P.O. Box 1453
Calexico, Ca. 92232
May 5, 2014
To our beloved in the Lord who worship the Father of Lights through His Son Jesus the Christ. Greeting. The Lord bless you with His love and knowledge.
It is with pleasure that we make our monthly report on our activities here in Mexicali, Calexico and in El Salvador. The report is late because we arrived back in the States on the 1st and we did not get home till the 2nd. And I'm an old man.
The first two weeks of the month were very hectic to say the least. We had just finished a 5 day meeting in Hermosillo in March (I had forgotten about that meeting). My taxes were due the 15th and I was in the middle of physicals for my placement in the VA´s health plan. The brethren in El Salvador asked me to hold the meeting on "Semana Santa" (Holy Week) because most professionals are given the whole week off. A good number of brethren in Santa Ana, El Salvador are teachers or have jobs connected with big companies that give their people most of that week off. Its the week before Easter Sunday.
The sisters in Calexico continue with the Lord. We continue to visit a sister who left the Lord and the church several years ago. She was withdrawn from unjustly, being accused of adultery. We were witnesses to the episode and we knew then that she was being blamed unjustly. After that, she just quit the Lord and left the church. She now realizes how wrong she was. She admits to being high-minded, proud and selfish. She and one of her daughters have been visiting the Christian Church in El Centro but she would like to study with us. She wants to thank her God for saving her.
The brethren here in Mexicali also continue remembering our Lord every first day of the week. While I was gone, Brother Peter Alvarado from El Centro East Side Church of Christ came and preached on one Sunday. The other Sunday, Brother Andres Hernandez preached for the brethren. On Wednesday evenings, Brother Jesus Uribe taught the class. Martha says they are still very "green" but they did a good job.
Our classes with Alex Choza continue. He is being distracted by his girlfriend but whenever we set up a class he is all for it. My friend Isela Lara who suffers from MS had a relapse the second week of April. I took her to the Bee Man, who treats her with bee stings (Apitherapy). On the way back, she began to loose all strength. I figured it was the heat, though it was not that hot. I poured water over her head and shoulders and turned the a/c on and rushed her home. The next day they took her to the hospital and spent 3 days there. Today I saw her and she was doing very well. It was the first time I had taken her to the Bee Man on my own. Her mother had a doctor's appointment on that same day. What an experience.
TRIP TO EL SALVADOR
On Sunday the 13th, after our evening service here in Mexicali, I head to the border. Our car is already parked in Calexico with my luggage and 6 boxes of song books. To start off, I do an hour in the line to get across. O.k. so the trip is starting off a little late. We need to be at LAX by 4:30 a.m. Seems like plenty of time. At 10:30 Brother Ulices Guevara from the 8th and Heil Church of Christ in El Cento and Alexander Ordoñez his son in law pick me up and we pack Ulices´ bags in the van and we are off to Boulevard to pick up Brother Glauco Gonzalez. We are about 45 minutes behind schedule, but we are o.k. One last check before we leave Boulevard. "Your passport Glauco..". He replies "got it". Then Ulices hangs his head. "I forgot mine in Alex´s car". The alarms go off; "Damage control"! We then call Alex who lives in Imperial, 65 miles away. We leave Ulices in Boulevard and Glauco and I head to LAX. We get there by 3:00 a.m. having lost another 30 minutes in Boulevard. We leave the pick up at an airport parking and by 3:45 we are at the airport. We look for our 4th traveler, Brother Dane Bengard from Chester, California. By 4:15 a.m. Ulices arrives with Alex and Betsabe, Ulice´s daughter and we are relieved.
