Chapter 21 - State of Cojedes

Chapter 21 - State of Cojedes
“To preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand” II Corinthians 10:16


This state is on the northern side of the vast inland plains and has been a hard state to evangelize. Mr. and Mrs. Williams and ourselves made the first attempt in the large town of TINAQUILLO. We got a good start but then the priest sent for a special Roman Catholic orator, who so discoursed on the glories of the virgin, that he got the large Roman Catholic temple packed inside and out, so we saw it was futile to go on preaching and decided to move on to SAN CARLOS. Brethren Fairfield and Williams made two successive efforts after that in different locations in Tinaquillo, when one or two individuals were reached, but they moved away, so no permanent work was established. I was helping Mr. Williams in this second attempt, and we decided to go to San Carlos on the Saturday to distribute tracts. After we had finished, we waited for some vehicle to take us back to Tinaquillo and managed to get a ride on the back of a truck. The sun went down when we were a little more than half way, a tire went flat and the trucker had no spare, not even a flashlight.
 
There we were, stalled on a wide, open plain without a house in sight, our only hope being to get a ride on some other vehicle which might come along. Eventually this happened. We signaled the car and asked for a ride. The driver said: “Get in the back seat if you don’t mind the company you will have.” It turned out to be a sick hog that was being taken to Valencia to get cured. We could see that the driver was English, so we began to sing, “When I survey the wondrous cross”, wondering what reaction it would have. This changed the rather formal atmosphere entirely and the man told us he was Welsh and loved singing. He introduced himself as Dr. Morgan, veterinarian for the English cattle ranches on the plains. We were thankful for this unexpected contact and had joy in witnessing to this friendly man of God’s salvation.

SAN CARLOS

“The Dawn of a New Day” records the beginning of the work in this capital city of the State, although as far back as 1928 Gordon Johnston and I had spent two days there selling Scriptures and distributing tracts. When brother Williams and I began to preach the Gospel, a small group of people showed an interest, but the priest known as “padre Andani,” was a Spanish Jesuit, a wicked man who carried a revolver on account of having so many enemies. He had a class of boys and he started to send them along at meeting time to throw stones. Later he had leaflets printed and distributed in which he slanderously attacked the Gospel. To this Mr. Williams drafted a reply, and whilst I went to Valencia to get it printed, the priest brought a Roman Catholic orator to San Carlos to publicly condemn what we were doing. Right opposite the rented house where we were preaching, there was one of the three colonial temples of the town with a large paved area in front. At the appointed hour, the crowd gathered around their champion and expected great things. Just as the orator began, Mr. and Mrs. Williams and Don Ramon Rodriguez, on a visit from San Felipe, stepped out on to the sidewalk and stood facing the orator. Mr. Williams produced a notebook and pencil, and began taking notes. This procedure so distracted the orator, that he forgot what he had intended to say and had to abruptly close the meeting.

The next day Mr. and Mrs. Williams left for another part and I stayed on to continue the meetings. All our leaflets, refuting what the priest had published, had been distributed and then one morning a policeman came to tell me that Dr. Barreto Mendez, the governor of the state, wished to see me. I hastily got ready and went to the government house where I was ushered into the governor’s office. He received me courteously and said that “padre Andani”, whom he called his compadre”, had been greatly offended by the handbill we had distributed, and which he considered to be an attack against his person. As courteously as I was able, I replied that the priest had attacked the Gospel and had asserted things that were not true, and, in order to defend the Gospel, we had published an answer to the priest. The governor then put his hand in a friendly way on my shoulder and pleaded with me to try and keep the peace. He said that General Gomez, the President of the Republic, had counselled him to “keep peace in the family.” He shook hands with me and we parted on the best of terms. There was no more trouble with the priest.

The house we had rented had large double doors which opened on to the street, then another door gave access to the meeting room. There was an open space between this door and the kitchen. We put our small table as near as possible to the meeting room door so as to be handy to the kitchen. Bernardo, our helper, and I were having our breakfast and the big doors being open, a bull that was being driven to the slaughter house, suddenly made a break, entered the big doors and the next minute his head had almost reached our table. He evidently saw that he was an unwelcome guest and immediately withdrew, and of course we breathed a sigh of relief. How wonderful has been the protection of our Heavenly Father! His promise is sure:
“Lo, I am with you alway”, (Matthew 28:20).

