God’s Visitation in Venezuela
One of the students of the Christian and Missionary Alliance training school at Nyack, Mr. G. F. Bender, received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the Bible evidence and the Lord called him to preach the gospel in South America. He went to Venezuela and was led to go to the city of Barquisimeto, a very strong Roman Catholic center. He and his good wife labored faithfully in that city for some years and many precious souls found salvation through believing the gospel message, and amidst much opposition they erected a chapel. The story of the outpouring in Barquisimeto is best told by Brother Bender himself.
Brother Bender’s story
“Our chapel was built with a seating capacity of three hundred, and God has worked marvelous things in that place. For five long years we preached in that city to those Christians, who had accepted the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, and some of them know God in a very real way. We preached about the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, told them it was necessary to be sealed with the Holy Ghost; but we had some neighboring missionaries, in an adjoining state to us, who were opposed to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. So they began to publish articles against us, and would send them to our church to be distributed among our people. They always had agents who would pass them out, and I helped pass them out too because there were some truths in them that were precious messages of salvation. While they generally added their portion against the ‘Tongues People,’ I knew God was able to take care of His own work. Some of our more learned men in the church read their literature, and they also came in and taught our people against what we are teaching them. But God gave me grace never to open my mouth against them or say a word; simply to keep still. I believed that God would one day confirm His Word with signs following, and so I kept right on preaching the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and seeking the Lord for a revival. It was nearly five years before it came.
The revival did not break out with the Baptism in the Holy Ghost and speaking in other tongues; it started with such deep conviction for sin that the people all thought they were lost.
“On the 19th day of August, it began, and on the 21st day of September we celebrated our fifth anniversary. The revival did not break out with the Baptism in the Holy Ghost and speaking in other tongues; it started with such deep conviction for sin that the people all thought they were lost. For almost a month they wept and cried to God, paid their debts, and got all grudges out of the way. I said: ‘Oh, Lord, this looks like the real thing.’ In a Tuesday afternoon prayer meeting there fell on the audience such conviction, such weeping and moaning and crying out for sin, and we just let them cry on. Two of them wept their way through to God that afternoon, and when they came through they had the whole neighborhood together. The people came running to see what was happening in the Protestant church. They call us ‘devils,’ and they wanted to see what had happened among ‘the devils.’ About that time, these two women that had broken through, turned on the crowd and exalted Jesus Christ and His Blood, and told them that the virgin Mary could not save them. How those two women preached that afternoon! We could not close the meeting so we let it go on, and we went about our work. And that kept up until two days before our fifth anniversary. Wrongs were righted, they sought their enemies and humbled themselves before then.
“Three days before our anniversary, one young man had a meeting in his home, near the railroad station. Some friends were coming to visit from another town, and in order for them not to lose any time about hearing the gospel, he organized a meeting in his own home. God honored him for it, and when the prayer meeting started he was the first to get the blessing. As they went down to prayer, the power of God struck him; and in just a little while he was speaking in other tongues. Hallelujah! What a night that was! The effect of that boy speaking in tongues before them was so powerful that the children and older people just cried out to God for mercy. And these new ones from out of town got under such conviction for sin that they too were included in the seekers and were saved that night. There must have been ten or twelve soundly converted, with the glory of God on their faces.
“The next night was Friday, the usual meeting. I went on with it as usual. Suddenly one jumped up and gave his testimony about the prayer meeting the night before, and told all about his salvation. One after another gave their testimony, and they did not have to tell it for you could see it on their faces. A young woman, a visitor from out of town, got up to give her experience of how God saved her; and while telling it, oh, such conviction came over that audience! It was just like a thunderbolt out of the sky.
The people fell upon their knees and there was confessing and moaning, and groaning, all over that congregation of one hundred and twenty-five. While the weeping and crying and moaning were going on, the whole end of the town was stirred; and the running together reminded me of the Day of Pentecost when the thing was noised abroad.