They have just started checking people to the flight. We hand over our passports and after a 10 minute wait, the representative of Avianca Airlines informs us that Ulices will not be boarding the flight! His passport is damaged! Sure enough, his picture has been partly erased by some liquid. We will have to leave him there at the airport. I tell Ulices, you have to make a choice.. NOW! A man comes up to us and sees our anguish and offers to take Ulices to the U.S. Consulate in Beverly Hills. I tell Ulices, "I think the Lord has sent you an angel, what do you think"? Ulices says; "I have no other choice, I´m not going home"! Just then Brother Dane arrives. By then, our flight is getting ready to board and we have not gone through security. I leave Ulices my cell phone and tell him to turn it on every hour starting at 2:00 p.m. We then run to security. I am given a green light. Glauco and Dane are stuck in a long line and I´m starting to fret. I think, this is not the way to start the trip. What next? The Lord is with us. There are about 20 people who are in wheelchairs that will be boarded first! That gives Glauco and Dane the time to make it through security! By 8:00 a.m. we are on the plane and headed south! I sleep most of the way.
We arrive in El Salvador at 12:15 p.m. There are several brethren waiting for us and they greet us with great joy. A lot has happened in the last two years. Two good preachers have passed away since we were here in 2012, Hugo Luna and Dionisio Garcia. Some very disturbing problems have arisen and they are anxious to seek our advise. We rarely get involved in their local matters and this time it won´t be any different, but we will gladly give our advise.
At 2:00 p.m. we call Ulices and he answers the phone. He is at the U.S. Consulate in Los Angeles and he is now waiting for his new passport. The man who offered to take him there is Roberto Calderon, an angel of the Lord, may God bless him.
We now wait for our 5th traveler, Mike Mendez from Sacramento. He flew in another flight, making a connection in Houston and he arrives at 7:00 p.m.
We then drive a couple of hours west to Santa Ana where we will begin a 5 day long lectureship as we did 2 years ago in Moncagua on the east side of the country. The gang problem is very intense. The "Maras Salvatruchas" and the "18th" are the two main gangs in the country and they control the drug trade.
There is a feeling of loss and still a lingering feeling of emptiness with Hugo and Dionisio gone. I just can´t explain it, but that tells you how much of an impact both of those men had on us and the brethren here. But our faith is in the Lord and He is our Comfort, so the work must go on.
Lectureship Tuesday the 15th through Saturday the 19th
Iglesia de Cristo El Mora
Santa Ana, El Salvador
Dane Bengard at Moncagua
On the 15th, the lectureship begins! At 9:00 a.m. on the dot, Mike begins with his presentation of Romans, yet the bulk of his lecture is from the book of Genesis. It has been our goal now for the last 15 years to try and get the brethren to at least read the O.T. Finally after all this time, we see a turn in this struggle. This type of teaching is very concentrated and though at first I was skeptical, I see a good end to it. Mike teaches from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. none stop! The attendance was excellent!
At 11:20 a.m. Glauco begins his series on the Prophet Isaiah. In 2012 he taught us 5 ninety minute lessons from the same book, so I thought is would be a repeat. I was wrong! He taught 5 completely different lessons. One of them was outstanding. It had to do with the prophecy and the reality of how the prophecies would be fulfilled.
During the lunch hour on the first day of the lectureship, Ulices arrives and we are all so happy to see him! He tells us how Mr. Roberto Calderon took him and then took his luggage to the airport. He also told us how he got from the Consulate to the airport. It was one angel after another who was helping him to bring him to us.
At 1:30 p.m. it is my turn and I start me lectures on the book of Leviticus. As most commentators say, "it is the least of the books of the Law to be studied". Of course, now that I´ve given the book a good going over, I understand why, but I also see how wrong we are to ignore this precious jewel. I finish up at 3:00 p.m.
The titles to my part in the lectureship were as follows.
