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When an Andean Woman Received Christ
By Walter M. Montaño
Without hesitation we can say that after four hundred years, the Roman Church has given little to Latin America – A land where the majority of the people have never heart the Gospel and know very little about God. Their conception of Him is that of an old man with a long white beard who is very tired, physically weak, and is afar off and aloof. He is a terrible personage given to meting out punishment but never love. For these reasons they fear God as a monster and a tyrant from whom they run away rather than draw closer.
The Roman Church has left a land where many of the people know that Christ died nineteen hundred years ago, but they consider Him at present nothing more than a corpse. They worship, in their way, a dead Christ, but have no conception or realization of the wonders and glory of the risen Christ, our eternally living and powerful Lord.
The Roman Church has left a land where the people talk so glibly about religion, even using the names of deity, not in swearing, but simply as expletives instead of "Oh” or ”My”! Yet they know so very little of the real Gospel. Wicked people, thieves, drunkards, and so on, think that the only thing needful for either worship or expiation for sin, is to wear rosaries, bow before images, cross themselves, or wear pins with images of the saints attached.
The Roman Church has left a land where millions of Indians live under most lamentable conditions. Their religion is a mixture of paganism and Catholicism. This means that while they worship the sun, moon, and other objects of nature, they also kneel before wooden crosses made by themselves. These actually signify to them their Heavenly Father...
How vividly we remember an experience that we had while in Peru. From the city of Lima with its combination of modern and new sections and its old Spanish architecture, from sea level to an altitude of sixteen thousand feet, it would take us from six to seven hours by train or auto to reach the top of the Andes. Here the mountains are covered with snow, the train creeps or the auto runs with difficulty, and many people die because of the rarity of the atmosphere.
Just on the other side of the pass on the Andean road, Indian communities have been established for years and years. One day in the interest of bringing some of these Indians to the light of the Gospel, we were visiting the Indian huts. Walking along the road of the Andes, where dozens of crosses are planted, we noticed an Indian woman, dressed in many vivid colors, kneeling down with an expression of deepest dissatisfaction on her face, with arms outstretched, looking at the wooden cross, moving her lips and repeating, no doubt, prayers that were unheard by us. I suggested that my wife and I wait to speak to that woman when she finished her prayers.
"What were you doing there?” I questioned. "Don’t you know?” she said in a most humble way. ”I was praying to my god.”
"Where is your god?”
Pointing to the wooden cross, she said: "There is my god.” When I attempted to make her understand what the cross meant, we found she was in complete ignorance of the fact that two thousand years ago Christ came to this world that sinners might be saved.
She said, "The priest comes once a year to our country chapel. He celebrates the holy Mass in Latin, a language we do not understand. After the Mass, we follow a procession to the top of the hill, where we plant a cross, and after blessing the cross with holy water and hearing another short ceremony in Latin, we come back. We go down to our village where we spent a week or ten days in drunkenness and feasting until our men spend their last cent, so that we have to sleep in the door of the church, and then early we go back to our places. All we know is that wherever we find crosses we must kneel down and present our petitions.”
It was then that I repeated the Scriptures to her about Christ’s perfect sacrifice finished at Calvary, and when I came to the point of inviting her to open her heart to the Savior, she only said: "That’s fine. That’s great. But don’t you realize that I am only an ignorant woman, a poor human being who cannot pay for these things? This must belong to you who belong to the upper classes.”
"Oh, no,” I said. "This is for you as much as for us.” Little by little her heart was melted as we explained how God loved the whole world. A few more minutes and then the three of us – the Indian woman, my wife and I – were kneeling down on the dusty road of the high Andes, my wife and I committing her to God’s love and that Indian woman opened her heart to the King of Kings. Our hearts were greatly moved by one of the greatest spiritual experiences of our lives.
When we stood up, the sad expression had disappeared from her face, and instead a joyful and expressive look indicated that she had found happiness in Christ. Just before she departed from us, she also wanted to show, in her own way, her gratitude to God for giving her that happiness. Holding a hairpin in her hand, the symbol among her people of the deepest friendship and loyalty, she said: "God, I thank You for finding me here. I want my hands tied to yours so I will never be lost again.”
She went her way, having found that Christ was her Savior. While she was disappearing in the distance, our minds were turning to those other thirty-three million Indians in the Americas who were still lost, and it was there also that we were asking God to use us more efficiently to bring the Light to these noble descendants of the Incas.”
Reference: Montaño, W. M. Behind the Purple Curtain. Chapter XII – The rebellion of the Continent. Cowman Publications, Inc., Los Angeles, pp. 168-171. 1950.
