Trip to South America
Link to Trip Pictures
Going to bed at midnight is not usually the best idea, when one has to be up at 1:00 a.m. in order to be ready to leave on a long trip, but this is how I began the first leg of a very long and sure-to-be exciting adventure. Much planning had gone into arranging the itinerary and the meetings, and the schedule had to be repeatedly adjusted the previous month in order to fit in all the new places requesting a visit. With one week to spare, we finally locked down the schedule so I could apply for a visa to Brazil and have it returned to me before I left.
We knew the embassy required a copy of my tickets to accompany the visa application, but we also knew that the passport/visa courier service in Washington, DC that we have used in the past could hand-deliver the application to the embassy, get it processed in one day, and then overnight the visa to me so that I would have it in plenty of time before my departure date. Or so we thought. When we called the courier service to request expedited service, we were told that the Brazilian Embassy does not expedite any visas. The soonest we could get the visa would be on the very day that I was to leave, and I was to fly out at 5:40 a.m.! Something out of the ordinary would have to happen. Of course, the first thing we did was to pray, and while praying I was impressed to call the embassy. Visas are handled by the consulate office, not the embassy, but we followed the guiding of God and he did not fail us. While the embassy could not help us with our request, telling us that we needed to call the consulate office, they gave us several numbers to try, in addition to the normal numbers that are available to the general public. On the second call, we spoke to a deputy consul that was sympathetic and willing to help us! He said that if we would overnight the application with the proper papers, my passport, and the fee, and mark it urgent and to his attention, he would see that it was expedited! And at 12:20 p.m. the next day, I received a call from his assistant saying that my visa was ready and all I needed to do was to call UPS to pick it up!
On February 5, I flew to Curacao via Charlotte and Aruba, and somewhere between Charleston and Aruba my bag became missing. I would not recover it until I returned from this trip, but Brother Elvis Alberto let me borrow a few shirts and a pair of pants, and, with the few things that I felt impressed to take in my carry-on piece of luggage, I survived.
After being picked up at the airport in Curacao by Brother Elvis and his family, we went to a meeting in Willemstad where about fifteen people were waiting for us. I spoke about the need to have a personal relationship with God. The interest was very good, and the people were greatly interested in our trip and the message.
The next day Brother Elvis and I flew to Caracas, Venezuela. While waiting for our flight to Barquismeto, Venezuela, Brother Elvis’ Bible bag, containing his Bible, camera and study papers, was stolen. When we arrived at Barquismeto, Brother Nelson and three other brothers were eagerly waiting with open arms to receive us. We had a very powerful meeting that evening on Nelson’s veranda that was well-attended, and the meeting was well-received. I spoke on the love of God and on being ready for the coming events and the soon return of Jesus.
The next day was Sabbath, February 7, and we met in a large meeting room in a motel. There were about sixty-five to seventy people in attendance for both the morning and the afternoon sessions. The interest was very good, and the people were very appreciative of what was shared. In the morning we discussed the God of the Bible (the Father) and then Jesus as the Son of God. In the afternoon we discussed more on Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This was followed by an interesting question and answer session. I later found out that when word reached the Adventist Church about our meetings, the pastor of the church that one of the main supporters of the meetings attends was quite upset.
Sunday, February 8, was to be a big day, with meetings in “the mountains” and an evening meeting at Nelson’s home. I had been working at my physical limit for some time, and my body was beginning to rebel. For the first time in many months, I awoke with a sore throat and felt nauseated. After drinking lemon tea, I felt better, and we all packed into Nelson’s vehicle and went to the mountains. In this very eye-catching scene, we were greeted by about thirty believers who, though poor in this world’s goods, are very rich in faith.
By the time we arrived, however, I was feeling worse and did not know if I could preach, but the local brethren found some fresh lemons, limes, and honey and they fixed me several home remedies and also gave me a cold compress to the neck. Despite feeling poorly, God gave me the strength to preach for two hours on the nature of Jesus before the incarnation, showing clearly from the Bible that Jesus was the Son of God before Bethlehem. The message was received very well, and we were thankful because this was a topic that some of these brethren had had questions on before the meeting.
While lunch was being prepared, the dear sisters suggested that I needed to go to “the pines” to rest. “The pines” was a trail in a grove of pine trees. There I could lie down on the fallen needles and rest, breathing in the fragrance from the trees. After resting for maybe an hour, we were called to lunch. Brother Elvis delivered a wonderful-looking plate of rice, beans, a gluten-type dish, and a generous piece of nicely baked cake to me, but sadly I could only eat a few spoonfuls of the food. I prayed that God would give me strength for another meeting, as I knew these people had many questions that needed to be answered, and I was able to continue. There were many questions on different Bible topics, but the two areas that seemed to be of the most interest were the areas of what constitutes the church and the issue of tithe. Concerning the church, there was a desire to understand what constitutes the true church and what the marks of a church in apostasy are. On the issue of tithe, the concern was if one was under obligation to return tithe to a system that does not teach truth or is in apostasy.