The people fell upon their knees and there was confessing and moaning, and groaning, all over that congregation of one hundred and twenty-five. While the weeping and crying and moaning were going on, the whole end of the town was stirred; and the running together reminded me of the Day of Pentecost when the thing was noised abroad. The street and the front court of the chapel were full of people, and the policeman had his hands full. The policeman had come to see what was going on and the crowd pressed him right inside the building. They did not know but what the ‘devils’ had gone crazy and they wanted to see. The policeman was a friend of the gospel, because he was stationed on our corner and had heard it preached. He stood there with his helmet on and his club in his hand. But the strange part of it was that in that whole crowd no one shrieked or mocked. A holy awe seized the policeman and people. One would jump up and shout and praise God with a shining face; another here, and another there; and the thing kept up and kept up. It was marvelous!
‘‘The crowd was spellbound as they saw all these things happening. The policeman looked on for an hour or more, watching the workings of the mighty power of God. Then all of a sudden he took that helmet and threw it down, and followed after it; He went down there on his knees and began to cry to God for mercy. And if God ever touched a life, it was that policeman’s. Now they call him ‘Protestant Policeman,’ and they have been trying to get him out of his position. He has been accused of being a preacher and not a policeman. He does preach the gospel; he is all on fire, and you may see him mostly anywhere talking the gospel.
“After that night of deep conviction on the people in the church, we never had any more of that kind of meetings. Individuals would be affected, but never the whole congregation. But from that time on, they began to get baptized in the Holy Ghost. Two days later was to be our fifth anniversary and we had a worker come from outside. We were expecting a great revival, but instead of that everything quieted down. Our anniversary meetings lasted about a week and apparently nothing was done. But the first prayer meeting after the anniversary, when we were all by ourselves again, I announced a song just as usual. The congregation took up that chorus and repeated and repeated it, and each time it was repeated it seemed to bring a new volume of power. We were singing, ‘He was nailed to the cross for me.’ All at once a young man with his arms up (we never told them to raise their arms, but they raised them spontaneously, inspired by the Holy Ghost, and God had cleansed their hands and could accept them) started to pray, and everybody joined in that prayer. It seemed to me as though I had a company of angels before me, every face was aglow. Before I knew it that young man’s language had changed and he was speaking in new tongues. He was the first one baptized in the chapel.
“When the power of God struck him, it seemed to affect everyone around. The elder, who was standing behind him, was one of those who had drawn in so much of the poison of the teaching against the Baptism in the Holy Holy Ghost. He had read so much of our neighbor’s literature that he was hardened. But when the power of God struck that young man, the elder felt the power and jumped back. He watched that boy magnifying God and the thing that he did not at all believe, he saw and heard. He was convinced forever that night. After some time the whole congregation dropped on their knees, and oh, such praising. There was no weeping that night, it was all praise. God inhabits the praises of Israel, and God descended that night in those praises. Pretty soon a little fellow on my right (we called him Zaccheus because he was so short) began to speak in tongues. I said: ‘My God, it has come.’ I could not preach that night. All I could do was to sit back and look on, because the revival was too great for me. The Holy Ghost had begun to work, and from that time on, one after another came through to the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
“Other missionaries had warned me, saying: ‘You cannot let the Latin people do what they do in America. They are so very emotional; you cannot let them have right of way as in America.’ O, my! I thought of the immoral conditions of the land. Should a woman fall on the floor her full length, I knew those wild people on the street would rush right in and count it some immoral act. It would be a terrible disaster there to have a woman prostrated in a public chapel. There was a shrinking in my soul; I remembered the warning of other missionaries. The whole panorama came before me and I said: ‘Oh, God, what shall I do?’ That was a trying hour for me, and I prayed: ‘Oh, God, save your interests in Venezuela. The Latins must have the Baptism in the Holy Ghost, and I stand for it. You have sent me to be a true witness. Lord, give them Pentecost, and I will keep my hands off.’ God adapted Himself to the circumstances of our land. Not one woman fell to the floor. They either received it on their knees with their hands up, or sitting on benches, or standing on their feet. Afraid to try God! Afraid to prove God! I was ashamed afterwards that I ever had a doubt.
“The only one that ever fell on the floor was a boy thirteen years old, and he was so frightened he got up and ran as hard as he could go. The neighbors said: ‘He fell on the floor. Some bad spirit must have got hold of him. He was too young to receive the Baptism.’ I said: ‘Where do you read he is too young?’ And I told them that even children could receive. Well, that was enough for those people. They scattered abroad the word that children could get the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, and it was not long until nineteen of them had it. The next time that young boy went down on the floor under the power, it did not disturb him. In a little while he was speaking in tongues.