The whole emphasis of the Roman Church is on the Crucifix, the dead Christ. But not all the people can buy the crucifix, so the Church tells them, especially in the Indian communities, to erect wooden crosses everywhere…
One of our North American teachers, after some time of living in the interior of a South American country, tells of her experiences:
"We are now in a little South American town, situated on the seacoast. Every year hundreds of people come to this little village to escape the intense heat of the inland towns. There, on a little elevation overlooking the sea, is a cross. It is barren and ugly; it could hardy be more crudely constructed. Yet, it is sacred.
As I sat watching it one day, I wondered how many hundreds of souls had passed by the cross in the years that it had been standing there. As I gazed, a small boy, ready to take a plunge into the ocean, paused before the cross, stooped and reverently kissed it. I wondered at the devotion of a lad who would think to pay homage to the cross when there were scores of youngsters on every side shouting and plunging beneath the cool waves. I asked a native friend who stood by, why the child had kissed the cross.
She replied, "The holy cross will protect him from drowning.”
"Do you really believe that?” I replied.
"Oh, yes, the cross has performed miracles,” she answered fervently.
I thought of the many fishermen who had gone out in their frail fishing craft never to return. And as I noticed the grime on the cross where the boy and many others had kissed it, I marveled at such futile faith.
By the roadside one day I noticed a little square building. As I approached it I found a wayside shrine with a cross in the center. The cross was crudely decorated with a withered wreath of flowers and some paper chains, such as we used to make in kindergarten. The shrine presented a picture not unlike a scarecrow, for wound around the two arms of the cross was a white cloth. I noticed that this cross was covered with grime also, no doubt the marks of devoted hands and lips. On the ground around the base of the cross was a veritable sea of wax. I wondered how many hundreds of candles had been burned there. And the thought of the muttered prayers from heavy, sin-cursed hearts made my own heart heavy. They were not prayers that could bring rest to a burdened heart, for this was a Christless cross.
One day in the interest of cleanliness, I wished to remove a dirty cord from around the neck of a little boy who attended our school. Shocked and startled, childish eyes looked up at me and a little hand pulled from beneath the homemade shirt a little aluminum cross.
"My mama says that it will protect me,” he said, "I must not take it off.”
Crosses, crosses, Christless crosses, all of them.
One day a friend of mine was pinning underneath the lapel of her husband’s coat a little silken square upon which was embroidered a cross. I asked her why she was doing that.
"The Holy Cross will protect my husband and keep him true to me,” she said.
"Poor people,” I thought, "walking in darkness and the shadow of death, ‘in the Land of the Christless Cross’ ” Not once had I heard an expression of what the power of the resurrected Christ could do…”
Barren unlovely, Christless crosses, yet there are many in the "Land or the Christless Cross.” An abundance of crosses, yet, empty of all that we hold sacred. For over four hundred years, weary, hungry, sin-cursed hearts have bowed down to the holy (?) cross of Rome. Shall we take the Living Christ to those who walk in "darkness and the shadow of death”?
"The Land of the Christless Cross,” writes our missionary teacher as she relates her experiences, "are words that had burned themselves into my soul long before I had ever set foot on South American soil. Never did I realize, however, the stark pathos and the tragedy of it until I lived and walked among the crosses. Surely we can never cease to thank God for the Christian heritage we have in a land which was not sought because of the immense riches that it contained, but rather as a haven in which to worship God.”
A similar testimony is given by Miss Ruth Harmon who… had been visiting Mexico City, and was greatly impressed by the contrast between a Roman Catholic Church and the services in a large evangelical church. She visited the Church of Guadalupe, typical of many such churches, large, ornate, lined with dozens of booths selling religious relics and candles. Entering the church one is almost overcome by the strong odor of incense. After one becomes accustomed to the dim light of the interior the attention is attracted to Indian men and women, many of whom carry children in their arms. Along the sides there are confessional booths where sit bored-looking priest. As the people pass the glass cases containing various religious relics they rub their hands over the case and then over the baby’s face. One large case held a replica of the Virgin Mary. A poor Indian woman with an old, withered face kept tapping on the case as if to make the Virgin look at her rosary and at the piece of money she was giving to her. "The superstition of it all haunted me through the night,” says our visitor.
"The following Sunday, I visited the Mexican Presbyterian Church there. Sunday School was going on when I arrived. I saw twelve to fourteen Bible classes all going on at once. The children were evidently in another section of the building. All had open Bibles and were giving undivided attention to the teacher. Sunday School ran right into church. There was a large choir of well-trained voices… a well-educated couple presented their child beside an evidently poor Indian couple. The latter mother was wearing her Indian shawl; her hair hung in long braids. Their solemn little boy was just as precious in the sight of God and man as the beautifully dressed little girl of the other couple. The church was altogether under national leadership. I was convinced, all over again, that missionary work is the most worthwhile thing in the world.”
Reference: Excerpts from Idem, pp. 164 – 168.