Northern Chile – May 1984
On Tuesday, the ladies had their monthly Bible study followed by tea. Mr. Black had asked me to teach the lesson, so I had prepared a devotional on the life of Priscilla. After I arrived, I discovered the name of the ladies’ group was “Priscilla”, so the Lord certainly put that together. I wrote out the first few paragraphs in Spanish which helped. I emphasized how Priscilla and her husband Aquila eagerly soaked up Paul’s teaching about Christ as they made tents together in Corinth (Acts 18:2). When Paul left and went to Syria, they sailed with him. Eventually, God used them to start a church in Rome as Paul greeted them as “my helpers in Christ Jesus, who have for my life laid down their own necks…” Romans 16:3-5.
The ladies listened attentively, and Mr. Black said he thought it went well. They said they wished I could speak Spanish because they had so many questions to ask me. They asked me to learn Spanish so I could come back and teach them more. The entire meeting lasted nearly three hours. Everything starts about 30 minutes late – “mas o menas” = more or less. This is very much part of the Latino culture which is more laid back than the fast pace of the USA. Mr. Black said you have to learn to “lose time” in Chile, not waste it.
On Wednesday, Mr. Black and I went to the copper foundry where many of the men who attend church are employed. The entire Chilean economy is based on the copper mined here. Our young lady guide gave us a private tour of the foundry. I watched with fascination as the men poured liquid copper heated to 2200 degrees F from huge vats into molds. After the copper cooled and solidified, they shipped it by train to the harbor for export. At the end of our tour, our guide gave me a beautiful copper paperweight. Mr. Black said no one else had ever received anything like that before. (I think he was a little envious.) We were both happy he was able to share the gospel with her.
In 2000, a friend of mine who was a missionary in Chile, drove her parents and children north to visit with the now widowed 92-year-old Mr. Black. She videotaped him as he shared nuggets of truth from his 60 years of experience as a missionary, mission director, and now interim pastor. He said, “I have the people in my heart and I am in their heart” as in Philippians 1:7. A Christian lady they hired faithfully cooked and cleaned for them for 16 years.
In 1998, Letty became very ill from a kidney infection, so they took her by ambulance to the hospital. They put all kind of tubes in her, but she still declined. She told George twice in Spanish, “It is enough.” After conferring with the mission director, George decided to make her comfort measures only. George and the believers sang hymns and read Bible verses in her good ear until the Lord took her home to heaven a few days later. The Chilean brethren said they wanted to conduct her funeral because they loved her so much. They celebrated her life of 91 years and thanked the Lord that she was no longer deaf in heaven above.
After her death, Mr. Black went to the doctor for the first time in twelve years. The doctor said he was in congestive heart failure and prescribed a water pill and one to help his heart beat regularly. The doctor also advised him to “slow down a bit”. George was very pleased with the medical care they received there locally. Since then, he has been doing quite well physically. He was able to drive alone 1000 miles to the mission conference in the south. He took a big stack of cookies and pulled over when he felt like it as he went down memory lane recalling all the various spots he and Letty had enjoyed visiting over the years. And he finally learned not to exceed the speed limit.
He then gave some words of advice to younger missionaries. Learn the language and Chilean idiosyncrasies well, and get rid of American baggage as much as possible. A compatible team is best, and they must be patient with one another as they learn to work together. It takes time for people to change. Always teach good solid Bible doctrine and have a good testimony for the Lord. Work hard and live clean! The goal is to have a local assembly of believers live as closely as possible to New Testament principles.
As soon as the local man graduates from the Bible Institute next year and returns to become the pastor, Mr. Black’s goal is to write four manuals for new missionaries before the Lord takes him home.
George Black lived from November 3, 1907, until September 12, 2009. Before his home-going, he was the oldest actively serving missionary in the world at age 101. What a blessing and privilege it was to know him and Letty. I pray that each of us will run the race God has given us like they did and we will hear God say “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” Matthew 25:21