May 19, 2006

No. Really. It's the HEAT!

Maturine - 115FJenny Conkle
Brittany MyersBetty Wiseman
I am not sure that our missionary friend, Paul Scott, did us a favor this morning by bringing a thermometer to the ball court at our second school stop. If you can see the thermomenter in the image on the right (or enlarge that picture), the thermometer is telling the truth. It was over 115 degress on the concrete playing surface where the rest of these pictures were taken. If it weren't for sunscreen, the words London Broil might be meaningful to the skin condition of our players...did I mention that it's hot???

Betty read scripture this morning about our visit being like a cool drink of water to the elementary students at La Escuela Basica Creacion. This is a less privileged area of the city. Many of the students are led toward drug trafficing at this age. Many may receive only one meal each day. Bringing a message of hope to these children made the heat seem far less significant than our purpose for being there. We played games and relays until it was time to sit near the shaded, second floor walkways. With heads bowed and the court quiet, the simple prayer echoed in Spanish from Betty's interpreter rang out again from the young voices seated around her. You really had to be there...and we know for a fact that many of you are here, with us in prayer, "If we've not said thank-you, it is not because those prayers aren't felt or appreciated. They are simplying working. Please don't stop praying." BW

We gave Paul Scott the bad news this morning. He can't keep Betty Wiseman in Venezuela, baked in the sun or otherwise.

College students - from competitors to friends

Chat after game - MaturinWalking into a college gym with a basketball team isn't always a pleasant experience. Signs on the door welcome students to support the local college team scrimmage against the Belmont University team. In an aging gym at Maturin's Collegio Redagocio the Belmont team warmed up during a rain shower. The basketball goal was shifted toward mid-court to prevent any disasters from puddles on the floor. With each entrance by the hometown team the crowd cheered, whistled, and banged on drums. They came to see their athletes defeat a team of americans in serious competition.

This wasn't to be anything like a regular basketball game, however. No score was kept. Substitutions of men and women players were frequent. Playing time for each scrimmage lasted about ten minutes. The crowd that began the evening with a hostile attitude slowly evolved into an audience of appreciation and fun. Perhaps the ice-breaker for the evening was the 5-foot women's player from Maturin who attempted to guard 6'-8" Keaton Belcher, the laughter and cheers from the fans was heartwarming...there was a smile on her face and a look of surprise on Keaton's. By the time the last whistle blew, the players on the court acted like old friends. Competitive attitudes vanished and mutual respect was the order of the day.

Post-Game PicturesThe once noisy crowd circled the Belmont team on the court afterwards. Paul Scott, our missionary host, warmed the crowd and turned the floor over to Samuel (our interpreter) and the Belmont athletes. In spite of the noise and frenzied activity in the gym, the crowd was very attentive to Andy, Justin, and Keaton when they shared their testimonies. In true Betty Wiseman fashion, she closed the evening asking those who wanted to share the same faith they witnessed in this team to pray with her. I don't believe that anyone expected the wonderfully positive reception that request received. We should know better by now. God did some amzing things in that gym and we were all blessed to be a part of it.

What to do with a large crowd

Maturin High School - Simon BolivarSimon Bolivar High School in Maturin has approximately 1,100 students. By conservative estimates, 800 of those students showed up in the stands and on the ball courts at the school to see the tall americans this morming. Any political or cultural differences that existed before the visit melted away when the students met the Belmont team, watched them in a skill's demonstration, and matched a few of their own to play basketball with them. How this large of a group ever organized to do relays is something just short of miraculous, but it happened and the activity and engagement between americans and their new Venezuelan friends made it much easier to keep their attention when everyone sat down to hear testimonies. Will, Laura, and Keaton did a terrific job leading into the plan of salvation Betty delivered. Many repeated the prayer to receive Christ.

Brooke Sunday - Simon Bolivar High SchoolOne local pastor who met with Betty following all of the morning's activities thanked her for opening doors for his church. The visit by the Belmont team will make it easier for follow-up activities with students at the school. Many schools are completely inaccessible to churches and the doors that this team opened will bear fruit for weeks and months to come.

The size of the crowds that we have encountered on so many stops is more than any of us expected. Belmont has very reason to be proud of the way these men and women have demonstrated their faith and their leadership even when swarmed by curious and enthusiastic students....amazing!

What do you eat on mission trips?

It is a good question and one that we hear often when we get home and speak with churches. To start off, good advice during orientation generally keeps volunteers away from foods and situations that might hurt you. There are many food vendors on the streets, for instance, that are off limits. Tap water from many sources is not recommended...and ice from tap water can sneak up on you and cause any number of maladies.

Breakfast in MaturinYesterday we visited a panaderia (bakery) for breakfast and enjoyed ham filled pastries (pastelitos), something that looked like american breakfast pizza called american empenadas and conchitos (ham and cheese filled pastries). Coffee is served in small cups...and is the equivalent of high octane american coffee. Fruit drinks are popular. Pineapple, orange, mango, and passion fruit are generally available year-round...the pineapple that is in season right now is especially delicious.

For lunch we have eaten a traditional Venezuelan meal: large pizza sized corn breads (cachapa) eaten with butter and creamy white cheese, roasted chicken (pollo azado), yucca root (think very large french fries), fried bananas ( platano maduro frito), roast beef, and guasaca (a green guacamole-type sauce for the meat).

At the home of one of the mission chuch members last night, we ate arepas (baked ham and cheese pastry sandwiches) followed by thes leche torta (three milk cake).

No one is going hungry and every one has adjusted well to different foods and new tastes. The only real surprises that we have witnessed are the looks of restaurant staff whenever we enter a restaurant. It is either a how can we ever feed all of the peeople look or wow, what a great looking group of tall americans (i.e. are they single?).