Chapter 19 - San Pablo and El Guayabo

 Chapter 19 - San Pablo and El Guayabo
“To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet
into the way of peace” Luke 1:79


Gospel work began in San Pablo in 1961. Being quite a distance from the highway and also from the old railway line, and boasting of very few humble cottages, it was almost unknown to the outside world. When traveling on the railway to Palma Sola, we would sometimes see a few people from there waiting at the side of the track to receive packages sent for them by the rail car. Whenever we attempted to give them tracts they stoutly refused, and although they knew nothing about the Gospel, they seemed to have a natural antipathy towards it.

 

Sample Image
Sunday afternoon children’s meeting, in housing estate during tent campaign, near Puerto Cabello


The village steadily grew in numbers and importance, and a large cattle corporation that owned vast pasture lands in those parts, made a gravel road from the highway to the village, which reduced driving time from Puerto Cabello to the village to forty-five minutes. Water for domestic use was an acute problem so the State government decided to give them an aqueduct. Our brother Juan Ascanio (see Chapter eighteen) was put in charge of the work. He boarded with the civil chief and his influence there helped to break down the prejudice of the people towards the Gospel. Then some of our brethren and sisters visited the place, selling Bibles, New Testaments and distributing tracts. We went along and brother Ascanio introduced us to the civil chief. He was friendly and offered to get us the syndicate building to hold a meeting. On the appointed night the place was filled with people, and after that, we were able to rent a large ranch of three rooms. So many came that it was necessary to have a children’s meeting at 6:30 and an adult’s meeting afterwards. There was insufficient ventilation and although the boys, mostly dark skinned, only wore short pants, their backs simply shone with the perspiration oozing from their skin.
 
At the commencement of the work we drove back and forth to the meeting each night. One evening, just before the time to leave, we looked in the direction of San Pablo and could see the darkened sky and lightning, indicating a heavy thunderstorm. This would mean that the village street would be under water and heavy mud, making it hard for people to get to the meeting room. However, we remembered the words of Ecclesiastes 11:4, “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap”, and decided to go in case some might turn out. As we entered the village we heard a voice over a loud speaker making an announcement. We feared it must be the priest warning the people not to attend the meeting, but to our surprise it was the civil chief advising everybody that there would be a children’s meeting at 6:30 and an adult meeting at 7:30. He himself attended the meetings at first, bringing his New Testament with him, but like the rich young ruler, Matthew 19, he was unwilling to pay the price and turned back.

San Pablo is a depraved community. They have so little interest in their Roman Catholic religion that they won’t contribute any money to bring the priest in for the annual feast, and every weekend drunkenness and immorality abound. When I was staying in the hall there, I noticed that every Monday night the neighbour had a small coal oil lamp lighted and placed on the pathway leading up to the door of the house. I asked a friend what it was all about, and he explained that the people were animists and believed that departed souls would visit them, and the light was so that they might find the way in!
But this is not only believed by ignorant country folk. In the Caracas cemetery there is the tomb of a doctor called Jose Gregorio Hernandez, who died many years ago, but from time to time there are write-ups in the daily press of how he is still visiting homes and performing operations. Many people wear the medallion bearing the effigy of Dr. Jose Gregorio, and commercial houses use his picture on their propaganda in order to “adorn” the walls of the houses. On the avenue that leads to San Pablo, there is a shrine with many candles burning, to the rriemory of Sinon, the man who died of snake bite near the spot. The people now pray to his soul. The priests make the people pay them to pray FOR the departed souls, and on the other hand, the people themselves pray TO the departed souls, so it is quite a mix up of theology.

 

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Pioneering with the Gospel. Crossing a former railway bridge sides filled in with old rails. Delfin and wife, Carmen Elena, and Sidney Saword.

