MIRACLES and MISSIONS – 003
Two days out Sadie and Mary became deathly seasick. God commands us : “Is any sick among you… let them pray over him, anointing him with oil ( I don’t know what kind of oil we used) in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise them up” (even from seasickness). (James 5:14-15)
So we all gathered in Sadie’s cabin and began praying for her. God answered with such strong healing power that when it hit Sadie it awoke Mary, who was asleep in the next cabin, and Mary was healed al so. The sea still rolled, but no one missed another meal, and the sickness was gone.
Every day we sang and witnessed to the passengers, and after five days we arrived in San Juan Puerto Rico. The purser came to fill out our disembarkation papers. “Where are you stopping?, was the first question.
“We don’t know”, was our answer.
“Don’t know” he gasped as he stood looking at us six young people who were running over with the joy of the Lord. : You mean you haven’t written ahead to make hotel reservations?”
“No, we hadn’t.”
“Don’t you know that San Juan is one of the hardest places in the world to get accommodations? When you can get them they start at $10.00 per day. We have had passengers in transit who had to sleep on the ship for several days until they could make connections to depart from Puerto Rico. Now, if you don’t find some place to stay, you come back to the ship”, he consoled.
Bless his heart, he was about in tears over our situation…but we weren’t. We were too happy to be in tears, for we knew that God had things well planned. So we were just an anxious as anyone to get off the boat and see what God was going to do.
An elderly couple, passengers on our ship, lived in San Juan and had a Pentecostal cook who really lived for God. The Riccis knew where her church was located, so Mr. Ricci instructed a taxi driver just how to take us to the church and for 90 American cents all six of us were delivered to the very door of the church, where the pastor had been expecting us.
“Our home” was surely not the jungle place that folks had imagined. It was a wealthy American man’s beautiful, palacial summer resort which had been sold to the church for a Bible School. It was located on top of a hill overlooking the most beautiful scenery of all the enchanting island of Puerto Rico. It had a large tile bathroom with all the fixtures, there w ere hardwood floors throughout, and even a lily pond full of lovely lilies in the front yard… and the driveway was lined with stately, beautiful palm trees.
Every night they took us in the school truck to a different place where we had most glorious services and many souls were saved,
Only 34 years before had the Gospel reached Puerto Rico for the first time. But today there is hardly a place that does not have a thriving, self-supporting church and this is why:
First, their Bible School only admits students who want to preach the Gospel. Each graduate picks his field of labor from a map indicating where churches are already established. From any unmarked area, the graduate can pick his parish. From any unmarked area, the graduate can pick his parish. But once he has made his decision there is no turning back until souls are saved, church is established, and a meeting place provided. It may take him years to accomplish this, but such a plan puts stiffening in the knees and fervor in the soul when the going gets rough. It helps a pastor to constantly pray and work, expecting God to crown his labors with success.
Second, the Puerto Ricans have developed a unique method to get people to come to the services. About forty-five minutes before each service all the members gather at the church for prayer. After a short time of prayer, they start down the street singing and clapping and shouting as loudly as they can, while waving banners that say “Jesus Saves” or “Jesus Heals” or “Jesus Is Coming Soon,” etc., and beating tambourines and maracas. Hearing all this strange noise, the people immediately start pouring into the streets to see what is going on. At the first corner they stop, and someone gives a ringing testimony, and an announcement is made about the meeting that soon is to start in the church. Everyone is invited, and they resume their march, this time with a larger number added to see what else was going to be said and done. After completely circling the neighborhood for blocks, stopping every two blocks for a testimony and an announcement, they enter the church with a multitude of interested folds, ready to begin service… a revival is on and souls are saved.
Anything can happen in those meetings- the sick are prayed for and instantly healed, the cripples coming on crutches expect to walk home, the people with heavy burdens expect to leave them and find solutions for their sin-sick problems. And the new converts can hardly wait until the next night when they, too, can march down the street to tell what God has done for them…
After three glorious weeks of such revivals, God impressed us to go to St. Thomas, of the Virgin Islands. We had not been invited for we knew no one there. However, some months before, when God first illuminated my heart about going to Puerto Rico, He had also placed a call to the mission fields upon the heart of a very successful pastor, Rev. Stope, of Reading, Pensylvania. This pastor had successfully labored in his large church for eleven years, but in answer to God’s call he resigned his pastorate, and together with his wife and eight-year-old son, he proceeded to Haiti. Soon after their arrival in Haiti, they learned that St. Thomas was a fertile, English—speaking island without a preacher. So they immediately changed fields and began faithfully preaching every day on the street corners. For four and a half months they labored, but with disappointing results. They could not find a building to rent, buy, borrow, or lease, nor had land to build on and there only been about four or five converts.
It was hot summer time, and due to an acute shortage of water, it became necessary to bathe in alcohol. Cisterns located at each house furnished reservoirs for the water supply, but they were dry and water was being carried in by boat from Puerto Rico.
The Stoppes became discouraged, thinking that possibly they had been over-zealous and missed God. Maybe they should have stayed in their big church; at least folks were being saved. So they wrote their mission board to recall them, but no answer came.
They were growing weak in their bodies and wrote a second letter and had it ready to mail when Benny and Louise rapped on the door. “We are six young folds who have come for evangelistic.
Being invited in, the pastor proceeded to tell how disappointing their work had been, and how it had been impossible to secure any kind of preaching place under any condition. “Could we help you in any way? They asked. But he added, “We’re going to have a street service tonight. You can come along if you care too, but I’m not encouraging you to expect any great results.”
That was all Benny and Louise wanted… a chance. They excused themselves and returned to the hotel on a fly. “ Come on folks, we are going to have a street meeting.” They couldn’t wait to eat, and off they dashed. Some folks at the hotel wanted to go along too, so they called a taxi to take us, but the location was such an out-of-the-way place that even the taxi driver had a hard time finding it.
When the music started, the people began coming from everywhere. The street on both sides was packed with curious people. Everybody followed the leading of the Lord. We were so thrilled at the way God had opened the doors for us that no one remembers who did what, but when the alter call was given, 38 strong men and women knelt in the street and poured out their hearts to God, asking forgiveness for Christ’s sake. Leaving puddles of tears on the rocky street, they rose from their knees to walk in newness of life that Jesus alone can give.
No one was discouraged after this meeting, and you can imagine what it did for Brother Stoppe. As we left the service he said, “Where are you young folks staying… at that hotel? I don’t suppose you want to stay there do you? (No, not at 47.50 each per day when we only an average of 425 per month each to travel on.) “Well, come on down the house tomorrow and we will move into one room and let you folk have two rooms. We will eat in the living room, and all pray together.” Our hearts were just shouting with delight that God had called us to follow Him and help these folks in the islands.
That night, after months of drought, the heavens opened and poured out gallons of life-giving water and cisterns were nearly filled. The next day with six extra persons to wash and drink, the water went low, but at night the Lord sent another copious shower that filled the cisterns to overflowing. And from then on, every night after all the people got home from the service, the heavens opened up and poured God’s blessing of rain down into their thirsty cisterns.