Chapter 12 - Beginning Work in Lara State

Chapter 12 - Beginning Work in Lara State
“In the morning sow thy seed and in the evening withhold not thine hand” Ecclesiastes 11:6


Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fletcher returned from their first furlough at the end of 1922. During their first term they had made their home in San Felipe and had been a great help to the infant assembly there; but Mrs. Fletcher couldn’t stand the malarious climate of those days, so they turned their thoughts towards Duaca, noted for its healthy climate, and rented a house with a good sized front room for meetings. It was uphill work as there were no Christians there and in fact, that whole state had not yet been evangelized, and like the Parable of Luke 11:21-23, in this case the priest was the strong man who was keeping his goods in peace. He had misinformed his people of the true nature of the Gospel, and in their ignorance without the Scriptures, they were afraid to attend the meetings and hear the Truth. Brethren Johnston, Gunn and the writer visited the Fletchers after attending the Aroa conference and tried to help a little. A retired blacksmith, Don Sixto, and his two maiden sisters were the first to confess Christ. The latter were faithful souls and showed their love for the Lord and His people, but the brother was never much of a help to the work.

The Fletchers did not stay long in Duaca but moved to Valencia where prospects seemed more favorable. Mr. and Mrs. Willie Wills were prepared to take over in Duaca, as Mrs. Wills did not enjoy good health in Aroa.

Mr. Willie Wills persevered for several years and his faith was such, that, although visible results were small, he decided to build himself a home as the Lord enabled him, using the large front room for meetings. A saved couple from Aroa moved to a section house down the railway line from Duaca, as the man was a section boss. He was an earnest Christian and later meetings were held in his home with blessing. Mr. Wills visited the countryside around Duaca constantly and wherever there was an opportunity, held cottage meetings. Some were saved, baptized and received into assembly fellowship, but in spite of this it was a struggle for the survival of the tiny testimony.

Later on, some Christians with a “Pentecostal” background came to see Mr. Wills, as they were exercised as to the scriptural order of an assembly. They were willing to be taught, and as individuals, with a clear evidence of being born again, they were added to the assembly. They moved down from the isolated hilltop, where they had their homes, and settled in a more populated community, where the Lord blessed their testimony in the Gospel. A hall was built and an assembly formed.

The chief land owner of the district was an idolater and bitter enemy of the truth, so he sent for the old priest of Duaca to come and help get the evangelicals put out of the district. The priest was too pacific, however, for such a job, and visited the Christians, drank coffee with them and showed himself friendly. Then the “big man” sent to Valencia for a priest belonging to a special order of orators to defend Romanism. This man gathered the R. C’s under a great tree by a stream just outside the gate of the Gospel Hall, and intended to get them all stirred up against the evangelicals. He hadn’t got properly started when someone knocked against a bough of the tree where there was a nest of hornets. In a moment the air was alive with them and everybody stampeded.

The big man got into financial difficulties and had to leave the district. The green cross, that he had set up for worship, later fell and rotted on the ground, and the shrine where they lit candles in honor of the cross became a storehouse for coffee. Thus the Lord makes the wrath of man to praise Him; “the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10).

One morning, when staying in Duaca, Mr. Wills and I started out with tracts along the country road, seeking opportunities of conversing with the people, many of whom could not read. By noon, after tramping over dusty roads under a scorching sun, we were very thirsty and turned aside into a field where we saw a native hut, with the object of getting a drink of water. But upon arriving there, the hut was in such a dilapidated condition and the two women so dirty looking, that we changed our minds about asking for water, and instead, we sang every verse of the Spanish translation of the beautiful English hymn that says: “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.” We bid “good day” to the women and went on our way. Years later, when on a visit to Duaca, my wife and I called at the home of the leading brother. After awhile his wife asked me if I remembered the time when brother Wills and I called at a cottage in a field, to which I answered that it was still fresh in my memory. “Well,” she said - “I was one of the two women and the other is my husband’s sister. We were so impressed with the words of that hymn that I asked him to go to Duaca and hear the preaching. He brought back a good report, so we all began to attend the meetings and in due time were saved.” Those two women are now in Heaven; more recently that brother likewise has departed to be with Christ.

