Out of Trinidad & Tobago and into the New World of Venezuela

This is a photo is from my missions trip to Africa. We went for a speak at a church in Goma. It was kind of intense, there apparently was fighting going on within 100 miles of where we were. You can check out Africa Mission Trip 2002 -- pt 1 Facebook Album and Africa Mission Trip 2002 -- pt 2 Facebook Album.

What is Our Relationship to the Poor and Needy

Traveling through South America there are a lot of opportunities to see different governments, social service institutions, churches, and poverty. But what is the churches/government's responsibility to these people. Psalm 82 seems to address just this and share some of God's heart to the poor and needy.

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked? Selah.

Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. “Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.” Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.
— Psalm 82:1-8

I find this Psalm particularly interesting. I was reading it while I was in Trinidad at the Hotel. I think it was really interesting to read before we made it to Venezuela, a mostly socialist nation. While it seems to have corruption, and a lot of it's own issues… it is interesting to see how they care for their people.

Particularly with this Psalm, I find it interesting that it describes God both judging the church and the rulers (v. 1). It talks about about God judging them based on three tasks (vs. 3-4).

  1. How they vindicate the weak and fatherless
  2. Do justice to the afflicted and destitute
  3. Rescue the weak and needy and deliver them out of the hand of the wicked

In the Christian circles I travel in, it seems well known that it is the churches/individuals responsibility to take care of those in need. Within those circles, I don't hear very much about that same responsibility being on the government/officials. If I was to describe my political viewpoint, it can sometimes be difficult to describe.

I would describe myself as pragmatically very liberal, but idealistically conservative. This means that in an ideal world all of the poor, needy, destitute, fatherless would be cared for in the private sector. I believe the private sector is much efficient and people friendly. Having worked within some of the bureaucracy in Washington State (DSHS, and JRA) I have found the pubic agencies to be difficult to find services for people, sometimes have more burnt-out people working there, and they are not efficient. It seems very different in the private sector. This is especially true in regards to if it's a church/individual. The problem I see, and the reason that I would say pragmatically I'm very liberal is that I don't see the private sector as having the funds, and the churches/individuals are not stepping up enough. In my introduction to Social Work Class, my professor described that the yearly budget for United Way (a giant international agency) is the same as the daily budget for DSHS. It seems that while the private sector is a more idealistic way to go, that the finances are not there.

When Ps 82 describes that the government officials are responsible for how they have done justice to the people, I think that we ought to listen. While there are many needs and problems in a country like Venezuela, at least they have a health care system that looks after all of their people. Something that I hope happens soon in the United States. I just pray that our politicians will get a measure of the fear of God and understand that they will be judged according to how they work for the people they govern.

The last little bit of Trinidad & Tobago

A Tomb in Lapeyrouse Cemetery that was obviously lived in by the homeless

Again, you can see all the photo's from Trinidad & Tobago on their album on Facebook (Miami Heat in the Evening and Trinidad CoExisting Island Style Facebook Album). We ended up spending a total of five days in both Trinidad & Tobago. It was really interesting to go and walk around Lapeyrouse Cemetery in Port of Spain. We saw a couple of homeless people. One of which was a bit scary because he was walking around with a lead pipe. We met a father and son (at least that was our guess) who were staying in a tomb in in the cemetery. The father talked to us for a while, and it was really interesting to hear his perspective. We ended up giving him some TT (the money used in Trinidad & Tobago). I was struck thinking that I couldn't imagine living inside of a tomb. By the third day in Port of Spain, we were ready to head out and find a beach somewhere. The only problem is that they are not easy to get to in Trinidad (at least there were non in Port of Spain, you have to go to another part of the country). We had heard really great things about Tobago, so we decided to adventure out to there.

There are ferries that run multiple times per day to Trinidad. We landed in The Port of Scarborough. We ended up staying at a guest house with a lady named Phyllis. It was beautiful to sit on the porch and talk with her about life/politics. The next day we went to the Beach at Store Bay. There is a beautiful beach there, and we got to meet some travelers from England there. We did not stay in Tobago for very long, and we had to catch a ferry to Venezuela early the next morning.

Venezuela: Guardia Nacional, Fellow Travelers, and Beaches/Yachts

The Beach at Store Bay

We originally flew into Trinidad, because it had the cheapest flights. We figured that it would be really simple to get to the mainland and head to Venezuela. This was not the case. We found one ferry that travels to Guiria once a week. Trinidad is significantly more expensive and less friendly then Venezuela so we were really glad to finally make it to the mainland. On the Ferry we ended up meeting about 10 other European travelers (from England, Germany, and Austria). This was a very beautiful thing. It is really strange to get into a new country, be unsure of the money, not know where you are, have issues with the language… etc. Traveling in a group is a great thing. We had gotten to Guiria too late to catch a bus to Cumana. We had to exchange some US dollars on the "black market" and catch a taxi to Carupano. Venezuela's exchange rate is about 2 Venezuelan bolivar fortes to 1 USD. But if you exchange on the "black market" it's about 5-7. The best we've found has been 6.

Before leaving Guiria, our taxis were stopped by the Guardia Nacional (the national police… or these guy's with large guns speaking to you in Spanish). We all had to empty our bags/pockets. They wanted to know how much money we had, and even made us count it out for them (I think due to black market). About an hour taxi ride later we were stopped again, and had to do the same. Every other Guardia Nacional stop after that, we clapped for the taxi driver because we didn't have to stop. I was worried about some sort of "imposed tax" but there was nothing like that. An almost 3.5 hour taxi drive later we ended up in Carupano (it only cost the equivalent of $6 each person… amazingly cheap). We grabbed some empanadas, and caught a bus to Cumana. We arrived pretty late in Cumana and stayed at a place called the Hotel Astoria. The next morning we did some exploring, and six of us took a ferry to Margarita Island.

Ami and I having a Margarita on Isla de Margarita

The first night we stayed in a city in Polamar (Hotel Centro… basic accommodations but under $10 per night). The next morning we found out that the governor of Isla de Margarita had called an holiday the day before. We watched Hugo Chavez talk about Bush trying to assassinate him on Larry King Live only to find out that he (and other Latin/African national leaders) were having a summit on Isla de Margarita. With everything closed we made our way to Juan Griego to stay at Hotel Patrick. While we didn't realize this, Chavez was to have the summit right outside of the city. We arrived disoriented with two other English travelers in Juan Griego to a crowd gathering to hopefully get to see the loved presidente (apparently not everybody is happy with him, but this city is a part of his political base). We've found Hotel Patrick to be the best we've stayed in (and for me better than anywhere in Europe). While we've been here, we have spent our days at the beach. Playa Caribe is a wonderful beach. We also chartered a 30 ft yacht ($50 per person) who took us to this beautiful little island and we snorkeled/scuba dived (amazing fish and a little bit of reef), got to learn to sail a little bit. It has been truly the vacation part of our trip. Tomorrow we are meeting up with our friends from Austria and celebrating Ami's second birthday (she will get two parties… lucky).