Although not well known to North American assemblies, our brother John Shaw is well respected and esteemed for his labor in Chile. He gives an overview of the work in that land.
Chile is a long, narrow, stringbean shaped country that lies between the massive Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. It is only 360 km at its widest point, yet 4240 km long, stretching from Cape Horn in the south, up into the tropics, to the border with Bolivia and Peru in the north. We are told that natives called it, “Chilli,” meaning “place where land ends.” This reminds us of the commission of the Lord to His servants, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me… unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). How comforting and challenging to be His witnesses and servants, laboring for and in Chile, remembering that its inhabitants were in His great hearted compassion when He paid for their ransom at Calvary, and when He sent His evangelists to give them this Good News!
The country is divided politically from north to south into twelve Regions, plus the Metropolitan region in the center, where Santiago, the Capital and the central government are located.
Gospel work in Chile by those gathering in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, was begun in 1927 by Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Stenhouse, commended to the grace of God by the assemblies in Scotland and Canada respectively. After two or three years of experience in Argentina, they crossed the Andes and arrived in Santiago. The Stenhouses devoted their first nine years in this country working with a Bible coach, visiting towns from Santiago to Concepcion, giving out tracts and Scriptures, and preaching the gospel in the open air. They eventually, however, settled in Santiago, living and laboring there for fifty-five years. They saw the assembly there grow into several hundred believers, from which other assemblies were planted. At present, there are six assemblies in the capital.
A Sunday morning half-hour gospel radio program was carried on by Mr. Stenhouse for over forty years. Many souls have been reached in this way and brought into assembly fellowship. An excellent writer, he had a gift for concisely expressing much in few words. This gift he used very fruitfully in producing gospel tracts which are still being reprinted and used. Like the Stenhouses, others have done their part in evangelizing the country and have gone home. Charles McKinnie, Aurelio Fredes, Celoa Brown, to mention a few, who, plus a host of others have battled in prayer from the homelands.
Mr. Jamie Martin, who is now in full time service for the Lord, with his wife Ivonne, live in Santiago and render invaluable service amongst the assemblies and gospel outreach there as well as in other parts of the country.
The central regions of Chile, from the Aconcagu valley in the 5th Region down to Puerto Montt in the 10th, have been the most evangelized. Around 85% of the population lives there. Mr. and Mrs. William McBride who came in 1944, have dedicated the greater part of their energies to work in this part, and particularly in the 7th Region, where seven assemblies have been planted. They have traveled extensively as well to help in other regions of the country. Gifted in teaching as well as in preaching the gospel, our brother has been a great help in every assembly in Chile, being much used of the Lord in numerical growth as well as in the spiritual maturing of the saints and in counseling his fellow workers and elders. We are deeply indebted in the Lord to him and to his wife, Doris. Also living in the city of Talca for many years is Miss Anne Reid from Vancouver. She has classes for children in a number of the believer’s homes, community halls and Homes for Girls, diligently teaching them the Word.
The Lord’s work also spread to the Acongua valley, north and west of the capital, where there are half a dozen assemblies. Mr. Eliecer Parada, though over ninety, is still active in preaching. With his wife, Elsa, he has been instrumental in the work all over the country but especially in the largest city-port of the country, Valparaiso. Mr. and Mrs. David Jones, from Vancouver, live in the city of San Felipe and help in the two assemblies there as well as in other places in the country. Brother Jones is very active in gospel radio broadcasting with daily programs over a number of stations up and down the country. Miss Margaret Ronald, from Canada, together with Evelyn Jones, have home classes for children. In this region, Mr. and Mrs. David Roa, from N.Y., have served the Lord since 1991, particularly in the Quillota and Limache assemblies.
But the Lord has “much people” in the 8th Region, and sent His servants, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Hanna there to call them “out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Eight assemblies in as many cities and towns in that region have been planted through patient and diligent gospel testimony and teaching. The Hannas have had the joy of seeing their son, Dennis and his wife, Gloria, consecrated to the work of the Lord, and sharing together now for twenty years. Mr. and Mrs. Luis Poblete have labored there.
The 10th Region, south of the Tolten River down to the port of Puerto Montt, has been evangelized by assembly brethren. Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Moore have spent a good many years in that area. The Lord has blessed their labors with the formation of an assembly in Osorno where they live. In the smaller town of Rio Negro, 30kms further south, a good sized hall and much labor in the gospel has seen five or six believers maintain testimony there. Brother Moore has also invested much labor in writing helpful books and booklets related to Christian doctrine and practice. He has started a magazine with helpful articles for believers. He and his wife, Kay, have been invited to give help in some assemblies in Argentina. Some are in the extreme north, others are in the south, as far as Tierra del Fuego. Closer to the northern end of this region is the city of Valdivia where an assembly was recently planted. Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Kluge, commended from Canada, moved there recently with their family to give help to the believers. They are presently trying to obtain a lot on which to build a meeting place with more appropriate facilities than the one they presently rent. In Puerto Montt at the southern end of this region, a number of efforts have been made to reach the unsaved, but with very little response.
Southernmost Chile, the 1lth and 12th Regions, sustains less than 2% of the country’s population. The heaviest rainfall, over 60 inches per year, and the coldest temperatures, added to very few roads, make this the most difficult of all the regions to evangelize. Nevertheless, down in Pta. Arenas, one of the most southerly cities in the world, there are a few believers, most of them serving in the armed forces, who seek to maintain gospel testimony. Brother Moore and others have made visits down there and sought to give help.
Finally, there is the northern end of the country, from the lst to the 4th Regions. It is a very large section, about two-fifths of the total length of Chile, but totally desert. Yet, from the nation’s economic standpoint, it is of prime importance, because the largest copper mines are there. There is practically no rural population, but there are a number of large cities and towns. In five of these there are assemblies, though some are very small. In three other cities, including Antofagasta where we are presently laboring, regular gospel meetings are held.
One very interesting and inspiring aspect of the work at the top end of Chile, is that in five or six of these cities, the work was not started by missionaries. Men still in their employment, but zealous for God and the gospel, were used by the Lord. Men in the police force, teachers, business men, engineers and others, conscious of their heavenly calling, followed the Master’s footsteps. “I must be about My Father’s business.” One such case was that of Mr. Jorge Avalos and his wife, Marina. While still working as a University professor in the city of Copiapo, they opened their home for meetings with students. They saw a number of these students and others saved, and an assembly was planted. Since then, the Lord has called him to dedicate all his time to the work.
On the other hand, there have been defections among some of these converts making the work all the more difficult. “Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroyeth much good” (Eccl 9:18). We all need to take to heart Paul’s words, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27 NKJV).