26 Apr Valencia Venezuela Work Project, March 2015
The Venezuelan’s prayed, you prayed, and the team prayed before the project could even begin. The drastic economic situation in Venezuela made the acquisition of supplies seem impossible but God provided and day by day supplies were acquired and delivered. The project was able to continue – not to completion but essential construction proceeded on the expansion of the second floor of the church El Viñedo, the Vineyard church in Valencia, has been built on miracles since its beginning and the miracles continued while we worked. Changed lives was the first miracle; how the church building was acquired was another miracle, followed by the repayment of the loan acquired to purchase the building
It was hot! 32-35 Celsius, humid and thankfully a bit of breeze most days. It was noisy! Jackhammer pounding, side cutting and grinding, welding, cement mixer stirring. It was dangerous! Hammerheads flying off the handle, working on unstable scaffolds, lifting extremely heavy iron beams, turning over the huge iron rafters to be welded on the other side. Electrical workings were not following any codes – that’s for sure! The welder cable was wired directly into the electrical panel, yards of single electrical wire were stuck into a plug-in receptacle and more wires stuck in to continue on to reach where the grinder and side cutter would need to operate. The jackhammer ran off about 4-9 feet of light extension cords to reach the spot it was needed. The welding machine needed someone to hold the cable into it so it could operate. To prevent serious sun burns, bandanas were slipped under cap edges to prevent burnt ears and backs of necks (even with lots of sunscreen). We adopted a buddy system for anyone working on a scaffold or ladder to attempt safety for the one working in high places. It was also to ensure everyone had water or gatorade and didn’t spend too much time in direct sun. Two fellows suffered slight heatstroke before everyone working in direct sun took regular shade breaks. Michael and Del took turns welding and cutting until a second welding machine was brought on site. Still they were always laying down on the job in the shade, no less, which we set up so they didn’t have to weld in direct sun – unless they were up on a scaffold or ladder. We found blue jean legs worked better than nylon zip off legs stapled to the t-shirt arms for protection from welding flashes and sparks. Nylon caught on fire too easily. With gasoline as our washing agent for cleaning oil and dirt off the iron before painting, the cleaning crew had to be constantly alert to when and where welding, cutting or grinding was happening. We didn’t want an explosion!
Another miracle! Finally a crane operator was hired for the last Tuesday so heavy upright and cross beams could be lifted into place and then welded. The big rafters were finally welded and primed on both sides and ready to be lifted into place. Now that was a complicated and dangerous process getting those huge rafters into the drive through area, lifted over the gateway, onto the street, set down, reposition the strapping belts (or whatever they’re called) then lifted up, around a light post and onto the roof area into position on the upright beams and welded into place. The long roof purlins were delivered to the street, manually carried through the drive through to the courtyard to be cleaned, primed and carried back out onto the street to be lifted up onto the existing roof. A few of the purlins for the base of the second floor over the drive through were then welded into place. Q decking had been located but was not yet available. That’s as far as we got. Pictures really don’t show the amount of work accomplished. From the street and courtyard nothing really looked different than when we came. However, work has continued, the perlons have been welded onto the rafters. Hopefully the roof can be completed before the rainy season in May.
There were some ministry visits made by Don Ibsen, Sue (who could speak a little Spanish) and church people to 3 ladies who lived in the same apartment building. They shared and offered encouragement and prayed together. Three team members went to a youth meeting one evening. The church has an active youth group encompassing ages 12-30. Our team was invited to a “Homes under Construction” meeting on Saturday night. The basis for the growth of the Valencia church has been the “Marriage Encounter” program which is offered 3 to 4 times a year. The “Homes under Construction” is one of the follow-up programs to the marriage encounter weekend. We were treated to several testimonies of couples who were involved. These couples had serious marriage problems, were starting divorce proceedings, separated or already divorced. They heard about the marriage encounter weekend from friends and decided to give it a try. They were encouraged by what they had learned and experienced on the weekend and joined one of the “Homes under Construction” small groups. Then they started attending church, made new friends and many have become Christians and are working at resolving their marriage problems. A strong message shared by all was that it wasn’t the programs that made the difference in their lives, but the growing relationship with God and studying the bible that had made the difference and was helping them rebuild relationships, resolve issues and find happiness in spite of difficulties. Several others shared their personal stories with us on other occasions.
It is always exciting to hear how God has worked and is still working in people’s lives in Venezuela and in the lives of our team members. There were actually 10 team members: Art Wiens of Regina, the team coordinator; Don Ibsen of Abbotsford, BC, their interpreter, a retired missionary who was instrumental in the starting of the Vineyard church; Tim Coulter of Briercrest; Murray Balzar of Saskatoon; Al Siemans of Leduc, AB; Michael Kempor of Vernon, BC; Jim and Sue Lockington of the Toronto area; Del, my son from Clareshome, AB; and myself. A highlight, as usual, is when each team member shares their life story each evening. Another miracle is how God puts together each team to compliment our talents and abilities to make a good work team and how each one is an encouragement for another. We prayed, we worked, we laughed, we played, we ate and ate, we praised God!
Another miracle is how the value of the Bolivar changed while we were in Venezuela. Bank value, 8 Bolivar to 1 US dollar. Black market value when we arrived in Caracas, $220 Bolivar to 1 US dollar. When we actually exchanged our money, 240 Bolivar to 1 US dollar. Our hotel rooms plus full buffet breakfast was budgeted for $1500 US for 5 rooms for 12 nights. Our actual bill was $900 US, so that meant more money could be left for the project. Incidentally gas was .03 cents US per gallon (that’s 3/100 of 1 cent!). One of our drivers topped off his gas tank with 31 litres for 3 Bolivar. As mentioned before, there is a drastic financial, economic situation in Venezuela. Many store shelves are empty of essential items, some food items are rationed, resulting in long line-ups of people waiting to purchase their ration. People have to have a registered number to purchase things and quantities are limited. Many businesses are closed and/or emptied out because supplies or commodities aren’t available.
Please pray for people who have lost jobs or businesses. Many of El Veñedo church families have had this happen to them and are struggling but their faith in God’s provision for their needs is strong. God provides! God protects! God blesses! To God be the Glory. Philippians 4:4-7