So, I realized today that many of you don’t fully know what the work I’m doing here is Venezuela is all about. In addition to the community service
work that we’re doing, the 20 of us that came from the States are working with
a campus ministry called Vida Estudiantil that runs student bible studies and
weekly services. My reason is best prefaced by this excerpt from John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments of These Latter and
Perilous Days, more popularly known as his Book of Martyrs.
(Speaking of John Wycliffe’s work between 1371 and 1384)
At this time, Christianity was in a sad state. Although
everyone knew the name of Christ, few if any understood His doctrine. Faith,
consolation, the use of the law, the works of Christ, our human weakness, the
Holy Ghost, the strength of sin, the works of grace, justification by faith,
and Christian liberty were never mentioned in the church.
By reading this history, a person should be able to see
that the religion of Christ, meant to be spirit and truth, had been turned into
nothing but outward observances, ceremonies, and idolatry. We had so many
saints, so many gods, so many monasteries, so many pilgrimages. We had too many
churches, too many relics (true and fake), too many untruthful miracles.
Instead of worshiping the only living Lord, we worshiped dead bones; in place
of immortal Christ, we worshiped mortal bread.
Wycliffe, seeing Christ’s gospel defiled by the errors
and inventions of these bishops and monks, decided to do whatever he could to
remedy the situation and teach people the truth. This, of course, aroused the
anger of the country’s (England) monks and friars, whose orders had grown
wealthy from the sale of their ceremonies and from being paid for their duties.
Soon, their priests and bishops took up the outcry, followed by the archbishop,
Simon Sudbury, who took away Wycliffe’s salary at Oxford and ordered him to
stop preaching against the church.
Obviously, the 16 of us who came from the States to work for
Vida Estudiantil aren’t in danger for our lives (at least, not for the sake of
ministry), but many of the same controversies that plagued the 13th
century church are still found here in Venezuela. The concept of doing mission
work in a largely Catholic country may seem kind of redundant to many, but the
truth is that there is a world of difference between simply saying that you’re
a part of the national religion, and actually pursuing your faith. Essentially,
we’re here because Vida Estudiantil is understaffed and needs help to host the
number of students that are a part of the organization. LUZ is a huge
university, and there are a ton of students who want to learn more about what
their religion is actually about.
Luckily, because the world has come a long, long way since
the 13th century, we don’t have to be persecuted by anyone. The
chapter on John Wycliffe ends with a description of how much he upset the 13th
century Catholic church:
In 1415 the Synod of Constance declared John Wycliffe a
notorious heretic who died in his heresy and ordered his bones removed from
consecrated ground. In 1425 Wycliffe was disinterred, his bones burned and
thrown into the river.