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Sermons of
Rev. Orland Wolfram (1912-1987)
Pillar of Fire Church
Missionary to Guatemala

A Social Gospel or Spiritual


Orland Wolfram



A SOCIAL GOSPEL OR SPIRITUAL


The first mission we opened in the city was in a shanty slum area, some criminals, some honest, but all poor. We began by inviting a few friends who were Christians to help out, to start with a few in attendance, and then began regularly to make a call on every family, in every shanty in the area. I wish I could take you along to see how much of the world lives as seen through your own American eyes. There is no floor except the bare earth, one room for cooking, eating, living, if you could call it living, and the bed for sleeping, if you can call it a bed, having neither springs nor mattress, only boards with a woven mat or rushes and one blanket. I learned that on the colder nights they all huddle together with the blanket over their heads in order that the warmth of their breathing not be lost, the stagnant air preferable to the cold.


Children everywhere in rags and dirty flies crawling around the infected eyes of babies. I asked a young mother why she did not wash the baby's face and eyes, and she replied the baby did not like it. The fact is, it was just not the custom and that young mother knew no other way of life than just what everyone else did in the shanty town.


If we had come to Guatemala to preach the Gospel to the poor,As Jesus had said, we had come to the right place. But we did not really choose such an extremely poor area. I had worked with a Christian lady in New York helping Puerto Ricans who had just arrived. We thought that those we were visiting lived in awfully sad conditions with plaster broken and cockroaches vying with the rats and mice for possession. But the Latins assured us the conditions were greatly preferable to their sadder plight back home.


I mentioned to my co-laborer that we ought to go over there then if the need was greater. She said she was from Guatemala, had lived and worked for a time in such areas, and that now she was going to stay in the U.S. of A., but that if I wanted to go she would give me a piece of property in such an area in Guatemala. So here I was.


As it turned out, the good sister died before making any official papers out to us, that after a time we found ourselves on the street, praying for another mission and meeting house. That was all right too. The next little property was the Lord's unencumbered with either my ownership of any denomination.


In visiting down there in the canyon, the shanties dug into the hillside and every rain washing some downhill, we would be welcomed by some whom we soon learned were looking for handouts, and unwelcomed by others who were often the petty thieves and drunks. Some just belligerently anti-social, hating everyone, blaming the world for his own misery.


We had often heard the heathen were hungry for the Gospel, but the trouble is, they did not know they were hungry for it. They thought they were hungry for beans and potatoes, clothes, liquor and money. If you had some or if you brought them money or medicine, you are welcomed with broad smiles. If you only offer the love of Christ and promise of heaven, they turn the other face.


American always perpetually want to help materially. We will go in, clean up a house, wash the babies, get better clothes, organize their little income and buy food wisely, adding to it as needed, investing time and money and it seems your own life blood almost. But working in another area for a month and returning, you find "your family" is just exactly as they were, not even the extra clothing in sight. They had an opportunity to have a binge, sold the kids clothes for a little extra tequila liquor.


For long months not one family came regularly to the meetings except attendance was tied to beans and bread.


We would pray at length, fast regularly and read of the hardships of other foreign missionaries, I think Judson said he had worked hard and sincerely for 20 years before he had his first real convert he was sure of, but then when it was the Lord's "fullness of time" there was an avalanche of the power of God in revival.


I came to see anew that the material charitable activities should not bee relied on to bring people and save their souls. The more modernist groups had a saying, "You can't preach to a man's soul if his stomach is empty."


We found a great activity of social effort was like throwing it all into a bottomless pit. When I was younger climbing around some of the high mountains of Colorado one would see a sign at some high lookout point, "BOTTOMLESS PIT". Of course, we would throw rocks over the edge and listen for the sound of landing. If it were an ordinary small pebble there would not be sound enough to carry to the top, so we would agree there were spots down there that were bottomless.


Feeding a multitude who had come only for the bread could be an endless as well as a thankless task.


We had to learn more patience, stick to the main work of preaching the Gospel of the Lord and finally, when some begin to get really saved, we saw their homes change, their life style, their children soon had clothes, shoes and had begun to attend school. Teach them to seek first the Kingdom of God", and then ALL other necessities will be added.


Then put more of the material helps toward families where it will be properly used, not sold for liquor.


There was a very graphic and interesting illustration of this pointed out to me out in one of the "fincas" or ranches where we would go to preach. A finca is a property owned by a rich landlord. The tract has a square mile or more of land, ten or twenty cottages, a village store, a tavern, a chapel(Catholic), a big house and barns, all owned by the man. If the owner is agreeable he may give permission to go door to door and talk to each family about Bible Salvation. He never gives permission to come to his place for a meeting, inviting any others to come who care to. In those early years, the number of fincas with regular meetings was rare. Most owners were set against letting the evangelists make a beginning. Now 20 and more years later, there are only a few fincas that do not have regular meetings.


The interesting lesson pointed out to me happened while I was visiting in such a finca accompanied by one of the workers. Some of the cottages were just passable, some were really nice, and some were a few degrees worse than an American pig sty. I asked my companion, "How is it that the boss gives such nice cottages to some, and such run-down dirty shacks to others? Favoritism? Or reward for hard work?"


He replied, "Not either, really. Most workers get the same wages and the upkeep of their house is up to them. You see that place you called a pig pen, I used to live in just that way. My kids were dirty and diseased. They didn't have decent clothes, shoes or books, so didn't get to school. Pay days I celebrated along with many others, in the tavern there. I would lose all my pay, then wake up later disgusted with myself and resolve to reform. The next pay day I would resolve to take just a nip or two before going home, but once starting, most of us could not stop.


