The River and the Meeting


by James Watson in Peru  

      transport2  The scenery was lovely. We had to ford the river Huaura, and we did so at “La Toma”, where the river divides into three branches. The water was up over the stirrups and the current was very strong. However after much plunging and splashing, we got through safely. Both of us were more or less wet, and a lot of hymnbooks I was carrying in my saddle-bags were badly damaged. I was glad to get across, as my horse stumbled into a hole and made my heart jump to my mouth! About half an hour after we crossed, a family, in trying to get across, came to grief, and were pulled out with the greatest difficulty.

When we arrived at Alcantarilla the friends were finishing their first meeting. They were very glad to see us and gave us a royal welcome. We sat talking for a long time, with them asking many questions, wanting an explanation of this text or that point. Then we all had dinner together and afterwards another meeting.

The most remarkable feature in it was the singing. It baffles description! I thought I had heard original singing at Nazca, but this eclipsed everything I have ever heard in the way of music. Patricio Rivera, the man of the house, has no more idea of music than a brick wall! Nevertheless he sings for joy. He can sing every hymn in the book – to the same tune. He composes it as he goes along, and it is little short of genius the manner in which he makes the tune fit the words, especially towards the end of the lines!

I never heard a tune like it – a sort of weird chant. And he has taught the people how to sing, and all of them sing for joy. The sincerity and real worship could not be doubted for a moment. The whole thing certainly gave me food for thought for many days.

By-and-by the table was cleared of books and the cloth spread. The bread and cup were brought and we gathered round the table to “remember the Lord’s death till He come.” It has been my privilege to be present at many grand religious gatherings, but I never attended one where I realized the presence of the Lord more. It was not because of the large number – there were only nine of us present. It was not the grand singing – I never heard worse. It was not the magnificent building – we were gathered in a cane and mud hut. It was not the preaching or the exhortations – there was very little of that. Nor was it the prayers – these were few and halting. No, it was nothing of these things. It was the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Yes, that’s the secret: everything faded from our sight, every sound died from our ears, and, as we lifted up our eyes, we saw no one but “Jesus only”, and we heard nothing but a “voice which said, ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased; hear him’.” The Lord himself became very real. Truly “God is spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”