I received word yesterday that the third sound church has begun meeting in Caracas this past Sunday. Now in this city of 6 million people there are 3 churches--I've jokingly told a couple of the preachers that they only have 2 million people to work with. The church in Petare began with 9 people, some of whom were going 30-45 minutes to get to the church in Las Carmelitas. I got another e-mail from a brother in Maracay that one person was baptized there this week. The work in Venezuela continues to progress, in spite of the political/economic problems, or perhaps because of them.
When I first began going to Venezuela in Jan. 2000 there were 10 or so churches, plus 2 just across the border in Colombia. Rather than preaching a Gospel meeting in one place, as we're accustomed to, they prefer to spread you around--you may travel by car, bus, or airplane. So the first 2 trips I made I preached in 7-8 of the churches over the period of 2 weeks, usually ending in the only church in Caracas, in order to fly out the next morning. In Jan. 2005 I preached in 11 different churches in 8 different cities and still only preached in half the churches. Counting the new congregation in Caracas there are now over 20 churches--the number has more than doubled in 6 years. Yes, some of them are small--San Juan de los Morros has only 4 members, but one of the churches in Barinas has over 100 in attendance most Sundays. I always enjoy the church in Cagua, although they will wear you out--they have so many questions to ask. The questions are usually very practical questions--about marriage, modesty, raising children, etc. Last year we had an hour or so of questions before services, then a one hour service followed by more questions--about 4 hours in all. And this in a building that doesn't even have a bathroom--they want to know! Because of a last minute change in schedule we also had another couple of hours of questions the next morning. As Brother Hugo told the church in Caracas after 2 weeks there, "My name is Hugo (which sounds like jugo, which means juice in Spanish) and you have just about drained all the juice in me.