Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Mission News

Written by Ken and Jackie Herfst
Cubulco, Baja Verapaz
Guatemala, C.A.
We greet you warmly in the Name of Him whose Word assures us that there shall come a day in which Òthe earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.Ó

As one plods along doing the LordÕs work, there is the awareness that the work progresses something like this: two steps forward, three steps back, four steps forward, one step backÉHowever, in these last few weeks it seems that we have leaped ten steps forward! Let us explain:

1. Tres Cruces. In February, Santiago, our co-worker, visited the outdoor market with the purpose of selling Bibles and Scripture tapes. This is an area that has been notoriously resistant to the Gospel. Once again, the majority of the Bibles went to Joyabaj, Quiche, but this time, Santiago made a crucial contact. A young man named Domingo of Chirramos now lives in Tres Cruces. As Santiago is also originally from Chirramos, they talked for some time. The following Sunday, Domingo visited Santiago in his home where they spoke about the Gospel until well into the early hours of the morning. Domingo has asked us to begin Bible studies with him in Tres Cruces! One of the means that Santiago used to explain the Gospel is the Spanish edition of The Compendium of the Heidelberg Catechism which we had given him. The original setting of the Catechism so much mirrors our own that it is proving to be an excellent tool for instruction.

2. Chivaquito. Some of the leaders of this Roman Catholic group have come to us with the question of separation. Patient teaching is no longer being received and those loyal to the priest are becoming intolerant of the reform. When we encouraged them to seek further discussion with the priest, they insisted that they had reached the end of the road with him as well. We need much wisdom and grace to deal with this development.

3. Pachijul. As reported in The Messenger, Bible studies have begun with these folks. We were elated to learn that they meet now on their own every four days for worship. They are contemplating constructing a place of worship. Chivaquito and Pachijul are located Ônext doorÕÑa relative term in the mountains, and we can easily combine visits to these areas.

4. The visit of the Mission Deputies. In February we had a delightful visit from deputies of our denominationÕs Mission Committee. It may surprise some readers that even merits mention, but it must be remembered that this work is relatively new and we are still in a growing stage. Real progress was made in understanding the nature of the work and affirming strategies for the near future.

One important development includes the commencement of a Bible Institute. As Ken visits with various leaders in the mountains, they have consistently requested further theological training. Many of them have very limited formal education. We hope to begin offering courses on Saturdays in April for those who labour in distant aldeas as well as interested people in Cubulco. We have rented a place in Cubulco in which we will provide this teaching using material from Theological Education by Extension. Pioneered by the Presbyterians, it now is used throughout the developing world. As things now stand, there is considerably more evangelical work going on than we had first thought. We trust that with GodÕs blessing this will have an important impact throughout the Cubulco area.

Much of our aldea work is concentrating on the area of the reservoir. Recently a young couple from this area came running to our home with a sick child. Six months old, he was vomiting blood. Jackie advised them to run to the hospital immediately where Ken would meet them. The doctors tried to do what they could, but it became evident that the only hope of saving him would be to go to the national hospital in Salama, some two hours away on rough roads. Ken volunteered to drive them, accompanied with a nurse. On the other side of Rabinal the child died. This was the first and only child of the young couple and they were heartbroken. Ken returned to the hospital with the parents to remove the intravenous and then brought them to their grandparentsÕ home in Colonia. Meanwhile, a brother ordered a coffin and Ken and he returned later to the home. The sight of this young child dying will not be easily forgotten.

The following day we found out that although the parents had initially taken their child to the hospital for diarrhea, there was no immediate relief. Instead of returning to the hospital, they tried various measures. The young father insisted that they had done everything they could; including a visit to a Spiritist in Coban (about seven hours away by bus). Finally the wifeÕs parents, who are involved in witchcraft, gave three remedies which proved to be fatal. First they fed the baby three heads of garlic. When there were no results, they made the baby drink a worm remedy which is applied to the hide of cattle. Last of all, they made the baby drink gasoline. In their belief system you must fight certain diseases with something ÔhotÕ. Gasoline, even in liquid form is hot, so they tried that. One cannot easily forget such a death.

We have been told that between 40 and 50 percent of the indigenous population in the Cubulco area are directly involved in witchcraft. Many of the remaining 50 or 60 percent regularly seek their ÔhelpÕ in matters such as disease, crop production, as well as other aspects of life in superstitious rituals. This death highlights again the urgency of the Gospel and the bankruptcy of paganism. The young manÕs older brother who accompanied them to Salama is one of the catechists of Chivaquito who is involved in the reform; his younger brother is part of the traditional group.

Prejudices, superstitions, traditions and beliefs remain obstacles to the gospel. However, we have seen the power of God working in the lives of people who were as bound as this young couple. Our hope remains secure in our Sovereign Lord who so miraculously rescues sinners from the domain of darkness and brings them into the kingdom of His dear Son.

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