Chapter 25 - Development of the Work in the State of Falcon

Chapter 25 - Development of the Work in the State of Falcon
“In journeyings often” II Corinthians 11:26

This large state, lying along the north coast of Venezuela on the western side, had attracted our attention prior to 1924. In that year a brother engaged in Colportage work for the B. and F. Bible Society, called overnight at Duaca, the home of Mr. Willie Wills, where I happened to be on a visit. His intention was to travel north from Barquisimeto to Coro, the capital of Falcon. I felt exercised to accompany him, so we left together for Barquisimeto. There we were unsuccessful in finding pack animals leaving for Coro. A Christian suggested that meantime we visit the large town of El Tocuyo in that same state of Lara, as there was automobile service to that town.

We decided to go, and spent ten days there selling Bibles and smaller scriptures. A lady who had professed faith in Christ offered us her large front room for meetings, where we preached nightly to good numbers. On the morning that we were packing to leave, a woman whose home was near the R. C. temple, sent word that she wished to see us. I was not free to go at the moment, so my companion went alone. The lady had come to know Christ as her Saviour during the meetings and wished us to be witnesses to the burning of her pictures and wooden images of saints, which she straightway did.

The friends wanted us to return, but there was a certain hindrance, and I told the guilty party that when he cleaned up his testimony I would consider returning. The Pentecostal people had no such scruples. They went in and later sectarian missionaries took over.

Whilst there, we met a man who was a real trophy of God’s saving power and keeping grace. He had been the proprietor of the “Blue Ray” tavern and was a slave to strong drink so that his wife and children suffered greatly. A New Testament was given to him and through reading it, he was brightly saved and delivered from his sinful life. From the lazy life of a tavern keeper, he began earning an honest living making sun dried bricks, and later learnt to make index file cases. When the fanatical neighbors began to chide his wife for having become a heretic, she replied that she had not forsaken her religion, but as far as her husband was concerned, she had discovered that the best remedy for a drunkard husband was the Gospel. Soon afterwards she too found peace through believing in the Lord Jesus. That man is now up in years and he still writes me and enjoys reading our Gospel paper.

A profligate from Falcon, who had to leave his wife and home in disgrace, was working on the section gang of the railway in Las Rositas and when we were holding meetings there he professed faith in Christ. He returned to his native village and his changed life made a great impression on his friends, thus opening up a door for the Gospel. Mr. Gordon Johnston and I boarded a sailing boat for Puerto Cumarebo early in 1925, and after a very rough voyage, reached there the following afternoon. We stayed overnight at a small inn and next morning left early for Tocopero, carrying Bibles and New Testaments over our shoulders, and managed to reach the humble residence of the above mentioned convert. He was glad to see us and took us around to see his relatives. One couple invited us to breakfast where a dirty tablecloth was spread (there was scarcity of water). There were no plates or cutlery, but native corn cakes and scrambled eggs were put on the cloth, and we ate with our fingers. We were also given a cup of coffee with goat’s milk which we enjoyed. Those poor and humble people were very friendly and arranged a meeting for us in a sugar mill on a large cane plantation. Most of the laborers came to hear us, and later on when Mr. Williams visited that area, some of these were among the number who confessed Christ, and were baptized. One of the men who showed real interest agreed to go back to town with us and help find a place to preach in. Later on this man was converted to God, and has been a mainstay in the assembly formed at that time. We worked Cumarebo selling Scriptures and distributing tracts during the day, and preaching each night on our short stay.

As there was no road at that time along the coast, we arranged passages in a small sailing boat which took us to the next port of La Vela. Here we also went from house to house offering the Scriptures, talking to

 

the people and distributing tracts. We stopped at a small inn run by a big, strong woman, who also butchered pigs. She was willing for us to hold a meeting in her house and a good crowd gathered inside. Not so many years ago the wife of our Venezuelan worker, Joe Naranjo, told me that the big woman was her aunt, and she was a small girl at that time staying with her aunt. Like Zacchaeus, she could not get near because of the crowd, but instead of climbing a tree, she bent down and threaded her way between the men’s legs until she reached the front. Early this year (1972) brother Naranjo and I were having a meeting in a suburban Hall in Caracas, and I saw that half the congregation were children, I decided to speak to them for a few minutes from my “Wordless Book” of four colors. When Naranjo’s wife saw me produce the book, tears came to her eyes, as that was something she remembered from the meeting in her aunt’s house in 1925!

