Breakthrough in Caracas

The response of the crowd, who put their trust in Jesus, drew much attention from the press as well as the Catholic religious authorities.

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Breakthrough in Caracas

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In 1959 a zealous and energetic young evangelist of Pentecostal faith and Puerto Rican origin, Eugene Jimenez, perceived that God was directing him to go to the capital city of Colombia, Bogotá, to conduct evangelism there.
Scarcely could he have envisioned what would occur there, or the extent of the opposition to it, but as he went about in New York he had a nudging sense of a calling to Bogotá.

Boarding a bus and paying his fare, he saw that every seat was taken, but for one, so he made his way to it. Looking down before sitting, he noticed a postage stamp on that empty seat. He picked it up, sat, then took a look at it. It was a postage stamp of the nation Colombia.

That, as he saw it, went beyond mere coincidence. That seemed more a seat reserved for him, containing a confirming evidence of the Lord’s direction–and so, by faith alone and without having prior contacts there, he ventured to Colombia and to Bogotá.

In that populous city he encountered no particular readiness for his mission to preach the Gospel in campaign style, nor any hostility to it by the missionaries he sounded out about it.

One of them told him that he should meet an American missionary to Colombia, a widow named Hannah Lowe whose husband had died as a martyr in that city.

She, he was told, had key contacts in Bogotá, as, indeed, she did, having served for a time as the Secretary of missionaries in Bogotá, coming by that to know them all, but more importantly having had the Lord open the way for her to get to know, and to minister directly to, individuals high in that nation’s government.

Given Mrs. Lowe’s address at a small apartment near the heart of the city, the young evangelist ventured to her door, knocked, identified himself and was let in.

The Lowes had gone out Colombia in the mid-1930s, so this was her twenty-third year there, and she had rarely revisited the States or her native Baltimore; Hannah Lowe was a veteran and seasoned missionary, knowing much about the spiritual state of the Colombians. And she was something more, a daring warrior for Christ who had been made wise through severe trials and testings.

When Eugene Jimenez spoke of his aim for that city, Mrs. Lowe frankly told him, “You cannot do that here,” explaining that Colombia was still largely locked-up spiritually, and that Gospel evangelism was banned by official edict in a league that the Roman Catholic Church had fashioned with the government.

Having told him that hard, cold fact, she also said, “Let’s pray.”

Within short minutes, that whole outlook, based on direct experiential knowledge of the prevailing situation, was entirely changed.

Mrs. Lowe, who had at times moved notably in the supernatural, prayed her way into revelation, by which the Holy Spirit made it plain that this was, indeed, the time to mount such evangelism in Bogotá.

Always exhibiting a quick readiness to be led by her Lord, Mrs. Lowe immediately set her face to doing everything she could to enable the young evangelist to fulfill his call, as hugely difficult as that appeared to be.

They became a team, to be joined by others along the way, but critically by a man Mrs. Lowe had helped and befriended who was to be the quiet stepper-in at sensitive junctures. The great advantage that he brought to this Pentecostal enterprise was the simple fact that he wore a black suit and a round white collar—legitimately so because he was a Catholic priest.

He was not Colombian, but rather Hungarian, and he had fled to Bogotá with other refugees when the Soviet Army had used its tanks to crush a bid by that nation’s people to throw off the Russian yoke.

Seeing their great needs as strangers in a city whose language most of them did not know, Mrs. Lowe had worked to help them. Because the priest knew and respected Mrs. Lowe by this experience, he was willing to intervene at points to help make the way for public evangelism there.

This fact was a touch of the Lord’s artistry–at a few delicate and sensitive stages on the way to the campaign that was to be, having a man with a clerical collar and a priestly manner walk into police stations or bureaucratic offices to gently yet pointedly speak for this purpose was immensely helpful—a direct fruit of Mrs. Lowe’s previous efforts in that city, now afforded to the young visiting evangelist.

As determined and as fierce as the religious opposition was to this event, Gospel congregations joined to rent a large sports arena, on whose front a wide banner was displayed proclaiming “Jesus Saves and Heals.”

Eugene Jimenez became a hunted man while this went on. At times he had to curl up to hide in the trunk of a car to be successfully brought to the arena (he was slight in build, so this was possible without awful discomfort).
Now and then he did not come at all, but his brother, also an evangelist, but not then hunted, stepped in to speak and give the salvation invitation.

Once, on a night when an interferer was to succeed in cutting off the arena’s electricity, the Lord had whispered to a minister, “Bring a generator tonight.” So he did, and when the electricity was cut, the generator was connected and turned on, and the saboteur was defeated.

Altogether this was, in the history of Protestant Gospel missions to Colombia, a miracle at Bogotá. Personal salvation by receiving Christ directly was lifted above religious observances and rituals, and true life came into the souls of a goodly number of Colombians by it.

Having been sent to that city for exactly that, Eugene Jimenez knew that without the prophetic prayer of Mrs. Lowe, and her strong daily co-pursuit of his objective, he would not have been able to stage so large and highly public a campaign.

