God in the Pan-American
September 8th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
GOD IN THE PAN AMERICAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-8-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message. First of all, a word of welcome to our Chapel Choir. When I went through South America, all over those nations, I met people who had seen you. They were not particularly and always Baptist people. I would find them in the embassies. I would find them in the business world. They had seen you and heard you in London, in Paris, in Switzerland, and in Berlin. It was an astonishing thing to me how many people I met who had heard you in Europe! And needless to say they praised you to the skies. Welcome home and thank you for my lovely gift.
Now this week, this coming week, beginning tomorrow night we are going to do something here that I have wanted to do for years and years and years. I have wanted to do something for our people, and do it where everybody could come and everything was free. And that dream of the years has come to pass. Tomorrow night, Monday night, we are going to have a pastor’s party in the round, in the gymnasium. And every night this week there will be one of those parties. And it is free. Everything is free. It is my party.
I took this out of our Silent Friends’ announcement. The mission group is scheduled to be there on Thursday night. So this is what they wrote in their bulletin. “When is it? Thursday evening, September 12 at 7 p.m. What will we do? We will eat preacher’s preferred peanuts, pastor’s cotton-picking candy, preacher’s palatable potato chips, parson’s popping-popcorn, preacher’s puppies, and perspicacious pastor’s kernels—it takes perspicacity to say that—pastor’s perfect peas, and pastor’s perfect pepper upper. Also, we will have fun and fellowship and enjoy a delightful program. Who can go? Dr. Criswell has invited all of the Deaf and Silent Friends mission. How much will it cost? Nothing. It’s all free! What to do now? Mark September 12 on your calendar, plan to come, and prepare to dig in.” That’s what the Silent Friends put in their bulletin.
Now all of us have a night in which to come; tomorrow night, Monday night, the Nursery leadership, the Business and Professionals and the Adults, tomorrow night at 7:00 o’clock; and then Tuesday night, the cradle roll leadership, the Young Adults and the Median Adults. Wednesday night, and they’re changing the hour for the children at 6:00 o’clock, our Beginner, Primary, and Special Education. Thursday night this announcement here, all of our missions; and Friday night, September 13, the Junior and the Oral Deaf; and Saturday night the Junior High, the Senior High, the College and Career.
Now, you know, I thought I’d have enough money to buy peanuts and popcorn and hot dogs for this whole church. I never missed it so much in my life, and if anybody wants to help me, don’t let anything interfere with your doing it. But we are going to have the best time in the world. We are going to eat till we get sick. I intend to get sick six times this coming week. And we are just going to have a good time, and we’ll have a wonderful, marvelous program.
Now as they have said and as you know, I just got back from one of the most extensive trips, one of the hardest and one of the most profitable though I have ever made in my life. And I took six hundred pictures just on that trip, just so you could look at it and see what it is and how things are developing and get a good look at yourself as you compare what is coming to pass in these other nations. And the last Wednesday in this month and the first Wednesday in October, we will look at those pictures.
Now I want to speak of that journey. The first missionary journey closed with these words:
And when they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.
And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia:
And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.
And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done [with] them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
That’s what we will be doing this Sunday and next Sunday. Next Sunday morning I am going to preach at this hour on Baptists, Riots and Revolutions. We’re in it. But we’re on the good side of it. I’ll be preaching next Sunday morning on Baptists, Riots and Revolutions.
This morning it’s mostly a looking at us. Sometimes it is good to get away and then look at yourself. And by comparing what you are doing and the framework in which you are doing it, you can come to some very definite and profitable conclusions. And that’s what we are going to do this morning. I wish I had hours to speak, but I would suppose I have time to emphasize just one thing.
Now to start. First of all, when you make a long journey you fall into agonies and miseries. You just do. You can’t do it without it. And from my understanding of some of the things that happened to the Chapel Choir, I would say you fell into them also. You just do.
