Monday, October 20, 2008

And the next President of the United States is...

Today, I had the opportunity to exercise my rights as an American citizen. Yep, today I voted for the next president of the United States. Now, I know some people were wondering if I would be able to vote, since I am not in the USA right now. Let me explain the process...

In the summer, while I was in Ohio, I filed for an absentee ballot. I had to put my address in Ohio and my address in Venezuela where I wanted to have my ballot sent. The application was processed and an official absentee voting ballot was sent out to me in the beginning of October. I called the Board of Elections to verify this and was told it should arrive in 2 weeks.

However, this is Venezuela- with an almost non-existant postal system. I never got the ballot. I received an email from the US Embassy saying that it was time to mail in my ballot if I had not done so already. But I didn't have it... so now what?

I called the Board of Elections again and the nice lady in the office there was sure it would arrive any day now and that I should get it in time to mail it in. She obviously doesn't understand how things work here. She did say that if it didn't come in time, I could print off an emergency write-in ballot and mail that in, which is what I did.

The best option for mailing it in was to send it through the American Embassy and Consulate office here in Venezuela. Of course, the Embassy is in Caracas and the Consulate office in Maracaibo is only open on Monday mornings from 8:30am- 12:00pm. So, last night, I completed my ballot and declaration form- verifying that it is me voting, and printed it out... well, not exactly. My printer would not print.

This morning I went to try to find security envelopes (which do not exist here), print my ballot at a printing shop, and go to the consulate office to send in my ballot. I spoke with the American Consulate and he wasn't sure if I needed to have my ballot notorized. He had to call Caracas and find out. Ohio does not require it. So, into the double envelopes, sealed, and affixed with 1 USA first-class stamp, my ballot is being sent to Ohio. :-)

Now, all I can do is pray that God will allow the right person to win the election. After all, it's in His hands anyway!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Back to school

There is a concept in the teaching profession- for teachers to be lifelong learners. Well, although I am technically not teaching right now, I am still a teacher, and I am continuing my education. I am a student again!

This week, I started taking 2 classes.

Class #1- The first class is part of the Christian Education department at the church. Filadelfia Church offers 15 different courses for members to become more educated in their Christian faith and to develop their understanding of the fundamentals and the beyond- fundamentals (more advanced portions) of Christianity. Monday nights, I will be studying the History of the Church (Part 1). This course starts with the church immediately after the death and resurrection of Jesus and continues through the decades, teaching about the development and advancement of the church. I want to see how much I can understand in a classroom situation taught completely in Spanish and see what I can learn in the process. :-)

Class #2- The second class I am taking is a Spanish Sign Language Class. This class is offered through a school for deaf students in the city. On Tuesday mornings, they offer Sign Language and Language Therapy classes for the parents of the deaf children. These classes are open to the community for anyone who would like to learn. Since my minor in college was American Sign Language, the idea of learning Spanish Sign was intriguing. Spanish Sign and American Sign are as different as speaking Spanish and English- and I am trying to keep the two languages separate. When class started yesterday, the professor asked if everyone believed in God. She then lead the class in a prayer (Christian prayer- not Catholic). I was both suprised and excited about this. I am not used to anything outside of the church starting with prayer, but it was exciting that the professor is Christian.

The topic for instruction was learning the signs for the members of the family- words like Mom, Dad, Son, Daughter, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, etc. In the process of going through these signs, we learned other signs. Some signs I learned were: dog, street, learn, understand, sad, die. I also learned "let's go to church on Sunday". I also know how to say "The son of God died for you". I am hoping that the aquisition of this new language will open up new doors of evangelism into the deaf community- especially since Filadelfia Church now has a Sign Language Interpreter on Sunday afternoons for interpreting the service.

So, it is back to school for me- with the possibility of expanding my opportunities to be used by God.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Marcha Para Jesús

This afternoon, under blue skies and a blazing Maracucho sun with heat indices nearing 110ºF, thousands of people gathered together to walk the streets of Maracaibo, Venezuela. Was this some sort of political parade? No. Actually, it was a celebration. It was the celebration of Jesus! That's right, thousands of people walked through the city, proclaiming Jesus is Lord, He is alive, and He is the way!

Young and old, from every church and every denomination in the city they came. Crowded within the street next to the plaza, packed like sardines, we waited for the march to begin (more than an hour late- very typical of Venezuela). Once it began, there was singing, clapping, and shouting "Cristo vive!" as we walked down the main streets of town, heading for the stadium several kilometers away.

All traffic was stopped for our march. People in the cars, trapped by the march and the traffic behind them, wondered why all these people were marching. You could tell in the quizzical looks on their faces. One man was actually driving down the other side of the street with his head turned backwards, checking out what was happening on our side of the street. Many people from the apartment complexes were looking out their windows, shouting and waving Venezuelan flags.

We stopped in several places where we prayed for the city. When we approached the stadium more than 2 hours later, everyone was hot and tired, but energized from the excitement of proclaiming the name of Jesus throughout the city!

Gathering for the march

Marching through the city streets- for Jesus!

Pray for peace!

Hands lifted high in adoration of Jesus

Venezuela and Zulia State flags- declaring Jesus Lord of Maracaibo, Zulia, and all of Venezuela!

Marching into the stadium at the end of the march.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An invitation to pray

I would like to invite you to pray for Venezuela on October 12. On this day, thousands of Christians will be marching through the streets of every major city in the country... for Jesus!! This event is called "Marcha para Jesús". ( Every year, on October 12, thousands of Christians fill the streets across Venezuela (and other parts of the world on various days throughout the year!) and walk through the streets proclaiming that Jesus is the Answer and Savior for Venezuela!

I am excited to participate in this event. This will be my first march and I am excited to see all of my brothers and sisters in Christ come out into the streets on a hot, Maracucho, Sunday afternoon to proclaim Jesus is Lord!

And so, I ask you to please pray. Pray for the march. Pray for the people who will be marching- for their health and well-being as it will be very hot at that time (most likely with a heat index near 110ºF- and the march goes for about 2 hours). Pray for the people who will be seeing the march- for them to understand that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Pray for the country of Venezuela- that there will be a turning to Jesus and a great revival. Pray for the leaders of the country, including President Chavez- for his salvation- and for the stability in the political climate of the country.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

A difficult day of ministry

Yesterday, a large group of people- young and young at heart- went to the senior citizens' center/ nursing home to do ministry with the elderly. We have gone here before and it is usually a joy to see the looks on the faces of the people as we come in to "celebrate" with them. As one of the residents told me yesterday after looking at all the balloons, "we are having a party!" There was singing, dancers, refreshments, and a time to be able to share the Gospel with them. While not all of the residents there were able to understand, some did and prayed to receive Christ!

However, this was a very difficult time for me. Yesterday was my Gramma's birthday. Gramma went to be with the Lord last December, and this was our first October 4th without her. I knew it was going to be a difficult day for me- I was very close with her- but going to the party at the senior center was a little too much for me to handle. I was unable to stop the tears as I started thinking about the party that would have been thrown for her if she was still on the earth and the party she is experiencing in Heaven.

While I know that she is in Heaven and I will see her again, it is still hard being away from her right now. I look forward to our reunion in Heaven and can't wait til I can talk to her again- and tell her all about what God has done in my life since she left (although she might already know!)
I love you Gramma. I miss you. I will see you again!