"It went on that way for years, my poor kids and family a disgrace. I promised myself and everyone to change, but never did, never could fellows lead me to the Lord Jesus. There weren't many side lectures on reforming. That was more or less automatic. We had a Saturday night meeting regularly and I attended there instead of the tavern. I took my pay home. I learned I could pay tithe to God and the nine tenths for my family would go infinitely farther than when I worshipped at the tavern. We began to eat better, dress better, plant a little garden and be able to eat better without buying so much, raise a few chickens also and have eggs to eat and some to sell. All this gives opportunity for the kids to help and make some extra centavos.


"After a time, well, what a big change! Look at my house now, clean, repaired, painted. and we all, the whole family, feel decent, properly fed and dressed. The children have clothes, not fine and rich, but decent, and go to school, where before they loafed or played in the mud.


"I give God the glory, because I proved over and again in my own strength I formerly could do nothing. When we go around now witnessing, a lot of these other workers remember how I used to be, and they respect the power of the Evangelical Faith."


We had a clinic for a while, but learned that similarly to any other charitable activity, the end results will prove minimal unless spiritual results are put first, then when a family is born again, everything changes.


A regular program of milk for babies and meals for shoe shine boys, and aids of beans and flour given out to poor families, all prayerfully maintained to a modest degree since Jesus taught us, "He that eateth of this bread will hunger again, but he that eateth of the Bread I will give him, shall never hunger."


We began to have a special effort in the shoe-shine boys after as experience with me standing at our front door, waiting for anyone interesting to pass and when no one was in sight, reading my Bible. A shoe-shine boy was passing and I hailed him, but instead of just saying, "Good morning," this time I said, "What did you have for breakfast this morning?" He replied,"Nothing. Mother shoves us out of the house with the shoe-shine box and we have4 to catch a client before we can buy anything to eat."


"Poor kids," I thought, "Not only hungry, but when he gets a nickel he buys junk food without any nourishment." "Listen," I said to him, "you stop by here tomorrow and every morning, and we'll have something for you." When he came he had also another urchin in two and within a few days were still others. Some of them began to come regularly to the Children's Meetings and now, years later, they still come, no longer shoe-shine boys, but pastors coming by to visit their old spiritual father, and to get tracts for the evangelical activities over in the area where they now preach. Seed sewn with tears have now yielded precious harvest and we come singing and rejoicing with our sheaves.


A woman who had been fairly regular at the services, came in one day tearfully saying, "I have a new baby being held in the hospital, but they won't let me bring the baby home because it needs a special formula, which the government will supply if the baby is in the hospital but will not give it out for home use. I guess it is because some mothers sell the formulato, spend the money of liquor and things, and some mothers don't care if the babies do die. The hospital won't give me my baby unless I come with enough money to but a month supply of the formula."


"Here you are," I said without hesitation, and she soon came back with a beaming smile and holding the baby out to me. "This is your baby. You paid for her." We all laughed with pleasure at the mother's joy. It was a little joke, or half joke, down through the years, as the little girl grew up, that her mother would bring her up to me and say, "This is your little girl, the one you paid for." That little girl is now a pastor's wife. The father got saved and their economical status changed completely, the children too, growing up in the church and attending schools that prepared them for good professions.


The government hospitals will give a certain amount of diagnosis and treatment, but they want the people to pay for the medicine. In the outlying villages there is often not a doctor but a pharmacist selling his medicines who has become, usually, quite able at diagnosing the most common ailments. The people, accordingly would only flock to our clinic if we would give them the medicine free. We would have a short meeting first and pray for sick before going into the diagnostic and treatment period. It was distasteful to me to see how hypocritical most of the people would act, join in any prayer, make any profession in order to get free medicines, but then afterwards be as scornful of the Gospel as ever. After I closed up the public sessions, holding regular gospel meetings, praying for all who requested prayers for whatever problem or illness, and then quietly helping with medicines some we felt worthy.


There was this 12 year old lad with some kind of deep, terrible skin cancer, who came for prayer, or if he was unable, his mother came. The skin disease was so widespread the poor boy was in torture trying to find a place to lie on. He had been taken to the city hospital, staying for some months, but was no better. Our Christian nurse suggested that some of these skin diseases could be cancerous, viral or fungus, difficult to name and once named, would have several forms, so there might be no certain specific remedy. In any case the treatment would be very slow requiring no end of patience.


Everyone prayed earnestly for the suffering lad. The woman in the Bible had gone to doctors for twelve years, spending her entire living on medicines but was no better until she went after Jesus whom she found so surrounded by crowds the only way she could get near was to get on her knees and, utterly humbling herself, crawl forward to touch the hem of His garment. Then she was instantly healed.


We told this family repeatedly that we were trying every conceivable type of medicine and would be continuing to buy different kinds, but that we had no faith, really, that anything was going to work until the family really touched God in sincerity.


That took time, both their spiritual growth and the treatments, but before the year had passed he was free of it all. His body dry, healed, and the boy could lie in any position without any discomfort.


It was the talk of the town for a while. But the family was only faithful to testify to their Lord's saving grace for a few years. They gradually drifted away when other neighbors were raging against the Evangelicos. The world is no friend of Grace. With all the great blessing that Jesus offered, both spiritual and material, still the majority of the Jews hated Him, and He warned His disciples, the world would hat them also and put them out of their midst. He also showed that some good seed would fall into ground and spring up into life, but that when persecution came, some would fall away.


Some fall away. some die in temptations of the world, but, Praise the Lord, others remain faithful, going out in turn to seek and find others for the Lord's little flock.


The little book the angel gave John and Ezekiel, was alternately both sweet and bitter. Preaching has great blessings. It also has times of sadness even great suffering.




[Orland Wolfram Sermon and Letter Index] [Orland Wolfram Bio Page] [Alma Temple] [Belleview Christian College]
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This page last updated 5-23-1999;  ©1999, Pillar of Fire; All rights reserved