Chapter 27 - Phenomenal Development of Assembly Work in Caracas

Chapter 27 - Phenomenal Development of Assembly Work in Caracas
“The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” Psalm 126:3


About the year 1928, John Ascanio, a young man in Caracas, who was one of the first to drive a bus out of the big city, one day entered a Presbyterian church and heard a Gospel sermon faithfully preached from the text, “Where art thou?” He had been living a profligate life, squandering the good wages he earned on drink and vice, so that sometimes he lacked the price of a bed for the night and would sleep under a bridge. The message reached his conscience, and often when his bus route brought him to Valencia he would call on us and attend the meeting. At last the light of salvation dawned upon his benighted soul and he confessed Christ as his Saviour and Lord. By this time he had moved to Valencia and was living in concubinage. He arranged for the civil act of marriage and I was invited to be present for the occasion. The back yard was filled with people and light refreshments were served. Then we had the privilege of preaching the Gospel, pointing out as in that present case, that it is not merely a matter of words, but a dynamic force for transforming the lives of those who receive Christ as their Saviour. All those present listened respectfully and no doubt deep impressions were made.

Later on he moved to Caracas, and with Christians who had moved there from other assemblies, began a Sunday School and Bible class in his home. Joe Naranjo, a young married man, and a blacksmith by trade who had worked in an oil camp, was at that time in Caracas. He became sick, could not work and soon his funds came to an end. Being unable to pay the rent, he and his wife were ejected from the rooms they had rented. Whilst walking along the street wondering what he should do, he met our brother John Ascanio, who listened to his “tale of woe” and invited him and his wife to stay at their home, which of course they were very ready to do. Whilst there, Mr. J. E. Fairfield and his bride visited Caracas on their honeymoon, and a Gospel meeting was arranged in the same home. At the close Sr. Naranjo, under deep conviction of sin, expressed the desire to be saved and was led to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Saviour. Thus this act of kindness on the part of a believer, resulted in the conversion of a soul, with far reaching consequences for the furtherance of the Gospel. It is recorded of our Lord Jesus that He went about doing good, attending to the temporal needs of His creatures, and “healing all that were oppressed of the devil”, meeting their spiritual need as well. Let us “go, and do likewise.


The “Dawn of a New Day” devotes an entire chapter to succeeding events in the story of Sr. Naranjo up to the year 1948, which it is deemed unnecessary to repeat here. Since then Sr. Naranjo has developed into a true laboring brother, and a year ago completed twenty five years in the Lord’s service. He is editor of a Gospel paper entitled, “La Voz en el Desierto”, printed and published by our Caracas brethren. He is also a regular contributor to our believer’s magazine, “La Sana Doctrina.” He has an outstanding gift as a Gospel preacher and minister of the word. His schooling was very deficient but he is a self-educated man and is a prolific writer. He is loyal to the truth and also towards his English speaking fellow workers, who always find his hospitable home open to them when visiting the city.

 

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Joe and Carmen Naranlo, Caracas

CARACAS is growing like a mushroom, from about 350,000 population in the twenties to 2 million at the present time. The work in connection with assemblies has grown proportionately, so that from such a humble beginning there are now six assemblies having their own Gospel Halls free of debt, and one other Hall, where an assembly has not yet been formed. The second assembly was planted in the “Manicomio” (Asylum) neighborhood, which later became a rendezvous of hooligans. One of these entered the Hall one morning just before the hour of meeting, and asked the doorkeeper for Bs. 1.00 (20 cents) to buy beer, which the brother refused to do. The hooligan knocked him to one side and went straight towards the circle where the saints were gathered. A brother intercepted him but received a savage punch on the face. However, the aggressor retired and the Lord’s supper was celebrated in peace.

On one occasion when the writer was having meetings in that Hall, together with Sr. Naranjo, some candidates for baptism were to be examined. Amongst them was a married woman with the following story:
One evening she was sitting with her saved daughter in front of their humble habitation, singing a hymn together. The husband, under influence of drink, then told her to sing another hymn. As they began to sing, the man rushed on his wife, caught her by her hair and threw her to the ground. Then he dragged her across the floor, kicking her as he went. Her brother and wife, also Christians, occupied rooms on the same floor. He had been a heavyweight wrestler and physical culture instructor in the city police and could have handled that man very roughly but refrained, because of the testimony, from doing him harm.

We then asked this sister if she had permission from her husband to be baptized. “No”, she replied, and that under no circumstances would he consent to this, but she was prepared for the consequences, whatever he might do to her, and she was resolved to obey the Lord. She was duly baptized and when her husband heard of it, the fear of God took hold of him and with a view to not doing his wife any further harm, when he got drunk, he made a cage in one corner of the room so that when under the influence of liquor he could crawl into it and shut himself in! On subsequent visits to that assembly we were glad to see that dear woman and her daughter going on faithfully for the Lord.

The Manicomio Assembly has now moved to a better location with more room for expansion, and on a recent visit we were encouraged to see the large temporary portable Hall completely filled with people and some outside.

The third assembly to be formed in Caracas, and which was the second hive-off from the mother assembly, is located in the important suburb of PETARE, formerly a large town outside of the city limits. It has now been absorbed in metropolitan Caracas, and has also had a phenomenal development. We were informed that it consists of thirty-four neighbourhoods, and many of the poor have their miserable huts perched on the steep mountain side like eagle’s nests. A remarkable feature of the disastrous earthquake of recent years was that luxurious apartment blocks collapsed like pancakes, whereas the hundreds of small huts stood firm.

The fourth assembly to be formed, which was the third hive-off from the original, is in the neighborhood called EL VALLE, which means “The Valley”, but paradoxically the Hall is situated at the top of a steep, winding street, with a precipice along one side and no protecting parapet. Children and young people use the street as a playground at night, and it needs a skillful driver to make the grade, avoid the children and keep clear of the precipice!

The fifth assembly, which was the fourth hive-off, is in the district known as LAS ADJUNTAS, parish of Macarao. It is a long distance from the centre of the city, and there is a nice company of believers in fellowship. In spite of these four hive-offs, the large original Hall can hardly take care of the ever increasing numbers being added to the assembly. During our visit to Caracas in May 1972, our brother Naranjo took us in his car to a large meeting room in a district of the city called Los Eucaliptos. Only a person fully acquainted with the city could have found that place, which after making almost innumerable turns, is located at the end of a blind alley, which could be a favorable hideout for robbers. A brother there, a construction worker, turned the whole of the first floor of his house into a meeting room and built a second story for living quarters. The number of people who gathered that night exceeded my expectation. Twenty minutes were given to prayer prior to the hour of meeting. Brethren prayed briefly and to the point. One unique request was on behalf of the brother acting as doorkeeper, that the Lord would protect him, as he was exposed to danger. The believers living in that locality are at present associated with assemblies quite a long distance away, but for the present there are certain hindrances to the formation of an assembly.

A few months ago a sixth assembly was begun on the outskirts of Caracas, at the top of a long, steep, winding hill. It is a neighborhood mostly occupied by squatters, that is, poor people who have no other place to live so put up their shacks without permission from the land owners. The government doesn’t interfere with them as there is no other place available. The name of the neighborhood is CARAPITA, and although poor in this world’s goods, those saints are rich in faith.