The Ends of the Pencil
An interesting account of various new works in Chile.
Chile, which means in the native language, “place where land ends,” has the greatest length/width ratio of any country in the world. In the religious realm, Chile has been dominated by the Roman Catholic Church for more than 400 years, as well as a nationally developed form of Pentecostalism since 1906. In addition to the Pentecostal trend, the last 40 years have seen a major entrenchment by a few “Made in the USA” religions, chiefly the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It causes one to ask, “What are they (the few assembly believers) among so many” (John 6:9)?
The New Testament assembly work began with the arrival of Andrew Stenhouse, in 1927. For nearly 45 years the work remained concentrated in the more densely populated central part of the country. In the next fifteen years the work expanded to encompass nearly 1500 km. north and south, although a number of key cities on the Pan American Highway remained unworked, except for periodic tract distributions. However, the past 14 years have seen an expansion to both the northern and southern limits – Arica and Punta Arenas. Unlike the expansions in previous years, this third extension of the gospel has been due in large part to the initiative of national brethren. The following reports, written by brethren who live in four major cities of the “Norte Grande,” and in Punta Arenas, will give a comprehensive view of the doors that have remained open, despite the efforts by the enemy to discredit and even destroy. The assemblies in two of the cities are small, with less than 12 in fellowship. The other three cities have only a gospel testimony at present. Nevertheless, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
Manuel and Laura Ziga
(Manuel works in the maintenance section of the police department. They have 3 teenaged boys.)
This northernmost city and Pacific port of 190,000 inhabitants, located 2100 km. north of Santiago, is known as the “city of eternal spring.” Since the provincial borders touch both Bolivia and Peru, there is a thriving commercial exchange, which unfortunately includes major international drug traffic.
The work of the Lord in Arica commenced about the middle of 1986, when we began home Bible studies on Lord’s Day afternoons. These were attended by a few of our fellow workmen and some university students, contacts of a young brother from an assembly near Santiago who was studying here. The following year, the first person professed, and along with some special gospel meetings for adults, we began holding regular classes for children, with good attendance. Then we built a small hall, and in August 1987 one of the missionaries held a two-week gospel series, using his “Two Roads” chart, with good attendance by the neighbors. The following year we had two more series, with a few professing salvation. Baptisms were held in 1988, 1990, and 1993. In November of1993, the assembly was formed with only a few in fellowship.
The city of Arica is located on the border with Peru and Bolivia, and there is much tourism. Consequently, we have had visits from many Christians who are passing through. We have also been encouraged on numerous occasions by visits from missionaries who serve the Lord in Chile, and these have been of blessing and help in the spiritual development of the believers here.
“Norte Grande” has been greatly influenced by the ancestral religions of the native peoples, the Incas, and the Roman Catholic religion has assimilated their traditions through the formation of groups of dancers (with grotesque masks) who honor one Virgin or another (the RC religion has a number of virgins it would seem) in special festivals. In July, dance groups from all over the northern region of the country gather in the small desert town of La Tirana for one of their pagan-style festivals. Then, on the first Sunday of October and the 8th of December, pilgrimages are made to a place called Livilcar, in the interior of the province of Arica, to honor the Virgin of the Peas (Rocks). These festivals attract a great number of people, who hold to their beliefs and close their ears to the gospel, thus making it difficult for the work to grow.
At present, a Sunday School is maintained with a good attendance among the children, most of whom come from homes of unsaved parents. The parents are always invited to any special programs for the children, and through this means we have been able to get some of them to attend the gospel meeting. A few have professed to be saved. We thank the Lord for what He has done in the North of Chile.
Jaime and Jessica Gallardo, Iquique.
(Jaime is a computer technician, and they have 2 small children.)
This northern seaport of 180,000 inhabitants, located 1900 km. north of Santiago, is an important port of entry for Asian manufactured goods (vehicles, machinery, etc.) destined for markets in Chile and neighboring countries. The coastal topography here is unique: the city, which stretches north and south for 12 kms. along the coast, has only a very few blocks of flat ground (or sand) extending inland, rising abruptly in an awesome coastal sand dune 500 meters high. Alto Hospicio is the poor man’s town at the summit of the dune. To the East, behind this town, there is only the Atacama Desert, dry and devoid of any natural vegetation whatsoever. Despite certain disheartening situations and a major disruption which resulted in their discontinuing the breaking of bread, the believers have maintained a gospel testimony over the years.
