Last Saturday we drove to Valencia (3hr drive to the west) for the annual Christmas luncheon for the pastors of the C&MA Venezuela. It was a beautiful morning for a drive, not a cloud in the sky...which is amazing since we are still at the tail end of rainy season so it seems like it's cloudy every day!
Although we thought we were a little late, of course we ended up being early....and Chris was asked to help lead the worship (that's him at the front on the left practicing for a few brief moments). I admire Chris' flexibility and willingness to jump in and help on a moment's notice, and when he leads worship, I think God uses him in wonderful ways.
Two of the pastor's wives chatting. These women are integral parts of their churches as they lead their own ministries as well.
When mostly everyone had arrived, we started the program....worship, news and greetings from each of the churches represented, gifts for the kids in attendance (and for us big kids too), a delicious Venezuelan Christmas meal, and encouragement and fellowship.
This is Marcelo, the pastor of the church we met at for the luncheon, and the president of the C&MA in Venezuela. We had a really enjoyable time visiting with the pastors and church leaders we are slowly getting to know better, and it was good to catch up on what God is doing through the Alliance churches in Venezuela.
On the way home we passed by a garbage and/or grass fire, right on the side of the road...no biggie.
Forgive the bad cell-phone photo...but it's a sight we always see on the way back to Caracas. Images of some of the men who helped liberate Venezuela from Spain. Roads, buildings, squares and monuments are named after them and they are even carved into this rock above the tunnels!
This trip was a great way to kick off celebrating this Christmas season, I hope December brings much joy and blessing to each of you also!
I found this little guy staring at me today. Isn't he adorable??? Click the photo to enlarge it if you need convincing. Actually, he wasn't so small, I'd say he was a bit bigger than my palm. But seriously, I think he was giving me puppy dogs eyes or something. We can be friends, but I prefer he doesn't come in my house, so I've been keeping a sharp eye on him. He reminds me of some of the crazy huge bugs I saw in Costa Rica (Google images of the rhinocerous beetle and thank me later). And last week I had the pleasure of being underneath a tree as 6 or 7 brightly coloured wild parrots sat and squawked and flapped and gorged themselves on fruit, throwing whatever was not edible down onto the cars parked below and making a general mess. But it really is a lovely sight to see a group of parrots soaring around together. Although I miss my bug-free days in Canada, I really love discovering all these sights....yes, even the ones that creep me out!
Some of you may know that I went to my first Venezuelan dentist last week. It was not too traumatizing an experience, actually it was fairly enjoyable. I'm thankful that my parents were so diligent with getting me to the dentist and orthodontist when I was young, because it makes me feel so guilty that I haven't been since I left Canada (did I just admit that?), and I do want to do better!! So of course, it took a toothache to get the wheels in motion. Last Thursday I went to my spanish lesson and had my tutor help me think of all the vocabulary I might need at the dentist. Then I went to a dental office in my neighbourhood to make an appointment. It was 2pm, and they weren't taking appointments til 3....sigh....so I decided to keep walking and found another dental office that looked so much more welcoming. I got my appointment for the next day, Friday, and had a pretty good appointment with the dentist (other than the fact that she had to inflict pain in order to find out where the pain was coming from...so glad I don't have her job!) She got me patched up a bit then gave me a cleaning...yes, the dentist did my cleaning! However, she didn't have an xray machine in her office so she sent me off with an order for xrays. I went today to get them done and will be making another appointment at the dentist, hopefully for this Friday. I think this is the first time I've ever handled my own xrays so I couldn't resist taking a photo. Please notice that my name is marked as Kelly Ryer. Which reminds me of the pastoral retreat we went to where I was registered as Kerry Dyer, and the Hieberts were registered as Chris and Angela Dyer.
Anyway, here are my lovely teeth....
I feel that before I sign off, I should mention that anyone who is "dentally inclined" should not look too closely or tell me what they see wrong with my teeth, it will ruin the surprise for me at my next appointment!