1. Introduction to Leviticus.. "Be ye holy, for I Am Holy".
2. Leviticus, the Book of Rehearsals... "Practice makes perfect..".
3. Leviticus, the Book of Sin... "The Monstrosity of sin.".
4. Leviticus, The Book of Prophecy.. "For a Testimony unto them..".
5. Leviticus, The Day of Atonement.. "The need to atone for the uncleanness".
After a couple of songs, we are dismissed. But the work has not ended for the day. At 4:00 p.m. Mike will be preaching for the next 5 days at Iglesia de Cristo Ahuachapan Colonia El Nopal, an hour away. Glauco will be preaching at 5:00 p.m. at Iglesia de Cristo Colonia El Puente also in Ahuachapan and I will be preaching here at El Mora at 6:30 p.m. These 5 days are intense. I am embarrassed to say that on one occasion, I must have fallen asleep during one of Mike´s lessons. I was dreaming, I had my eyes open and I was reaching out to Mike in the dream. Mike looked over to me and asked if I had a question, with that I woke up.
On Sunday, Mike heads to El Nopal, Glauco to El Puente and I stay here at El Mora for Sunday worship. I am given both hours to speak.. likewise Mike and Glauco.
In the evening we all meet here at El Mora and Mike preaches from Galatians 1:1-5 "Giving God the Glory" what I consider Mike´s best sermon. It was great.
April 21 Monday. Today we pack our things and head out from Santa Ana. Today we try to rest up. We travel to Soyapango, a huge suburb of the capital San Salvador. We arrive at Sister Dina Valencia, widow of Brother Carlos Valencia who used to be the preacher here when the church began in 1984.
I'm so tired I just excuse myself and go to the second floor of the house and fall fast asleep. I wake up with the roar of laughter downstairs. Glauco, Mike and Ulices are having a ball with the Valencia Family. Sounds like a bunch of pirates celebrating a huge haul. I join them in the laughter. Ulices is our comic relief. He is so funny.
Tuesday April 22nd through Sunday the 27th
Glauco at El Triunfo
Mike at San Miguel
Raymond at Nueva Granada 22nd through 25th
Dane at Sesori and El Caulotillo
For the next six days, Glauco will be working with the brethren at El Triunfo and the brethren at Istagua. He will be visiting brethren during the day and meeting at 4:00 p.m. at El Triunfo to deliver a lesson there and at 6:00 p.m. at Istagua to preach there too.
Mike and Ulices will be traveling to San Miguel where Mike will also be busy during the day and in the evening. He will be preaching for 6 days straight at San Miguel doing double duty at El Rodeo and San Miguel from Friday through Sunday.
On the 22nd we leave Soyapango and head to San Miguel. On the way, we drop Glauco off at El Triunfo. The brethren are happy to have us even though it was on short notice.
After leaving Glauco, we make another stop in the city of San Rafael Cedros. This church has been struggling with preacher problems from the day they began to meet. We stop here to speak to a sister who has separated herself from the church here along with 5 others. The division is fresh. There was apparently a big fight between two sisters. I later spoke to the other sister involved and she did admit to "striking the woman with my fists". She insisted that she was provoked and lost her head. "Now" she said to me, "you judge if I did wrong?" I told her that indeed she had done wrong, but she insisted that she had not sinned. I told her that with that attitude, there would be no chance of reconciliation, at least for now until the tempers calm down.
We head to San Miguel and stop at Nueva Granada where I will be preaching the next 4 days. I am so tired I ask Mike to please preach in my stead. "No problem" he said. We have several visitors and most of the brethren from Nueva Granada. It is a small group but with the visitors we are a nice standing room only crowd of about 30 people.
We leave Nueva Granada and head for San Miguel. We get there only 40 minutes before the evening meeting here in San Miguel. Most of the services are early because of the gang violence. When we get to the meeting place, Mike asks me if I would please preach in his stead. He is having problems with his voice now. We are still tired from last week and we just are not the young boys we used to be.
After the service, Brother Rosendo Cruz from Nueva Granada, my escort and I leave San Miguel and return to Nueva Granada. We get in a little late.. shower, light dinner and we hit the hammocks. It is a little hot but no mosquitoes thank the Lord.
