"Paul said he was given a 'thorn in the flesh'..."
Dear Christian Friend.
Paul said he was given a "thorn in the flesh" so the the heavenly glories he had been privileged to behold would not exalt him beyond measure.
Lately I have been bothered to a more serious extent with eye trouble, but at the same time there have been wonderful spiritual blessings.
I was invited to preach at a special meeting and when we arrived I discovered that it was in an area that brought back early memories and battles. It had been a warren of small shanties of very poor families, and always, mixed up in those places, is a strong element of vice and crime. It was during my first year in Guatemala, and though speaking halting Spanish, I started in with tracts and Gospel portions visiting each poor family. I had many interesting experiences and some notable spiritual victories but not as many as I should have liked. However, coming back years afterward one finds that a handful of families converted had been changed, economically as well as spiritually. Now there are more good middle class homes, several large Evangelical churches and one that must have over 600 members.
When I had finished talking about old times another preacher began to recall his experiences when he was with me in Ciudad Vieja. He told that just previously a mob of religious fanatics had destroyed the Gospel Hall and killed the preacher, and how when we opened up a meeting place in the neighboring town the people had said they were going to do the same. But God had protected us. One way God worked in that case was that the owner of the house which we had rented came up half drunk waving a pistol and shouted at the mob, "This is my house you have destroyed! These people are honest and pay their rent, which is more than a lot of you crooks do. Let's see just one more guy throw a stone!" He waved his gun menacingly so that the mob decided to initiate temporary adjournment, having urgent business elsewhere. Another time they gathered again with the same murderous intent, but God raised up some other means of protection for us. Now there is a large and thriving Gospel church in Ciudad Vieja.
Another told me how we had brought special formula milk to his wife when it looked like his baby might die without it but they had no money. They were new believers and very poor, but after the Lord helped them to get the victory of their sins and vices, they had prospered.
Another told of how he had heard me trying to preach in the open air back when there was very little if any of that. And he had thought, "That poor chap can hardly speak enough to be understood and here I am a pretty good shoes that can talk a leg off a turkey. I was a new convert and scared, but I stood up with him, began talking and have been talking ever since."
The money that was sent to me in those first few years was so scarce that the government inspector was afraid I was going to be a public trust, the amount not up to the normal middle class standards even if I used it all just for personal support. But I resolved to see just how economically I could live in order to have something for the work, both charity and printing tracts. We had about 8000 printed in the first batch. Praise the Lord, now there are 100,000 printed every month and over a million a year, sent to all the Spanish speaking world as well as Guatemala. A visiting evangelist hearing of this said, "No wonder Guatemala has had such continuous revival tides." As to the material work, bread, milk, beans and flour goes out daily especially to families with children, also clothing and shoes for kids that want to go to school.
It was a blessing to hear others praise the Lord for sending Brother Orland and the Mision Biblica to Guatemala years ago. It was also moving that some recalled that in some villages there had been brethren who died under the hail of stones thrown by religious fanatics, just as in Bible times, but, just as then, the blood of those martyrs had watered the seed of the Gospel so that now one may go anywhere in safety and a crowd will gather around, not to threaten, but saying Amen, joining in the Gospel choruses, and supporting the message, praying for any unsaved in the crowd.
Here is matter over which to rejoice which I share with you, victories and blessings for which to praise the Lord. I beg also your special prayers at this time for my failing sight, that the merciful God will restore it at least to what it was a month ago.. Thanks, and God bless you.