A Mighty Revival
“The revival went on until New Year’s Day. The year 1925 was ushered in with a mighty revival. On New Year’s Day the elders of the church, a judge, who had been saved in our meetings, and the judge’s family went to a neighboring town to pray for a needy family that was sick. While they were praying, the Holy Ghost fell upon them and they were baptized in the Spirit and spake in other tongues. Two young men had carried the news to another town, that we were having a revival in Barquisimeto and great things were happening among the Protestants. A woman, who had been tormented for years with demons, heard about the power of God, and came to Barquisimeto. She said: ‘I have a tormenting spirit and I have come to be delivered, and I don’t intend to go back until I am delivered.’ And just as she was telling us, the spirit took hold of her, and I wish you could have seen that suffering. The beads of perspiration just stood right out on her, and in just a few moments her clothing was soaked. The agony from that writhing demon was something terrible. And we sat there as helpless as could be; we had no power to cast out the demon.
“She was staying in the home of the young man who had just received the Baptism that afternoon. I said: ‘We have power to stir up this demon but not power to cast him out.’ It drove us to our knees. Every time we went to the home where she was staying and came into her presence, those demons would writhe and stir her up, and she suffered so terribly that she-said: ‘Don’t let your pastor come to see me any more. I love these people, but this torments me so. Won’t you have a prayer meeting and pray for me, and not tell them anything about it?’
“So, it was all secretly arranged that on New Year’s night, the church would gather and pray for her. They gathered together. Two of the elders were baptized in the Holy Ghost, one on New Year’s Day and one before; and one elder was still unbaptized. But the unbaptized one was not a convert of ours. He was saved in the neighboring state and brought lots of enmity right in his bones. While we were praying and speaking in tongues, he hardened his heart and judged it, and said that it was not of God, that there was no need for such noise. They prayed and prayed, but got nowhere. There was opposing power in that elder of the church. But the church continued to pray until God broke that stiff man all to pieces and he humbled himself. He broke down, and in a few minutes he was speaking in other tongues and magnifying God. And when he broke through into the Pentecostal Baptism, he jumped up and rushed over to the woman, and in the name of Jesus Christ cast out the demon, and she is free today.
“They came out of that meeting like a lot of soldiers that had fought a good fight of faith. The Lord has done great things for that woman. We have heard recently that she has also received the Pentecostal Baptism and is an out-and-out Christian. We now have an established work in the town where she came from. I said: ‘Surely God has something for 1925, for this is a good start.’ We thank God for such a New Year’s Day as that was; demons driven out, souls baptized in the Holy Ghost.
The Revival Spreads
“The revival went on more rapidly, till it came to March 15th, when there was to be a baptismal service. There were fourteen to be baptized. On the fourteenth, the candidates gathered in one of the homes to have what they call a preparatory meeting, to prepare their hearts and get ready for the baptism. Many others gathered with the candidates, and among the number was a sister to a young lady that was sold to a life of shame. Her sister had talked the gospel to her all that day, and persuaded her to attend the preparatory meeting. The power of God was there and many were baptized in. the Holy Ghost that night. This girl was sold to a general of the Venezuelan army, sold by the mother and brother; and she was to elope with him in two days. The wife of the general was in that meeting, because she was a candidate for baptism.
“The power of God was there tremendously, and the girl sat right there as long as she could stand it. When she could endure it no longer, she got right up and flung herself at the feet of the wife and confessed the whole thing, confessed her sin, confessed that she was to run away with her husband. The outcome was that the girl got gloriously saved that night from a life of shame; not only saved, but baptized in the Holy Ghost. When she got home her mother said: ‘I will shake the Holy Ghost out of you,’ and she grabbed the girl by the hair and dragged her over the floor; and while she was dragging her over the floor the girl was speaking in other tongues. They have forced cigarettes in her mouth and tried to make her smoke.
