Faith: Mission journey finds partnerships, friendships in Chilean communities

Ed. note – The Independent News welcomes reflections on spiritual matters from all faiths. The following is a portion of a mission report submitted by the Rev. Walter Whitehurst following a mission trip to Carahue, Chile, in October. It has been edited for style and length. 


PUNGO — When I was a missionary in southern Chile from 1966 to 1971, I knew Pedro Grandon. 

One day after attending a church camp, he came to me and said that he, at 16 years of age, had felt called into the ministry. I shared with him some of the challenges of being a pastor, including the need of going to seminary. 

Even though he was a bit discouraged with my comments, he went on to become a pastor, including serving for four years as bishop of the Methodist Church of Chile.

We have kept in touch all these years. When a church in Carahue, where I was pastor in 1969, was recently added to his appointment, he found the church building in bad shape and with only four active members, which led to his request to have a mission team to help with building repairs and doing evangelism.

I told my son David that I was thinking about leading a team there, and he said, “Dad, I want to go!” That confirmed for me that it was God’s will for me to be the co-leader, along with Ed Sievers, sponsored by Charity United Methodist Church.

David’s daughter Alison Martin from South Carolina also went, and in addition to helping in many ways with the work, she was motivated to learn more Spanish, and she made some real progress in doing that.  

In addition to making a major contribution in repairs on the building, we also provided a Vacation Bible School for children led by Mariluz Sommer from California with the help of Holly Veber of Charity United Methodist Church and Mary Woodcock of North Carolina. The last session was a party led by Mariluz dressed as the clown “LuLu.”  

Another part of our mission was to have Charlie O’Odea, a chiropractor from Suffolk, to provide treatments for well over 100 patients, gratis. It was announced on the local radio station that persons could receive treatments at the church, and many people came, especially from the rural areas. My comment was that every mission team should have a chiropractor, not only for local people but also for some of the team members. Dr. O’Dea also traveled to the Methodist agricultural school El Vergel in Angol to offer his services for two days.  

When the Rev. LeRoy Jones, a General Evangelist from Chatham, read that evangelism was part of our goal, he decided to participate in the team.  He taught an adult Sunday School class while our team members participated with the children’s class in the fellowship hall. He preached for several worship services, a Women’s Society meeting, and spoke for ten different classes in a public school, each time bringing a different message depending on the age levels of the students.  Of the 600 students in the school, 172 raised their hands dedicating or rededicating their lives to the Lord.  In each of the worship services many also did the same, so that more than 200 persons made a commitment to the Lord. I also said, “Every team ought to include an evangelist.”  

Other members of the team were Jeff Cutler, an Emergency Medical Technician from Forest, Va.; Don Nelson, a retiree from Charity; and Paul Steele, a retiree from Community United Methodist Church in Virginia Beach.  All of them participated in all aspects of the activities, making special contributions along the way.

We also provided a music ministry throughout the whole time we were there.  Holly and I took our baritone ukuleles, and David used a guitar that was in the church. We had learned some choruses in Spanish which the Chileans enjoyed singing along with us. The pump organ, which was there when I was pastor, had not been used for over 40 years.  David also played it, still sounding very good, to the joy of older people who had missed hearing it for so long.  

When the professional carpenters needed to get more lumber, some of our team went with them. When the cooks needed to buy more groceries, some of our team went with them. When it was time to buy tools, some of our team went with them. There was a wonderful fellowship of working together.  

A very special part of our experience there was staying in the homes of local people. Pastor Pedro had asked the hosts to start praying for us long before we got there. He also asked that we pray for our hosts. Any fears about not speaking Spanish soon disappeared.

They gave us pictures of their families, and we gave them pictures of ours. We also took a gift to give to them during the final worship service, and they gave us gifts. The end result of that approach is that they have new friends in us, and we have new friends in them. The whole event was a deeply spiritual experience for us and also for them. 

We felt the presence of God’s Holy Spirit every moment.  

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