About a week and a half ago, I got to go on a road trip and as with any adventure in Venezuela, it was quite the ordeal! We started by heading out to the C&MA National Pastor's retreat...no wait, first we started with a prayer that our vehicles (ie: my car) would make the journey without incident. After picking up some pastors and lay leaders in Cartanal, we managed to fit 10 adults, 2 kids, an infant, a stroller, and all our luggage into our two vehicles (my car held 6 adults and the baby so I'll let you use your imaginations). We traveled through pouring rain and arrived in the town near the camp we were going to. Our only instructions to arrive at the camp were to stop at the town square and ask for directions from there (!). After asking 6 or 7 people, and a few wrong turns, we found our way to the country road and made it to the camp safe and sound. I am convinced that if we didn't have any Venezuelans with us, we would have never found our way there! It was a great weekend and I was able to enjoy time visiting with some of the leadership I have been getting to know over the past 2 years. Blake &Kathy came all the way from the Island to speak at the camp and I am so thankful for their insight, encouragement, and investment in the pastors of Venezuela.
From the camp, the Hieberts, Blake and Kathy and myself headed to Colonia Tovar for a few days of rest and relaxation (see photo above). My car sure got put through it's paces on the switchback roads heading to the little town in the mountains! Colonia Tovar was settled by Germans many years ago and they built the town to basically remind them of being back home in Germany! The descendants still speak German and serve delicious German food so I got my fill of schnitzel and sausage. What an interesting mix of Venezuelan and German cultures. It's a great little place to visit and although touristy, it's so much calmer than being in the city!
And the added bonus? My car survived! Prayer answered :)
Sometimes, living in South America makes me a little
disoriented (to say the least!).What I
mean is that Canadians learn to live life through the seasons, and you look
forward to each of the four seasons for different reasons.I loved winter because it meant breaking out
my cozy sweaters and my ice skates.Spring
brought fresh breezes, the joy of the snow melting and adventures awaiting as
the days get longer.Summer meant making
the best use of warm days to hang out at the lake, go on road trips, and BBQs
in the back yard; and fall meant a return to routine, and the smell of the
falling leaves.These are things that I
admit I miss from Canada, and one reason is because they marked the passing of
time and my movement through the year.
Now here I am in South America. I am close enough to the equator that the sun
basically rises and sets at the same time. Every day. There is a dry season and a rainy season, but
they both just feel like “summer” to me.Right now it’s “fall” in Canada, but here the leaves remain green and intact.I know that if I feel like it, I could go to
the beach and it will probably be sunny and hot no matter what day I choose,
whether in July or January.And there is
no need to consult ‘The Weather Network’ or even discuss the weather with
strangers….it’s basically always the same.These are things I love about living in Venezuela! But good grief, it
makes it difficult to mentally pass through the year!As a Canadian who has arrived into Latin
America a little later in life, I think it’s one of those things that might
always be hard to get my head around.
But I’m thankful that this past July and August, I was able
to have quite a distinct “summer” season.Stacy came down to visit and we started out with a bang and a few days
holiday in Aruba. Then a week and a half enjoying the ups and downs of life in
Caracas.The day after she left, I was
off to Mexico City for our field retreat and it was so good to be together once
again with others serving with the C&MA in Latin America.Plus I saw some of the sights in Mexico City
and even got in a trip to Sears and Walmart!Shortly after getting back, the Hieberts and I welcomed a short term
team from Abbotsford for 2 weeks and had some really great experiences
including a 4 day VBS at the international church here in Caracas.And just like that, “summer” is over.With holidays and VBS, it actually almost
felt like a summer in Canada!But now
here I am looking out my window and the perpetual summertime continues…although
life moves onto other things as kids get ready for back-to-school and I start
planning for the next 4 months.I think it’s as good a time as any to remember
the consistency that God brings to my life.He is never-changing, always-present and ever-faithful, and no matter if
you live in the north or the south, that is a good anchor to hold on to.