These discussions were of a most helpful nature to all present and though I was feeling sick, the Lord blessed me to have a clear mind and able to fully understand the questions and answer then with Bible verses and Bible principles. Brother Elvis continued to do a good job translating and making my points clear.
It was very difficult to say goodbye to some of my new friends, as they had been so kind to me, but a meeting was scheduled for that evening at Nelson’s house and we needed to go. What I did not realize was that the brethren had already decided that I was too sick for another meeting and would not allow me to continue, despite their desire to hear more. These people adopted me and love me greatly. Brother Nelson and his wife, Rosa, have gone out of their way to make our stay the very best it can be and have shown true love in many ways.
The next day I tried to rest and work on my computer while Elvis was good to bring me hot herb tea, and he also gave me a hot foot bath. There was a meeting scheduled for the evening, and I desperately wanted to be able to speak. At first I had planned to speak on “The Antichrist,” but I decided that I should speak on the Reformation and the true church. At this meeting, God sustained me to have clear thoughts and good words.
After the meeting, Nelson and Rosa took me to a medical clinic, for my condition was growing worse, and I was diagnosed with bronchitis and a bad infection of the larynx. I was given a breathing treatment and medication for the infection. We were scheduled to go to Caracas the next day and then on to El Callao, but the doctor said that I could not travel anywhere for the next few days. Brother Elvis and I were scheduled to be in El Callao February 10-12, but this leg of the trip had to be canceled. By morning, instead of being better, I felt worse! I tried to rest as best I could and by evening I felt better. By Wednesday, the 11th, I felt so much better that I was able to join the morning worship at Smyrna via Skype.
On February 12, our time in Barquisimeto came to an end. Brother Nelson and his children, Gabriel and Susan, took us to the airport and graciously saw us off. Brother Nelson also helped us arrange a motel to stay in overnight which provided shuttle service to the airport, for our next stop was Manaus, Brazil and a visit with Bob and Ardis Habenicht.
The entrance into Brazil went very smoothly, and we were soon greeted by Ardis Habenicht and a brother named Alberto. After a brisk trip into the country, we found ourselves at the wellness center and met Gracia and her many patients. Illnesses were as varied as drug and alcohol addiction treatment to cancer. We really appreciated the time we spent there. Though we did not take any treatments and had a full load of speaking and visiting, we were quite refreshed to be able to spend the weekend there.
Shortly after arriving and seeing Pastor Bob, we conducted the evening worship service for the patients. Many of these patients knew about God only by what they had learned since coming to the clinic. Some had never owned a Bible before, so all the lessons for them had to be very simple and straightforward. I spoke on the greatness of God and his love in giving his only begotten Son. At the end of the rather short meeting, I made a call for those who had not yet accepted the gospel to come forward for special prayer. The Holy Spirit was strongly working upon the hearts of all and about ten of the patients came forward. After prayer, I tried to visit with them as best I could, as they only spoke Portuguese.
As some of you know, Bob and Ardis Habenicht have spent many years of service to Brazil, first helping to establish a mission school over forty years ago. Their influence is certainly very strongly felt still. During the many years since their “return” to the United States, they have traveled back to Brazil to help with the school and with other mission projects. They traveled to Brazil a few months ago for another chance to be a blessing, but the day after arriving, Pastor Bob fell and seriously injured his head, creating a bad wound that became infected. For the last two months, Bob has been dealing with this serious infection that has threatened his life. Yet even during this time, he has somehow found the ability to visit other patients and to pray for them and encourage them. During our time at the clinic, it seemed that Pastor Bob’s wound began to turn the corner to healing, and his spirits were very good while we were there.
On Sabbath we had two main meetings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In the morning, we discussed the gift of God in the giving of his Son and the divine nature of Jesus. The words were well-received. I spoke very plainly in the afternoon concerning the problems with the trinity doctrine. These problems included the misty view of God’s love it offers, no true comforter, and a destruction of the atonement doctrine. After the meeting, we had a baptism for five sisters and a brother. This baptism was held in one of the treatment pools, which was just large enough to be sufficient without being cramped. That evening, at the patients’ worship, we encouraged those there to learn more of God and of Jesus and that their lives will change as a result.
