Chile was just entering winter. I disembarked from the airplane at 3.00am but the morning would reveal the gorgeous, snow-covered Andean mountains surrounding Santiago, the capital city.
I was looking forward to helping translate at a conference on the New Age movement and a gospel response to it. The visiting speaker would be Dr Peter Jones (Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, California) but I would also be giving my own series on ‘Integral growth for the church’.
As the first group came together on Monday night, I noticed some from the middle and upper classes. As in many other cities of Latin America, the ‘new spirituality’ of yoga, transcendental meditation and eastern religions has invaded Santiago – especially the professional classes. Thus Peter Jones’ theme was attractive to many: ‘A spirituality for the third millennium’.
Each night between 150 and 200 people gathered from many parts of the city. Each conference session ended with a time for questions. It was apparent that he was touching a topic of great importance to many: ‘What is true spirituality? Where can I find true spiritual meaning?’
After the last session was over, we met with pastors the next morning. Two pastors from the south of Chile had stayed with a lady named Maya, who was deeply involved in eastern religions and had attended each night. They were anxious to share what had happened the night before.
Maya was visibly moved by Dr Jones’ final call to seek freedom from guilt and inadequacy, only in the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ. Weeping, she confessed that all the techniques that she had sought – yoga, meditation, etc. – had not given her this freedom. She confessed her rebellion, and asked Jesus to be her Saviour.
She said that during the conference she had been arguing with herself and with God inside her head. At one point, in desperation, she had said to God, ‘If spiritual power cannot be found within me, if I don’t have the power to find meaning and freedom, then why did you create me?’ Just then Peter Jones said, ‘God created us for his glory, to worship and serve him!’
That was God’s answer, and Maya was irresistibly drawn to her Creator. We later were able to speak with her, and she confirmed what the pastors had told us. Her face was radiant as she said she could now rest in the arms of the one who created her, redeemed her, and washed her guilt away – Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
Our meetings with pastors during the day were no less exciting. In the first place, this was the first time that members of three Presbyterian denominations have gathered for fellowship. Dissension and doctrinal battles have racked the Presbyterian churches in Chile for years, leaving many scars.
But God has been purifying his church, and all three groups met with the goal of seeking God’s glory by honouring the Scriptures in their practice.
This fellowship itself was a tremendous blessing to all, and the organisers of the event are to be commended for providing an atmosphere that welcomed all. The fact that there was no charge for the conferences, and that meals and even lodging was provided for those who needed them, allowed pastors with little income to participate.
One pastor who came every day has to serve three congregations due to a severe shortage of leaders in his denomination. But even three congregations are unable to support him, so he must drive a taxi as well. The poor fellow fell asleep on more than one occasion, but he made a valiant effort to attend our sessions.
Many expressed appreciation for the help received. Many questions were asked, and good discussions took place. Praise the Lord for this opportunity to serve him and his church!