Chapter 10 -Reaching Out With the Gospel

Chapter 10 -Reaching Out With the Gospel
“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that My House may be filled.” Luke 14:23

In those early days we worked the hamlets around San Felipe, the State Capital. Most of the country people would not accept Gospel papers as they were illiterate and afraid. One man, when he heard that it was the Gospel, got angry and said: “The Gospel is of the devil”! There has been a great change in the attitude of the people as today very few will refuse a tract or booklet and as so many more have learned to read, there is an eagerness to obtain reading matter. We were not without our encouragements. In a rural settlement called Las Camasas, we came to a humble home where the woman invited us inside. She seemed very pleased when we told her we had come with the Good News of salvation and she related her own interesting experience. When about five years of age, her parents told her that when the religious feast of the neighboring village took place, she would be going with them. They told her about the wonderful “Virgin” of Carmen and the many miracles attributed to her, so she was thrilled with the prospect of seeing a living saint, as she thought.

The day arrived and the family was early at the “Capilla” (Roman Catholic chapel) to hear the early Mass. When this was over the chapel soon emptied, as outside there were various attractions, such as cock fighting, refreshment booths, card playing and bull running. On the other hand, the little girl, Carmelita, stayed in the chapel with her eyes glued on the virgin, the image which was arrayed in costly apparel and bedecked with jewels. Finding herself alone, her curiosity led her to go close to the image and gently lift up the long skirts. To her dismay the legs were just wooden sticks. She left in a hurry to find her mother to break the news that the “virgin” had wooden shins. From that moment, Carmelita’s faith in images abruptly ceased and she wanted nothing more to do with the Roman religion.

Years after, when married and mother of a family, a man called at her door saying that he had a very interesting book, and would she like him to read it to her. She gave her consent, and he no doubt began in Matthew 1, for it was a New Testament, and thus she would hear the inspired story of the virgin birth of the Saviour and that marvelous message of the angel: “Thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” She was enthralled with such words, which were as cold water to a thirsty soul, and gave the man his dinner. Then she told him he could stay on and she would give him his meals and buy him clothes if he would read the book every day to her and her family. The man himself was not saved and in due course he wanted to move on. Sra. Carmelita tried to persuade him to stay and teach her children to read so that they could read the Scriptures to her, and she offered to pay him, but he decided to go on and she was left with hunger in her soul for the Bread of Life.

Our visit was very opportune and she showed her eagerness to hear more of the Gospel. She and her husband arranged to provide a midday meal for their neighbours and ourselves, so that they would all hear the Gospel. It was a generous meal of chicken and vegetable stew, with avocado pears, corn cobs and fresh corn pancakes and I don’t suppose that any of the neighbours were missing! We had a large room full of people listening to the Gospel for the first time. The man and his wife then began to attend the meetings in San Felipe, about three-quarters of an hour’s walk from there, and in due time were converted to the Lord. They obeyed the Lord’s command in baptism and were received into assembly fellowship, proving faithful to the end. Two sons and two daughters, with their wives and husbands respectively, still continue in different assemblies, maintaining a good testimony.

A brother from Albarico had occasion to visit the town of CHIVACOA and brought back the news that some people there were interested in the Gospel. It is about eighteen miles from San Felipe, so Don Manuel and I hired a brother’s mule and cart for the trip as the only available means of transportation at that time. It was a tedious and hot trip as the pace of the mule was slow. Upon arrival we went to the inn for water. A woman put some water in a dirty glass and rinsed it out with her dirty hands and only sheer necessity made us drink. How things have changed with the passing years! Today there is a paved highway, with buses, taxis, private cars and heavy traffic, with well supplied restaurants and refreshment bars where ice cold soft drinks are obtainable at a moderate price. We spent a few days in Chivacoa holding cottage meetings and family Bible readings and were encouraged by the interest shown. Later Mr. Williams invited me to accompany him on a visit there, so again we hired the mule and cart and the simple folk were pleased to see us. Mr. Williams was favorably impressed with that new work so decided to go back for an extended period. He took Mrs. Williams and rented a house. Mr. Gunn joined him and the meetings were continued until a nice number had confessed Christ as Saviour and Lord. In due time a baptism was held in the Yaracuy River, which I attended.  After that the assembly was formed. Mr. Bertie Douglas and I arranged to go for the latter occasion and for the third time the mule and cart were requisitioned for the Lord’s service. This time the brother had fastened a lantern with its candle to the axle, as we were leaving late and would need a light ere we reached Chivacoa. However, we forgot to take matches so at dusk could not light it. We reached a dangerous, steep hill known as “Horse Killer” (in Spanish “Mata Caballo”), and then suddenly the mule took fright and started to run down hill, kicking out furiously with its hind legs until we thought the cart would be smashed and we were wondering where we were going to land. But, strange to say, when it reached the river’s edge, it stood still, and later we discovered the reason for the mule’s alarming behaviour. As it started down the hill it was holding back and the lantern began to hit its back legs, which caused it to kick out and stampede. When it reached level ground at the foot of the hill, the lantern no longer troubled it and so there was calm. We thanked the Lord for His protecting hand upon us as we were exposed to a serious accident.