I must have blocked it from my memory, but I just remembered
that I had another traumatizing moment yesterday trying to buy broccoli.This would be my third trauma, and so I think
that means I am now giving up broccoli for good (while I’m here, anyway).My first trauma came maybe 2.5 years ago when
I was still living in Costa Rica.I was
having lunch in a restaurant and my soup, that contained broccoli, also contained
a small worm.I had already eaten half
the soup, but all of a sudden, it didn’t taste that good to me…..Second trauma,
about a year ago.“Let’s buy some
broccoli!” I thought when I went to the grocery story.I had been avoiding it because it requires
soaking and thorough cleaning before cooking, and let’s face it…when it comes
to food prep, I’m just lazy.As I was
looking through all the beautiful green and fresh heads of broccoli, guess what
popped up and gave me the stink eye (I presume)?Yes, another little worm.So that brought me up to yesterday.Again, in the produce aisle.Craving broccoli.And look!Pre-packaged broccoli!!Now,
surely it’s been chopped up a bit more and they have pulled out any offensive
bugs and creepy crawlies.I picked up
one package….ONE PACKAGE!And of all the
packages I picked up, this one had a……well, I’m still trying to figure out what
it was in that package.I could only
look at it so long before I just got totally creeped out. But my best guess is that it was a baby snake.
But dead and refrigerated for who knows how long.I could have picked any package on the shelf,
and probably walked away happy…why did I have to pick that exact
package???Anyway, I’m sorry to say my
broccoli days are now over except at events where it is unavoidable, and even then I
will inspect my food more closely than a CSI at a crime scene.
I have had quite a busy few months, which I would love to
tell you all about too…and I will.I
just had to get the broccoli story out there first for y’all because I know how
much you love hearing about the moments that make me squirm!
Over the past year, it is true that we have experienced shortages of various things....meat, milk, flour, sugar. But imagine my surprise when yesterday at the local grocery store, I couldn't find toilet paper! I also went to a drug store, but there was none there either. Nobody seemed to be panicking over it, so I know that it must be available in other stores at the moment, so today I will continue my search for the elusive cottony goodness. I don't want to blow out of proportion the things that we have given up to be here in Venezuela, because really, the things that I can't get here are truly things that I can live without. Nor am I starving or desperate for a little pampering. I have just had to learn to get creative and/or find things made here in Venezuela to fill the gaps of things I miss from home. And I must admit, I have found some really great stuff! My favourite treats as of late have been gelato, and Kindy (a lime drink concentrate). I know that I still have it so much better than so many people in the world, and even in this country. God has blessed me greatly. I was also reminded by a conversation I had with a friend the other day of how much more grateful I am of the little things, than I was just 3 years ago. I receive so much more joy in the small things, and that is something I don't want to lose, especially when I'm back in Canada. So it sounds weird, and maybe slightly inappropriate, but I want to say that I acknowledge the joy of toilet paper! And here's hoping a bit of that joy comes my way in the next day or two!
Thank you so much to everyone who has been praying for Venezuela. My blog wouldn't load properly yesterday so I'm trying again today just to give an update. God has been answering prayers and since Monday, when there was a little bit of violence from protesters, things have remained fairly peaceful. Every night at 8pm supporters of the opposition continue to take up their pots and pans and bang them in protest (called a cacerolazo), continuing to ask for a recount of the votes. I suspect that it will only go on for one more night, tonight, since tomorrow is the inauguration of President Maduro. Please continue to pray that tomorrow things will remain calm as people take to the streets to celebrate. And that both leaders (who are Catholic) would truly feel the peace of Christ in their hearts. I plan on watching the festivities from the comfort of my home. Thank you for your prayers for me and my teammates. Although we have our opinions on the situation, we only share them with each other :) and try to remain very neutral when talking to our friends... but as you can imagine, sometimes it is hard to stay neutral in a country divided down the middle. I think that's what makes me saddest about this whole situation...the division. It is so hard to see a country so divided, friends divided, families divided because of their political beliefs. Please pray with me for a unified Venezuela, trusting that God has this country in the palm of his hand. I think there are many spiritual lessons that can be gleaned right now, not the least of which is waking up each day in confidence that God is working in the midst of us here.
It was a loud evening tonight! Yesterday, Maduro won the presidential election by a narrow margin. Capriles, the candidate for the opposition has called for a recount of the votes, but this afternoon Maduro said the results are irreversible and there will be no recount. Capriles has countered this with a call to his supporters for peaceful protest. There had been protests earlier in the day, part of a freeway was blocked, and apparently tear gas was used. But this evening at 8pm his supporters went into the plazas, stood at their windows and took to the streets banging pots and pans, blowing whistles, honking horns and setting off fireworks in protest. It was LOUD!! It sounds like there might be more protests organized for tomorrow, please pray that they stay peaceful, and that Venezuelans would have hope and peace in these days.