Almost 100 years after the house of God was built, it was Nehemiah’s exercise to build the walls. Much work has been done to establish assemblies in Venezuela according to the NT pattern for nearly 100 years. Although this work continues, there has been a growing concern to build up the walls of separation. In conferences and monthly ministry meetings, where hundreds of believers flock to hear God’s Word, the burden of the teaching is often the need to maintain the Scriptural principles that have marked the assemblies from the beginning. This is also the purpose in publishing the Believer’s Magazine as well as other doctrinal books.
The present socialist regime has not curtailed the liberty previously enjoyed to preach the gospel, but has introduced other dangers and hindrances. It has become increasingly difficult for believers who conscientiously object to belonging to the socialist party or taking part in political marches to obtain or retain employment. Governmental pressure to study at night hinders the unsaved from attending meetings, and, sadly, some believers from assembly gatherings. According to new laws, Gospel Halls can be solicited by the communities for social or political events when not used for meetings. Pray for wisdom to hold on to Biblical principles without unnecessary friction with authorities.
We are thankful to the Lord for the steady growth in the number of assemblies (160 at present, of which 25 have been formed since the year 2000). The work has extended to all the borders, but there are still areas where there is no known work according to NT principles. Most assemblies make the effort to maintain gospel meetings and children’s work in the surrounding communities. The full-time workers seek to extend to new areas, with the help of brethren who sacrifice time to support these efforts. In some areas, many attend as a result of visitation and transport work. In other areas, even with similar efforts, very few attend. Aided by the extremely low price of gasoline, much traveling is done in maintaining meetings in distant places, helping believers get to conferences and ministry meetings, and taking new believers on the Lord’s day to the nearest assembly, sometimes hours away. Pray for preservation on the roads where tragic accidents occur daily.
Years ago, new areas could be visited where all that the people knew was the darkness of Catholicism. The light of the gospel shone brightly and many were truly saved. Today, the Pentecostals are everywhere, permeating the people’s minds with an entirely wrong concept of the gospel, emphasizing healing and the casting out of demons. Although more difficult, it’s still necessary to reach these areas with the pure gospel and, when some get saved, to correct their false ideas.
With the development of the work, the Lord has been sending out Venezuelan workers to full-time service. Only a handful of foreign missionaries remain, although several of their children have been commended to the work. At present, there are 24 active full-time workers in the country, which is insignificant for a population of over 26 million. There are many local brethren who are capable gospel preachers, who avoid entangling themselves with the affairs of this life, to help in gospel series and outreach work. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers.”
The work that led to the recent formation of an assembly in Corozo Largo, started with a boy who walked a long distance, alone, to attend Sunday school. When he and his mother were saved, they began to pray for their large family connection. His aunt, Emilia, right hand helper of the priest, in the grief of losing a daughter conceded that her sister just read her the Bible without explaining it. The light shone in her dark mind when she discovered that her Catholic Bible condemned idolatry. The commotion was great when she refused another mass for her departed daughter. The priest, with a commission of devout women, tried to dissuade her, but her answers were so convincing that he couldn’t hold back the tears. When a woman asked him why he was crying, he replied: “She has the truth.” The woman retorted: “If that’s the truth, why do you deceive us?” He answered: “If I told you the truth the bishop would burn me alive in the town square.” This is just one example of the triumphs of the gospel in this land.
Another effort maintained on a personal level, that has given fruit over the years, is the teaching of children in the schools. If preaching the gospel has been like “sowing in the evening,” then the school work has been “sowing in the morning” (Ecc 11:6). Every day starts with a Bible lesson before the normal academic subjects. Through this means, the light of God’s Word enters many homes where darkness reigns. The first school was started over 80 years ago to avoid the pressure on believer’s children in public schools to participate in Catholic rites. There are now five schools, of which three are free, depending on the Lord to provide. The other two charge a small fee to cover costs. All the teachers are believers in fellowship in local assemblies. However, the future of the schools is uncertain due to new laws that require us to teach socialist doctrines and may limit teaching the Bible. Pray that this avenue of service might remain open, without compromising principles.
Like Joseph, a fruitful bough, whose branches ran over the wall, the gospel has gone forth from Venezuela to other lands. There has been an exercise for Colombia for over half a century which has resulted in the formation of several assemblies. Starting six years ago, a capable national worker has been making two or three visits a year, with several brethren, to Peru. They have seen souls saved in different areas and there is hope of seeing the first assembly formed, but the great need is for workers who will go and settle there to see the work established. Mexico and Panama have also received full-time workers from Venezuela.