Chapter 15 - Vivid Recollections of Quebrada Bonita

Chapter 15 - Vivid Recollections of Quebrada Bonita

This backwoods settlement is near the top of a range of hills that divides the States of Carabobo and Yaracuy. The name means “Pretty Brook”, and there is more than one such in the district, where crystal streams race down luxuriant hillsides. It is between two and a half to three hours walk from Santa Rosa, with some stiff hill climbing. When accompanied by local Christians on several occasions, they would stop at a brook almost half way, and after making cups of a large leaf called Titiara, they would remove their hats and give thanks to God for the water. This demonstration of humble reverence and gratitude to God was very impressive.

As far as we know, the first ray of heavenly light to penetrate the spiritual gloom of that isolated region happened many years ago. In one home there were three grown-up sons, one of whom, named Eugene, had an ear for music, was good at composing folklore songs and had a good voice for singing. He was often invited to feasts to entertain people, and as the so-called Christmas festivities were drawing near he thought he would like to compose a song about the birth of the Saviour, so began seeking information on the subject. Someone informed him that the secretary of the local government, in Canoabo, had a Bible that contained the story of Jesus. He made a trip to the little town and found the secretary willing to sell him the Bible, which he bought at the agreed price and took it up to his parents’ home in Quebrada Bonita. There it was available for anyone who wished to read it. Some years later the secretary moved to Valencia, where relatives got him interested in the Gospel, was saved and it was my privilege to baptize him and his wife.

One early morning a man called Rafael Sequera was waiting in the mountain forest for some of his neighbors to arrive, who had volunteered to help him clear a piece of land for sowing. In the dewy freshness of the morning he began to muse upon the wonders of God’s handiwork in creation, as he beheld it all around him: the majestic trees, the luxuriant vegetation, colorings of the birds and butterflies, with the sweet morning songs filling the air. Whilst thus engaged, he was suddenly arrested by the voice of a friend passing by, and who asked him what he was doing there. He invited the friend over and then conveyed to him his thoughts about the grandeur of creation, and what a wonderful Creator God must be. The other replied that in their home they had a Book that told the story of creation, and if he would call there they would let him read it. So Rafael went and the desire to know God was begotten in his soul. He possessed a natural talent for carving, painting, music and had a fine tenor voice. He could carve out of soft, pithy wood, a lifelike representation of a little bird on the branch of a tree, eating guava fruit; or a small animal nibbling at a wild pineapple. His genius also exposed him to the devil’s work of making images to order, of Roman Catholic “saints.” After conversion, some of his old clients got angry with him for refusing to make them any more saints.” Some time after we were working on an extension of the Gospel hall in Santa Rosa and Rafael came along to help us. He brought his homemade saw, his homemade plane and his chisel cut from an old machete. He also showed me a comb he had made from a cow’s horn. But little by little he discovered that my tools did a better job than his and he evidently believed that as good brethren we should share and share alike!

We believe that Bible in the hills could tell a wonderful story of the ground work it did in preparing many hearts for the coming of the Gospel messengers. Eugene, his brother Plinio and their wives, later on moved to a large estate near Puerto Cabello, called “Sanchon.” (See Chapter 17). The third brother, Pablo, stayed on in the old family home with the Bible, but he was not yet saved. Sometime later the news reached him of meetings being held in Santa Rosa. It was an arduous trip on foot from his house to there but he considered it worth the effort to be able to hear the Gospel preached. He went several nights eager to be saved but he had his difficulties in believing. One morning when he opened his front door, which was not used very often, a copy of our Gospel paper, “El Mensajero Cristiano” (of June 1929) was lying on the door step. It was never discovered who had put it there, but on the front page his attention was arrested by an article entitled: “MY SUBSTITUTE”, which stated that the Lord Jesus Christ came to this world to die “for you and me.” There and then he accepted Christ as his own and personal Saviour.

His wife was not strong enough to accompany him to Santa Rosa, so she told him to go and hear the Word and then recount to her all that he had heard. This he did in such a simple way that she too trusted Christ as her Saviour. In due time, that couple’s four daughters and a son came to know Christ and for these many years have gone on steadfastly in the ways of the Lord. The oldest daughter is in heaven with her parents, but the rest live in Valencia.

Pablito, the son of that couple, was one day on his way to work in the fields when a large snake suddenly faced him. His dog by his side engaged the snake, and its fangs were buried in the dog’s back and broke off, but the dog fought the snake till he killed it and afterwards succumbed to the venom of the serpent. This touching incident just faintly reminds us of that One Who to deliver us from our terrible enemy, fought the fight alone and trod all His foes beneath His feet by being trodden down. He crushed the serpent’s head, but in the act, His heel was bruised by the serpent and He tasted death in all its bitterness.

When Pablo Sequera and his family moved away, they left the old Bible behind. Another family moved in who later professed to be saved. Upon visiting them one day, I asked to see the old Bible. It had become a loose leaf Bible. The mice had destroyed the thread and the woman, who did sewing, had it tied up with pieces of cloth. One thus sees the paramount importance of getting God’s living Word into the homes.

 

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Don Pablo Sequera & family of Quebrada Bonito. All saved.

