I remember studying South American geography as a boy and imagining what it would be like to live in this long, string-bean shaped country, between the snow-capped mountains and the sea. I didn’t know that the Lord would give us the great privilege of serving Him here. Chile is a beautiful country with many contrasts: deserts in the north and areas in the south where it rains 300 days of the year. There is climate and topography to suit everyone’s preference. Chileans often ask us if we like Chile, and I tell them we are not here for the beauty of the country, but it is a definite bonus!
When we arrived in 1977, there were 13 assemblies, and now, 38 years later, there are 51. The advance is encouraging, but little compared to what we would like to see. Unfortunately, there has been a decline in missionary vision, in the opening of new works and expansion to see new assemblies formed. The standard of living, prosperity, access to ever higher levels of education, and employment have increased dramatically over the years. In general there is an abundance of consumer goods, entertainment, and higher expectations. But the modern, materialist society comes at a price – it is expensive in time and dedication of effort and interest. It becomes all too easy to legitimize the demands and comforts of earth, and for our love of this world to displace our love for the Lord, for His people, and for the missionary cause He left us.
A practical outcome is the lack of attendance at gospel meetings, fewer gospel series, lack of dedication to the follow-up of new contacts, lack of discipling of new believers, and negligence in the demands of shepherding. There are assemblies that have gone for years without a series of gospel meetings, with the loss of all the accompanying benefits for the Christians, in the door-to-door invitations, conversations with the unsaved, and the restoration the gospel produces in us as we hear it night after night. It is surprising how quickly time passes, and I realize that, in many cases, there is a generation of young believers who have never had the experience of working in the gospel, nor have had the opportunity to learn.
Over the years, especially during tent meetings, we have encouraged young believers from different assemblies to join with us in the effort. Usually there is activity during most of the day; a group Bible reading in the morning, followed by door to door visitation. After lunch, there is time for preparing materials for the late afternoon children’s meeting, followed by all that is the children’s class, transportation, attendance, singing, memory texts, etc. Finally, at night, we have prayer, the gospel meeting, and the follow-up. This goes on for two or three weeks, and provides an ideal discipling opportunity for young believers, opening up to them direct participation in the work of the gospel. Their vision is opened, and they have experienced trust in the grace of God as they have learned to participate. What may have seemed mysterious and beyond them has been brought within their reach, and they return to their home assembly with desire to reproduce the efforts there.
Another result is that new networks of friendship and collaboration are formed, and their theme is the work of the Lord, resulting in a revival of interest in missionary work. My energy and health isn’t what it was 38 years, ago, but I feel the great need of travelling the country, whenever there is opportunity, to conduct gospel campaigns, with one of the purposes being to provide a learning experience to stimulate a new generation of local believers to be exercised in gospel work. I pray for a reversal of the tendency, and an increase in gospel outreach. Please pray with us. We have great freedom to preach the gospel; perhaps one of the hardest things to handle is the indifference to it. As we work more closely with people, we discover the suffering and emptiness underneath the surface, so we have to invest the time and effort to get to them personally.
We have also suffered the loss of five senior workers in recent years. Their ongoing gospel and teaching legacy was a constant stimulus and example, and they are missed. At the same time, the Lord has blessed us with new workers from within the country, and we are thankful for their faithfulness. Also, there are a good number of very knowledgeable and gifted brothers, still in secular employment, who work shoulder to shoulder with commended workers at the different annual conferences, and contribute greatly.
While the country is politically stable and relatively safe, we are plagued with robbery, breaking and entering, and other low level crimes. A recent study estimated that 70% of that is motivated by drug addiction. A number of children in our Sunday schools come from “families” who are micro-traffickers, and very often one or both of the parents are in jail. All the more reason for us to bring the gospel to them, and try to show something of the Savior´s compassionate heart for these young ones.
You might ask, with workers being commended from Chile, is there any need or place for new “foreign” workers?” Absolutely! There are huge areas and populations as yet without assembly testimony. Foreign and national workers labor together in harmony and appreciation. We pray for many more new workers, and anyone whom the Lord raises up and sends is certainly welcome. It has been 25 years since a new foreign missionary or missionary family has been commended to the work here from abroad. We would ask you to pray specifically for the work in Chile.