New Years in Caracas, 2002
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Johnson Journal
Dear Friends,
New Years in Caracas is an experience.  You don't have to go out to feel the excitement, though we did go to a neighbor's for turkey dinner and to be with our church family.  Being out at all is an excercise in faith.  The air is full of rockets, firecrackers and an incredible number of imaginative exploding things.  We pray before we go outside that a firecracker tossed from a high rise won't land on our heads.  Actually it's the same for Christmas Eve.  In the days leading up to the Christmas season there are many street vendors selling a variety of pyrotechnics, up to 4th of July type fireworks that sell for more than a hundred dollars.
There is of course a sad side to the ready availability of fireworks.  A friend told me that last year they heard a tremendous explosion mid-afternoon on the 31st.  It was a car full of fireworks and teenagers.  Unfortunately one of the kids was smoking and the explosion destroyed the car and killed all three passengers.  You may have heard about a terrible fire in Lima, Peru last week that killed around 300.  It started with a careless firecracker that set off the fireworks in one vendor's stand, which in turn exploded the next stand until it had destroyed the whole market district.  In fact we saw a column of black smoke from our window, one of dozens of fires set off around the city.  You may ask why fireworks are not illegal.  They are, but the law is not enforced.
For all the danger it is beautiful, and loud.  We could look out our window in any direction and see fireworks, some small, some as big as anything on the 4th of July, the biggest display we can remember.  Hard to know what they are celebrating, the economy is in a shambles, there is talk of civil war, and most don't know Jesus.  The rockets are expensive, but people buy them, and because anyone can buy them they were all over the sky.
Ramon Diaz, Luis Chacon and I went to a retreat for church leaders this week, and both of the younger guys came back fired up.  So we're praying about how we're going to put into practice the new things we've learned.
Well, we really do have a reason to celebrate, are thankful for the Lord's blessings this past year and looking forward to the coming year.  May God richly bless your 2002.
In Christ,
Mark and Kay