The next 3 days here we go out visiting brethren. One sister that was not at the meeting yesterday, Sister Leonor is suffering from a dislocated disc. We visit her and encourage her. On our way out of the village, we get stuck on the side of the road. It has a lot of loose rocks and since the van has no weight in the rear, we just spinned and slid to the side. We are stuck! Its getting late and there is a leak in the transmission pan. I run up the hill and up the main road for help. There are 4 big burly men working with wood. I ask them for help and they drop everything and rush to our aid. They look at the situation, and with the call.. "one, two and three".. all 5 of us lift the rear of the van and set it on the road again! I backup and get a 100 yard running start and make is out.. barely. We are able to make the hill and coast to the nearest town. We look for an auto shop and park. One of the boys who works there turns towards us and I wave him over. I tell him, "I´ve got a bad leak.. can you help us". Without saying a word, he goes under the van. From under the van, I hear banging. I look and he has taken a rock and is hammering the pan back into place and stops the leak! Amazing! We put 3 quarts of fluid and we are off. I gave him 10 bucks. He says, I don´t have any change. I told him; "No, the 10 dollars are for you". Big smile. Also one of the tires was damaged so we buy another one.
We go out looking for Brother Rafael jr. who used to be the main preacher here. He father passed away about 6 months ago and he has since been missing a lot and his mother told us he has started drinking. Brother Rafael has a bad liver and the doctors told him that if he wants to die, just start drinking again.
On Friday evening, I pick up Brother Ulices at El Rodeo and we head to Santa Maria de Usulutan to bid our farewells to Brother Manuel Salgado. He has been suffering from kidney failure for the last year and his body can not take it anymore. We spend the night there with the family and try to comfort them. Brother Manuel is breathing heavily, but was able to say hello and acknowledge who we were. He was very happy to see Ulices whom he had not seen in about 8 years.
The next day we must depart . We told them we would be back on the following Tuesday. We are hoping he will still be here for one more farewell.
The 26th and the 27th
Raymond with Iglesia de Cristo Matazano III
In the late afternoon on Saturday, we meet early at their meeting place. This place is completely controlled by the gangs. Our car is inspected by the young men but we are not asked for "rent" as they call it. We have our meeting and then off we go back home. Even during the war is was not as dangerous.
On Sunday, I present an open class on Voluntary offerings to God. One of the brethren there had a question on the subject of meeting on the first day of the week. The question was; "Is it a commandment to meet on the First Day of the Week?" I had not been with these brethren for some time. In my first visits to the country in 1984 through 1989, I would spend at least 10 days here.
After the morning service, we head straight to San Rafael Cedros. Ulices and I meet with the sisters that broke off from the main group. They are meeting in the home of Sister Guadalupe. In the first hour we have the regular service, Ulices leads in the singing and I present a lesson on how a congregation of women can hold services. These sisters thought they would be in sin if the met on Sundays to partake of the Lord´s Supper. We go over some Scriptures and they are very happy with the study. After the service, we stay for another hour and have an open class on the subject.
On Monday the 28th, Glauco, Mike, Ulices and I rest at the Valencia home.
Dane starts meeting at Ilusión.. 28th to 30th
On Tuesday the 29th, we head to Santa María de Usulutan to bid our farewells to Brother Manuel Salgado. We get there and he is doing much better.
At 9:00 a.m. Glauco preaches to the brethren here. There are about 20 people besides us. Friends have come and about 15 members. It is a very moving service. The children of Manuel are there, all happy to see us and sad to see their Patriarch fading away.
Brother Manuel is given a hair cut and then a shower. He is able to walk the 20 yards to the shower and back to his hammock. Then one by one we go over to him and tell him that we will be going home in a couple of days. Mike goes home tomorrow. He is lucid and appreciates our visit.
We then ask a couple of the sisters to join us to the super-market and we tell them to buy whatever they will be needing the next 3 or 4 days. They will be having people coming and going. Relatives, brethren and friends will be coming by to say goodbye to Manuel. Food is expensive here. The bill came to 218.00. We also left them about 200.00 for the funeral expenses they will have.
