There are approximately 160 New Testament assemblies in Venezuela. In 100 years they have commended 27 men and a few women to full-time service within the country. One-quarter left the service, one-quarter are with the Lord, and one-half are active, generally concentrating on one particular area. There are also 10 active workers whose mother tongue is English.
Several assemblies commenced due to, humanly speaking, sisters in Christ who were once alone in their town or made their simple dwelling available for use as a gospel hall. Men who render unto Caesar in daylight hours are carrying out an ever-increasing part of the evangelization and ministry.
In Romans 16 Paul recalls several who “labored” and “labored much.” In the 1920s a handful accompanied the workers, but few went beyond their own turf and also maintained a clean testimony year after year. However, John Wells wrote in 1930: “In three weeks of exhausting travel, José Peña walked day after day, something only a man of steel could do.” Yes, but Peña continued to own his farm and be an indispensable auxiliary in gospel campaigns on through the 1960s.
Antonio Malpica was a legend as a tinsmith and an outstanding shepherd in Valencia, where 20% of the assemblies are located. Further south, Avelino Linares worked shoulder to shoulder with the Turkington boys along the northern fringe of the Plains, a humble man and a key player in a work that prospered notably.
Manuel Jiménez was another who did the work but was not “in the work” (in gospel hall jargon), afflicted in body and not possessed of this world’s goods. His gospel work and exceptional teaching ministry puts him on the honor roll of half a dozen assemblies in western Venezuela and a similar number in Colombia.
However, we pass on to a selection of those, native born, who left secular employment entirely.
José Naranjo was born in very inauspicious surroundings and lived carelessly into his 20s, but became a pioneer evangelist in the best tradition of his foreign-born mentors and was a hard-hitting minister of the Word in the most demanding conferences. José Linares was also commended in 1945/46. He dedicated decades to the interior provinces and, like Ezekiel, sat where his people sat.
In the 1960s, Hildebrando Gil followed in Naranjo’s footsteps in and around the capital. Caracas has sent several to the Lord’s work but few have been led to serve there. Hildebrando built halls and preached in many more. Parkinsons and Alzheimers laid him low in later years, but mercifully he went recently to a land of pure delight.
None of us will know this side of eternity why a tire exploded in 1986 and Cristián Chirinos’ body lay lifeless on the pavement. Many looked on him as outstanding; his life, gospel work, and instruction for the Lord’s people justified this opinion. Like all up to his time, he was raised in poverty and received limited schooling.
Now, let us look at 2012, first in the East.When Julio Figuera took his diploma in engineering off the wall in the Gulf Oil laboratory, he knew from experience that Margaritia Island was one of the hardest fields in the country. He still knows, plodding quietly and receiving help sporadically from the mainland. Alirio Guerrero has seen a small assembly formed on the peninsula facing Trinidad, where he served in the National Guard. However, most of his activities since selling his parts business are further south, where the petroleum industry is booming.
South again, Nehemías Sequera labors in the industrial complex on the Orinoco River, mostly virgin territory. An assembly in Valencia recently commended his son-in-law to work in Bolívar, and he attends to the seven-hour trip to the Brazilian border, or an almost equal journey to the west where Christians from central Venezuela are building up a work off the beaten track.
And, there is Amazonas, 20% of the national territory and 0.2% of the population. “Toco” Hereira and his wife left mature assemblies in Falcón with the indigenous tribes on their heart and did, in fact, see an assembly formed among them, notwithstanding the synthetic “gospel” promoted by charismatics. However, migrants from other parts comprise the congregation now.
Let’s go back up to the Caribbean coast and westward to the cradle of the work as we know it: Puerto Cabello.
Bernardo Chirinos practiced cardiology before going into full-time service, but the needs of the laboring class persuaded him to offer an outpatient service one day each week. He stays close to home in gospel preaching and in his third sphere of ministry is becoming a marriage-and-family specialist. Both he and Samuel Rojas are products in part of “the Port school,” which the assemblies have operated since 1919 and is the birthplace of many souls. Much of our brother Rojas’ ministry is focused on quality control among the assemblies. Knowledge of English and Greek adds to his resources.
Further west, Alcímedes Velasco labors mostly in his native Falcón, and as another engineer, his scientific bent comes through in written and oral messages. Not many of our workers take up prophecy as he does.
Jumping down to the mountain states in the southwest, we find Gelson Villegas’ affections distributed between the Andes where he was born, frequent weeks of labor in Colombia, and semiannual trips to Peru, where he and collaborators are seeing a work develop in three centers. Gelson’s studies in humanities flavor his many magazine articles.
Rubén Mendoza, one of the younger workers, is often in the hills of Lara, shepherding the new assembly in a rural community where his family has roots. His conference addresses are favorites for the CDs that abound among the Christians.
Carlos Fariñas has resided longer in Lara and travels frequently to the dry, hot basin there, but is also another who labors in eastern Colombia, practically an extension of the Venezuelan assemblies.
“The time would fail me to tell of ….”