 

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Crispin, a humble brother exercised in serving the Lord. Makes home made beds to supplement his meager income. Cuts his lumber in the bush. His complete set of tools are seen.

From La Vela we took the small train to Coro and went to an inn. It was Saturday and we hoped to be able to hold a meeting on the Lord’s Day but could not find a place. Whilst thus engaged, we met a young German who was a passenger with ourselves on the boat from Puerto Cabello. Through him we got permission to hold a meeting on the Sunday night in the front room of the boarding house where he stayed. As there were priests and bishop in Coro (which claims to have the first R. C. cathedral ever built in South America), the people were afraid to come in and our audience was very small. Then the lady at the place where we were staying, also agreed to let us preach there, but that afternoon we got word of a caravan of twenty-four donkeys, with three drivers, about to leave for the Paraguana Peninsula, and we arranged to go with them. We needed a donkey each to ride on and two donkeys for our boxes and baggage. The donkeys were only harnessed to carry freight so it was rough riding. We left at 5 P. M. and most of the donkeys traveled light, so we made good speed. The trail was amongst sand dunes on a narrow neck of land with the sea on both sides. About 9 P. M. we stopped at a lonely hut, where sticks had been driven into the sand outside and string hammocks hanging from them. There we lay until 3 A. M., when the jackasses started up a chorus of deafening braying which brought our slumber to a sudden end. We were a little comforted by getting a cup of hot coffee with goat’s milk. The donkey men were anxious to get away, as it was Saturday, and they were going to a dance. We marveled at their endurance, as after so many hours mostly on foot, keeping the donkeys on the trail, they were intending to spend the night dancing. We ourselves, even riding, were weary with the long trip.

We carried a letter of introduction to people in the town of our destination, so they were able to get us the community hall to preach in on the Sunday afternoon, and we had a respectful company present.

The Christian who gave us that letter, once told me that when he was foreman on a sugar cane plantation in those parts, the laborers were leaving after their day’s work when one came running to him. They had seen a large poisonous snake coiled up ready to strike any who came near. He went with his machete and danced around the snake until he managed to get in behind it, then cut its head clean off. This went flying through the air and could not be found anywhere. Two or three days later his attention was drawn to a fine papaw tree with a large fruit on it, which was discolored and rotting. There seemed nothing wrong with the roots, so a man climbed up and discovered the snake’s head with its poisonous fangs buried in the soft upper part of the tree.

We worked several towns in the peninsula and in the principal place we were able to hold a meeting. Finally we went on foot to Adicora on the coast, with a donkey carrying the load. There we rented a shack and stayed a few days, finding a few people who listened to our message. There was a small sailing boat anchored off shore, which was due to leave for La Vela. We would have preferred going overland but there was no opportunity, so we embarked in the boat. The skipper wanted us to get down into the hold, but it was loaded with sacks of beans, and these carry a terrible itch with them. We had seen people shelling them and at the same time scratching themselves furiously. Gordon decided to sit on the roof of the hatch and so I sat at his feet on a board which kept the water from getting into the hold. Once out of sight of land, the boat sailed into a place where two seas met; the waves were furious and swept right over us. Gordon had his Scotch traveling rug out, and as the spray came over, he pulled the rug over his head and I ducked underneath. Some large cheeses were on deck and these began floating around. Even the crew had to hold on tight and no one felt like eating a meal. Upon arriving at La Vela we saw the miniature train almost ready to leave, so we ran, just as we were, drenched with sea water and got into the coach in time. The passengers wondered what had happened to us.

Upon reaching Coro we went to the inn where we had been offered a room to preach in, but the lady told us she was sorry that, as a relative had died, they were in mourning and could not have a meeting in the house. This was no doubt an excuse probably invented for her by the priest.

Our return trip to Puerto Cabello was on a sailing vessel, but the only accommodation for passengers was a kind of dog’s kennel on either side of the deck, which we had to crawl into. As the wind was contrary, the ship had to take a zigzag course, tacking over to the Curazao coast, then back and forth, so that we were three days getting to Puerto Cabello. By that time we were seasoned sailors, able to eat the rank dried goat meat soup and stale corn flour bread, served in an old battered enamel plate.
 
