Chapter 23 - State of Portuguesa

 Chapter 23 - State of Portuguesa

The capital is Acarigua, the important centre of the mahogany industry. In recent years agriculture and cattle raising have been developed on a large scale, adopting modern systems with implements and machinery, and replacing former rustic methods to a certain degree. The State government is turning forest lands into small holdings for the common people and this is bringing prosperity to Acarigua. On the other hand, one is grieved to see the increase of vice and wickedness. False sects have been established in the state in fulfillment of the Scripture which says “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares.”

A small assembly was begun in Acarigua by Mr. Williams and others many years ago but it made little progress, partly because the small hall was not in a suitable location. Last year J. W. Turkington took charge of building a more suitable hall in a better location, which was opened with a series of Gospel meeting." This resulted in a good interest with better attendances. The saints were revived, a Sunday School was commenced for the first time, and the work got a spiritual lift.

In spite of much to discourage them, the local brethren have shown exercise in reaching out to country districts and souls have been saved. In one isolated village called Fanfuria, a number were reached with the Gospel and a small hall built where they met together. My wife and I had the opportunity of accompanying Joe Turkington on a visit there for a few days. The only place for us to stay was a native hut temporarily occupied by a woman and children. As we arrived, that family moved out to another place but their chickens, which had the run of the house, insisted on visiting us frequently. The hut was devoid of furniture but we carried a folding table, beds and a chair each, also cooking utensils. There was nowhere to hang clothes but such difficulties were easily overcome. The improvised kitchen was roofed with pieces of old rusty tin and it was wonderful what good things my wife could bring out of such a place for the table. On the third day heavy rains began without a let up and we found ourselves marooned with water all around. A brother came with a machete and opened a path for us through a banana grove to the little Hall. On the Saturday there was a baptism in a creek, when several obeyed the Lord and a large number gathered to hear the Gospel preached and witness the act. Joe Turkington did the baptizing and afterwards discovered that a leach was clinging to him and sucking his blood. On the Lord’s Day morning we had to leave very early to get to the morning meeting in Acarigua at 10 A. M. When we were all ready to leave, we found it impossible to get out of the mud, but a tractor was passing on the road and the operator was kind enough to hook on and get us out. When we reached the road we had a flat tire, so the wheel had to be changed in spite of our being dressed for meeting. The saints are all poor people but we hope to see an assembly planted there before long.

SAN RAFAEL DE ONOTO

This town near the Cojedes border, with Onoto as the nearest assembly, acquired importance due to a vast government irrigation scheme, in which a large forest area has been converted into small holdings, some for dairy farming and some for crop cultivation. We felt the Lord was leading us to make a special Gospel effort in that town, so we decided to take the tent there. A house had been secured for us and a young man was keeping it until we arrived; but we found that he had brought a woman and family in and would not budge. Then a brother living beside where the tent was pitched volunteered to vacate his house and move to the country where he had another place, so JehovahJireh wonderfully provided. Joe and Ruth Turkington and our two selves, with the three small boys, felt quite at home but the afternoon temperature was excessive. Our daughter Ruth decided to bring a thermometer from San Carlos on one of their weekly trips, and when she took it out of the glove case of the car in San Rafael, the mercury had reached the top. Most afternoons the temperature in the dining room went up to 109 degrees in the shade. We preached for five weeks in the tent and some professed faith in Christ. At the end, some were very anxious for us to take the tent to the dairy farms some distance away, so we decided to do so after the Easter conferences.

LAS MAJAGUAS

Our friends on the dairy farms prepared a large milking shed for the meetings and brethren from Onoto went ahead to preach, but the swarms of mosquito, attracted by the cattle, so tormented the neighbors who came that it was impossible to continue. When we arrived and found this out, Joe Turkington went back to San Carlos and brought the tent equipment. Because of the heat we did not use the side curtains, and pitched the tent in a place quite removed from the cows. Each night before meeting, my wife and others went around with the flit gun spraying the people’s ankles. We also burned dried cow’s dung around the outside of the tent. It was a pleasure to visit the small farms in the afternoons, where the poor and humble people were ready to listen to us as we told “the old, old story”, sang some hymns, and invited them to the tent. Very few of them could afford a motor vehicle so we would arrange to bring them in.

A Christian family looking after one of the farms, kindly moved out to another building in order that we might occupy the small cottage and use the kitchen.
***

A few people came from the nearest assembly in Onoto, so we had good attendances. We had a wooden box full of ropes beside the platform and one day the boys discovered three venomous reptiles hidden inside. Possibly they were attracted and charmed by the singing! The rainy season was near and many insects from the bush were hiving off. The tent lights attracted them and they began to trouble both preachers and hearers. It was hard to avoid swallowing insects when singing or preaching, and they would find their way under the people’s clothes. We then tried putting the lights on poles outside the tent to divert the swarms of flies.

Pails were also hung under the lights with some water and coal oil. Great quantities of insects fell into the water and the pails filled up. Then a huge swarm of black beetles invaded us and covered the ground. After the meeting we discovered that these had crawled under the door of our bedrooms, were in the beds, amongst the clothes and on the walls. We decided to lock up and leave for San Carlos where we could pass a peaceful night. Next morning we returned and made a complete clean-up of the beetles. With the approaching rains we had to leave, but were greatly impressed with the possibilities of the Gospel in that area.

Joe Turkington was able to erect a portable hall on the same site in San Rafael where the tent had been pitched, and three Sunday Schools are carried on in the district. Whenever anyone goes there for a meeting the hall fills up with people. We were also able to provide an exercised brother with a used car to facilitate his Gospel activities in those parts. He is self-supporting but gives abundant time to evangelical work.