We got permission to put in larger windows and doors, and then Don Pedro, a two hundred and fifty pound man, and owner of the ranch, got interested in the Gospel and confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, so we were encouraged to purchase the building and greatly reformed it. Our brother Delfin Rodriguez, later commended with his wife to the Lord’s work, gave valuable help, bringing people in his Jeep from near and far to the meetings, and sharing in the preaching. As the hall was small for the numbers attending, we decided to pitch the tent between the hall and the street, and found there was just room enough to do so. This was a great improvement. Brother Bruce Cumming came over from Falcon to help us for three weeks and the meetings were well attended. One night a truckload of brethren from Moron arrived and we were cheered by this expression of their interest. However, the following night we discovered a shortage in the small Gospel hymn books we were using. It transpired that our Moron brethren took for granted that we were handing out hymn books for “keeps”!, but they readily returned them upon learning of their mistake.

On a certain night when I had my station wagon parked near the entrance of the tent, our doorkeeper noticed a suspicious individual leaning against a front wheel, with his hand behind him, and apparently listening to the preaching. However, we discovered that he was cutting the tire with a knife. This was not the only tire ruined in this way. Pioneering work involves over head expenses largely ignored by the majority of God’s people.

Not far from San Pablo there were the ruins of a San Pablo and El Guayabo former sugar refinery, in the midst of a plantation, called El Central. We felt exercised about taking the Gospel to the people there and were successful in getting permission to use the old laboratory, the only part of the factory that was not in ruins. We put benches in and preached there for four weeks. The old schoolmarm, whilst friendly to our face, did her utmost to keep children and adults from attending the meetings. Several people bought Bibles and some souls were saved.

We returned to San Pablo for another tent effort in a different part, and on the 6th of October 1962, we held the second baptism in the Urama river, when thirteen believers thus obeyed the Lord. The following day the new assembly was formed with twenty-two brethren and sisters in fellowship. Delfin Rodriguez, after being commended to the Lord’s work, decided with his wife to make their home provisionally in San Pablo, in order to help the young believers.

EL GUAYABO

Near the boundary line between the States of Carabobo and Yaracuy is the rural community of El Guayabo, on a paved, through highway. Some years ago, in the course of their Bible selling excursions, our sisters the misses Fanny M. Goff, Sadie McIlwaine (now Mrs. Walmsley) and others were visiting the homes there, offering Bibles and New Testaments for sale and giving tracts. One of their company, a sister who teaches in our day school, came to an open door where a man was sitting inside reading the Bible. This provoked a conversation that revealed the man’s concern for his soul’s salvation. The sisters suggested beginning a scripture class in his home for the children, to which he readily agreed.

Each Thursday afternoon, when school closes, they drive out to that place, gather up school children and others, and have classes like a Sunday School. Mrs. J. Walmsley and Mrs. W. Williams have faithfully persevered in this good work. Gospel meetings were later begun on the Thursday nights, by brethren from Puerto Cabello and Moron, and it was not long ere the man and his woman professed faith in Christ Our brother Delfin Rodriguez, took an interest in their case and went with them to the nearest civil authority to arrange for the legalization of their union, and also the recognition of their children. The civil chief asked Del-fin how long he had known the couple, and he replied that he had just gotten to know them. Then he was asked, “How could you be a witness if you know nothing about them?” Our brother replied that they had now received Christ as their Saviour, and that he was now their brother in the Lord, for which reason he was prepared to accept the responsibility as a witness for them. The chief expressed his perfect satisfaction, and the writer was present when the marriage act took place.

This man is a Cuban and his name is Sergio Puga. He has proven himself faithful in the things of God, has developed gift in the presentation of the Gospel and can minister the Word acceptably to believers. In due time, he moved his family out of the old mud hut where they lived, and into a modern home. Mr. J. E. Fairfield then undertook the construction of a decent portable Hall, which stands on the site of the old hut. He and Mr. Jim Walmsley had an opening series of meetings and several have professed faith in Christ since then. Sr. Puga, his wife, and daughter, two other married couples and one or two women have been baptized and are now in fellowship in the San Pablo Assembly, the nearest to that place.