The farm comittee acquired title to the land in February 2004 withthe help of a loan from supporters in the United States. Thecongregations of Maturin, Rio Chiquito and Quebrada Seca gatheredfor a celebration on the farm.
The farm was officially named Tierra de Gracia (Land of Grace)Lutheran Farm.
In March 2004, the farm was able to buy a 75-horsepower tractorwith contributions from churches in North Dakota and Montana.
Two tillage implements were included as part of the purchase.
The churches that raised money for the tractor and implementswere rural churches small by North American standards.
The tractor was immediately put to work clearing and cultivatingland.
With the addition of the tractor, development of the farm hasprogressed much more rapidly.
A lagoon to catch and hold rainwater for irrigation was built in 2005with more funds from the rural churches..
The lagoon has the capacity to hold 1.5 million liters of water...
In 2005 the farm initiated livestock production with four bred cows.All soon calved and one gave birth to twins.
Fences, corrals and livestock pens were built.
This includes many kilometers of electric fence.
Teams of volunteers from the United States helped build fence aswell as with other construction projects in the last four years..
The farm now has,more than 20 hectares of pasture which, enoughto maintain 70 cows, 100 goats and 100 sheep.
The cows have been artificially inseminated with Tarentaise semendonated by a U.S. cattle breeder to improve the herds genetics..Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, St. Louis, Missouri, along withLutheran World Relief, has supplied the funds to buy four morecows.
The livestock program also now includes five sheep and 15 goats. Inaddition to producing young, the sheep and goats will graze betweenthe trees, keeping the orchards clean.. The goats were purchasedwith money donated by St. Peters Lutheran Church of Columbus,Indiana.
There are more than 1,200 citrus trees in the farms orchards...
There are 245 passion-fruit vines and 85 guava trees.
Early in 2006, 3,000 new papaya trees were planted to supplementthe production of 2,000 established trees. Papaya is the farms mostprofitable crop and the plan is to plant 500 new trees each month of2006.
Other crops include corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash.
José Luís Rivas is the farms general manager. As of this year, thefarms administrative committee includes José Luís, Pastor ArmandoRamos, Americo Rengel and Dale Saville, along with Pastor FranciscoCabarcas and Eduardo Castillo as liaisons with Cristo Rey.
A small house serves as the farms office and visitors center.
A second house serves as a home and office for Pastor ArmandoRamos..
Pastor Armando was ordained August 1, 2004, at Cristo Rey LutheranChurch.
Armando grew up in rural Venezuela himself although on thewestern edge of the country in the state of Barinas.
Since Pastor Armandos arrival in Monagas, the Tierra de Graciaevangelistic program has made tremendous strides. Roca deEternidad (Rock of Ages) Lutheran Church in Quebrada Seca now hasweekly attendance of 20 people. In 2005 there was one baptism andseven confirmations.
Bethel Lutheran Church in Rio Chiquito has increased Sundayattendance to 27 people. In 2005 there were seven baptisms and sixconfirmations.
Rundown facilities in Rio Chiquito and Quebrada Seca are beingrepaired. A new roof for Roca de Eternidad is nearly complete whilenew bathrooms are being built at Bethel.
Amichel, Ventura, a deacon at Cristo Rey in Maturin, assists PastorArmando in caring for the rural churches.
Another member of the evangelistic team is Yumira Valderrey asBible school teacher.
Volunteers from the United States have helped with vacation Bibleschool as well..
Eduardo Flores, a member of La Fortaleza Lutheran Church inMaracay, served as a vicar under the direction of Pastor Armando. Heworked with the youth of the rural churches and provided musicalaccompaniment during worship.
The youth of the rural churches in Rio Chiquito and Quebrada Secahave become very active..
Bethel and Roca de Eternidad sent 12 to the Lutheran Church ofVenezuelas annual youth gathering in 2005.
Evangelistic activities have included three vacation Bible schools andfour prayer vigils at the rural churches as well as door-to-door visitswith approximately 1,800 people.
At Tierra de Gracia itself, Pastor Armando leads about the workers indaily devotions. In addition, weekly adult Bible studies draw 35 to 40people to farm from the nearby village of Banco de Acosta.
On January 20, 2005, Pastor Armando performed the first baptismon the farm. in a special service with 75 people from Banco deAcosta and Quebrada Seca in attendance,. The child, José Enrique,was the son of one of the farms employees.
On Sunday, June 12, 2005, Pastor Armando conducted the firstformal worship service at Tierra de Gracia with 156 people inattendance. Four adults were confirmed: José Luís Rivas, LeobardoGamboa, Marelis Bolivar and Javier Alcantera.
Land has been set aside to build a church near Pastor Armandoshouse to continue the important ministry in the immediate vicinity ofthe farm..
Perhaps the results of the Tierra de Gracia project can best be readin the faces of these children . “...Let the little children come to Meand do not forbid them, for of such is the Kingdom of God.” Luke18:16
For more information, see the Tierra de Gracia Web site: finca.ilv-venezuela.net