The work of the Lord in Iquique began about the year 1989. For about six years, until 1995, the work experienced many obstacles, and the enemy manifested his anger. But the Lord doesn’t forsake His people, and, as the apostle Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Since 1996, the work has developed with greater stability, although with a very slow increase. Only at the beginning of the year 2000 was there an encouraging development in a nearby locality called Alto Hospicio, where a number of children and a few unbelieving adults attend the Sunday School. The meetings are held in the home of a middle-aged brother, formerly from the South of Chile, who relocated there with his family. What we lack are more laborers, as the Lord says: “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9:37,38). But may these laborers be faithful men who teach the doctrine exactly as it has been delivered, without depending upon organizations, but only upon the Lord!
With respect to its geography, Iquique is a northern port where the desert meets the ocean. The land is extremely arid, similar to its inhabitants in a spiritual sense, since there is a great indifference toward the gospel. But we must not become discouraged. The love of money and moral corruption are what characterize the people. I have observed that in this work in particular, the Lord permits severe trials in the lives of each believer who comes to this area. Some brethren have lost their employment; nevertheless, the Lord has provided for their needs. There are trials of another nature: the long distance from loved ones, the long distance to any assembly (the nearest one, Arica, is 5 hours by bus) and many other “strong” trials in which the Lord has helped us with His strong hand and stretched out arm. I for one feel that our commitment to the work of the Lord will be tried.
Johnny and Rosa Harris, Calama
(Johnny is an elementary English teacher at the private copper mine school. They have 3 small children.)
This high Atacama Desert city of 140,000 inhabitants, located 200 km. inland from Antofagasta, is linked economically to the gigantic open-pit copper mine at Chuquicamata, located nearby at a higher elevation (2800 meters), and which is the main source of Chile’s chief export mineral, copper.
In April, 1986, brother Juan Molina and his wife came north to Calama, with a desire to spread the gospel while working in the copper mine. They distributed gospel literature to their neighbors and friends, and, a year later, began inviting people to their house to listen to the gospel. They had the joy of seeing the first fruit in salvation. In January of 1988, the first gospel series was held in a community hall. At the same time, children’s meetings were begun in an orphanage, but were discontinued after a year, due to problems caused by a Pentecostal woman. During that year a work was carried out in the prison, mainly by distributing literature there.
In 1990 the Christians began to gather in a rented hall located on a principal avenue where they continue to the present. In 1992, the writer arrived (from an assembly further south) and regular meetings were begun three times each week. The work received special encouragement with the baptism of three women in September 1992. But it wasn’t until April 1995 that a few saints began breaking bread and gathering as an assembly in the Name of our beloved Lord. At the same time, the first annual Faster conference was held.
Since 1995, meetings have been held regularly, beginning on Sunday morning with the Lord’s Supper, then Sunday School for children and the family. For the past two months we have been preaching the gospel in an open-air work every Sunday afternoon. The meetings there have been well attended – sometimes more than seventy children and some adults as well – in spite of the wind and some very hot days. Every Sunday evening the gospel is announced and the brethren feel very happy when people come to the meetings and show some interest in being saved. Over the years, a number of gospel series have been held to sow the precious seed. We can thank the Lord for giving fruit in souls who have been saved and have obeyed the Lord. On Wednesdays and Fridays, ministry and prayer meetings are held to encourage the believers to continue being obedient and faithful to the One who loved and saved us at such a great cost.
During these years of serving the Lord in the middle of the desert, we have felt the joy of seeing lives changed. One interesting story concerns a teenager who had left her home and her parents (believers in Santiago), for the north of Chile. One Sunday morning after Sunday School, she was walking near the hall in Calama with her little child, and ventured close to ask some believers when the meetings were held. That night she came to listen to the gospel and after some time of attending the meetings, she was converted. She also took the man who was living with her to the meetings. One of the main evidences of her conversion was her deep desire to obey the Lord in living as a new creature. lmmediately she p honed her parents and told them how the Lord had worked in her life and she also got their permission to get married. It was a great joy to attend her wedding and see her as a new person in Christ. Some time later she returned to Santiago with her husband and son to meet her parents again. NOW they are in fellowship in the assembly at La Florida, Santiago, and are serving the One who met them in the desert. To be continued