Assembly work in Argentina goes back to 1882 and the arrival of John Ewing from England. The involvement of British Companies such as Bovril and Swift in Argentinas meat industry, and also the British development of the railway system, led to several believers being employed in these areas of commerce. They worked in their respective companies but also "looked on the fields" and devoted all their spare time to help in the development of the burgeoning assembly movement in Argentina.
This meant that, early in the growth of assemblies, the priesthood of all believers was practised and understood by the new converts. There is no doubt that this one factor contributed, and still contributes, to the numerical and spiritual growth of assemblies. Many of these men felt the call of God to full time service and, together with their wives as constant companions, did lasting work for God in Argentina. Among them was Charles Torre a railway official, Sam Williams an accountant, and Gilbert Lear a bank manager with a major bank. Several others continued in secular employment and made a huge contribution to the establishing and edifying of assemblies.
Testimonies abound of the Lords miraculous intervention. In July, 2009 we had a repeat visit to Dean Funes (Cordoba). The work in that area began when George Langran and his wife arrived there at 3am in their horse drawn Bible coach after a journey of several hours. They were threatened and advised to leave for another locality. Dawn brought several curious folks around to see this new arrival. One of these became the first convert in that place and a real blessing followed. Today two strong assemblies gather there with a total of over 200 in fellowship.
There are also stories of just plain hard work. Alfred Furniss laboured in the Province of Santiago del Estero for about 18 years without fruit. Then there was a breakthrough in the Syrian immigrant population in the city. He saw the first and second assemblies started there. On our first visit, in 1976, we met Don Badí and his wife Yamile the first converts, originally from Syria. Willie and Pearl Jack continued the work there and saw some outstanding gifts develop. The Lord used these Syrians and now their offspring, to evangelize their province with a passion for souls. Today there are 6 assemblies in the city and about 25 in the province.
The growth of assemblies reflects the population distribution and 50% of assemblies are found in 3 or 4 of Argentinas 23 provinces. In almost all of these at least half the population lives in the provincial capital cities. Right from early pioneering days the work was established in these cities both to the direct north and to the west.
The three North Eastern Provinces of Misiones, Corrientes, and Entre Ríos comprise the Mesopotamia. This is the official name because of its being between rivers. It is separated from other Argentine provinces on the west by South Americas second largest river, the Paraná, and on the eastern side is frontier country separated by the river Uruguay from Brazil and Uruguay. Growth came much later to this area, 80 years later in fact, after the beginning of assembly witness in Argentina.
In the north-east the five Provincial Capital Cities were without assembly witness. It is good to see assemblies now functioning in each of these. In the 1960s the Jacks were used of God to see an assembly formed in the first of these in Posadas. We spent our first three years of service there and were involved with the new assembly, and also in the early days of preaching and seeing souls saved in what later became the second. There are now three that have their origins in that first one. The latest of these, commenced in 2006, has brought us personal joy as the men in their 40s who are leading the work were part of the very first boys group held in our home in Posadas. Through the efforts of this most recent assembly, another assembly has been formed across the international bridge, in Encarnación, Paraguays second largest city. Two visits there to give help emphasise the need for more.
Paraná, Province of Entre Ríos
We have lived in the City of Paraná (Pop. 300,000) since 1978. From childrens meetings on a spare piece of ground, then on to meeting in a garage, the assembly of over 50 in fellowship now meets in its own building. We look around at the Breaking of Bread and it is lovely to see folks from about 14 different Roman Catholic churches gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus. Teaching has yielded fruit among them. Gifts are in evidence, and we seek to encourage and give ample opportunities for their development. There is room for several assemblies in the city. Perhaps in the Lords will others will grow from it, so it is vitally important that the first be strong and the Biblical pattern firmly established.
Over the past two years Sunday Schools have been commenced in four districts rather than transport being provided as before. This has led to the duplication of the number attending. In these same four districts, mid-week house meetings are held where the objective is purely evangelistic. Some 15-20 unsaved and RCs who would have great prejudices which discourage them from coming into our hall have attended these meetings. Bible courses written by our son-in-law Heber Gallitto have been used as the basis for evangelism. Four of those who will be baptised soon, God willing, are fruit from these meetings.
Rosario del Tala
We saw an assembly formed here in the year 2000. It has been uphill work and, apart from one brother who has grown enormously, preaches well, and shepherds the others, growth has been slow. About 20 gather there now and the addition of two young men in the last year has encouraged everybody. They are beginning to take part in the meetings. We share the load of visits there with Heber and Fiona as we do to several places.
A very small beginning was made last year and Heber has gone regularly to evangelise and lead them in evangelism and teach the principles of gathering. There is still a long road ahead, but a baptism in February has encouraged everybody.
Concordia (Pop. 110,000)
The testimony here was never strong and due to a series of unhappy events was closed in 2007. It is a sinful city with the highest incidence of Satanic worship in the country. Although 200 miles distant, the Paraná assembly has made great sacrifices to evangelise there. The real answer is for a worker to live there. In the meantime, while we pray, it is also planned to make regular visits this year to see a testimony raised up that will glorify God.
We commend these and all the other issues mentioned for your prayer support.