On Sunday, the 15th, we prepared to leave and begin our journey to Ecuador. Before we left the clinic, we said some sad goodbyes to the patients that we had come to know and love. Two such patients that stand out in my mind are Harley and Michael. Harley was there to stop a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit. The night before we left he had a terrible struggle wanting a cigarette, but God helped him through the night. In fact, he shared a few thoughts for the morning worship on Sunday morning. Michael was there for help with drug addiction. He is from a Jewish background and has never owned a Bible. Michael was one of the people who came forward in my call Friday night and testified that when he would shortly leave the clinic he was going to begin keeping the Sabbath and go to church. We must pray for God to keep his hand over these two and the other dear souls at the wellness clinic as they seek to know him better.
After saying good bye to the patients, Pastor Bob, and the staff, Elvis and I were taken to see the Seventh-day Adventist school that was begun in the early 1960s by Pastor Bob and Ardis. It was certainly very different from the pictures I had seen in Ardis’ scrapbook. Today it is a modern, large campus with many hundreds of students. While some of the staff have been there a long time and remember Bob and Ardis, it seems that, overall, there has risen a pharaoh that knew not Joseph. The modern campus, seems to have lost its distinctiveness, as most of our schools have. There is a large football (soccer) field, basketball court, and the things we normally see at our schools today.
We were able to eat a meal at the campus cafeteria and had a good chance to talk to a worker who was very open to listen to the truth about God. We were able to leave some literature for further study with this brother. Due to the sensitive nature of his position, we cannot say what position he fills at the school, but please pray for him that God will open to his mind the truth.
Soon we were at the airport in Manaus for our trip to Ecuador. It was our understanding that Brother Roberto Lara would be at the airport to pick us up and would take us to a hotel he owned. We found out upon arriving that we were mistaken. Roberto had thought that we were coming in the next day, and he lives about 90 miles to the north of Quito without a car, so we needed to find a motel for the night and arrange to meet him in the morning.
The next morning, Roberto’s sister, Lucia, picked us up and took us to his place in the north. There we met with Roberto and his family and some others. We had a study on the love of God in giving his Son and then took a quick trip to see Cuicocha Lake. This lake is in a volcano and is quite beautiful.
That evening we rested and prepared for a long bus trip to Vinces in the south. The bus trip lasted longer than planned because part of the road had been washed out due to heavy rain and the bus had to take an alternate route. The bus took us through some beautiful landscapes and into the high mountains above the tree line at one point.
After traveling for about ten hours and changing buses twice, we finally arrived at Vinces. We were very tired and thankful to be able to eat some rice and relax for a few minutes before going to William Moreno’s house for a meeting. We walked about a mile to Brother Moreno’s house and there met with Roberto, William, and three other brothers. We spent the next few hours answering questions on feast days, the sacred name, and other concerns that have been raised by some of the believers in Ecuador. That evening we were graciously hosted in the Marc Anthony hotel, managed by Roberto’s mother, which had a good air conditioner that made the evening comfortable.
The next day we went to the home of Dalton Cruz’s parents in Vinces for a meeting in the morning. There I discussed issues of the gospel and the spirit of antichrist. There were many issues we discussed, including more questions on the sacred name. After this meeting, we went back to Brother William Moreno’s place to discuss the work in that area. Brother William hosts a three-hour weekly radio program. He has also started a few weekly, twenty-two minute television programs that reach the local areas. We were able to record a few short spots for him to use. After a nice lunch, we were taken to the bus station for a ride to Guayanna for a flight back to Quito, where we would depart the next day for Peru. The “two-hour ride” only turned out to be two and a half hours so we felt good about that. We were thankful that Brother Dalton accompanied us on the bus and to the bus station, helped us get a taxi to the airport, and made sure we could check in for our flight.
There is a great work to be done in Ecuador. There are few believers scattered over a large area. Sadly, we could only visit a few of them, but these brothers and sisters are of good heart and desire to do much for the Lord. One thing that we saw in Ecuador, and in many places in South America, is a lack of Spirit of Prophecy books. Many believers have little knowledge of the counsels about country living, child training and education, and evangelism. Also many issues of practical Christian living are not known. Thankfully, most believers seems to be interested in healthful living and most of those we met are vegetarians, but there is a real need for Spanish Spirit of Prophecy books as well as Spanish editions of books such as The Foundation of our Faith. If you are fluent in Spanish and English or in Portuguese and English and would like to help with translation, please let us know and we will be glad to let you share in the blessing of helping others have materials in their own languages.
On Thursday, February 19, our flight left Quito, Ecuador, and there was sadness in knowing that we would not see these dear brothers and sisters any more on this trip. We were now on our way to Peru to visit Aland and Karina Ashton in their little city of Chaclacayo near Lima, Peru. Upon arriving at the airport in Lima, we were heartily greeted by Brother Aland who drove us to Chaclacayo.
