Aruba, just 12 miles off the coast of Venezuela, stands in stark contrast to the unrest and poverty there. Boasting beautiful beaches and a friendly, safe environment, its slogan is “One Happy Island.” Only 69 square miles in size and a quickly growing population of over 106,000, it is one of the most popular tourist spots in the Caribbean. Aruba has many things to offer, but, sadly, not a clear gospel presence nor an assembly testimony. Inland, apart from the sun and sand, its people are in great darkness, shrouded in deep Catholicism, dead religion and emotional Pentecostalism.
We first visited when there was an assembly of about 10 believers gathered together (some locals and others from the Netherlands and Germany). Sietse, an active brother, taught at the University of Aruba, but unfortunately he and his family were called back to the Netherlands, leaving a gaping hole. I have returned for gospel and children’s meetings, seeking to strengthen what remained, see souls saved and build up contacts. Sadly, one of the two remaining men imbibed Pentecostal teaching (his wife was from that group). The remaining couple struggled with the false teaching and divided assembly and ultimately left also. Other events happened and, as a result, the testimony ceased to exist, and the gospel hall in San Nicolas on San Martin Straat (Dutch for street) sits abandoned and in disrepair today.
However, interesting and encouraging events have recently taken place. Brother Neal Thomson of the Victoria Drive, Vancouver, assembly and his wife Veronica went to Aruba for their honeymoon. He had heard of my visits to Aruba and assumed the assembly still existed. However, they found the gospel hall locked, with obvious signs of closure. So they faithfully visited the area with gospel tracts. They met a woman named Adelinda, or Mama Linchee as she was well known. There was a good conversation and some interest, and a chain of events was set in motion that would have eternal results.
Neal contacted me and plans were made to return. I returned first and met Adelinda, who opened her home to use for the gospel. We now had a place to preach, as well as additional contacts. Prayerfully, a joint trip with Neal and myself was set for September. Doors opened that were amazing and we thank God for His hand seen. Shortly before our departure, Neal’s sister, Melissa, also kindly offered to fly down and help.
Our first concern was where to stay. I had previously rented the house of the German couple that were in the assembly. But they had just sold their house and were permanently returning to Germany. I asked for the contact info of the new owner but before it was given, the owner emailed me, beginning his message with “Brother Sona!” He is a dear believer and was a great help to us, both in provision and prayerful support. The house was even within walking distance of the area I was exercised about. I found out later that his church minister had told him not to help us and to be wary of us. The devil was already working, but our God had opened the way.
We arrived in San Nicolas and at Adelinda’s. While she attended many meetings, her family came only once. Like so many others, they wanted their sin. We continued there that week with little interest. Sadly, Adelinda was still lost when we left. Her house, however, was still open to the gospel and she remains an object of prayer.
In that area the YMCA had a very large presence with many children. Asking for permission, we set up a weekly meeting with about 30 children. We were delighted that they learned the verses and listened well. A woman minister from a local “evangelical church” taught them on a different day but gave them nothing from the Word of God. We pray that what we left them with will result in salvation.
Then we met Cecilia. Her bedridden father required her presence so she could not attend meetings. One night she told me she had someone to watch her father and could finally come. As I made the route to get her and others, she came out all dressed up. “But,” she said, “the man hasn’t come yet to watch my father. Can you get him?” We went but were unsuccessful, and when she returned to the car she was crying and sadly said, “The devil don’t want me to go.” She wanted salvation, and the devil tried to stand in her way. So, we brought meetings to her house. I am thankful Cecilia told us the last day with a big smile, “I am going to heaven!” I asked her how she knew, and she clutched her Bible to her chest and said, “Jesus died for me, and God told me here!”
Cecilia’s father Gregorio was also visited. Steeped in Catholicism and depending on many saints (of which statues had been placed on his dresser), he was in darkness. We told him often about the Saviour, impressing him with the fact that he was a guilty sinner but Jesus died for him. He told us as we left Aruba, “I am going to my eternal home to see my Jesus.” He was depending on Christ alone.
In Savaneta is a large recreational building with a small room on the side which we rented until our departure. Distributing 5,000 texts and invites, we daily faced dogs that roamed the streets and their extremely unfriendly counterparts in the fenced-in yards of almost every home. Nevertheless, we had the most encouraging visits in this area, with the coordinator and her husband, who had cancer, attending many times.
Tom never missed a night. His street gave us several contacts. A kind man, he gave us all gifts when we left. So often when asked where he would be when he died, he told us he did not know. One day I asked again. He pointed up and said, “Heaven. Before you came I did not know. Now I know.” I asked him what made the difference. He said, “Because Christ died for my sins and I now know. I thought it was what I could do. It’s what He did.”
There is a room freely available in Savaneta, a house in San Nicolas and a YMCA room to reach the dozens of children there – all open to the gospel. There are a few new believers that would love to meet other believers and rejoice over the gospel of Christ. There are a few older sisters from past days of testimony. May the Lord stir up some to “lift up your eyes and look on the fields” of Aruba, that souls might be reached and a work established.