After Mr. and Mrs. Williams had somewhat developed the work in Puerto Cumarebo, my wife and I went over on a steamer to relieve them, continuing the meetings with the help of a native worker for three or four weeks. When Mr. & Mrs. Bruce Cumming, as new workers, arrived in this country, they were led to make their home in Cumarebo, and this has been a great help in stabilizing that work. From that centre colportage and evangelistic work has continued in every direction. Miss Ruth Scott, as long as she was able, took a keen interest with Mrs. Rhoda Cumming in having Bible classes for children in surrounding villages.

When we returned from the North in 1953 we brought back a new Gospel tent. Mr. Williams thought we should try tent meetings in CORO, capital of Falcon State, so Bruce Cumming and Venezuelan brethren helped us in obtaining a site and house, and we enjoyed the hearty collaboration of Cumarebo Christians. Although many invitations and tracts were taken from door to door, not many local people attended. One day we went out to a large suburb of working people on the outskirts of the city and came across a professing believer and his wife. They had withdrawn from a sectarian group, whose disorderly behaviour in meetings grieved them. The man, Guadalupe, had an interesting story, as follows:

He was much given to feasts, dancing and strong drink. Late one night when returning from a distant neighbourhood, and somewhat intoxicated, he wandered from the track and in the dark fell over a precipice into a stony river bed below. There he lay helpless with his back broken. Next day a boy was out searching for a missing goat, and looking over the edge could see a bundle down below. He got help and the man was taken to the hospital, paralyzed from the waist down. Nothing could be done for him so he was sent home. A wheel chair was obtained for him in which he could get around in his home and attend a small business. One day a Christian salesman called at the house and spoke to him about the Gospel, leaving him a New Testament to read. This lead to his conversion as also that of his wife, and they were both baptized. They were very pleased to see Mr. Williams, Bruce and me, and we found them anxious to know the will of the Lord more perfectly. What we were able to show him from the Word was something that he had been longing for, that is the simple principles of being gathered alone to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Shortly after, he and his wife were received into assembly fellowship in Puerto Cumarebo.

He was a cheerful man, and thanked God for breaking his back in order to save his soul! Bruce Cumming began work in that neighborhood and was able to build a nice Hall beside Guadalupe’s home, and this was later enlarged. Sunday School, Gospel and week-night meetings have been permanently established there, and it is hoped, in due time, to see an assembly formed.

The tent was taken to a village quite a distance from Coro, where a Christian couple lived, but the people were indifferent. We moved the tent to a small hamlet on the road to Puerto Cabello, called Sanare. Our son-in-law Joe Turkington joined us, and he and I slept in the back of the tent, as the place had a bad reputation. My wife stayed in the home of a humble family about half-an-hour’s drive from there, where we also made our headquarters. Each evening on the way to the tent, we picked up people along the way and filled our two station wagons, it being necessary sometimes to make two trips. A number of tooth sufferers would come to the meeting and then see if I could extract the offending molars, which of course I was happy to do.

One night, when we had the side curtains somewhat lowered on account of the heat, an enemy threw a quart oil can, full of human excrement, into the tent. Fortunately, nothing landed on anybody’s head, but rather, in the space between the rows of benches, splattering every thing around. Friends immediately obtained shovels and covered all up with earth, and the meeting proceeded in peace. We feared that this might discourage the people in continuing to attend, but it made no difference. We heard that the civil chief of the place was the guilty one. Instead of fulfilling his duty to maintain order, he was the instigator of disorder. He was faced up with the case, but denied everything. A nice married couple professed faith at those meetings and have gone on well. We have lost track of others who made a profession.

 

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Old man comes home from the fields with his faithful companion. The donkey also carries its fodder.

Before the tent meetings closed, a woman from a settlement in the nearby hills visited us, with her daughter, for tooth extractions. She was friendly and invited us to go and preach in her house, and this we were able to do, after taking down the tent. Some friends accompanied us and we carried a light, as the trail was shut in with dense bush. The following night when we returned, we heard that the previous night three jaguars had been there and got away with three pigs. We met a group of men with their guns who were going to hunt the jaguars, but that would not be easy, as it is rocky country with caves and hide outs. It was well that we had carried a light and had kept together.
 
We thanked the Lord for His protecting hand upon us. We had two meetings there and at least the Good Seed was sown.

