Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”
Acts 17:22-23 NIV
As I barrelled down the Chilean road from Atacama to Calama, in a hotel van speeding to the airport, I noticed over a dozen roadside shrines to car accident victims. Some were as simple as a large postbox; others resembled shrines I had seen in Asia; and still others were decorated like gaudy bus shelters. Most had crosses and flowers. One had (presumably) the victim’s rusted car behind the shrine; another had a newish-looking vehicle as part of the syncretistic shrine—possibly for the deceased to cruise around in the afterlife. I was later told that these departed are given offerings to answer prayers, similar to how some Catholic ‘saints’ are treated. Apart from placing something in the hope of getting something like it, someone may leave an empty bottle and cigarettes
if he has given up drinking and smoking.
Where I stayed in the Atacama Desert many of the tour guides were indigenous and proud that they could help tourists better understand the people, culture and geography of the area. I happened to travel there during one of the local carnivales. Amongst the revelling and rituals there was recognition of ‘mother earth’ for the corn harvest. The Chileans are very religious. Despite the Spanish Roman Catholic influence, the old pagan ways remain. (Some may argue that the idolatrous nature of traditional Catholicism would not make it difficult for the indigenous people to continue their nature worship—or rather, to incorporate Catholicism into their ancient religion—with Jesus merely being another one of their gods, for many Chileans their ‘unknown god’.
Please pray for Chile and other South American nations where the God of the Bible—even the Catholic Bible—has been corrupted by man’s ignorant worship of God’s creation and man-made things. The Bryars in Brazil, the Johanessens, Knotts and Gail Thomson in Colombia, the Chapmans and Smiths in Venezuela—they are all familiar with the effects of Satan’s deception and tactics, and so they faithfully preach the gospel and teach believers biblical truth. Pray for these missionaries in their service for the Lord.
Although many things stay the same, the one thing that has made a global impact in 2020 and changed how we live must be COVID-19. Please pray for those countries which are still struggling to contain the virus’ impact in terms of morbidity and mortality. Pray for all countries which will be impacted socioeconomically in the short-term and probably the long-term. Pray for the Christian Church and missionaries in their witness in home countries and in nations where they serve. Pray that the urgency of the gospel will be clearer and more meaningful to many seekers of the Truth during these increasingly desperate, uncertain and insecure times.
Editorial by Andrew Chan