Chapter 28 - Our Eastern Front

Chapter 28 - Our Eastern Front

CIUDAD BOLIVAR VAR. This is the capital of the State of Bolivar, the largest in this republic, situated in the southeast; bordered on the east by Guyana and on the south by Brazil. Much of it still consists of virgin, tropical forests and tribes of Indians. It has attracted many prospectors for diamonds and gold, and has yielded good returns. In more recent years, important deposits of high grade iron ore have been discovered, giving rise to an industry which employs thousands, and has led to the springing up of towns and communities in what was previously desert country.

Many years ago a believer from the West Indies, who knew Spanish, visited Ciudad Bolivar, and with a love for souls and desirous of making Christ known in regions where the people were in spiritual darkness, began a work for the Lord. He was successful in finding a family willing to let him preach in their home. Then he went around inviting the people to attend the meetings. He called at one house where a middle-aged woman, mother of a family, had a yearning desire to hear the Gospel, so she invited him in and received a simple explanation of the truth. She also attended the meetings and the Lord saved her. She assiduously read her Bible and enjoyed singing the hymns, so that some years later when she lost her sight, she had memorized many scripture verses and hymns.
In our first visit to that city, where a small group of believers had been persevering in the apostle’s doctrine, brethren Williams, Fairfield and I visited that sister, advanced in years and completely blind. A portion of scripture was read with brief comments, then there was prayer and ere we left, the sister was asked what hymn she would like us to sing. She gave us the number in the book and sang the verses through from memory. This would teach us how important it is to redeem the time and treasure up the sacred word in our hearts whilst we are able to. And then, if we are spared, it will stand us in good stead in the eventide of life.

In Chapter 31, mention is made of Sr. Marino Castillo and wife who make their home in that city. They are the only workers from assemblies for that vast area and the new opportunities that have opened up.

LOS ALTOS. A young man from those rather isolated hills went to Puerto La Cruz, an important oil terminal, and obtained employment. He also heard the Gospel and confessed Christ as his Saviour. When the time arrived for vacations, he felt the urge to return to his native village, Los Altos, and tell his old acquaintances the good news that he had received Christ as his Saviour. This would remind us of the words of the Lord Jesus to the Gadarene out of whom the Lord had cast a legion of devils: “Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee.” (Luke 8:39). One of the first persons he visited was an elderly man with a large family, who proved to be a soul hungering for the Bread of Life, which was so completely lacking in the “religion of his fathers.” He became the first convert, then he took the visitor to see his sons and their families who lived in their coffee plantations on the hillsides. This was the beginning of a work of grace in which a nice number of souls were saved, baptized in due course, and eventually an assembly was formed.

When Mr. James Walmsley and his late wife Sally came to Venezuela, in the year 1959, they were led to make their home in that village. From that centre brother Walmsley, with others, has given much time to taking the Gospel farther afield in those eastern regions. In 1962, with the valued help of brethren J. E. Fairfield, J. Naranjo, H. Gil and some volunteers, they were enabled of the Lord to build a nice Gospel Hall, where an annual conference takes place. This is convened especially for believers who live in that section of the republic and are not in a position to attend the larger conferences in the different centres.

PUERTO LA CRUZ. In this progressive port a small assembly was formed about sixteen years ago, but as the result of internal trouble and false teaching, the testimony was wrecked. However, the Lord had a remnant which remained faithful and a new assembly was formed in 1971, which began to meet in a portable Hall built and erected by brethren Fairfield and Walmsley.

In a remarkable way the Lord raised up the right man who, although unable to read, has proved a real pillar in the humble assembly. Before conversion he was a gambler, which vice at that time was illegal. He was caught in the act and put in jail for six days. Being a seriously minded man, this humbled him and brought him to his senses. Upon being released next day, a Christian spoke earnestly to him about his soul’s salvation. He was greatly impressed and accepted an invitation to attend a Gospel meeting in the portable Hall. Brethren Fairfield and Naranjo were there and in the course of the preaching, a reference was made to the breaking of the law. This reminded him of what he had done and awakened conviction in his soul. Then the Gospel message of John 3:16 was clearly presented, finding an entrance into his contrite heart. His wife was saved later and his testimony has been blessed to others.

As the Sunday School there was quite small, some of the young Christians became exercised about going out around the neighborhood after Sunday School was out and getting the unsaved parents consent to gather the children into the Hall for a children’s meeting. The children learn hymns and choruses, hear a simple Gospel address, and as they leave are given candies, which helps to interest them to come back the following Lord’s Day. These young believers deliver the children to their respective homes so that there is no danger of them going astray.

Incidentally, at the time of writing this, we have just preached at the funeral of an aged sister, who lived in a humble cottage in Tucacas and had a hard life, but out of love for the Lord she would gather together more than one hundred children and take them to Sunday School. If it had not been for this special effort on her part, and also that of another sister, there would not have been a Sunday School at all. The work is so encouraging that a brother and his wife go out from this Port to give valued help, as local gift in this respect is very deficient.

 

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Departure after a visit to La Laguna, on the mountain top, via a very steep descent. James Walmsley’s territory.


Brother Walmsley has recently negotiated a piece of land in another neighborhood, with a view to the extension of the work.

SANTA FE. Our latest assembly in the east is in this small town, on the through highway to the far east. There was a nice number of believers living in a backwoods settlement called La Laguna, on a mountain summit. Brother Jim Walmsley, several years ago, arranged a trip for my wife and me on horses. It was a strenuous climb over a steep, rugged trail and we stopped overnight at a small hamlet half way up. A nice number of neighbors gathered for the Gospel meeting, some of whom were believers. It was held outside the shack where we were to pass the night, and at the close of the meeting, an undersized man came up to shake hands. I asked him if he were saved, to which he replied that he was. My second question was: “are you in fellowship?” He hesitated, then told me he had received “the power.” I asked him: “what power?” He got quite hysterical, making some very uncanny noises, almost shrieking, and this, he said, was “the power.” I told him frankly that he was on the verge of a nervous crisis and that there was nothing of God in such ridiculous behavior. In his simplicity, he had imbibed some of the false and absurd teachings of Pentecostalism, and instead of being a witness of Christ, he was a positive hindrance to the Gospel. We reached the summit next day at noon and got a warm welcome from the saints. They had a small Hall with mud walls and at the side of it a bedroom with two beds. There was also a place apart for cooking and eating.
Whilst there I was needing a hair trim and a brother was on hand to attempt this, but next morning we had a long wait until he arrived. The reason for such a delay was that he could not find a pair of scissors but at last a pair turned up and he was able to do us this service. These brethren depended almost entirely on their coffee crop for a livelihood but every few years it failed and then they were in a bad way. The land was not suitable for other crops. They were in fellowship in Los Altos assembly and it was a long trip to get to the meeting for the Breaking of Bread. We saw one sister who had undertaken the trip with a baby in her arms. If they had intended staying on in La Laguna an assembly no doubt would have been formed there, but some wanted to go to Caracas and find employment. Others moved down to Santa Fe on account of sickness and for their children’s education, so the work was abandoned. Finally there were sufficient believers living in Santa Fe to be able to begin an assembly. Brethren Walmsley and others helped them to build a Gospel Hall, and they go on very nicely.