Chapter 20 - Revival of the Work in Valencia and District

Chapter 20 - Revival of the Work in Valencia and District

After making a beginning in Duaca, the Fletchers made arrangements with Mr. and Mrs. Willie Wills to take over there, and they moved to Valencia where a fresh interest had begun, and some had already professed faith in Christ. Gospel meetings were held in the Fletcher home and God was pleased to bless the Word, so that Mr. Fletcher was encouraged to start building his house and after that the Gospel Hall, in which fellow workers gave a hand. It was a humble beginning, but a number were baptized, an assembly formed, and a good number were present at their first conference (incidentally, the writer had to sleep on the small platform as the only accommodation left)! At times there was violent opposition as Valencia was a citadel of priestcraft and religious orders. Even among themselves, there was rivalry between the large Franciscan temple and the cathedral, both claiming to have the better facilities for getting people to heaven!

A certain priest was ringleader of a gang that would stone the hall at meeting time. He would hide in the next door neighbor’s entrance, and as soon as the first hymn was announced would give the signal, and the stones would come. One night a large stone passed uncomfortably close to the preacher’s nose and left its mark on the plastered wall where it hit. Brother Anthony Malpica was once a member of a street gang that took delight in stoning the Hall, but he became a real trophy of God’s saving and keeping grace, and for years now, has been a pillar in the church.

When the Fletchers finally left Venezuela and changed their field of service, the writer and family moved there for two years, a very happy period of activities in the Gospel in that area. When Mr. Gordon Johnston and family left for Canada, we moved to Puerto Cabello to look after the printing work, and as the Johnstons never returned, that became our permanent centre of service. Mr. and Mrs. Eddie Fairfield succeeded us in Valencia and have made it their permanent centre of pastoral and evangelistic activities, as it is an important hub for reaching assemblies all around.

The original hall in Valencia has had to be considerably enlarged, in spite of a hive-off of a number in the assembly to one of the outskirts. The assemblies in Valencia have profited by the influx of quite a few believers who were in country assemblies and moved in mainly through economic circumstances. Both Sunday Schools in these assemblies are well attended. Valencia is another striking example of how a great work has developed from a humble beginning.

When staying with the Fletchers in Valencia, on one occasion, a man who lived on a little farm, about two hours walk from the city, invited us to go there for a meeting. He and his wife had not been long saved and were anxious that their neighbours should hear the Gospel. A group of us decided to go out together: Mr. Fletcher, myself, a brother who worked at the Light plant, and old Don Leon with his donkey, also two or three sisters. As soon as we had left the city behind, it began to rain and we had to tramp through mud and water, I decided to walk barefoot in order to save my shoes for the meeting but Mr. Fletcher kept his shoes on and ruined them, having to borrow a pair of shoes to get home again. We had dinner on the farm, followed by a meeting; then started out for Valencia. But meantime there had been a tropical downpour, and long before arriving at the stream which had to be crossed, the surrounding fields were under water. The brother who was with us had to be on duty at 6 p.m. at the Light plant, so he plunged into the water to see how deep it was. By the time he reached the bank of the stream, the water was almost up to his neck.
It was decided that the sisters should retire to the nearest house and Don Leon and his donkey went with them. Then we men carried our clothes on our heads and waded to the edge of the stream, where it was very deep with a strong current. However, in the providence of God, there were two large trees, one on either side of the stream and their branches interlocked. Like monkeys we climbed up and crossed safely to the other side. On the way home Mr. Fletcher threw his old shoes over the hedge as they were beyond repair. The brother who had to go on duty raced ahead of us, and by the time we got to the Fletcher’s home, there was just time to wash and change and get into the meeting five minutes before the hour. The Lord had given us a message for His people on the way, based on Isaiah 43:2 - “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.”

The sisters, Don Leon and his donkey stayed in the house till midnight, then some cowboys on horseback arrived. They offered to take the women across the stream, which was still swollen, on their horses. They tried to get the donkey across, but the current carried it down stream. Don Leon rushed ahead and was able to grab the halter rope at a bend in the stream and pulled the donkey out.

That farmer brother and his wife were later baptized and were in the Sanchon assembly.

