Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A few prayer requests from Ohio...

Prayer is the most powerful tool we have because we are asking for intervention from the Almighty God. I ask that you please intervene for my family in Ohio...

  • My nephew Collin has a severe case of strep throat right now. When he was at the doctor's office on Monday, they said his tonsils were so swollen that they were blocking his airway. Please pray for a complete healing for him.
  • My mom has been having issues with a broken hand that will not heal. On Monday, she underwent a complete body bone scan to see what is going on. Please pray for positive results from the bone scan.
  • My brother-in-law Erich had a kidney transplant last November. He was taken to the hospital yesterday. The doctors think that his body is starting to reject his new kidneys. Pray that the kidneys are not rejected.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Speak English

Anyone here who knows at least a little bit of English has been trying to practice their English with me. When I respond to them in English, many have no idea what I am saying, but they still like to try. The kids at the church always want to hear me talk in English. I think they think its neat that I am talking and they have no idea what I'm saying. I'm sure it sounds the same to them as it does when they talk to me in rapid-fire Spanish and I have no idea what they said. Anyway, they often ask me to speak English (asking me this in Spanish, of course), which I usually do with a phrase or two, which satisfies them for a while.

Well, on Sunday, the children's classes at the church were a little wild. With a few teachers out due to illness, the teachers that were there had some difficulty controlling behavior while trying to teach the lessons. One class in particular was being more difficult than usual.

The class was nearing the end and the kids were restless. Their teacher, Jean Marco, was having difficulty controlling them and a few tried "escaping" from the classroom a few times, only to be caught by yours truly and brought back to their room. The last time I brought them back in, many of the kids were asking me to speak English, so I told them we were all going to practice some English.

I asked all the kids to sit down in their seats. Then I told all the kids, in English, to stand up. I mimicked standing up and they all stood up. Then I told them to sit down and I mimicked sitting down. They all sat down. Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down. I was talking to them in English and they were responding correctly. We added a few more. Run. Stop. Walk. Jump. Turn around. After mimicking it just one time, they knew what the word meant and were able to do it with my just speaking it in English.

This is a language learning method I learned at CIT last fall. Its called Total Physical Response or TPR for short. The brain is able to remember more if it has an action that can be combined with the word. Involving the kids physically helped them to be able to learn and remember what they were hearing in a foreign language.

We tried this with language helpers last October. I was learning some Russian. I can still remember the words for walk, run, sit down, and stop in Russian (although I doubt I could say them properly myself and I know I couldn't write them in Russian). However, 5 months later, I would still recognize those words if I heard them again.

The children loved practicing English and it allowed them to focus on something other than running from the room and the teacher for the last few minutes before their parents picked them up from class.

Side note: Jean Marco is an excellent teacher. He is a 16 year old boy who does a great job with the children. He teaches Sunday School every Sunday for 2 services and also teaches on occasional Wednesdays as well. He has tremendous patience with the children and works great with them. I wish there were more teenagers like him to work with the kids.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A celebration of life!

For Venezuelans, birthday parties are a big deal. This is a celebration of a person's life. In Venezuela, birthdays are celebrated by family and friends together at parties that last several hours, usually ending sometime early the next day.
On Saturday, I attended the birthday party for the son of a cousin of a friend. The birthday boy was turing the ripe old age of 1. The party "began" at 6:30pm. There were tons of people there, talking and celebrating. The party continued long after I left at 11:30pm (after all, I have church in the morning). Here are some of the pictures from the party... (keep in mind, this was a party for a one year old child)

The main tables for all party treats. This is also where the 2 cakes were located later in the evening.

The 30 foot inflatable slide for the many children who were invited to the party.

The birthday boy, Diego, attacking the piñata at about 10:30pm.

Even the adults get in on the piñata action after it has been broken.

This birthday party was a bit of culture shock for me. For me and my family, birthdays are not that big of a deal. We celebrate in a much more subdued manner. We usually just have a small dinner/ gathering with just our immediate family. However, as I become integrated into Venezuelan culture, the differences I see here now will become familiarities to me.


"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years. and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth. And it was so. God made two great lights-- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to goven the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to goven the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning-- the fourth day."' (Genesis 1:14-19)

On Wednesday, I was able to watch portions the moon disappear in the sky. Wednesday night the moon moved into the shadows of the Earth that were cast by the Sun, causing a total lunar eclipse.

We here in Maracaibo were blessed with clear skies to be able to see this event. While I was watching the moon disappear, I was thinking about how God created the moon, the Sun, the stars, the planets, and everything. He created all that there is, great and small. He controls it all. He is the designer of the eclipse. And while He is taking care of controlling the universe, keeping the planets and stars in motion, He still cares about me. One person on this planet amongst the 6 billion living here. He cares about everything that happens in my life. He cares about everyone on this planet, because we are His precious creation. God did not send His Son to die for the sake of the moon or the stars, but for us.
So, the next time you look up and see the Sun, the moon, or the stars, or even when you look around at our planet, remember that as much as God cared to put everything in its place, He cares for you even more.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday... a day of rest????

Believe it or not, Sundays are my busiest day. Let me give you a run down of my day today. This will also give you a little insight on what we like to refer to as "Venezuelan Time".

I woke up at 7:00am to get ready for church. I was told by my host mom last night that we were leaving for church at 8:00am. Church starts at 8:30am. By 8:00am, she was still in pajamas. She started getting ready at 8:40am. We left the house at 9:18am.

I spent the next 5 hours observing, videotaping, noting, and working with the children's Sunday School classes at the church. This is exhausting work for someone who is completely healthy. However, I am still battling my illness. I have become completely wiped of energy and by the end of the 3rd service (a little after 2pm) I was fighting to stay awake and alert. We left the church sometime between 2:30 and 3pm.