One evening Mr. Wills left home for a cottage meeting in a nearby hamlet. His best route was by the railway track which took him past the station. There he noticed a suspicious looking character eyeing him and then became conscious of the fact that the man, with a cudgel in his hand, was following him. Upon reaching a trestle bridge, Mr. Wills turned aside to let the man go ahead but he refused to do this so our brother began to cross it. The man then rushed upon him, knocking him off the bridge with a blow of his cudgel, and then jumped down - -- where he lay stunned, and began to beat him unmercifully. For a moment he was able to spring to his feet and grip his assailant but he was too weak to continue the struggle, so pleaded with the man to spare his life for the sake of his wife and children, but the other was bent on killing him and began looking around in the grass, evidently for a knife that he had dropped. Just in time two men on horses arrived and the would-be assassin fled. They got Mr. Wills to the hospital where he required many stitches and later the police found the culprit, whom they brought to the Wills’ home for identification. The man was then put in jail but released the next day.

As soon as Mr. Bertie Douglas and I were notified of the case, we went to Barquisimeto to interview the president of that state of Lara, Eustoquio Gomez, brother of the dictator J. V. Gomez, and himself a real tyrant. He treated us with callous indifference and through his colonel told us that we could take the matter to the law courts. We came to the conclusion that some high authority had paid the would-be slayer to kill Mr. Wills through hatred of the Gospel. However, we thanked the Lord for His timely intervention on behalf of His servant. This was an unusual case of injustice, as in those days, for the most part, the authorities would give their protection to Gospel efforts in accordance with the provision of the law granting religious freedom. That same Eustoquio Gomez, when his brother died, went to Caracas with soldiers and equipment determined to take over the presidency by force, but another general who discovered the plot. shot him dead and thus saved the country from further disaster.

When Mr. and Mrs. John G. Frith came to Venezuela they spent a short period in Puerto Cabello, acquired a working knowledge of the language and then were led to make their home in Duaca. About that time there was a nucleus of believers in the progressive city of BARQUISIMETO, twenty-one miles distant from Duaca, so brother Frith, with the country work in Guaiguayure, had a promising field before him. Periodical Gospel efforts in each place have refreshed the souls of the saints and in most cases have yielded fruit in conversions. Now there is a fourth assembly in La Ruesga, just outside of Barquisimeto on the road to Duaca. John Frith and Joe Linares, both being experienced builders, have carried out a very creditable building program on the Halls in Duaca, Barquisimeto, Guaiguayure and La Ruesga.

Since its formation, the Barquisimeto assembly has steadily grown and is blessed with a number of young Christians exercised in Sunday School and tract work. In San Jose, one of the many suburbs, a portable hall has been erected where a nice number of children attend the Sunday School and Gospel meetings are carried on.

For fifty-three years our Gospel press was kept in operation in Puerto Cabello, where “EL MENSAJERO CRISTIANO” was published and distributed, but due to failing health and advanced years our print shop helper could not continue. There are two exercised young brethren in Barquisimeto, who work in print shops, and they with others were very happy to take over our press work in their “spare time.” Mr. Frith supervised the construction of a very convenient building behind the portable hall in San Jose and our equipment was safely transferred. So far the brethren are turning out very good work although the press is very old, probably between sixty and seventy years old! but still going strong.

 

Sample Image
Printing Press, over 60 years old, and 14,500 copies of the
Gospel paper, “El Mensajero Cristiano”. Puerto Cabello.

In addition to the 14,500 impressions of EL MENSAJERO CRISTIANO, we publish an adapted edition, called “El Correo Evangelico”, of 850 copies which are addressed and sent by mail to the different postmasters and mistresses in the Republic. One issue of this paper carried the offer of a free New Testament to any employee of the Post Office who did not possess a copy and desired to read it. The large number of requests sent in was most encouraging. It was also an evidence that our paper was being read.