“On the following day, her mother made go to the Catholic church and confess. When she got to the confessional box she sat there. Pretty soon the priest asked her if she was not going to confess. She said she didn’t have anything to confess. He began to question her, and she said: ‘The Lord Jesus has forgiven me and baptized me with the Holy Ghost.’ Oh, but that priest was angry! He said: ‘You come over to my house tomorrow. I want to talk to you.’ But she never went, for she already had a High Priest at the right hand of God.
“Just before the preparatory meeting, when we had that powerful meeting in the chapel and the outside world looked on, a harlot slipped into the back seat. She had relatives in the gospel, but she herself was a tough, hard case. As she looked on that night, the Holy Ghost seized her, and I remember seeing the tears run down her face, washing some of the red paint right off. But before any one could get to her, she slipped out of the chapel and went away. The next day I said to my wife: ‘I wonder if Maria Teresa’s tears were real.’ Yes, they were real. She took two of her illegitimate children and walked away out on the plains and hunted some shrubbery, and spent the afternoon in prayer and mourning before God! But she did not break through and so decided to go to the preparatory meeting where the candidates were gathered. She was not in there long until she was gloriously saved. She took her handkerchief out and began to wipe the paint off. She threw off her bracelets and began to strip off her finery. Then she stood on her feet and raised her hands, and as the tears of joy flowed down her face the Holy Ghost descended on her and she began to speak in other tongues and magnify God. If God can save a harlot and baptize her in the Holy Ghost in one night, what can’t He do?
“Those two little illegitimate children, one nine and one about eleven, got under such conviction when they saw their mother baptized, that they just cried out to God for mercy; and it was not over half an hour till both of those girls were speaking in other tongues and magnifying God. There were seventeen baptized in the Holy Ghost that night, and the whole neighborhood ran together to look on. Some of the leading business men of that city were watching the power of God work. Do I need to tell you that we did not have a dry time at the baptismal service the next day? The Holy Ghost was poured out and it was a victorious day. A large company of people watched the fourteen candidates go down into the watery grave, coming up with hands uplifted and speaking in other tongues and glorifying God.
“In the crowd that watched the baptismal service that morning was a young druggist. He had lived with a woman for some years in the city of Barquisimeto, but this young woman had come into the light of the gospel and had discovered that she was living in sin with that man. She said: ‘We cannot live together any longer. This gospel teaches me that we must separate.’ He tried to persuade her, but she was determined to go through with God. She said: ‘You have nothing more to do with me. You can’t come here.’ So finally he wrote her a letter and said he would marry her but it had to be in a Catholic church. She sent word back: ‘We will never marry until you accept my gospel and my Christ.’ He came out one evening to the meeting, and in those days it was not hard to get sinners to the altar. Among those that came forward one Sunday night was this young fellow. He wanted that girl and so he went through the form of getting saved. I knew he had not touched God and so I said to her: ‘That fellow isn’t real.’ She said ‘Oh, I know him too well. I know that he is not real.’ She wasn’t going to be deceived by any means.
“The following Sunday he came to watch the baptismal service, because this girl’s mother was one of the candidates. Just as I stepped out of the baptistry that fellow shrieked out: ‘I am lost! I am lost!’ And I knew that was a real shriek. The meeting was no more than dismissed than that whole congregation gathered around that fellow and in less than a half hour they had prayed him through. He pulled out his cigarettes and threw them away, and said: ‘I have no more use for that stuff.’ He said when he walked out of the chapel that the whole world seemed like a new place to him. That was Sunday morning. Before he came back into the evening service,-he was baptized and speaking in other tongues. He went into one of the homes where they were praying for the meeting. Our people have that habit. So he added himself to the company and began also to pray for the meeting. The power of God descended on him and baptized him in the Holy Ghost, and that is not the end of the fellow yet.
“One night we were celebrating the Lord’s Supper with our people. I said: ‘Any young man in the congregation that will dedicate his life to God for service in any capacity, will you just come forward.’ There were four or five who responded, and among them was this young man. I thought: ‘Well, I don’t think you could do much preaching yet, you are just a babe.’ He was not quite two months old in the Lord. Nevertheless when the elders laid their hands on these young fellows and set them aside to help in the church, when we came to that young man I sensed the reality of what Paul said to Timothy, ‘Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of hands of the presbytery.’ I felt the power of God go through me, and the elders had such a witness that God seemed to open the heavens to us.
