A Workshop in Old Mexico


A brief discription

Recent evangelistic workshops have extended into the Inter-American Division and Mexican Union field. It was a distinct privilege to spend seventeen days with our workers, school, and sanitarium in old Mexico. Eighty workers gathered in a spacious canyon ten miles north of Jalapa, in Veracruz, for a union meeting and evangelistic workshop during the week of April 16-23. On this grassy slope at five thousand feet, surrounded by majestic mountains, we were permitted to enjoy communion with God and with one another at nature's best.

Henry J. Westphal and Emiliano Ponce gave excellent leadership in the meeting. The daily program was full, beginning at 6:30 A.M. and not ending until 9130 P.M. Early each morning the Spirit of God drew near in blessed fellow ship as the devotional studies were given. After these hours the evangelistic workshop and institute agenda items were considered. Some recreation hours were interspersed to provide a bit of relaxation.

A unique plan was followed for the evening meetings when each of the six conferences, or corporations, as the Mexican field calls them, reported on the progress of their work. On the last Saturday night, for instance, the southern field reported. The brethren from that field re- enacted the beginnings of the message fifty years ago when Aurelio Jimenez received his first piece of literature. Brother Jimenez later became a worker and, still living today, was present at the meeting to help relate the details of that early experience. Now there are more than two thousand seven hundred believers and six thousand three hundred Sabbath school members in that southern field. Their conference force consists of only seven workers. Some carry as many as thirty-five congregations and have to travel to them by foot, mule, or boat. It stirred one's heart to hear them plan a thoughtful goal of one thousand new church members and two thousand new Sabbath school members for the next year. The growth in recent years gives solid indication that they will reach it.

It is difficult to express the satisfaction one experiences as he sees the ingenuity of these national workers in adapting evangelistic methods to meet their needs. They are developing workable techniques under tension and trial, persecution and hardship, and these they meet continually. It is refreshing to see their response to the principles so clearly outlined in the book Evangelism, which has recently been printed in a Spanish edition for the use of our Spanish-speaking workers. One worker tells that the only way he is permitted to carry on pastoral or evangelistic work is to write the government and ask permission to enter the back door of the church, and practice singing with the people, and then practice preaching with the people, and then practice taking up the offering with the people. This is a mild il lustration of the tact and wisdom that is needed to fulfill the letter of the law, and yet obey God rather than man in fulfilling the gospel commission.- The people are responsive, however, and men and women throughout this great field are awakening.

For a number of years Wesley Amundsen, of the division office, has been conducting a training program through the home missionary department to enlist the layman, and this field is beginning to reap the benefits of the plan. So earnest and energetic and self-sacrificing are these people that there is rising in Mexico a laymen's movement which bids fair to keep the ministerial force busy binding off and baptizing the new members thus raised up.

The workers tell me that it is difficult to train the members to report their activities. When one isolated believer was approached about a report, he scratched his head and said that he could not remember the number of studies or missionary visits or hours of Christian help work—all he knew about were the eighteen souls that he had won that year. It is encouraging- to see the large percentage of those thus brought in who are still faithful.

These laymen and the workers have made-good use of a few castoff S.V.E. projectors. Dr. Kenneth Fisher, at the sanitarium, has taken the lens and mechanical film framework from these projectors and built in a Coleman lantern for use without electricity. These lay men could use many more such machines.

From the forces of lay believers the ablest are chosen as "rural" workers and subsidized to the extent of sixty pesos a month ($7.20). The one marked characteristic of this group is the simplicity of their methods. The Spirit of prophecy urges simplicity in our methods of labor. Though differing circumstances demand special emphasis, yet these rural workers have reduced their methods to the simplest of forms, and God is abundantly blessing. The courageous fearlessness and simple faith, coupled with wise and tactful approach, results in success for these people. I wonder whether such a program might not work in more enlightened countries as well.

William Baxter, Bible teacher at the school, is giving the young men a firsthand experience in the field. In addition to a heavy teaching load, he is carrying on a unique experiment in medical evangelism in cooperation with Doc tors H. E. Butka and K. B. Fisher at the sanitarium. Some time ago two men traveled seven hours by mule back and fourteen hours by truck to ask for a doctor. It seemed unwise to send one of the doctors so far when the patients at the hospital greatly needed them, so Brother Baxter boarded his little plane and flew over the mountains to the village and brought in the desperately sick patient. The villagers, of course, never expected to see her again, and wept loudly as she was loaded into the plane. In a few weeks Brother Baxter was able 'to fly back with the patient in a state of perfect health.

After this experience the village prepared a respectable airfield, as have other villages, so that our brethren are now able to carry the patients to and from the sanitarium. Each Fri day evening our plane lands in one of these spots, and leaves two of the ministerial boys, who spend the entire week end working with these villagers. As shown in the accompanying set of pictures, the entire village comes out to meet the plane. In one village as Brother Baxter circles about the town, the chickens and pigs and children are all called from the main street. He then lands on the main street, and the young men have to walk but a few steps into the little chapel.

This is evangelism in its dual setting. Medical evangelism opens doors which might remain stubbornly closed. The book Evangelism says on page 513: "Nothing will open doors for the truth like evangelistic medical missionary work. . . . Doors that have not been opened to him who merely preaches the gospel will be opened to the intelligent medical missionary." For many years we have recognized the true value of properly combining the two approaches in the mission program. I long for the day when we shall have the courage to launch out more aggressively in such a combination program in the United States.

It is a recognized fact that for a radius, of several hundred miles in the area of the school and sanitarium in Mexico there is lessening prejudice even on the part of our most critical opponents, and the reader will readily recognize those to whom I am referring. We believe the Mexican field is on the verge of a large ingathering of souls.



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July 1950

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