In our first location there was no immediate fruit, but the Word was faithfully preached and when finally the Lord began to save souls, there were those who traced the beginning of their soul concern to those meetings. We then moved to another part of the city and we got a few regular attendants. Mr. W. J. Wells then arrived to relieve us, as I had to attend to the work of our printing press. Brother Wells found it very uphill work and was inclined to close up, but I decided to go back for another two weeks of intensive work and then it was evident that the interest of the people had practically ceased, so we packed up everything and came home.

 

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Venezuelan elder and his son Moses

In course of time brother Williams suggested that we should give San Carlos a final effort, to which I readily agreed. This time as a result of honest labor and perseverance, we began to see results. Mrs. Williams was with us, which was a great help as it en-
couraged families to attend. When we left, arrangements were made for those who were saved to come together for prayer and Bible reading in the home of a couple who had professed. When brother Williams and I returned months later, we found that the interest had been sustained and it made us think of building a Hall. The brethren were encouraged to make adobe sun-dried bricks as a preparation. We found out later that the cost of food for those brethren was greater than what the adobes could be bought for ready made!

 

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After the marriage of Joe Turkington to our daughter Ruth, they felt exercised about labouring in Cojedes, so moved to San Carlos in the midst of much virgin territory for the Gospel. They have seen ups and downs in the work, but in spite of difficulties and discouragements, there has been development and soon a larger hall will be needed. (Stop Press news: the new hall seating 400 people was formally opened on March
2, 1974.)

EL BAUL

This is a town to the south of San Carlos, which prior to the construction of the highway, was almost a day’s trip. It is at the confluence of two deep rivers, infested by caribe fish that have sharp teeth and strong jaws, thus making bathing dangerous. Formerly, one had to cross the river on a raft or boat to reach the town. Now there is a modern bridge.
Two brothers living there wrote to us requesting that their names be added to our mailing list for “EL MENSAJERO CRISTIANO”, and this we gladly did. Some time after brethren Williams, Fairfield, Bernardo and I started out in my Ford to visit that town. En route from Valencia to Tinaco we worked the wayside settlements with tracts and offering the Scriptures for sale. It was dusk by the time we reached Tinaco and although we were hungry, we were unable to obtain a meal. The woman who operated the small Inn told us that the hour for supper had passed and she had nothing to offer us. She had no fridge so could not keep food over from one day to another. The town was in darkness and no store was open. We retired with empty stomachs and had to be up and away early next morning before the cook had made the coffee. Our experience taught us how important to be in time for supper. It is the last meal of the day and the long hours of nigh
are ahead. In our Lord’s parable of the Gospel supper, there were those who missed it (see Luke 14:24). We would urge the unsaved reader to “Be in time.”

The morning was well advanced ere we were able to satisfy our hunger. At one isolated hut on the plains where we called to see if there was a bite to eat, the filthy condition, and a man with sores, made us beat a hasty retreat. As we traveled on we saw a strange sight: a dog reduced to skin and bone was hurrying across a field with several black buzzards (carrion birds) following it. We thought the poor animal was going to die and that the birds were ready to feed on its body, but upon approaching nearer we saw that it was dragging behind it the entrails of a slaughtered animal, and that what the birds were after. Then we reached the place where the meat was being cooked and where travelers could get a meal. There was no cutlery and we were given improvised spoons, made from the hard shell of a calabash, with which to eat the quinchoncha soup made from a kind of pea which grows on a bush, and is a main item of food for many who live on the plains. The meat we took in our hand, and used our teeth instead of knives. Between the dining room and kitchen of that “restaurant” the rain from both roofs had formed a small pond, a favorite resort for the pigs. I asked the owner of the ranch if he could read, but he shook his head saying, that when he was a boy his father put a machete in his hand and told him that it would be his “pen” with which he could earn a living. We left a Scripture booklet with him so that he could get others to read to him.

