Chapter 17 - Sanchon and Santa Rosa

Chapter 17 - Sanchon and Santa Rosa

We will now resume the story of Eugene and Plinio Sequera (see Chapter 15). When they moved to Sanchon they were not saved. On the estate where they settled there were forestlands and Plinio was able to cut plenty of firewood, which he took in his mule cart to Puerto Cabello for sale. There one day he met Mr. Gordon Johnston, who arranged to buy a cartload of firewood to be delivered to the Gospel Hall. This was needed for the approaching conference. Greatly astonished, Plinio asked: “Are you Don Jorge?” (a name by which Mr. Johnston was familiarly known in Venezuela). To which the latter replied, “Yes, I am.” Then Plinio explained that he knew him by name because he had read articles by Mr. Johnston in EL MENSAJERO CRISTIANO. Gordon Johnston invited him to his house and as he announced to him the Gospel, Plinio became a convinced man. He was given a Bible and Gospel booklets, but continued resisting the call of Christ.

Very early one morning in June of 1929, on his way to Puerto Cabello, he stopped at the village of El Palito to buy cigarettes which helped to tranquilize him on the tedious trip. As he was in the act of lighting a cigarette, the fear of God came suddenly upon him, causing him to throw away his cigarettes and matches. Then he remembered Matthew 11:28 and the Lord’s invitation: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He got down from his cart, knelt in the dirt trail, surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ, asked pardon for his sins and accepted Christ as his personal Saviour. He then continued his journey with joy and the certainty that his sins were pardoned, and that he was now a new creature in Christ. This is his own story published years later in EL MENSAJERO CRISTIANO.

His bright testimony of life and lips began to exert a marvelous influence upon those around him. His brother Eugene and their two wives, already prepared through the old Bible, soon found peace also. Thus began a real work of grace in that settlement. A nice number came to know Christ as Saviour and Lord, and a baptism was arranged in the river. At times alligators had swum up that river but they were not after people; they merely wanted a duck or two which one family kept. Mr. Williams and I both preached on the river bank to the large company gathered for the occasion, and the baptism was carried out with good order. One of those seated there that day later trusted Christ and today is an elder in one of our assemblies. Plinio departed to be with Christ on October 29, 1972, having finished his course with joy.

In due time a scriptural assembly began there and they were a happy company. In those days I found a bicycle very useful for reaching that, and other rural districts, but it was not all easy going. On my trips to Sanchon, first there were seven miles of rough road, then as the Palito bridge was down, the river had to be waded through with bicycle on shoulder. It was several miles further on to Sanchon and from there a sandy track and the crossing of the stream seven times. It was a lonely trip when I went for a week night meeting and I had to arm myself with a strong stick for the return journey, as the village dogs would usually rush out on me, and by brandishing my stick, I could keep them off.

About that time the Sanchon brethren arranged for an afternoon and evening meeting, as it was a National holiday. A brother joined me and we started out on our bicycles. Just before reaching the side road into Sanchon, I asked my companion if he had seen or heard of Justo lately. This was a young man in the Sanchon assembly. As he answered in the negative I felt concerned about him; so we enquired at a wayside hut, and were given clear instructions how to find his cottage. We had to go through a dirty cow yard, then into a coconut plantation and finally we would come to the palm-thatched cottage. As we drew near, we were alarmed to see a vessel outside the door containing about a quart of blood. Then our eyes caught sight of the brother on a blood soaked canvas bed. Blood was still trickling out of an ugly gash in his leg, made by a machete accident at work. A coagulant had been applied, but had formed a large lump of congealed blood without stopping the hemorrhage.

We applied a tourniquet, thoroughly cleansed the wound, covered it with the remedy and then bound it up with rags. Then we sent for eggs and milk and gave him a good nourishing eggnog drink. We had prayer together, read a portion of the Word with a brief commentary, sung a hymn, and when the blood had staunched we eased off the tourniquet and left the dear brother in an entirely different frame of mind and soul. He got strong again and on a subsequent visit to Sanchon, he met me at the beginning of the seven river crossings, and carried me over each one. After many years he still goes on faithfully and is now in the Maracay assembly. To God be all the glory!

This is an example of how God sometimes lays a person upon our heart who needs our ministry, whether temporal or spiritual or both. One can readily see what a fatal outcome might result from neglecting to respond to the Spirit’s leading in such cases. It is recorded of our blessed Lord that He went about doing good (temporal ministry); and healing all those oppressed of the devil (spiritual ministry). So “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

In due time the Lord provided a Model A Ford car which greatly facilitated our work; but one night, after a meeting in Sanchon, we got to the seventh crossing of the stream, when a rushing, roaring torrent overtook us in midstream, bringing a large quantity of loose sand. There our car stalled, with the water covering the floorboard. I was thankful to have a companion with me whom I sent back to get help. It was an eerie experience to be alone in the midst of that swollen forest stream, not knowing how much higher the water would rise, or whether the car would be carried away, but thank God! at all times and in every place there is access to the Throne of Grace, and prayer changes things. My companion was successful in gathering together half a dozen stalwart volunteers, who brought flat stones to make a causeway, then lifted each wheel on to it, and as the waters had subsided, they were able to push the car out. In spite of so much water in the crank case, we were able to get the car started and arrived home safely.

