Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 23, 1959
NUMBER 13, PAGE 2-3a

A Letter From Pecos, Texas

Dear Brother Tant:

I came to Pecos in 1956 to preach to the Spanish speaking people here. I was supported fully by the local Anglo church in this work. Things went well and smoothly for some months, but then one day I happened to come by when another Spanish preacher chanced to be in a discussion with one of the Anglo elders on current issues — the Herald of Truth, benevolent societies, and other arrangements for the centralization of funds from many churches. Being asked for my convictions on these things, I stated them as clearly and as simply as I could.

About a week later, during a business meeting with all the elders, I was asked the question: "What is your position on the Herald of Truth, do you believe it scriptural or not?" I answered that I did not believe such an arrangement to be scriptural; neither did I believe it in harmony with God's Word for any arrangement to be devised whereby the resources of thousands of churches would be centralized under the control of one eldership, board, or other organization. I was then asked, "What papers do you read?" I mentioned the name of the Gospel Guardian, along with others. And was immediately met with the rejoinder, "Just as we thought; you should not read trash like that that presents only one side; you should read some good paper like the Spiritual Sword or the Gospel Advocate."

This was about all that was said at this time; but nearly a year later the question popped up again. Once again I expressed my conviction against any kind of organization (either eldership or board) which had the resources of thousands of congregations under its control. At this time threats began to be made about cutting off my support. One elders said, "I say we cut him off right now." But they did not. Although I must confess I cannot understand why. Once again everything was quiet for several months.

Nearly a year later, the subject came up again, this time stronger than ever. I discussed it with the elders for about two hours, after which they asked me if I would be willing to study the question fully. I answered that I had already spent many, many hours in an earnest study of it, but certainly was not unwilling to still further investigate the teaching of the Bible. For the sake of unity and love for the truth I was willing to spend all the time necessary for us to come to a mutual understanding of the true teaching of God's Word. They suggested that I read and study James 1:27, carefully analyzing it, and that I would find there that the Lord had commanded the church to care for orphans, but had not told the church HOW to do it; therefore, the orphan homes were authorized in this passage, since they are only a "method" or a "how" used by the church in fulfilling the command. I accepted their suggestion and told them I would indeed study the passage as earnestly as I could.

About three months later we met again in another business meeting. It was June 1, 1959. After I had given my report as to the progress of the work among the Spanish people, the elders asked me if I had studied James 1:27, and what I had learned. I told them I had indeed re-studied the passage, and asked if they were interested in knowing the conclusions of my study. They replied they were. So I went into a brief explanation 'of James 1:27, showing that it is a contrast between "pure religion" and "vain religion"; and that the person who is obligated to "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction" is the same person who is to "keep oneself unspotted from the world." I then used many other passages to show the nature and extent of church benevolence; that each congregation is obligated to care for its own needy, but not for all the world, etc. Well, when I had finished the elders were unanimous in their expressions of approval and commendation. They said I had presented the TRUTH on this question, and that my position was exactly what the Bible taught. My heart leaped up with joy as I saw this vexing problem headed toward a true and scriptural solution.

But then to make sure that they understood the matter, I told them that since they admitted I was correct in my teaching, they ought to re-examine their contributions to Herald of Truth, Tipton Home, Sunny Glenn, as well as their own arrangement for soliciting money from many churches to preach to the braceros here in the Pecos valley.

Imagine my surprise when I was met with the response, "Now you are causing division! You have indeed set forth the scriptures on this matter; but that is only ONE METHOD of doing the work. And some of you men are going over the country trying to make everybody bow down to YOUR METHOD." They said that even though I was right in my teaching, they still felt they had liberty to do things another way if they wanted to; that I was trying to "bind" where God had not "bound", and that they had "liberty" to follow any plan they wanted to. Finally, one elder (the presiding elder) spoke up and said, "I don't believe in paying a man that doesn't believe like I do; so if Brother Pena stays on in this work, he is going to have to shut up in this kind of teaching." Another elder spoke up and objected to this; he was not willing to try to put a "gag" on a gospel preacher, but he did think that in view of the circumstances I ought to find another place to preach. I then pointed out to them that it was not MY doctrine I was preaching; but was the doctrine of Christ as set forth in the New Testament, and that they themselves had in that very meeting agreed that this was so. But that they were perfectly in their rights in cutting off my salary if they so desired, but had no right to ask me to quit preaching for the Spanish speaking congregation in Pecos. I told them that regardless of the outcome of our discussions, the Spanish brethren wanted me to stay and work with them, and I expected to do that. That seemed to fall like a bomb-shell into their midst. They reminded me that the church building used by the Spanish brethren, as well as the preacher's house belonged to them (the Anglo congregation), that they had all the papers and deeds. I told them that while it was true they had legal ownership of the property, they did not own the church, that the building was NOT the church. They told me that the Spanish brethren would have to meet elsewhere; that they were ELDERS over that territory, and that anybody who came in there to preach had to come under their arrangements. They could not understand how the Spanish congregation could be complete without elders, and insisted that THEY were elders over the Spanish church since they were paying my salary, furnishing a house for me to live in, and had supplied the money for the building in which the Spanish church was meeting.

Well, to make a long, sad story into a short, sad story they dismissed me, requested me to vacate the house within three weeks; and at this writing it seems fairly obvious they intend to put the Spanish congregation out of the property they have been using.

I have decided to stay in Pecos and fight this battle for the truth. These brethren of the 4th and Bois D'Arc congregation (Anglo) are trying to force their opinions and misrepresentations down the throat of my people, taking advantage of them because they are poor and underprivileged. But I assure you these poor people love the Lord, and many of them are perfectly willing to die rather than surrender the truth. They will go hungry and endure starvation before they will give up the purity of the gospel. The entire congregation here is with me, 100 percent in this battle. We have sixteen members, and an average attendance of slightly over thirty per week.

I have a wife and eight children. I need help financially to continue in this work. I must find a place in which to live, and must also find some sort of quarters in which the congregation can meet. The Spanish congregation has decided unanimously to meet elsewhere rather than submit to the rule of another congregation. The immediate need is for my personal support. The congregation will also need a place to meet in time, but they can provide that for themselves after a while. It will require sacrifice on their part, but they will be willing to make it. And it will be good for them to know that by their own labors they have proved themselves in the cause of truth.

Any information about me can be supplied by faithful Anglo preachers who know me, and who have worked among my people. I refer you to such brethren as Earl Dale of Harlingen, Don Atherton, also of Harlingen, and Wayne Partain. Also the Elders of Crescent Park Church of Christ in Odessa, Texas (Paul Foutz preaches there), who have agreed to help with temporary support for a few weeks until I can bring this need to the attention of other faithful Christians and churches. May my earnest plea for help not go unheeded by my brethren, so that I can continue to contend for the faith in this city.

With Christian love Adan Pena

P. O. Box 651 Pecos, Texas