The Ends of the Pencil
John and Lutzie Shaw,
(They were commended to the work of the Lord in 1969. They relocated to Antofagasta in August 1995).
This northern port city of 255,000 inhabitants, located 1400 km. north of Santiago, is called the “Great Northern Anchor,” and is the gateway to the vast northern regions called the Norte Grande, where mining is the chief occupation. Behind the city, to the east, are steep, barren slopes, leading into the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world. With little flat land available, the city is long and narrow, stretching nearly 20 km. north and south along the Pacific coast. Beginning about 1991, a young university student from an assembly further south invited fellow students and neighbors to his grandmother’s house for informal discussions over the Scriptures. With the arrival of John Shaw in 1995, the work expanded, chiefly through door-to-door contacts. A young married couple and the wife’s mother were baptized in 1996 as firstfruits of their labors. A few others have also been baptized, and since April 2000, the meetings are being held in a well-located rented hall. The saints continue to look forward to the day when they can begin meeting as an assembly.
Antofagasta is a miners’ city, and miners’ hearts tend to be as hard as the rocky ground they work. Yet they teach us some inspiring lessons applicable to gospel work. They usually have to work far from home and endure some measure of hardship (Job 28:4). Thus Paul exhorts Timothy, “… endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist” (II Tim 4:5). Miners have profited much by the use of dynamite for rock fragmentation in order to break through to reach the valuable veins of copper and other minerals. This reminds us that we have the means for breaking hearts of stone, “for the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom 1:16). And what about results? Miners equipped with modern machinery consider all their toil worthwhile if they can extract 50 kg. of copper from a ton of ore – only 5%! But a rustic, independent gold miner, using pick and spade, and grinding with a large stone, may only extract 5 grams of gold from a ton of ore, just five in a million! Yet the value of those few grams of the precious metal makes it all worth the trouble. There are many, many disappointments in evangelization, and here in Antofagasta we have only seen a handful of souls brought “out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Yet in the Lord’s estimation, one soul is worth far, far more than all the world. So, indeed, ” . . labor is not in vain in the Lord” (Isa 49:4; I Cor 15:58).
Personal contact with the gospel has been our principal means of reaching out to the unsaved adults in this city, as it was in other places where we were privileged to serve the Lord. This, of course, includes the casual contacts day to day with people in all occupations and at any level. But mainly, it has meant, along with tract distribution in hospitals, cemeteries, the main square, methodical door to door coverage, taking note of receptive homes and returning for further testimony.
Although the great majority of folk of the middle and lower classes accepts the literature we offer freely, such work is rendered more difficult by the confusion, and even exasperation, that heretical sects tend to create by their tare-like imitation. Nevertheless, not a few of these contacts are willing to engage in conversation, and often this enables us to dispel their confusion and make clear to them the blessings and terms of the gospel.
Personal work has also afforded other benefits: it has given us a close-up picture of people’s thinking, their ideas, fears, prejudice, and ignorance; it has furnished understanding for gospel preaching tailored to the listeners’ minds; and it has also given us access to children for the Sunday School classes, as parents get to know us and the nature of our teaching, “… that I might be all means save some” (1 Cor 9:22).
Manuel Arvalo, Punta Arenas
(Manuel is maitre d’ of the dining room in a large hotel in Punta Arenas, but spends his free time in tract distribution and street-corner preaching, using a megaphone. Saved and baptized 11 years ago, he missed attending assembly meetings regularly, due to the long distance to the resort hotel where he worked. However, in recent years he has diligently applied himself to studying the Scriptures in preparation for preaching at the different meetings. His decisions for the Lord have been costly. He lives alone in Punta Arenas while his wife [who cannot tolerate his devotion to the Lord] lives with their two children about 2500 km. to the north, where she is occupied as a teacher in a private school, in activities in the RC church, and in living for the world.)
This southernmost continental city in the world, located at 53.13 degrees south latitude, and with 135,000 inhabitants, is situated on the western shore of the Straits of Magellan, directly opposite the large island of Tierra del Fuego. Due to the petroleum industry, as well as to its strategic location, the city continues to expand, assuming greater importance as the southern continental port for international shipping and the embarkation point for South Polar expeditions. The winds are always brisk and sometimes fierce, the weather is quite cold all year, and the days are quite short in mid-winter (June and July), with barely five hours of daylight. From the city of Puerto Montt (located 1030 km. south of Santiago), the traveler to Punta Arenas has three options: a 3 to 5 day sea voyage amid islands, fiords, and glaciers, a 35 to 40 hour journey by bus, via Osorno and the southern region of Patagonia in Argentina, or a 2-1 / 2 hour flight by airline.
Many years ago an assembly missionary from Scotland, Mr. Halliday, lived in Punta Arenas, but apparently fruit did not remain from his labors. In December 1990, Ernest Moore, on a journey to Tierra del Fuego for meetings, visited a young woman (formerly from Osorno) and her husband, and held an informal meeting in their small house on the military base, near the city. Then in 1994 a couple from an assembly in Santiago visited their son and his wife at the same military base, called Ojo Bueno, in an effort to interest them in spiritual things. Informal meetings were begun in homes at the military base, and the few who responded were encouraged by periodic visits from a few brethren from the North.
While employed at a hotel near Santiago, the writer had opportunity to attend the annual conference in Santiago in September 1994. One message, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: Pray ye struck home while I sat listening. In my heart, I asked the Lord to use me somehow, not knowing how or where. The believers in Santiago had informed me of a very few Christians who lived in far-away Punta Arenas, called “the end of the world.” A desire to help them spiritually began to grow within me. Shortly afterwards, an offer of a contract with a hotel in Punta Arenas was presented to me. Before the Lord, I decided to accept it, with an exercise of heart to somehow be of help in serving the Lord. I moved to Punta Arenas in September 1995.
We began conducting the meetings in Ojo Bueno on a more regular basis, and made diligent efforts to visit the different homes. A few professed faith in Christ, and a baptism was held in February 1996, in the frigid waters of a lagoon on the military reservation. Since 1996 a few short series of gospel meetings have been held on the military base by a few brethren from the North, and in the city of Punta Arenas by Ernest Moore. However, problems of varying natures and causes seemed to intensify at different homes on the military base. The matter was set before the Lord in prayer, and I felt a special exercise to seek a suitable place in the city. We were able to find a centrally-located house with reasonable rent, suitable for meetings and as living quarters, and with financial help from brethren further north, we have continued renting it since September 1997.
Regular meetings are held every week, with two on Lord’s Day as well as Tuesday evenings (my only free evening from employment). Of those who began attending originally, some have become cold and have withdrawn, while a few continue. But the seed continues to germinate, and fruit is being manifested in some lives. Your prayers are greatly needed, and together with our desires for visits from further north to encourage us, we long for the day when the Lord will exercise the heart of some brother (or brethren), who would decide to settle here and strengthen our hand.
My dear brethren, we trust the foregoing might be an encouragement to you. How we should reflect on the sacrifice which the Lord made on that shameful cross! I should have died in my sins, but the Lord, in His great love, offered Himself for me and for you.