We then say our goodbyes and we head to La Ilusión where Dane Bengard has been preaching since yesterday. The church here has lost about 15 members.
O.k. here is more or less what has happened. A brother from another congregation committed adultery and had moved to the area with his new woman. This happened 3 years ago. Up to now, the brother is still living with her. The brother has no intention of going back or divorcing his wife. He does not want to pay child support and this is why he does not want a divorce. Their presence among the brethren has cause much stress and that is why many left. The preacher, Brother Rafael Martinez was a bit confused as to what to do. He could not tell them they could not attend services because they are for members and non-members. Yet there was little understanding among the membership as to how to deal with this situation. After speaking with the men, it was clear that the church was not prepared to face this challenge. Like all other problems, doctrinal or personal, the church must be taught on how to best manage herself in these situations.
My point of view here is that the church needs to be educated, not dictated too, either from us or from the local preacher. I advised the men to call a meeting to start a class on these situations. In the mean time, they are visitors and in their judgment in sin and if they do not repent, they will remain lost. It is a judgment based on their knowledge of the Scriptures and of the facts. If they have truly repented, God will clear them, but in such matters, a church has the right to refuse fellowship to those they see in sin and a threat to the holiness of the body of Christ. I reiterated that it was only my advise.
In the Book of Acts, we have brethren solving problems. Acts 6:1-7. No search is made to find the people guilty of "neglecting the Grecian widows". There was a search for good men who can take care of the problem. In this case, all have erred. The preacher, the brethren and those who told them what to do. Now, lets find a solution and get those brethren back.
On April the 30th, Ulices Guevara, Rafael Martinez and I visit with Brother Daniel Alvarado and his wife Sister Carlota Servellon. Brother Alvarado is very weak now and has a hard time hearing. The church here in Santiago Noncualco is plugging along with a very difficult situation amongst the brethren here. The church divided into two groups about 7 years ago. At that time a family began visiting the brethren here and it was obvious their intentions were not spiritual. They demanded they turn over the treasury and the title of the building. The brethren refused and with that the group split and now one group meets on Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings and the other group meets on Sunday evenings. Daniel told us that even though there are two groups here, things have settled down and they are becoming more civil one to another and there will be no problem if we come and preach to them.
From Daniel´s home we travel 5 miles east to Zacatecoluca. There we visit the Quintanía home. The men are not home but Sister Lucía and her daughter Guadalupe are there and they give us a report on the church. Sister Lucía is ill with a lung disease and needs oxygen. She is happy to see us and would like for us to visit the church in one of our trips. From there we visit another dear sister that I thought we would not see again. Sister Cruz Quintanía who almost died last year. Sister Cruz used to sell snow cones close by, but the gangs began asking for "rent" and then the police put in place a curfew and the sales came crashing down.
Next month, a new president will take office. In one of his speeches he told the people that he was going to back up the police. From now one, "fire to kill if fired upon". Before the police who shot a teenager were jailed. Many of the gang members are in their early teens, between 13 and 18 years of age and they are armed!
We get back to Ilusión in time to attend the meeting. Dane preaches his final sermon on the punishment of God and repentance.
The rest of the evening we start gathering or belongings.. packing and just visiting one with another. Brethren from Santa Ana have arrived. All in all there must be about 20 people in the small home.
On Thursday, May the 1st we are awaked at about 5:30 a.m. Brother Manuel Salgado has peacefully passed away surrounded by his children. It is a bittersweet moment, but it is the way of all men. He is just another of those brothers who began preaching the gospel from scratch. First converting their families and then relatives and then friends and neighbors.
We board on time and arrive in LAX at 7:30.. but we don´t get to Boulevard till about 3:00 a.m. The next day, Ulices and I arrive in El Centro at 11:00 a.m. Happy to be home again.
In behalf of the brethren here in Mexicali, Calexico and El Salvador, we want to thank all of the churches who help us and helped us make this trip.
The Lord bless you, In Christ, Raymond Gonzalez