheran Church of Woodbury, Minnesota, and most already had made one trip to the Latin American country.
Many evening hours were spent drafting a constitution and by-laws, and attending to the mechanics of setting up what would be recognized as a non-profit organization by the state of Minnesota and the federal government of the United States. We also applied for and received membership in the Association of Lutheran Mission Agencies (ALMA). The resulting mission society was named the Venezuela Lutheran Mission Partnership (VLMP) and throughout the first decade of the 21st Century, VLMP would organize a series of successful mission trips and raise a considerable amount of money in support of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela.
|Pastor Phil Bickel|
|Pastor Paul Pfotenhauer|
Many people were involved in the formation of VLMP. As pastoral advisers we had Philip Bickel, then missions pastor at St. Michael's, and Paul Pfotenhauer, founding pastor of Woodbury Lutheran Church. Dale and Elizabeth Thompson, members of Woodbury, often hosted our organizational meetings at their home. Denny and Karen Rosen invited a group from VLMP to speak at St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Perham, Minnesota, and let us relax at their wonderful lakeside residence.
But it was Frank Janssen, a retired 3M engineer and member of Woodbury, who recently notified that VLMP had disbanded. Frank and I signed VLMP's charter with the state of Minnesota. Early in 2003 I rode with Frank and his wife, Kathy, from the Twin Cities to the ALMA annual convention in St. Louis and received a delightful guided tour of Iowa from native son, Frank. Eventually Frank would visit our mission in La Caramuca and his alter ego, Paco the Clown, would entertain the children.
|Paco the Clown|
Frank explained to me that, due to increasing concern over the political and economic instability in Venezuela, and the resulting unrest and violence, VLMP had not sent any short-term mission teams to Venezuela for the past several years. Without the "hands-on" experience that had driven the organization in its early days, many people formerly involved with it, had moved on to other interests.
So ends a chapter in the history of Lutheran mission work in Venezuela, but I do not believe that it is the end of the story. There remain many people in spiritual and material need here, and many opportunities to do the Lord's work. However, due to the current crisis, it will remain difficult for the national Lutheran church to sustain mission projects without help.
Since 2004, Epíphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca has depended on donations from individuals, congregations and mission societies in the United States. In the past we have directed anyone wishing to support our mission financially to send their contribution to VLMP, which has acted a clearinghouse for funds earmarked for Venezuelan projects. Now that VLMP is no longer in operation, I have set up a crowdfunding site where interested parties may donate to us on-line. We hope to gain more long-term donors for, God willing, we plan to expand our service to the people around us.
|Elizabeth Thompson and Cory Brasel in Caracas.|