At times it is hard for me to enjoy church because I am still in the observation time for the children's classes and don't get to spend time actually in church beyond the initial 3 worship songs. I did manage to sneak into the service to hear the second half of the pastor's message, but by then, as exhausted as I was, not too much was sinking in. I asked God for an opportunity to have church time without it being a "work time".

After church, a group of us went to the mall for lunch. We sat in the food court chatting until around 5:30 or 6pm. While we were there, I was told that a friend of mine, Abraham, had been invited to preach at a church this evening. I was invited to go along to hear his message. As exhausted as I was by then, I decided that this was God's answer to my prayer. I was not about to pass this up.

We left the mall and went to the church, where we originally thought the service started at 7:00pm. When we got there, the church was locked up. The pastor let us in and we realized that the service did not start at 7. We were told it started at 7:30. A little later, we were told it starts at 8:00. By about 8:15 most of the people had gathered and the service was about to begin.

The service was great. God provided me with enough alertness to be able to stay awake during this service. At the end of this service, the pastor (who discovered that there was a missionary visiting from the United States), ask me to address the congregation. I love the absolutely no notice speaking times because it allows God to speak through me without me stepping in and overthinking.

After the service, our same group decided to go out to dinner at a small street vendor stand. These are very common here (and sometimes very popular). We sat, ate, and chatted for a while. I arrived home just before midnight.

I love Sundays. They are always so full of activity. However, I think I now need a day of rest to recover from my "Day of rest".

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It was bound to happen eventually...

It was all around me. Everywhere I went. Home, church, everywhere. So I knew it was bound to happen.

The people I spend the most time with here have been sick for the past week, so I knew it was going to hit me too. Well, yesterday it did.

When the sore throat started, I knew. The headache and nausea soon followed. I tried to convince myself that it was just from being in the cold air of the air conditioning that was giving me a sore throat, but I knew it was more than that.

I rested most of the evening yesterday. When I woke up today, I still had the sore throat, headache, and nausea, but added a few other symptoms. I called my friends to find out how to get some medicine.

Before I knew it, they had called the doctor. Here, doctors still make house calls. It's a form of paramedics who arrive and do the same things that the doctors do during an office visit.

They said that I have an infection that is just beginning. They gave me list of medications I should get from the farmacia, similar to getting a prescription but no prescriptions are needed here to get medicine. One of the medications is in the form of an injection. I don't like shots. However, if it's needed to make me better so I can serve God to the fullest, then it's a small price to pay.

Total cost for the paramedic visit... Bs.F 0 ($0.00)

Total cost for the medications.... Bs.F 60.25 ($28.02)

So, some medicine and rest and I should be as good as new really soon.

Iglesia Cristiana Filadelfia

Iglesia Cristiana Filadelfia


One of the Children's Sunday School classes

My desk in the church office

My office mate, Juan Carlos

Mision Ohio Information meeting

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hug Fest 2008

Today, I attended an all-day retreat out in the country (anything outside of the city limits is considered "country" here). With me were all of the ministry directors and the pastors. We enjoyed some excellent fellowship and a time of worship and prayer. The new organization system for the ministries was presented as well. There were also several lessons for reflection. One of these lessons was about hugs.

Did you know that there are several benefits to a hug?
  • Makes a person feel good
  • Takes away loneliness
  • Opens doors to friendship
  • Helps build self-esteem

  • Helps reduce tension

  • Helps with insomnia

  • Keeps a person young

After having a tense discussion on "the hug", which included demonstrations on how to hug properly, the group put it to practice. And so began "Hug Fest 2008". The goal was simple- give everyone in the room a hug. This hugging lasted for 25 minutes as people sought out those they had yet to hug.

As somone from a culture where hugging is not exactly the norm for people who don't know each other very well, this was a culture shock. The Venezuelans loved this. They are very much a hugging culture. And, as I observed (and participated) in this hugging, I noticed that the benefits of the hugging were evident by everyone.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


I love Sundays. I love being in God’s house, worshipping Him with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Today I went to Filadelfia Church and had a great time of worship and communion. The pastor introduced me to the congregation in each of the 3 services. I was given a very warm welcome by everyone, which I have found is a characteristic of the Venezuelans. They are a very warm, welcoming, loving culture and people.

At the beginning of the third service, one of the ushers came up to me and told me to go up by the Pastor on stage where he and his wife sit for the service. This is a seat of honor to be on stage with the Pastor and his wife and I was honored that the pastor wanted me to sit up there with them. Then, I was thinking, I am not worthy of this great honor. I am just a servant who has come to serve God by serving them. But it made me think, this is how I am with God. I am not worthy of His love and affection, of His Grace. But He loves me so much that He has lifted me up out of my unworthiness and made me His child. What an awesome honor and privilege it is to be called a child of the King of kings and the Lord of lords!!


Yesterday, all of the new directors and coordinators were gathered together for a day-long training. I was invited to come to this training. A special guest speaker from Caracas was presenting the material. Of course, the entire workshop was completely in Spanish and the workshop covered some intense material. My goal of the workshop was not to see how much I can learn about the new planning methods that were presented or to be able to analyze the strengths and weaknesses that are present and determine the problems, the causes of these problems, and the best solutions to these problems. My goal was simple… to see how much Spanish I could understand without a translator. I think this was too intense of a workshop for me to try something like this. By the afternoon, after concentrating with all my strength on trying to understand what was going on, I had given myself a headache and still wasn’t sure of everything that was being said. O well. I know that when talking one and one with someone, if they talk at a relatively “normal” rate of speed (not super hyper speed like people here speak), then I generally can understand most of what is being said, which to me is great progress.