Our schedule called for meetings in Chaclacayo Thursday night, Friday night, Sabbath morning and then Saturday night. These meetings were sparsely attended, and Brother Aland was very disappointed as it seemed that the many who had planned to attend had roadblock after roadblock put in the way. One carload of believers could not attend on Friday after their car broke down on the way from Lima. One group stayed away because the local pastor had warned them not to attend. Other problems seem to arise, but we held the meetings even though there were only 11 or 13 of us at times.
The first night began with Brother Elvis giving a talk on the laws of health. I then spoke on the first angel’s message of the everlasting gospel of God giving his only-begotten Son to die for our sins. The message did not seem to stir the congregation this night as I had hoped. There were four sisters who were sitting on the front row whose interest seemed to be somewhere else most of the time, but then there was Memo, a man who had been very sinful and violent in his younger life. I was told that before his conversion he could have slipped a knife into your neck as easily as he could have shaken your hand, and he was soaking up all that was said. When we were finished with the preaching, he gave a beautiful testimony in song.
With eagerness, we looked forward to the meeting on Friday evening which would be on the second angel’s message on the fall of Babylon. Elvis again spoke on health and especially on rest. Our little crowd was all new except for Memo, who was back. As noted earlier, one carload of believers was coming from Lima but their car broke down on the way, preventing them from attending any of the Sabbath meetings. For this we were very disappointed. There were some new brothers who we were told were Sabbath-keepers and they were interested in events in the United States and possible Sunday laws. I had planned on speaking on that subject Saturday night, so we invited them to return then as well. There was one young lady in the crowd that night that responded to the call at the end of the meeting. She came forward and said that she wished to accept Jesus as her Saviour. We had special prayer for her, and she attended the last two meetings the next day.
Sabbath morning we had the largest crowd of all the meetings, but again it was mostly new folks. Just Memo and the sister who gave her life to Jesus the night before had returned. I spoke more on the everlasting gospel, since most had not heard that presentation yet, and the response seemed good. A lunch was planned after the morning session, and we hoped to have an afternoon meeting, but we did not know the ways of these folks all that well yet. One by one they began to filter out, with most saying that they would be back in the evening though most did not return.
In the evening I spoke on the prophecies of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 and 14, discussing the issues of the mark of the beast and the seal of God. Though we only had a small group, God gave a powerful message and this seemed to help all in attendance to have a sharper understanding of these importance prophecies.
No meetings were scheduled on Sunday, so we used the day for missionary work, passing out tracts on the street and talking to people. We also went with literature to the Adventist College nearby. We were blessed to pass out many tracts and several Spanish editions of the book What Did the Pioneers Believe? We were blessed to give books to a chaplain and to two pastors, who all seemed very happy to receive them, but before long a team of four security officers found us and informed us that, as we did not have permission to pass out literature, we would need to leave. They approached us in a friendly manner, and we responded in a nice manner to them. We discussed the need the church has to listen to the Spirit of Prophecy and the benefits that we could have if we would study the writings of the pioneers as Ellen White encouraged us to do. These men all seemed interested in what we were doing and each asked for his own copy of the pioneer book. We even exchanged group pictures on our cell phones and left under good terms.
While we wished we could have shared more, God blessed us to almost empty our literature packs and by the time we returned to Chaclacayo, we needed to get more literature for sharing on the streets. Almost all the people we offered literature to gladly accepted it, and we hope that much gospel seed was sown that day. In the evening we took a bus to a nearby town to do some shopping.
On the 23rd, we began our travel to Chiclayo in northern Peru. After taking a few hours to see downtown Lima and to find a shofar for Elvis, we went to the airport for our flight. We arrived in Chiclayo on time and were greeted by Brother Cesar Cabanillas, who had taken a taxi from his home town of Chepen to meet us, about an hour away, and then we returned by taxi. Thankfully, taxis are very inexpensive in this part of the world. On the way Cesar related to us that before he heard of our coming he was strongly impressed that God was going to send two men to visit. This was a strange impression for Cesar said that nobody from without the area ever visits Chepen. But his impression was so strong that he began to tell the brothers and sisters that visitors were coming! It new for certain that we were the answer to what God revealed to him and he was very thankful!
Upon arriving at Cesar’s home, we were graciously welcomed by his family, given some fruit to eat, and then we discussed the work in this area of Peru and the meetings we would hold. The brothers in this area are very concerned about the work. God has blessed them with a printing press, and they are currently printing Ellen White’s Testimonies for the Church. Brother Cesar has had a radio program in the past but is not currently broadcasting one, but he is planning on a broadcast in the near future. They do, however, have a daily television broadcast that goes to many people in the local area. We learned that our schedule for the next three days would include meetings in the morning with as many brethren as could come out, television broadcasts in the afternoon, and then larger meetings in the evenings. We certainly were looking forward to being busy.