Soon the Gospel was being preached in Quebrada Bonita, mostly in the open air as there were too many to pack into the small cottages. An elderly woman, whose son and daughter had been saved in the meetings, told her oldest son Sergius that she also wanted to become an evangelical. He was an ungodly fellow and discouraged his mother by telling her that the evangelicals do not smoke and that she could never leave her cigar. In the cold damp mornings she found much comfort in her cigar. It was kept in a handy niche in the kitchen wall so that she could frequently enjoy a puff at it. Even at night she resorted to it to help her sleep. She too wondered how she could live without her cigar and this was her chief hindrance to getting saved. But one evening as she listened to the Gospel message, one of those wonderful verses, such as John 5:24, brought the assurance of salvation to her soul. She arrived home so happy and confessed her faith in Christ to Sergius. He tried his old tricks on his mother but she answered him: “Why, Sergius, I was saved without even thinking of the cigar.” When the little hall was built, the old lady voluntarily undertook to plant flowers around the inside of the fence, and kept them watered and weeded. She had a lovely testimony unto the end.

Another faithful family who were saved at that time, lived beside the donkey trail before getting to the Hall. They could not read but hardly missed a meeting and adorned the doctrine by their lives. The woman’s brother-in-law was a humble and happy Christian. One day I noticed the little toe of his right foot had been dislocated and was sticking out at right angles to his foot. Consequently it got many knocks from stones, so that it was ulcerated and covered with small flies. I gave him some sound advice to go to the hospital and get it amputated. On my next visit I noticed that the little toe had disappeared, so asked him about it. He told me he had sharpened his machete, had put his foot on a block of wood and chopped the toe off in a moment!

Another man who, with his brother, professed faith in Christ in those days lived high up in the mountains and was a born hunter. When out one day with his dog, the latter got on the trail of a puma, or mountain lion which ran into an opening under a pile of rocks, followed by the dog. The lion then nailed the dog down with its claws and the dog’s yelps brought the owner to its rescue. He edged his way through the narrow entrance with his machete between his teeth. Then face to face with the lion, slashed it until it was extinct, and liberated his dog. What an example of love and devotion for his dog! It reminds us of the words of Mephibosheth as he confessed his own unworthiness of all the kindness that David had shown him. He said: “What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?” And this in turn reminds us of the amazing pity, grace unknown and love beyond degree of our blessed Saviour, in His stupendous stoop to where we were hopelessly lost and doomed, and set us free at infinite cost to Himself. I visited this man’s home later and purchased the lion’s skin. Poor man, he later developed paralysis that left him absolutely helpless in bed. Medicines were of no avail and eventually somebody wrote to Mexico for him, giving his name as a prospective client. He was illiterate but was certain that the “invisible doctors of Mexico” had visited him the night previously and had given him hypodermic injections. I told him that he was altogether mistaken; that it was not hypodermic needles that he felt but mosquitoes biting him! Superstition and spiritism have a strong grip on many of these simple people.

When staying at a sister’s home in Quebrada Bonita on one occasion, one of the daughters developed erysipelas of the leg. They caught a large fat toad and bound it with rags to the inflamed part. After leaving it on for twenty-four hours they removed the rags, released the toad still alive, and its pale belly was all inflamed, whereas the girl’s leg was normal.

The building of the QUEBRADA BONITA HALL was quite unique. Money was scarce but there were willing hands and the forest was rich in raw materials. I visited them as they were putting the finishing touches on the building and furniture. I asked them to lend me a hammer so that I could help them, but as in the building of Solomon’s temple, there was neither hammer nor axe. . . heard in the house, although they did have a piece of iron as a substitute for a hammer. They had made a pulpit, platform and benches with backs, out of trees they had felled in the forest. A plant called Cebollin had provided glue, and the walls had been calsomined with a cream powder obtained from mother earth.

One of the brethren there had great ability for that kind of work, and he also developed real gift in preaching the Gospel and in ministering the Word. But such men are always the chief objects of Satan’s attacks and he got back into the world for several years, but his wife went on well to the end. Two of his sons were saved and became useful men in the Valencia Assembly, and in the Lord’s mercy he was restored to the Lord and His people.

As there were about fifty children of school age in the settlement, the brethren built a school house and sent to Canoabo to see if the authorities could not send them a teacher, but the teacher never arrived. This led some to move to places where their children could attend school. Another difficulty was in regard to work. No one could clear land for sowing without a permit from the National Guard, and many times the permit did not arrive until it was too late to sow. One brother had inherited lands but he couldn’t work them without the official permit, and so he moved out with his large family for other parts. Thus that promising work came to an untimely end. Our Venezuelan fellow worker, Abigail Sequera, from time to time continued to visit the settlement and have a meeting or two but the place was almost forsaken. The handful of believers who remained has to go to Capita to “Remember the Lord.”

We retain very happy recollections of our visits with our family at holiday time. It was always a cheer to the saints, and we enjoyed tramping over those hills, visiting the homes and teaching the believers the hymns.

One night whilst having meetings in Quebrada Bonita, I was standing at the gate of the hall waiting for the folks to arrive and a brother turned up all trembling. He had come up the hill along a trail that -was almost covered with undergrowth, when suddenly he heard a rustle and instinctively jumped. A large, poisonous snake had hurled itself at him and just missed his ankle. It immediately began to coil itself up ready for a second attack, but he was too quick for it and smashed its head with a big stone. He took me down the hill to see it. He had hung it over the branch of a tree out of reach of dogs. He drew my attention to the undulations of the body which he thought was the poison flowing through the snake’s body. I told him it was the nervous system which continued for a little while after the snake had been dead.