This co-working was such that a tiny missions agency in New Jersey with a heart for the long delayed, but surely coming harvest of souls in Central and South America, conceived a plan, large in its conceptual scope but tiny in funding:

The evangelist and Mrs. Lowe were each given two-way air tickets to Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, from New York City, and enough money for meals and hotel rooms for three days and nights, with no prospect of added support. That was all that could be afforded.

And they were asked to do in Caracas what had been done in Colombia.

So the age-balanced team of the young man and the widow ventured to that city by sheer faith. What was opened to them made Gospel history there—on a scale far exceeding that which they had brought forth in Colombia two years earlier.

Much as the two loaves and five fishes became food enough for hungry thousands, the palm-sized investment the little missions agency had made in the hope of bringing salvation to the people of Caracas exploded into an amazing phenomenon.

The evangelist entered Caracas as a totally unknown person, yet one shortly to be made famous there. Mrs. Lowe had a few Christian friends in the city.

The first believers and ministers they spoke with there assured them that they had a good vision but that “it is not the time” for such a venture.

That bit of homegrown wisdom, a stone in the pair’s pathway, was about to be blasted into dust, but it might have been enough to deter them if they had not also brought their keen memories of the Bogotá campaign into this second major city.

It was not man’s time for evangelism there, but it was God’s, so the latter trumped the former, which was an attitude based on previous experience as born again believers in a highly Catholic culture.

It was my privilege to have met the evangelist for the first time on the very afternoon before he and Mrs. Lowe took their flight from New York to Caracas. In the space of barely a quarter hour, he made such an impression upon me that, as we parted, I said to myself, “He makes His ministers a flame of fire.” (Hebrews 1:7)

It appeared to be so at that time that every morning, upon awakening, young Jimenez was consumed by a hunger to bring lost souls to Christ. (See also Daniel 12:3) In Mrs. Lowe he had found a helper of equivalent vision and zeal.

Invited to preach at several churches in Caracas, Jimenez won favor and began to build a bolder vision among believers there for a larger campaign.

I remember, because I can never forget, when, in a small prayer meeting in Manhattan, a believer, who had just got the news, exclaimed with happy amazement

“They got the bull ring!!”

Had a similar faith effort been attempted in New York, a quite equivalent marvel could have been expressed in the words, “They got the baseball stadium!”

The bull ring in Caracas was large and it was quite new. Because it was a central feature of the public life of that city, it was readily familiar to its citizens, especially to men.

What happened in that bull ring in the weeks that followed was a phenomenon, and an historic triumph in the long and heavily resisted efforts of born again missionaries to introduce saving faith to those who had religious practices in abundance but little spiritual reality.

The breakthrough in the bull ring in 1962 tore a big hole in the spiritually heavy blanket that had long lain over the population and blocked its grasp of the true basis of eternal salvation.

That is the subject of this wonderful gathering of newspaper, magazine and other articles and items that Mrs. Lowe collected and pasted into an album that has now been reproduced in this more permanent form.

What drew multiplied thousands of people to that city’s foremost bull ring were the miracles of healing that attended Eugene Jimenez’s preaching of God’s Word—not claimed miracles, not artificially staged “miracles” that sadly go with the work of some healing evangelists, but healings that came to many quite suddenly in meeting after meeting after meeting.

The evangelist did not pray much for particular individuals. He prayed for all who raised their hands to signify various bodily needs.

God answered, and Mr. Jimenez asked those who had received healing to come to the stage to tell what God had done for them.

Persons suddenly set free tend not to be shy about saying so, but full of expressive eagerness to speak of the great releases received, and to thank God with joyous exclamations.

It was this feature of the campaign turned it into a public sensation. Mrs. Lowe, knowing that this could draw large numbers to the meetings, asked those healed to use thick ink markers on white cardboard to briefly state what had happened to them. She asked them to mount those posters on sticks and carry them from their homes to the bull ring, calling out to others to follow them there.

Alarmed at the extent to which this campaign had broken into what had long been its dominant position in religion there, the Catholic hierarchy responded by putting on a large open-air counter demonstration, to which thousands also came.

Newspaper headlines the next day telling of “More Miracles in the Bull Ring (or El Nuevo Circo)” were accompanied by those telling of persons who had fainted in the full blaze of the afternoon sun at that demonstration.

As grand as the earlier campaign in Bogotá had been, the one in Caracas went far beyond it, suggesting that the team of Jimenez and the wise and perceptive Mrs. Lowe could go on to raise major campaigns in cities across the South America, but such was not to be.

Since he plainly was the central human figure in these campaigns, it seemed to the young evangelist that that was enough, and that, while it had been essential to work with Mrs. Lowe in Bogotá, and helpful to do so also at Caracas, it would not be necessary going forward, after the astounding result there, to continue in working association with her.

That seems to have been a damaging calculation, for the fact is that, about thirteen years after sweeping victory in Caracas, the evangelist was still distributing materials about his campaign there to attract interest in his ministry.

He sank from public attention of the kind he had received there and ministered thereafter largely in obscurity.
But the fact can never be effaced that Eugene Jimenez and Mrs. Hannah Lowe were God’s instruments, bringing soul winning evangelism to what had been the spiritually locked-up population of the city of Caracas and leading thousands to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

This reproduced album tells much of the public story of that quite amazing conquest for their Lord. go to full site

John McCandlish Phillips

En Español