On the Lord’s Day of the commencement of the new assembly, in addition to local Christians, a number were present from other parts. One brother was there who had a little gift so Mr. Williams thought we might encourage him to take part in the ministry in the afternoon, which he was very ready to do. He read I Thessalonians chapter five right through, then began commenting on each verse, but he did not know when to stop. After talking for forty minutes, he finished by saying: “This is a subject without end”! We fear that Venezuela is not the only part of the world that produces this type of commentator! The assembly testimony in Chivacoa has been preserved throughout the years. The first hall they built was in due time inadequate for the increase in numbers so a larger and better hall was built. On one occasion when visiting the saints there I was startled by an uncanny noise at a short distance from the Hall, and upon investigation a strange sight met my gaze. In a low enclosure, chained to a thick post, with unkempt hair, in a filthy state, was a demented man, and his weird cry was to attract the sympathy of passers-by so that they would give him food. His story was a sad one: as a young man he was favourable to the Gospel and would stand outside and listen to the preaching, but his family was opposed and eventually bad companions won him over to a profligate life. This resulted in his mind becoming affected and he got so violent and dangerous that it was unsafe for him to be at large. What a cruel taskmaster is the devil!

Brethren Milne and Linares, who make their homes in the Yaracuy, have faithfully cared for the work there, with occasional visits and special Gospel efforts from time to time.

The San Felipe hall was built in 1924. A heavy built man who had a cocoa plantation on the outskirts of the town came to me with an infected thumb which was ready to be incised. I was glad to undertake this case, as the daily talk with the patient when he came to get it dressed, afforded me good practice with the language. He was very grateful for my services, and as he had felled a large tree in his plantation, he offered it to us for the Hall. Christians worked at nights hauling the logs to the sawmill, where the wood was sawn into joists and boards, sufficient for the roof. A brother who had a small brickfield, delivered the bricks on donkeys as there was no road to his place.

Before the hall was built the assembly met in the large front room of Don Manuel, on an important corner. One evening we were about to commence the Bible reading, when we heard the noise of a religious procession which was going to pass by the meeting room. All the windows and doors were open, so we decided to sing a hymn as the procession passed. We chose: “Verily, verily I say unto you”, etc. and this drew fire. One elderly sister was struck on the shoulder by a stone so after the meeting I went to express my sympathy to her, and she at once responded: “That stone did me a lot of good, for I was singing half-heartedly, but it woke me up and then I sang with all my might!”

The work on the Gospel hall was well advanced, and the brother of the State Governor was building premises diagonally across the street, when an official called on him and as they chatted together, the official wished to know what kind of building ours was. When told it was a Gospel hall he came over to look around. The brother who acted as guide finally took him to the anteroom. When he saw the baptistry, he showed great surprise and wanted to know why we needed a tank in the Hall. Then the brother explained to him the meaning of baptism, that the believer thus identifies himself publicly with Christ in the symbol of death, burial and resurrection. The next day the two men were standing together opposite the hall when a brother came walking up the Avenue. The official recognized him and remarked: “Here comes one of those resurrected people.” How good it is when the believer is living up to his reputation as a resurrected person.

Chapter nine of this book tells some of our experiences in jungle villages. Whilst still living in San Felipe a conference was arranged in Las Rositas. There was a scarcity of preachers so the saints were counting on my presence. A narrow gauge railway connected San Felipe with Las Rositas but train service was only twice weekly: Thursdays and Mondays. I therefore had to make sure of catching the Thursday train. It was scheduled to leave at 7 A.M. The previous day I checked the station time with my watch, and next morning at 5 o’clock, I heard the steel “gong” at the station, struck five times with a hammer. Before 6:30 A.M. a man came with a barrow to take my baggage to the train and as it was only a ten minute walk to the station, I left shortly after. The man met me half way down: he was bringing my baggage back and said that the train had left before he got there. I got him turned around and back to the station we went to find out what was wrong. The station agent told me that at 6 A.M. they received telegraphic advice from Caracas to advance the clock by half an hour. He said he was sorry, but that the train was being held up at the next station as some important papers had been left behind. There was a hand trolley about to leave with them, so I was told to jump on with my baggage and found the train waiting for us. The good hand of God thus overruled so that we could get to the conference.