 

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Tucacas, crossing to Gospel Hall.  Floods from high seas.

TUCACAS

There was great need of a Gospel Hall in Tucacas, which is a small seaport with a large population. With the help of our Venezuelan worker, Jose Linares, we proceeded to build one for the assembly. Joe Turkington also joined us later. We decided to try tent meetings in a rural settlement called La Lapa, so that we worked on the building by day and preached at night. In the field where the tent was pitched we were invaded by large toads. The flies came in clouds around the gas lamps and as they dropped with the heat, the toads licked them up. Sometimes a huge toad would hop up to the front and lift up its head, as if listening intently to the preacher. Some of the ladies seated in the tent were a little nervous when these creatures began hopping around their feet. A nice interest was created there, several gave hope of coming to Christ, but there was a professing Christian in the place whose bad testimony did much harm, and the special effort did not yield the fruit we expected. However, there was a little blessing.

Whilst in Tucacas, we rented a small house with a sandy back yard and this was a favorite rendezvous for crabs. They would get into the rooms at night and climb to the rafters, from where they would look down upon anyone in bed. As there was the danger of them falling on the bed, we had to get after them ere settling down for the night. A vacant lot near the house seemed a good spot for pitching the tent, and splendid numbers attended. A Venezuelan sister had good success in gathering up children for a Sunday afternoon children’s meeting. Sometimes we would have one hundred of them in the tent. The crabs found us out this time and boldly entered the tent when it was full of people. Some of the women were so scared that they jumped up on the seats.

EL MENE

This is an old oil mining town. Although the assembly is small, our sister, Miss Martha Kember, has carried on a day school for many years, and her heart and soul are in that work. The saints there have faithfully kept up their three days annual conferences, and would not hear of reducing to two days. Once we started out from Puerto Cabello for the conference. The old bus took us as far as Tucacas. Another bus was going on farther to El Mene so we transferred to it. When we were about half an hour on the way, we found the river had overflowed and turned the countryside into a lake, so the bus driver decided to go back. Once more in Tucacas we were thinking of what we should do, when a truck with a winch and cable arrived. The driver said he was going to El Mene and could take us. Our company consisted of my wife, Miss Fanny Goff and our baby Jack, who all got in front with the driver. Then Mr. John Wells, our three daughters, small son Jimmy and I climbed up on the back. The driver went into the water and the truck stuck in the mud, right in the middle, so there was nowhere to fasten his cable and work the winch. There we sat all night with clouds of mosquitos around us. In the morning, our brethren from Tucacas arrived with a horse and donkey to get us across the water, and back to Tucacas! The ladies and children were taken off first, and whilst John Wells and I were waiting, it occurred to me that we should not go back, but that the Lord would provide a means of reaching El Mene. So we all agreed, and with our shoes in our hands, we ventured forward through water, and sometimes mud. In half an hour’s time we came to a small settlement where, “lo and behold”, a truck with a canvas roof had just managed to get out of a mud hole, after being there all night. It was going to El Mene, the driver was willing to take us, so we “piled” in and arrived safely for the conference. It was a time of rain, and the conference had to be continued an extra day to make traveling possible. “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good”, and so the local brethren were delighted at the prospect of a little extra spiritual food for their souls, and they had abundant provision for temporal requirements.

 

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Group of tooth sufferers awaiting their turn at dental clinic, El Mene. “Clinic” open between sessions at Conference.
 

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Miss Martha Kember, who has faithfully continued with the day school in El Mene for 23 years, with her Venezuelan assistant Cila Rossell. The 18 year old Jeep has done rugged service and is still going strong.


“Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby Thou didst confirm Thine inheritance, when it was weary” (Psalm 58:9). The testimony in El Mene was in a feeble condition for several years, due to deaths and departures for other parts, but the Lord did not allow the smoking flax to be quenched. Mr. Bruce Cumming was able to take a special interest in them, sometimes with weekend visits and also with series of meetings. For a long time they were needing a new Hall and it was wonderful how the Lord provided. They were granted a very suitable site and the afore-mentioned fellow laborer assumed the responsibility of construction, so that the Hall is a credit to the Gospel. It is larger than the original one, in accordance with the faith of His people, and at conference times the whole capacity is taken up. At the last conference (1972), two young women who had come from a distance, professed faith in Christ.