Upon reaching El Baul (which means the trunk), we discovered that the two brothers who had subscribed to our Gospel paper had a small store, but we couldn’t stay overnight nor have a meeting there as they were living in concubinage. So we worked the town with tracts, offered Scriptures for sale, and started for home the same evening. A number of men were lounging in the principal store and when one of them learnt that we were missionaries he said out loud, “I wish I could get an easy job like that, with plenty of pay and little work.” Mr. Williams promptly replied, “Do you think we do not work? Give me your hand,” and as the man felt his hand in the vise-like grip of a hand accustomed to hard work, it made him wince and quickly change his views, to the evident amusement of the rest. As I was going from house to house with Bibles, New Testaments and Gospel portions, a boy with a tray of meat pies on his head began to follow me, crying out: “I give meat pies for little books”, so I turned around and gave him a Gospel without claiming his offer of a meat pie, and he went on his way rejoicing.

Our return trip from El Baul was rather difficult as a part of the trail was through wooded country, and wherever some huge tree had fallen it was not removed, but traffic had to find a way around it. We had to go very cautiously and it was a strain on the eyes, but we overtook a truckload of hogs and in the dark we could follow behind by sense of smell. We all became weary as the night lengthened out, and decided to look for somewhere to sleep. At one ranch a number of truckers were there so that was no place for us, but later we came to a cottage and knocked at the door to see if we could pass the night there, but evidently a woman lived alone so she didn’t answer. Mr. Williams chose the back seat of the car to rest in; Bernardo claimed the front seat, so brother Fairfield and I looked around and found a platform wide enough for both of us to lie on. But it was what the woman used to dry her cassave bread on and was a very fragile affair. Consequently we were no sooner lying down than it gave way. We were sorry about this but knew that it could be easily fixed up again. It was dawn ere we reached Tinaco, and we continued on to Puerto Cabello the same day.

Later on Mr. Williams arranged with a brother who had a truck, to take benches, beds, and household goods necessary for a prolonged stay there. Mrs. Williams and Joe Turkington accompanied him and our brethren preached for several weeks in a rented house, with fairly good interest on the part of the townspeople. They saw a little blessing, but not enough to establish a permanent testimony. Joe and Ruth Turkington have persevered with that work and secured a house, made improvements, and it is there for any who wish to visit and have meetings. The little group of believers comes together at least once a week. “Prayer changes things” and we still believe that there will be a visitation in grace and a light of testimony raised up.

Our sisters Miss Edith Gulston, Fanny Goff, Martha Kember and Mrs. Sadie Walmsley have visited there during their holidays, engaging in visitation work; also our Venezuelan workers, Jose R. Linares and Abigail Sequera, in addition to the Turkingtons and ourselves.
 
 
LAGUNITAS

Quite a long time ago the old postmaster in this village wrote me for a Bible, as advertised in our Gospel paper, “El Correo Evangellico,” (which we send out to post office officials), and for which he enclosed the price. Several times after that, he wrote ordering New Testaments and Gospel booklets to give to his friends. Two or three years later Mr. Williams and I went with a brother in his truck to visit that village, reached over a long, rough trail from San Carlos. Whilst some of our company were working the village with tracts, we went to see the old postmaster and had a friendly conversation with him. Then I asked him if he was saved, to which he replied that he was. I further pressed the matter asking him if he had eternal life, and again he said, “Yes.” Then I asked him how he knew that for certain. He made a sign to us to wait whilst he went to a rustic cupboard and produced the Bible that I had sold him. He then turned to John 5:24 and read to us that wonderful verse that has brought assurance to many an anxious soul: “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, HATH everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” We marveled at the workings of God’s grace in a soul so far removed from the privilege of hearing the Gospel preached, and with no radio or human intervention. He had exercised simple faith in the Person and words of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Two years later Mr. and Mrs. Williams and I were exercised about making a Gospel tent effort in that place, so we went in my old Plymouth station wagon, with a sister to help in the kitchen, and one of our Venezuelan preachers. A house with a large piece of land beside it was rented, but the villagers were much given to idolatry and not many would enter the tent. The old postmaster had retired and left some time previously. However a number of men began attending, but at the weekend they failed to appear, so we went to visit one of them and found him lying in his hammock sick. He told us that on the Saturday a man turned up with the image of “The Virgin of Good Health” and they decided to have a feast in “her” honor, so that they would obtain good health. They beat up several dozen of eggs with rum, and as they sang the praises of the virgin, they imbibed the intoxicating potion. Instead of attaining good health, the feast put him on his back! Such is the native version of virgin worship. There was no dentist in those parts so I was kept busy in my spare time with extractions. Tooth sufferers would appear in the meeting and at the close would make an appointment. In this way many heard the Gospel who otherwise perhaps would not have been interested.

