Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 27, 1951

What We Saw

Hoyt H. Houchen, Amarillo, Texas

Recently six of the brethren from the Central congregation, 14th and Monroe, here in Amarillo, including this writer, made a trip to Las Vegas, New Mexico, to take food and clothing and to personally view the work that is being done there. Words cannot describe what our eyes beheld that day. An impression was received that we shall not soon forget.

Las Vegas proper is a thriving little city of 26,000, beautifully situated some 6,000 feet in elevation at the foot of the mountains. The city is naturally divided into two parts, Spanish-American and Anglo-American, each having its own municipal government. Upon entering the city we were made to wonder about the poverty of which we had heard but what we were about to see was a far cry from our first impression.

When we arrived at the church building we saw a little modest Spanish type stucco building located at 8th and Washington. Greeting us with a welcoming smile was the preacher, brother John A. Carter. Boxes were placed on the sidewalk and in a few minutes the little hands of Spanish children of the neighborhood were carrying the supplies to the basement of the church building. There we saw clothing neatly segregated according to size. One of the ladies in charge was at work unpacking and assorting. The basement of the building was a beehive of activity, enthusiastic voices and diligent hands at work.

Soon we separated into groups and we accompanied the workers to visit the families which had been reported by the Welfare Agency. One lady had a list of 18 families to contact that afternoon. As we approached the west side of town the picture of Las Vegas was reversed from the one we first saw. We saw narrow alleys and small shacks, children who look hungry, people whose moral fibre seemed broken. One contact was made with a mother of nine children. The father was out of work and there was no source of income. Through the door we saw four barren walls, an iron bedstead, a table and a chair. The hollow eyes and depressed cheeks of the children signified hunger and malnutrition. The mother had never seen a Bible but she had heard of it. This was only a typical case. Many others were cited. We were told of one family where a baby had died and the father was seen picking up sticks to build a casket for the little body. These conditions we saw within the environs of the city. We were informed by the Welfare authorities that San Miguel county in which Las Vegas is located has 2500 families on relief, more than any other county in the United States.

What is the underlying cause of this situation? Roman Catholicism! It is predominant and this section of New Mexico is perhaps its stronghold in America. Located within five miles of Las Vegas is a monastery which turns out 35 young Catholic priests every three months. These young men come from Spain, Mexico, South America, and other places. Here they are skillfully trained to promulgate the doctrines of Roman Catholicism. Families existing on meager wages are assessed $1.50 per week for parish fees and the coffers of Catholicism are enriched by the poor, ignorant, and deluded masses who are duped into paying penance for sins, sins including stealing because children are hungry.

Within a short distance of Las Vegas there is a cult known as the Penitentes, not a small isolated group, but a sizeable assembly of some 6,000 adherents. These people are possessed with the idea that they must personally suffer as did Christ in order to pay penance for their sins. They tie cacti balls around their necks, run at speed through cacti briars, they strip their skin from their bodies and pour sand upon the wound, they crawl upon broken glass and rocks, and even now dried blood can be seen on rocks as a result of their last ceremony. Each year at Easter one is crucified and the victim deems such as the highest achieved honor. Such acts of fanaticism characterize heathenism that exists within our own back door. This specific locality is an outstanding example of what would generally exist in America if Catholicism gained complete control. The results would be: ignorance, superstition, and poverty.

The work of the small church in Las Vegas in the midst of conditions just described is impressive. There are two congregations, a Spanish-American and an Anglo-American. The former numbers about 75 members and its preacher is brother Joe Gomez. This church has outgrown its own building and now meets for worship each Lord's day afternoon in the Anglo-American building. The Anglo-American congregation has a membership of only 85 or 90 and of this number only eight male members are able to contribute much financially. One Lord's day recently the regular contribution by this group was $179.00.

Along with the work of benevolence is a systematic teaching of God's word. New Testaments are given to all persons who are helped with food and clothing. We were told that there is not a case of one yet who has read the four gospels and through Acts the 2nd chapter but who has demanded baptism. Care seems to be exercised in seeing that those baptized are taught and not coming by emotion or mere gratitude. Since the first of the year, some seventy have been baptized, including sixty Catholics. Upon inquiring as to the faithfulness of those baptized, we were told that all remain faithful. It was related to us that when a former Catholic is baptized, he says goodbye Catholic church and he is then diligently helping others. He is able to hold up his head and support his family without having to fear being bled by penance dues and parish fees. Most of these converts are Spanish-American.

As I write these lines I am impressed again by the truth that to do the Lord's work we do not have to establish institutions, have "sponsoring" congregations, and use mass campaigns. Help can be sent directly to the church in Las Vegas. We saw Christianity at work.