Tuesday, the 24th, started with worship in Cesar’s home, followed by fruit and bread for breakfast. We then had a meeting in Cesar’s home with six brethren in attendance. I spoke on some of the basic issues of the gospel and contrasted the worship of God and Babylon. After this study, we went straight to the television station for a live broadcast. After a few introductory remarks by Brother Cesar, I spoke to the audience on the everlasting gospel, with Elvis faithfully translating as he has been doing all along. We went back to the television station during the news broadcast for a live interview about our visit to Peru and our work. The news host was very good to ask us questions that allowed us to give answers for our faith. For example, he said that since some people believe in keeping Sunday and some believe in keeping Sabbath, how can we know for sure from the Bible what to do? This was a wonderful question that gave us a chance to have a mini Bible study for the people via the news broadcast. The interview was not rushed and lasted about fifteen minutes. We were very thankful for this extra chance to witness and to get free advertising!
After coming back from the interview, we had about twenty brothers and sisters waiting for us to have a study. I spoke more on the everlasting gospel and discussed in detail the Father and Son relationship and the Bible evidence for Jesus being the only-begotten Son of God. The meeting went very well and Cesar shared literature with the people that we had sent prior to our arrival.
South American Trip 4
February 25, Wednesday: The morning found us gathered again in Cesar’s home for a small meeting with three brothers and a sister discussing questions mostly on righteousness by faith. The main-line church her in Peru is teaching that justification by faith does not bring one into conformity to the commandments of God. It is taught that one is justified by faith only and that even though we have the “third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit,” one cannot keep the commandments and that all will continue to sin until Jesus comes.
We looked at both the writings of Paul and James as well as the teachings of Jesus upon this subject. The balance of faith and works, with the proper place of each was discussed.
The afternoon found us again at the TV station doing a live broadcast. We plainly discussed the God of the Bible as being the Father and that Jesus was the only-begotten Son of God. The errors of the Trinity doctrine concerning the Father and Son were discussed. We wish we could somehow know what the people watching were thinking but we hope that some received the message well. When we returned, Cesar’s daughter, Kiabeth told me that they had watched the program at home and it was very good.
After some lunch we had a short break and then we traveled from Chepen to Pacasmayo about forty minutes away to meet with a group of about twenty-five who are a mixture of former Baptists, Pentecostals, some Adventists, and I am sure some other groups. These believers are Sabbath keepers and Cesar has been slowly teaching them about the three angels’ messages. I spoke on the Father and Son and the need to properly understand this truth to be able to know the true everlasting gospel. We looked at end time events and how one’s understand of God would affect the way that they would deal with the Sabbath/Sunday controversy.
The truth was very well received and the people were very thankful that we came.
After the meeting the brethren asked if we could stay for “Quaker Oats.” Cesar explained that it was getting late and that we might have a hard time finding a taxi back if we stayed later. But one the of the brothers graciously offered to take us back so we could stay.
“Quaker Oats” in South America are more of a drink than a cereal as in the United States. The oats are cooked very think and are more like a light thin soup. This particular version of the oats had apple juice and pineapple juice added to the hot oatmeal mixture. It was nice and we certainly enjoyed being able to fellowship with these believers for an extra forty minutes before we left. Cesar will continue to follow up with this group and I believe that they are ready to now understand the truth about the Holy Spirit. Please keep these believers in Pacasmayo in your prayers.
February 26, Thursday: Our day began with another Bible study in the morning with a few new brothers on various topics concerning which they had questions.
The afternoon found us back at the TV station and our subject was the Holy Spirit. I had been told that the Wednesday’s presentation on the Father and Son would be recorded on DVD but that did not happen for some reason. However, our presentation on the Holy Spirit was recorded and though it is not the best quality in some ways, it can be used for our Spanish speaking brethren. So we were very thankful to get a copy of the presentation. We hope to edit it and have it available for distribution soon.
After the broadcast we had a quick lunch and then went to Guladalopua, a town about fifteen minutes away for a meeting. There we met with about fifteen brothers and sisters in an abode mud-brick building. Though simple, we were very blessed to be there. These brothers and sisters are endeavoring to build a larger chapel from adobe that would seat over 100 people. So pray that the Lord will honor their faith and give them souls for their labors. I spoke on the blessed hope of the second coming of Jesus and the spiritual preparation that would be needed to be ready. The brothers and sisters were very glad that we had been with them and we all parted with great sadness to go back to Cesar’s house to get our things and go to the airport.
Before leaving Cesar’s home we had an ordination service for him to be an elder in the church. Cesar is doing the work of an elder and even a pastor in many respects and we found him to be very faithful and called of God to do a special work. His wife Maria is a very good help to him and it was a very solemn service. As we said goodbye we all felt a deep void.