In visiting from house to house, we came across a twenty-four year old blind and diminutive man who was willing to listen to us. We asked him if he had ever heard of the Lord Jesus Christ, to which he replied, “No”; there were so many saints that he did not know which one it could be .We then asked him who it was that died on the middle cross. After a period of reflection, he asked us if it was Simon Bolivar (the Venezuelan liberator)! The poor man was living in a denser darkness spiritually, than corporally. So we sang that beautiful hynm in Spanish:

“At the cross, at the cross!
where I first saw the light,
and the burden of my heart rolled away,
it was there by faith I received my sight,
and now I am happy all the day.”

As we sang, the little man’s feet were keeping time, and his hands and fingers were moving fast, as he was musically inclined and could play a guitar.

 

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This 24 year old man born blind, when asked if he knew who Jesus Christ was, replied that there were so many “saints” that he could not remember which of them it was.
 
On a certain Saturday there was a wedding and the civil chief came to us, saying that a government official, who was a friend of his, had arrived and wished to see inside our tent. Mr. Williams invited him in and the man at once showed an interest in the large Bible chart of “The Two Roads and Two Destinies”, which was hanging behind the platform. As Mr. Williams proceeded to explain its meaning, the official asked, with apparent surprise, if we believed in a place called hell. He began to justify himself, and say that he had never done anything wrong; had always lived a good life, and why should God send him to hell? With his mature experience, Mr. Williams was well able to sum up the kind of person he was dealing with, so he “drew a bow at a venture”, and asked the official: “Do you not remember that time when you persuaded an innocent girl to leave her home and elope with you, offering to marry her, and how you dishonored and abandoned her?” The man was silenced and humiliated, no doubt amazed that a perfect stranger to him should be acquainted with his intimate and shameful conduct. How solemnly true is the Scripture: “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

 

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Onoto, the “little brown church in the wildwood”. J. W. Turkington gave them a larger portable hail.

There was a well in the back yard of that rented house, about which we were warned not to use the water, so we had to fetch it from the neighbour’s house. In order to find out what was wrong, we let a man down the well with a rope. He called to us to send down a bucket and then sent it up again full of toads in various stages of putrefaction. After the well was thoroughly cleaned out the water could be used. The reason why it was in such a state was through lack of a cover. This reminds us of the wisdom of God’s law for His earthly people: “And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.” The Word of God applied practically to daily life serves as a covering. The eyes and ears are avenues to the soul, and unless we keep the Word of God continually before us the evils around will invade our soul. Our Lord Jesus prayed to His Father: “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.”

When we think of and pray for Lagunitas, we are reminded of the precious promise: “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1).
 
ONOTO

This work, begun in recent years, has been very encouraging. It is a small settlement on the busy highway going west as far as the Colombian border. Through Gospel meetings held there, a nice number of humble countryfolk were converted, and after being baptized, began to gather as an assembly to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. They met in a tiny wooden hall almost hidden among the big trees, which reminded one of the old hymn, “The little brown church in the wildwood.” Once in awhile snakes were found inside, possibly charmed by the singing. Several young married men have proved themselves very able as elders in the assembly, and there is gift amongst them in the Gospel, so that they have been encouraged in reaching out to other places. Brother Turkington has joined them in most of their Gospel efforts, and “the common people hear them gladly.” Occasionally they meet opposition and even stones, but they plod on, knowing that in due season they will reap, if they faint not.

The assembly has outgrown the original Hall, and Joe Turkington has lent them a larger, portable Hall, until such time as they are able to build a permanent one.