In 1925 I moved back from San Felipe to Puerto Cabello in order to accompany Mr. G. G. Johnston on a trip to Falcon State, as no one had yet begun Gospel work there.

Sometime later Mr. Bertie Douglas, after his marriage in Nirgua with Miss Agnes McMeekin, felt led of God to move to San Felipe, where his labours in the Gospel and care of the churches were very fruitful. After him, Mr. John Wells made his home there and whilst on his first furlough in Northern Ireland found a good wife who came back with him to San Felipe. He faithfully continued the work of caring for the assemblies in the Yaracuy State and preaching the Gospel. There were some elderly brethren in the San Felipe assembly who liked to sit up near the front, tilting their chairs back to the wall and their greasy hair left its mark in the wall. They liked to take things easy but they appealed to Mr. Wells to have Bible readings on the book of Revelation, which he agreed to do, but his expositions went beyond their limited mentality and it wasn’t long before they were overcome by slumber. Our brother called them to task for this and wanted to know why they were giving way to sleep. Their answer was: “Don Juan, you have a very consoling voice!”

On account of his wife’s illness, Mr. Wells later decided to move to Nirgua, where the fresher climate would be more suitable for her. At that time the small assembly had ceased to exist, but he encouraged the group of believers, saw some souls saved, baptized and the assembly begun again. He then took charge of the building of the Gospel hall which was a work of faith as the assembly had very limited means. Finally Mr. Wells returned to Ireland with his wife and two boys, where he has since been engaged in the Lord’s work.

Since 1946, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph A. Milne have made their home in San Felipe and the Lord has prospered the work in their hands. Brother Milne has been very active in Gospel work in that area and has laboured with his hands in the building of Halls in La Independencia, Mann and Obonte, also in making considerable improvements in the original San Felipe Hall.

In the rural settlement of Obonte the work had waned greatly, but brethren Milne and Sequera, helped by San Felipe brethren, began intensive Gospel efforts there which resulted in souls being saved and an assembly formed.

Our annual Bible conference is held alternatively in San Felipe and Caracas.

At the age of fourteen Thomas R. Gimenez, of Nirgua, Venezuela, became an orphan, and soon plunged into a life of unrestrained sin and vice. He was accustomed to hard work but he squandered all his earnings, and developed into an inveterate gambler. He practised sleight of hand tricks to satisfy his cravings for liquor and would entertain the clients in drink shops by “eating” safety razor blades. This was a very clever trick of his which earned for him the popular name of “Come-hojillas” (Spanish for razor blade eater). Once he was so drunk during the act that with diluted acid in his mouth he softened the blade, chewed it to a pulp and swallowed it! He would do almost anything to satisfy his craving for liquor and on one occasion he accepted a wager to drink a pint of unrefined castor oil without stopping. He was arrested by the police over one hundred times but that did not deter him in his profligate life. In 1929 to 1952 he trod the road to moral ruin and finally nobody would employ him and he became abandoned by all.

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Thomas R. Gimenez, a trophy of redeeming grace

One of his brothers had been recently converted and out of pity gave him employment in his own small business. He pleaded with Thomas to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone could change his life. Thomas listened seriously and expressed his gratefulness to his brother for his interest. He accepted an invitation to Gospel meetings being held from August 15 to 21 in the year 1962. On the 26th of that month he experienced true repentance and received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, through the words of John 3:16. His life was immediately transformed and he was completely delivered from the drink and smoking.

The Lord has also prospered him. He has become handy with the trowel, has built himself a decent house, runs a small grocery store, does a little barbering, has his cultivated fields, and the joy of seeing his wife saved and also a son. He is a useful addition to the Nirgua assembly, able to preach the Gospel and give acceptable help in the meetings.


Preachers at San Felipe Conference 1972: Front Row, Left to right: M. Jimenez, J. R. Linares, D. Rodriguez, J. A. Milne, C. Chirinos, A. R. Seq uera Back Row: J. C. Pena, H. Gil, J. Walmsley, J. W. Turkington, S. J. Saword, M. Castillo

One of Thomas’ brothers was a confirmed drunkard and his two sisters were chain smokers. A Christian workingman called at the home one Saturday and asked for a glass of water. When the sister brought the water she also offered him a cigarette. He immediately testified to her of how God had saved his soul and delivered him from all his vices. She was greatly impressed and requested him to speak to her brother who was lying drunk on a bed. He happened to be a fellow workman of the Christian, who awakened an interest in his soul and was the means of leading him to Christ. Later the two sisters were saved and now all three are in happy fellowship in the Nirgua assembly.

Thank God that after 1,900 years, the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth!

“He breaks the power of cancelled sin; He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood avails for me.”