“This was Sunday night, and on Wednesday all day long I felt in my soul that I should call on him to give his testimony publicly and so I asked him to give it. He walked right up and stood on the platform and gave his testimony, and it was a glowing one. When he got all through he opened up his Bible to a text in Jeremiah and began to preach from the Word. I said ‘My God, where does all that come from?’ I was overwhelmed and did not know what to say. It fed my poor soul. I said: ‘Is it possible that a babe in Christ, not two months old, can feed me?’ I looked over to the elder who has charge of our public meetings in our absence on furlough, and I said: ‘Brother, you have a preacher. You have help.’ This young fellow went through a deep crisis. When his boss, who was a fanatical Catholic, found out he had turned to the gospel, he threw him out of the drug store, and he went through a long, severe test, but God granted him a good position.
“After he was saved, he came and said: ‘Can you marry us now?’ I said: ‘Yes, indeed.’ So they got ready for their matrimony and they had it in our home. When people have lived in sin for a season in that way, we don’t have the ceremony in the chapel. We fixed palms and roses, and had a carpet of matting, and put benches in and invited all their intimate friends to the wedding. If ever I saw a pretty sight, it was that night. And if ever I saw God’s seal on a matrimony it was on that one. What a time we had! There was that young couple with hands uplifted and speaking in other tongues and magnifying God, and everybody was on their feet magnifying God. It inspired our young people.
“It was on the fourteenth day of March that we had our preparatory meeting, on a Saturday night; and from that Saturday night till the next Saturday night was the height of our revival. That week forty-two souls were baptized in the Holy Ghost and spoke in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Oh, that I could put into words the picture of the movement of the Holy Ghost that week. I had nothing to do with the revival. I would sit on the platform and laugh. I did not seem to have anything to do. My work seemed to have come to an end; I seemed to be on a vacation and God was working, I don’t care where you turned, there were prayer meetings. I remember going across the street to pray for a sick man, and one we call ‘Zaccheus’ was with me. As we came out there were five or six girls in the home and they said: ‘Won’t you lay hands on us that we may receive the Holy Spirit too?’ I said: ‘Kneel down here, and if there is a temple worthy, the peace of God will stay on it.’ And so ‘Zaccheus’ and I just went from one to the other and laid hands on them, and in just a little while one of them began to speak in other tongues. No matter where you went you were met with the question : ‘Will you pray for us?’ Oh, such a spirit of prayer! By the end of the week it seemed to me I had no more to do with the meetings than as though I was not around. God certainly showed me that I was not as important as I thought I was. He can just set us aside and use whomsoever He will.
“Souls are still being baptized; and the church writes us that when we come back we will not know the people there are so many new faces. I am glad just as long as souls are being saved. I am glad the Lord has got me to the end of myself so that I don’t care who has the success, just so souls are saved. There was a time when I wanted to be successful.
“The next meeting was at our institute where we have the day school. We started that night with a song, but I don’t remember whether we ever finished it or not. You could not finish anything those days. The people would spring to their feet with their hands up, and magnify God. Oh, it was powerful! That night the house was packed to the door and the people stood in the doorways and in the windows, and the streets were lined with them. And there stood that company, everyone with hands up, eyes closed, magnifying the Son of God. One after another was added by the Holy Ghost; here one and there one. It was so easy to move in while the waters were troubled. Bodies were healed, souls baptized in the Holy Ghost, others stirred to repentance. As things quieted down, one of the elders got up and began to explain that this was what Joel spoke of. I cannot tell you how that neighborhood was stirred that night. Political men, business men, men of all classes and rank, sent to our residence to buy Bibles. The people would say: ‘What is this that is happening among you? The priest told us that no church had the Holy Ghost but our church.’ Our people would answer: ‘It is all written in the book of Acts.’ Well, they were so anxious to know what was happening among us, that they sent and bought Bibles. If ever we had a sale of Bibles it was during the revival. No revival amounts to anything unless God is in it. And that kind of a revival comes by prayer. The Lord tested us for five long years, but we believed that God would honor His Word, and would honor prayer; and we went on in prayer until a real break came; not an imitation thing, but the real thing.”