By Ray Madrigal
During the third and fourth weeks of July (13-20), 1992, I travelled to the “island of enchantment,” Puerto Rico, to teach and preach the gospel. This mountainous island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, who left a legacy of Spanish language as well as a strong Roman Catholic religious heritage. Although over 90 percent of the Puerto Rican people claim the Roman Catholic faith as their own, several Pentecostal groups have received widespread acceptance in recent years. Since the mid-1950s, however, over 30 churches of Christ have been established, many averaging about 40-50 members. Institutionalism and the social gospel are present almost everywhere due to the considerable influence of Dewayne Shappley and his “Prenza La Paz” publishing house in Bayamon. Brethren with whom I studied were hungry for teaching, especially on the vital subject of Bible authority.
The first few days I worked with the good church in Dorado, a town honored as “the most beautiful” in all of the Puerto Rico. This faithful congregation has been teaching sound doctrine and fighting the errors of liberalism since 1979. Due to the preaching efforts of Ramon Vargas and Herminio Isern, this church is growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Brother Vargas is an educated, yet humble man who has a strong love for the truth. Brother Herminio encourages everyone he meets. He not only knows what to say, but how to say it (Eph. 4:15). Both men support themselves as they labor for the Lord. I taught lessons on authority, worship, and Christian living.
The next five days I had several private home studies with unbelievers as well as private and public meetings with the brethren in Coamo, a small, provincial town at the southern foothills of the central mountain range. This small and struggling church was established in 1988 with the conversion of the Ismael Rosario family and is now taking a stand against institutionalism and church-sponsored recreation.
On one Saturday afternoon (July 18), brethren from all over the island came to the home of Ismael Rosario (in Aibonito) to study, sing and pray together. I taught a rather extensive lesson on authority (the need of, how to establish it, and specific applications). I discussed the sponsoring church arrangement for evangelism and the corresponding lack of Bible authority for churches to send funds to human institutions, including printing and publishing houses. Although several “liberal” brethren (some preachers) attended this study, I was impressed with their humility and open attitude toward examining these issues. They invited brothers Vargas and Isern to teach them more on this subject in the weeks ahead. The Lord has opened a door of opportunity. May he richly bless their efforts.
As I departed from San Juan, I couldn’t help but think that my work had only just begun. As in all Spanish-speaking countries, there is a great need to teach and strengthen the brethren in Puerto Rico (Acts 18:23). While brethren and churches rightly respond to the unprecedented opportunities in Eastern Europe, let us not forget our Latin-American neighbors, who are also receptive and hungry for the truth.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 19, p. 588
October 1, 1992