Our trip to Chiclayo by taxi seemed to be very slow and I was wondering if we would have enough time to make our flight. When we arrived we learned that we had more than enough time for our flight was delayed for more than two hours! This would cause us to miss our connection flight in Lima. So we gave thanks for all things knowing that God had a better purpose.
February 27, Friday: When we finally arrived in Lima at 1:42 am we claimed our luggage and went to check in for our morning flight to Chile. After getting our boarding passes and checking our luggage we were given passes to enter the VIP lounge since we were delayed by the airline. So at about 3:00 am we finally got to the lounge. Though there were no beds to sleep in we were able to relax in a couple of nice chairs for a couple of hours. There was a free Continental breakfast from which we found some nice toast, fruit, and juice.
Our flight to Santiago went well and we made connections with Victoria Gallardo and her brother Juan. After driving to Victoria’s place we unloaded our bags, had a traditional Chilean soup and bread and were ready for our evening meeting.
Our main studies in Chile were on the concept of what constituted God’s Church. Although I had not planned to speak on this subject, God gave very good words. In these presentations we emphasized that God’s church would be the “pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).” This would coupled with the fact that the 144,000 will have no guile in their mouths, necessitate that the true church would teach pure doctrines and so we were able to discuss the issues of the truth about God, the sanctuary doctrine, and the nature of Christ as well.
Our first study began with a sister reading several Spirit of Prophecy quotes which seemed to support the concept that the “church” had a straight ticket to heaven. She then asked what I thought of these statements. I told her that I appreciated them greatly and believed that they taught 100% truth. I then asked if we could first look at what the Bible said about the church and then we would like to look at many statements from the pen of Ellen White.
We began, perhaps strangely with Revelation 14:11, “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” We then read Mark 9:43, 44 which says, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” After reading a few similar verses I asked if these verses told the truth about hell. All had to agree that they did but also agreed that the popular understanding of these verses was not correct and that we had to draw together all the Bible verses on hell to have the proper understanding.
We noted that the same was true about the issue of the church. We needed to read all we could from the Bible first, and then from the Spirit of Prophecy and we then could have a correct understanding if we were willing to do God’s will as Jesus said in John 7:17.
We noticed that the Bible speaks of the church of the living God as “the pillar and the ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).” We continued in Ephesians 5:27, Revelation 14:5 and other texts that show God’s church to have pure truth and a church that keeps the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus and has the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 12:17; 19:10; 14:12, etc.
The study then looked at Israel and how they were called of God, named by God, and blessed by God, but that they did not have a free ride to the Promised Land. According to Daniel, seventy weeks of prophetic time were measured to Israel. But the Jewish leaders did not wish to accept this truth. Instead they clung to the statement of Jeremiah 31:35-37 which seemed to promise the Jews a secure ride forever. But what the Jews failed to do was fulfill the conditions upon which the promise was made. It was to a people in whose heart God’s law was written that the promise was made. Yet these very ones claiming the promise were plotting to murder the Son of God!
February 28, Sabbath: This morning we were joined by an additional couple as we continued our study on the “church.” We discussed the need for the true church to preach the everlasting gospel but that would be impossible with false views of God and Christ; this lead into an excellent study on the issue of the trinity and the truth about God. We noted that the trinity was the god of Babylon and Sunday was the day dedicated to the worship of the trinity. The issue of role playing in the trinity-based gospel was discussed and the message had a strong impact on all.
In the afternoon we took a walk and visited an Adventist church in the area inviting some of the people to our evening meeting. Though none came, we pray that we at least sowed some seeds of truth.
In the evening we looked at several statements from the Spirit of Prophecy on the nature of the church beginning with a statement from the Upward Look, page, 315:
God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ's church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.
We then noticed a statement from Acts of the Apostles, page 12:
During ages of spiritual darkness the church of God has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations, the pure doctrines of heaven have been unfolding within its borders. Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.
Usually the first two sentences are not quoted and we are told that though the church is defective and feeble, it is still the object of God’s love. We agreed that this part was true but we then focused on the second sentence for it would qualify the true church. It says that “the pure doctrines of heaven have been unfolding within its borders.” So the true church that is the “theater of His grace” which has God’s “supreme regard” it the church that has the pure doctrines of heaven and not devilish doctrines of hell like the trinity doctrine!
We studied the history of the 1888 General Conference sessions as well as the 1901, 1903 conferences and Ellen White’s statements about the church being weighed in the balances of the sanctuary. The history of the entrance of the trinity was reviewed as well as the SDA-Evangelical conferences of 1955 and 1956 with the resulting book, Questions on Doctrine being published in 1957. This was followed with a history of developments from the last fifty years.