SANTA ROSA

As mentioned in Mr. Williams’ story of Santa Rosa, the two brothers, Plinio and Eugene Sequera, wanted to visit their relatives in Santa Rosa, and one or two brethren from Puerto Cabello were ready to accompany them. Then began the remarkable work of grace whereby many benighted souls came to know Christ as their Saviour. Each Lord’s Day found men, women and children undertaking the strenuous walk over hill and dale, from near and far, to spend a happy season together in the “courts of the Lord.” In the large family home of Don Jose la Paz Sequera, there was always a frugal meal between meetings for those from a distance, but a testing time came. All that they could offer their visitors would be yuca root, which though not very nourishing was at least filling. But they had run out of salt, and without means of buying any, and who could eat unsalted yuca? They made it a special matter of prayer, and God’s precious promise was wonderfully fulfilled in their case: “That before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24).

It so happened that a brother, who worked in a warehouse in Puerto Cabello, had been sick with malaria, and upon recovery, decided to spend a short holiday with the Christians in Santa Rosa. He wanted to take them a gift but could not think of what would be most acceptable. It then occurred to him to take a twenty-five pound bag of crude salt. Only the Lord could have moved him to that choice for, with a six hours tramp over a donkey trail, and then a strenuous climb up the mountain, with his baggage over his shoulder and the salt as excess baggage, it was quite an undertaking for a man recently recovered from malaria! But it was of God and He granted the necessary strength. The brother arrived at Santa Rosa on the Saturday, and what a happy surprise for those humble saints to be presented with a twenty-five pound sack of salt! So God permitted the trial in order that His people’s faith might be strengthened in His never failing resources.

Don Jose la Paz had seven grown up sons and two daughters. All of them were reached and saved, baptized and in assembly fellowship. The last one to get saved was Abigail (a son). He was working in a dry goods store in Valencia and enjoying worldly pleasures, which kept him from showing an interest in his soul’s salvation. When living in Valencia we sought to get him interested, but God had to deal with him in a more drastic way. He lost his job and was unable to get another, so he packed his suitcase, and like the prodigal son, started for home. By the time he got there he had perspired so profusely carrying the suitcase on his back, that when he went to let it down a large piece of it was sticking to him, leaving a big hole in the cardboard suitcase.

Hanging on the wall, he noticed a Gospel calendar (“Good News” Publishers), with a picture depicting a threshing floor in Palestine. The verses beside it arrested his attention: “In that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. . . two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left,” (Luke 17:34-36). He thought of the rest of the family, all ready for the Lord’s coming, and he would be the one left! Next day as his father left for the fields, he handed him his family Bible and encouraged him to read it. As he read, God spoke to him very loudly and he wanted to get saved that night. He waited for everyone to retire, then he slipped out to the corridor and got on his knees to pray but he heard the door opening, and waited till all was quiet again. Then under the shelter of a banana tree in the garden, he came to trust Christ as his Sayiour and Lord. It was a case of “the last shall be first”, for he excelled in his devotion to the Lord, to the meetings and the Lord’s work. Mr. Williams felt exercised about speaking to him as one whom the Lord might be calling to His service. At first Abigail did not consider that he was able for this, but he was heartily commended (in 1953) and God has blessed his labours in the Gospel in a remarkable way.

There was a wholesale exodus of neighbours from the Santa Rosa district and Abigail was one who moved down to the village, as the doctor warned him that his heart was not fit for climbing hills. The Lord enabled him to build a nice little hall in the village, where the assembly now meets. The old hall in Santa Rosa is still standing, but now abandoned.
Don Jose de la Paz Sequera was a patriarchal looking man, with a large family of grown up children, and for some years he had held the honorary position of official authority for that district. He was one of the first to confess Christ when cottage meetings began in Santa Rosa. He resigned his official position which the governor reluctantly accepted, and from then on, the things of God had first consideration. Being a man greatly respected by all, he became an esteemed elder and shepherd amongst the young believers and was an inspiration to the rest, in his devotedness to the Lord.

 

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One of the donkeys carrying baggage for Saword family taking a mid-day siesta at lunchtime by the river, on the long trek to Santa Rosa


A unique feature of the periodic visits which Mr. Gordon Johnston and I made to Santa Rosa was the house to house visitation. Each morning after a frugal breakfast and family reading, Don Jose would be our leader, wearing a wide brimmed straw hat, carrying a large Bible in a lunch bag strung over his shoulder, and a pilgrim’s staff in his hand, to help him up and down the steep donkey trails. Upon reaching one of the scattered homes, he would knock at the door. From inside a voice would ask “Who is there?” to which he would reply: “Gente de paz” (people of peace). Then the voice would again be heard: “Pasen adelant” (come in). We would be invited to sit down on the rustic seats, and Don Jose, with a kindly voice, would ask the inmates if they would like to hear the Word of God. Invariably there was a ready acquiescence, so we would read a short passage of Scripture and explain in simple language the message of salvation. Then after singing a hymn we would move on to the next cottage. As we went from one house to another, people from previous houses would join our company in order to hear more of the glad tidings. It was strenuous going but the joy of the Lord was our strength, and to a great extent we were following the simple, systematic pattern of evangelization that our blessed Lord pursued when here upon earth.

When old Don Jose was nearing his end, several of us went up to be with him and attend his funeral. It was the custom in those hills to carry the corpse in a hammock on a long bamboo, each end of which rested on a man’s shoulder. It would be relay work down the steep and stony trail. In the village the corpse would be transferred to a coffin and taken to the cemetery. A crowd of villagers gathered to see the interment, and at that time it was a very fanatical village where Christians had suffered persecution. As we stood waiting for the grave diggers to finish their job, a man came up to me and remarked what a pity that a man of Don Jose’s age should forsake the religion of his fathers and embrace a new faith! I was ready with an answer to this and asked the man what he thought of the apostle Peter. He at once expressed his admiration for that great saint, so I asked him if he knew that Peter also had left the “religion of his fathers” to follow the Gospel. This effectually closed the man’s mouth and he quietly listened to me as I gave him the simple Gospel message as preached by Peter himself.