Chapter 5 - Soul Desires that Led to My Coming to Venezuela

Chapter 5 - Soul Desires that Led to My Coming to Venezuela
“Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”
Acts 9:6

“Just as I am, young, strong and free, To be the best that I can be, For truth and righteousness and Thee, Lord of my life, I come.”

The spontaneous desire of every born again soul after conversion is to know what purpose the Lord has in view in reaching and saving him or her. Paul received the answer very soon but it would seem that in most cases the Lord leads us on step by step, and at the same time prepares us for what will be our life work. When the Lord saved me, February 7, 1909, I had no aspiration whatever of becoming a preacher, but after being baptized and received into Assembly fellowship, it was not long before I was invited to take a class in the Gospel hall Sunday School of about 400 children. Then after that I became interested in open air work. In 1912 our family emigrated to Winnipeg, Canada and again I found abundant opportunities of serving the Lord in tract distribution, personal witnessing and taking part in the Gospel.

When World War I broke out and conscription was put into force, a number of us young Christians had prayer together to determine what the mind of the Lord was and most of us applied for exemption as conscientious objectors. Proving God in those trying times was a great help to me spiritually and many opportunities of witnessing for Christ were presented. After Armistice, I was reinstated in my former office and although I was being prospered materially, I had great exercise about discerning the Lord’s will for my future. Youth was in my favor for learning a foreign language and at first I was much interested in Japan but evidently that was not the Lord’s mind for me. The West End Assembly, Winnipeg, commended me to the Lord’s work right after the conference there in May of 1920 and I joined a servant of the Lord who had a Gospel van, in which we visited farm houses, preached the Gospel on village streets and had meetings in rural school houses. I thoroughly enjoyed that work, but whilst staying over in a friend’s home, and after waiting upon the Lord in prayer, my eye was drawn to a text on the wall which read: “Go forward; doubting nothing.” The thought then came to me: “Here I am, a young man at a right age to learn a foreign language, whereas there are others fit for the work in Canada but whose age might be against them in acquiring fluency in a foreign tongue; leave Canada to them.”

In the Spring of 1921 I returned to England and with another young man operated a Gospel tent in the villages of Essex, having a children’s meeting each night, followed by a meeting for adults, and there was encouragement in that work. During the winter months I had an opportunity of acquiring some practical medical knowledge and dentistry through the personal interest of three Christian doctors, A. Rendle Short, George Bergin and a young doctor from Belfast of the out patient’s department, Bristol, and the Christian in charge of the dental clinic. I acknowledge my indebtedness to each one, as the practical experience thus gained has been put to good use. The following summer I was joined by another young man exercised about serving the Lord in Africa, and in each of the three locations where we pitched the tent the Lord was pleased to give the increase. As the season was drawing to a close, and I was still waiting on the Lord for clear guidance as to my pathway, I received a letter from Mr. Gordon Johnston, written from Venezuela, to the effect that since making my acquaintance in Winnipeg, he had been praying to the Lord about me, that He would lead me to consider that needy field. At that time they were very short of help as brethren Williams and Fletcher were absent on furlough and he and Mr. Wills were trying to hold the “fort”, with the help of one native worker. His letter confirmed the exercise I felt about that country, although there was a certain bias in my mind about laboring in a Roman Catholic country, chiefly because I had come in contact with so many fanatical French Canadians and southern Irelanders. However, God’s choice must be our choice and there must be no room for personal prejudices. After further waiting on the Lord I received an answer of peace, and proceeded to make the necessary arrangements with the full assurance that this was the mind of the Lord. During our many years of service in Venezuela there has never been any reason to regret the step taken, nor has there been a doubt as to the Lord’s leading in so important a matter.


 Jack and Ellen Saword and family serving me Lord in El Salvador

I sailed from Dover, England in November of 1922 and after a three weeks stopover in Barbados, landed in Puerto Cabello on December 17. As we walked up the main street from the docks the national flags were waving from the business premises, it seemed to welcome us, but then we learned that it was a national holiday. From the balcony of the Johnston home we saw a beef roasted on the seashore and the meat distributed amongst the people. So we were not the only happy ones that day.
These soul exercises and experiences have been set down in writing with the hope that they may be helpful to any young person who sincerely desires to know the mind of the Lord as to their future life of service.