This was quite an eye opener for some. Our sister who had read the quotations from the Spirit of Prophecy the night before gave a testimony that she had been in the church for almost forty-one years and had been taught to believe all that she was ever taught from the church as truth. But she had learned that she had been lied to and not told all the truth. She rejoiced as she held a Spanish copy of the pioneer book and said that she was going to continue her study.
March 1, Sunday: Although we did not have any meetings planned for this day, in the morning we had a person stop by who had not been at any of our earlier meetings so we had a study on the truth about God and especially the Holy Spirit. He too many notes and asked many questions receiving answers that helped him greatly.
Though he was a strong Trinitarian he left saying he believed in God as the Father and Jesus as the only begotten Son.
The Afternoon found us traveling to a small but very fast moving river which for miles flowed with continuous rapids for a baptism. Though most of the river was very majestic and beautiful, it was also in almost all places too swift moving and therefore dangerous for a baptism. But the Lord blessed us to find a clean area that had been partly dammed up with rocks to form a pool. In these cold brisk waters we buried two souls in the name of the Lord.
After returning from the baptism we had an ordination service for a brother to serve as an elder among the believers. This service was very solemn and we were thankful to be able to lay hands upon a faithful servant of God.
March 3, Wednesday; saying goodbye to our contact in Columbia we flew south to Lima, then to Paraguay, and finally Uruguay.
March 4, Thursday: Arriving in Montevideo early on Thursday morning we proceeded to make arrangements to find a bus traveling to Rio Blanco, 250 miles away. The earliest bus we could take would leave at noon and was scheduled to arrive in Rio Blanco at 6:00 pm. We left with some concern due to some communication problems. We has made this contact by some mutual friends who had recently had some differences and our welcome did not seem assured to us. We had traveled many thousands of miles to visit and encourage these brothers and sisters but were told that we would have to find a place to stay on our own and we were given no assurance of being allowed to share God's word!.
Not knowing what lay ahead we proceeded believing that God had his hand in the planning of our trip and that he would open a path to us. So giving thanks in all things, we boarded the bus to Rio Blanco and what turned out to be a seven hour trip. This bus, unlike the ones in Ecuador, was quiet without music going over the public address system of the bus. For the quiet ride to Rio Blanco I was very thankful. Along the way Brother Elvis quickly got off the bus at an extended stop to buy some bread for our lunch. Although only bread, we claimed the promise that our bread and water would be sure and gave thanks.
Upon arriving in Rio Blanco we were unexpectedly greeted by Brother Jamie Ferreira. Jamie is the main leader of the brothers and sister in this area. Whatever lack of interest that our listed contact showed, Brother Himmie more than made up for with his great thankfulness that we were there safely.
After loading our things into his van we traveled a few miles to a house where his wife, Isabel, was giving a Bible study on health. It was a very good study with the sister showing a good interest.
After the study we went to Jamie's place where we met his three children. Isabel prepared some bread and fruit for us and we visited for a few hours before retiring.
March 5, Friday: One thing that we were very thankful to find out was that Brother Jamie and his family live in the country. After visiting so many brothers and sisters, most of who live in or very near a big city, it was refreshing and good to visit a home truly in the country. After having worship with the family we discussed issues of righteousness by faith, Adventist Church history, and current events.
The afternoon quickly came and we prepared for Sabbath. In the afternoon a believer who is a close neighbor to Jamie came to visit and encourage us. Also, Elvis took some time to share some principles of health with Jamie’s children while Jamie and Isabel went for a Bible.
In the evening we traveled to Rio Blanco to welcome the believers there. Packing Jamie’s van with eleven people coming and twelve people returning we just about had the little VW van maxxed out in space and weight.
Upon arriving we met with a total of about twenty souls and counted in a privilege to study the "everlasting gospel" with them. Our meeting focused on the issues of the true gospel, contrasting it with "another gospel" that Paul spoke to the Galatians about and the seriousness of preaching the true gospel and how this was the first angel’s message and the importance of the truth about God in the gospel.
March 7, Sabbath Day: The morning gathering was at Jamie’s house. About 12 brothers and sisters met in the dinning area of Jamie’s house. The day was very clear and beautiful with the sun shining. I spoke on the incarnation and the nature of Jesus showing how he took upon his sinless nature our sinful nature and became man, yet by his divine spirit he was able to link sinful man to God and thus be the ladder between heaven and earth. Emphasizing the human and the divine in Jesus we saw that Jesus is the perfect mediator between God and man. We noted on his human side that Jesus was tempted just as we are from both without and within by his own sinful flesh, but also how that each time he was perfectly obedient by the connection he had to his Father through his divine spirit and how that we may also be a partaker of the divine spirit as Christ lives in us and how we may overcome each time we are tempted. The message was a blessing to the people and it helped them to see more clearly this important gospel issue.