GUACARA

This large town is about ten miles east of Valencia. Some twenty people had written Mr. G. G. Johnston in 1925, asking to have their names included on the mailing list for the “Mensajero Cristiano”, our Gospel paper, which at that time was issued monthly. Mr. Fletcher, who was living in Valencia, thought that he would like to look up these subscribers, so went to Guacara, did some colportage work, contacted several friendly people, and returned with a good report. James Gunn and I were in Puerto Cabello at the time, and both felt exercised about making our first attempt at preaching the Gospel in a new place. We made some portable benches, got together cooking and housekeeping accessories, and were able to rent a house with a large front room, which had to be wired for the light. Mr. Willie Wills helped us in visiting the homes and inviting the people, but he made the mistake of calling on the priest, telling him of the proposed meetings and ending up with a discussion. The priest was thoroughly aroused and advised the bishop of Valencia, also the most influential man in town, so the war began. The bishop came with all his pompous display, led religious processions, and “confirmed” souls at forty cents per head. Of course they were confirmed in their sins! The big man of the town warned all his employees that if they entered the meeting room they would be discharged. Brother Gunn and I plodded on, preaching and visiting, but fear of consequences kept the people from entering the meeting room. A number would stand outside and listen and one or two drunken men would enter. One of these actually produced a notebook and began writing. One day we got word that some of our Valencia Christians were coming out on foot, so James made a large stack of banana pancakes, as we were sure they would be hungry on arrival. It proved a great success, and we were cheered by their visit: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth •the countenance of his friend.”
One morning Jim Gunn awakened greatly discouraged and remarked: “0! for a sight of Canada”, his native land. As he did most of the cooking, it was my job to do the buying, so I went out just after he had uttered those words, and to my surprise, a boy was coming towards me with pants and jacket made out of a flour sack of the Canadian Maple Leaf Milling Company, with the big maple leaf on his back. I called Jim to come at once to get a glimpse of Canada!

We preached there for a month and a man named Ramon Gonzalez came nearly every night and listened outside. He had a small business and was afraid of losing his customers if he identified himself with the Gospel. We visited him and hoped that he would offer us his house for weekly cottage meetings after we concluded the series, but he feared the consequences. However, he was a secret disciple. There were also several others who at that time were convinced of the truth of the Gospel. Not long after, Don Ramon and his wife both confessed Christ as their Saviour, and moved to a private home which they had bought, and where there was ample room for meetings. We were invited to go and I kept up weekly visits on my bicycle, preaching the Gospel to a nice little company that would gather. Later, brethren Williams and Douglas had a series of Gospel chart meetings and saw some fruit. A number were baptized, and in due time an assembly formed. Some time later, a corner lot was purchased and Mr. Williams decided to lend them his portable hall until such time as they were able to put up a permanent building.

As soon as the priest heard of this intention, he started out canvassing the town with a list for signatures, appealing to the authorities to prohibit the building of the Gospel Hall. Whilst he was thus engaged, a cement floor was laid, then the portable hall went up in one day. One can well imagine the consternation of the priest when he next passed by that corner site and saw the hall already on it! Later on a permanent building replaced the portable one but it was a hard job to get people in to hear the Gospel. About three years ago, Mr. J. E. Fairfield and others held a series of meetings with very encouraging results. He then undertook the enlarging and renovation of the Hall, which was a great improvement, and the work is now progressing steadily.

GUIGUE

This is a small town, the centre of a vast agricultural area situated on the western shores of Lake Valencia, and about a forty minutes drive from the city of that name. Many years ago Gordon Johnston and I started out from Valencia on a Bible selling trip, but we sold so many books along the way and in Guigue, that we had to return to replenish our stock. Some time later I was exercised about visiting a backslider, who had gone to Guigue from an assembly in another part. Some brethren from Valencia accompanied me and we took a supply of Scriptures for house to house work. The backslider, whose name was Ramon, had a small grocery business so we decided to visit him first. He saw us coming so hid himself and sent his boy to tell us that he was not there. I got our brethren away selling Bibles and one of them stayed with me. I told the boy that I knew the man was still there and that I was going to stay until he came out. He heard what I said and finally appeared on the scene. The result was that he acknowledged his sin, was put under discipline by his assembly, and eventually fully restored, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy,” (Proverbs
28:13).

Whilst offering the Scriptures to the people, I met a friendly barber who wanted a Bible and purchased one from me. This led to his conversion later on, and for many years after he moved to Caracas with his wife and son, he was a very useful brother in the assembly. He departed from this life happy in the Lord.

There was a young man in Guigue who was an inveterate gambler, but one day he was given a Bible, through which God spoke to his soul, and without any human intervention he trusted Christ as his Saviour. His mother was a simple but staunch Roman Catholic, and when her son told her of his new found joy in Christ, she was furious, went to the Civil Chief and asked him to arrest her son and have him marched through the town as a heretic. This was done and then he was put in jail, but he witnessed so valiantly for his Lord that the police could not tolerate him and let him out. His former bosom companion in the gambling business tried to get him back, but this young convert so persisted in telling him of the Saviour, that the other began to avoid him. One day his old companion came to bid him “Good-bye,” as he was leaving for another part. The Christian faithfully warned him and pleaded with him to accept Christ, but he put the matter off and shortly afterwards died suddenly, without a Sayiour. What a solemn warning to any who are putting off for tomorrow what they should do today! “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

This dynamic young man, Louis, worked hard in distributing literature and trying to get people interested in the Gospel. In due course, Christians from other parts went to live in Guigue. Souls were saved, so that in the course of time an assembly was formed with a Sunday School, and a nice hall was built. Louis had the joy of seeing his mother and sister saved and in the assembly. He could preach and teach, and in spite of certain peculiarities, he stood by the work until finally he took sick and was taken to Caracas, where he passed away in the hospital.

For economic reasons several Christians have had to move from Guigue to other parts. Death has also reduced the number in fellowship, but the light of testimony is still shining, and Mr. J. E. Fairfield has taken a great interest in that work.