In the evening we went back to Rio Blanco to meet with the other brothers and sisters. There were about 23 present this time and I spoke on the basic principles of righteousness by faith.
We began our study by noted that in Psalms 119:172 and Isaiah 51:7, the Bible defines righteousness as obedience to God’s commandments. We then looked Matthew 8:6-10 to have a better understanding that faith was believing the word of God and depending upon that word to fulfill every promise that God’s word gives. We examined Ephesians 2:8-10 and discussed the need of grace we have and how our hearts must be changed from a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26) to a heart of flesh that has God’s law now written in it. We looked at the example of the publican and the Pharisee in Luke 18 we saw how we need mercy and how our own righteousness is not righteousness at all. Claiming the promise of 1 John 1:9 we asked God to come into our lives and forgive us and cleanse us and make us whole. The message was very well received and many of these people are very new to Christianity and God is blessing them to grow.
Sabbath ended with sundown worship beside the Rio Blanco (White River) which borders Brazil. The sundown was very beautiful and we gave thanks for a blessed experience.
March 8, Sunday: In the morning we had a study with a group of young people about consecration and devotion to God. Discussion included the great decision of following Christ and then in what capacity we would serve the Master.
Each Sunday afternoon, Jamie and Isabel have an afternoon program for children and adults in the area that wish to know more about God and study the Bible. Jaime takes his faithful old van around and fills it up multiple times to help gather the people. On the Sunday we were there, approximately forty to forty-five people were gathered outside in the open air with over half of them young children. It was very sweet to watch Isabel share a Bible story with the children and led them in songs. After the story, she took them for some activities while I shared a basic Bible study on Christ being our only answer. The response was very good and all were blessed. As soon as the study was over, we needed to leave Rio Blanco to catch a bus that would travel through the night to Montevideo where we would catch a flight the next morning. This was our last meeting in South America and it was certainly a blessing to us. We began to miss the people as soon as we left. Thankfully, though, we could begin the return trip to those we love. Our bus was on time and even arrived in Montevideo a little early, arriving just before midnight.
March 9, Monday: After arriving in Montevideo we took a taxi to the airport where we waited the rest of the night for the ticket counters to open. Elvis stayed awake in a seat in the airport but I was so tired I vainly tired to sleep on the concrete floor. When 4:30 a.m. came, we were allowed to check in and proceed to the secure area of the airport where we later boarded our flight for the journey back to Curacao. Traveling first to Lima, Peru, then to Caracas, Venezuela, and finally to Curacao where a very enthusiastic Alberto family awaited us. When we appeared from the airport, Elvis’ daughter, Ana Julia, bolted towards her dad, followed by his son, John Michael. Sister Julienne was, of course, greatly happy to see her husband after a nearly five week absence.
On Tuesday, March 10, the sun rose majestically over the hills of Westpunt, Curacao as the day, which I was told would be very busy, began. While we were gone Sister Julienne had, under Elvis’ instruction, organized meetings for the day at their place. Most of the church at Curacao came together to hear our reports, study the Bible, and partake in sacred services. We began with some informal discussions, followed by a presentation on issues concerning the truth about God. This was followed by a wonderful lunch that the sisters prepared, which included some cooked pumpkin from Elvis’ famous pumpkin patch. It seems he is well known in Curacao for having the best pumpkins that are grown anywhere. I believe it is true!
After the lunch, we went to the ocean where four people were baptized in a beautiful setting in the warm water under a very sunny blue-colored sky. We then went back to Elvis’ house to perform a sacred wedding service for two of the baptismal candidates. This simple service was very sweet and meaningful. After this, we all shared the Lord’s Supper and then Elvis and his family played special music with Elvis on the cello, his children on the violin, and Julienne playing a recorder. Our last service of the evening was to ordain one of the local brethren as an elder. This was followed with more informal Bible study and discussion. Finally, after all had left, we were able to retire for the night. What a blessing it was to be able to spend the last day of the trip in Curacao.
On Wednesday, we left Westpunt around 9:00 a.m. and made our way to the airport. I would be traveling or waiting in airports until 11:30 p.m. when I would finally arrive in Charleston, West Virginia to be very joyfully greeted by the sweetest daughter in the world!
March 12, Thursday: I was graciously welcomed back by my loving church family, who had all gathered in Smyrna the evening before so they could have a welcome-back breakfast for me Thursday morning. What a blessing it was to see everyone again. God is so Good!
We thank God for his safety and protection throughout this long journey and for the sweet brothers and sisters Brother Elvis and I met at each stop on the way, some of whom have already been disfellowshipped because of their stand for the truth. Please pray that God will sustain, enrich, and protect each person we met on this trip and that we will each be faithful until we can all meet again at the Tree of Life. Allen Stump