Well, I have been through one of the most exhaustive summers of preaching that I had ever experienced. And when I left Dallas in August, I preached through a city mission in Mobile, Alabama. Then from there to Tuscaloosa, and from there to Atlanta in a preaching mission, and finally landed down in Miami, Florida and appeared at the Pan-American counter to catch a plane that was to leave at 2:30 o’clock in the morning for the trek through South America.
So when I deposited my bags and put down my ticket and sought to check-in, Pan American said to me, “Why, we’ve never heard of you. We have no record of your reservation. We don’t know anything about you.” “Why,” I said, “look at this ticket. It’s been reconfirmed half a dozen times. And you say you have no record, none at all?”
So they said, “Now, you stand by over here, and when the plane leaves at 2:30 o’clock in the morning, why, maybe you can get on it.” Why, I have never had such an announcement to greet me in my life! Can you imagine, exhausted beyond any way you could describe it, and then the Pan American airlines says, “Now, you stand by over here for a plane that leaves at 2:30 and maybe you can get on it.” Oh, I nearly died, I nearly died. I didn’t know whether to be mad, I couldn’t cuss. I didn’t know whether to weep or to cry. It was terrible! So I slaved at it and worked at it for over two and a half hours and finally got an assurance that I could get on that plane when it went through—because those things don’t go everyday down there. Where I was going the plane leaves just twice a week. And if I missed the thing, it would ruin the whole schedule that I had made in that extensive trek through those several nations down there.
Well, I got on the thing, just absolutely exhausted. There are two hundred million Americans. There are two million of us that were out abroad last August. One of us had one of those dripping colds, and that was the guy seated right next to me. He was deaf. And when he talked to me he put his face in mine and talked real loud. He had a list of forty-one in the party, and he wanted to tell me about every one of those forty-one.
Oh, he’d blow his nose and then stick his head in my face and talk. I caught his cold in five minutes. When I landed at the airport in La Paz, it is fourteen thousand feet high. I had never in my life been bothered by altitude. But when I landed at the port in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, fourteen thousand feet high, lacks a few feet being that high, oh, oh what happened to me! And the city, which is in a cup, just like a cup, there is a great plain in there and the airport is on that plain, being in that cup there, right before one of the most beautiful mountains in the earth, solid white, snow-covered, high in the Andes. When I landed there at La Paz my head began to throb, and my ears began to stop up, and I got dizzy, and I had my entire visit in that unusual city; my nose was stopped up and I couldn’t breathe. My ears were stopped up, and I couldn’t hear. My head was so dizzy I couldn’t see, and my brain so addled I couldn’t think. Why, I never went through an experience like that in my life.
That’s just part of the agonies and the miseries you have when you go on a long journey. Well, when I landed finally in Santiago, the missionaries picked me up, and they kept me going all day and all night and all in between time. Oh, they’d get me at seven o’clock in the morning from the hotel and deposit me back after midnight. And I’d never stop; preaching three and four times a day all over the country.
So when they finally took me to the airport in Santiago to stick me on the plane to go to Buenos Aires, in the airport I suddenly became sick, and I am not often sick. But I got sick! I got nauseated! And my head began to swim, and I felt hot all over, and I laid down there on some seats, and I said to the missionary who had taken me out to the airport, I said, “Get my case quick and bring me,” and I described to him a little kit of medicine that Dr. Bagwell had given me before I left. So he went out, and they were putting the bag on the airplane when he dashed out. And they let him have it, and he took out that kit and came back, and I took that medicine, and he said to me when I asked him, “Now, when they call the plane will you go out there and walk by my side and help me to stand up until I can get on the thing?” He said, “Listen, they nearly gave me a working over about this. And they are not going to let you on that plane without a medical certificate, and they are not going to let you out of that country without a doctor’s examination. And they are watching you now. And if you don’t stand on your feet and walk out there as though you are well, you can’t leave this place!”
You know what I am going to do? I am going to write a book entitled, “How to Get Well in a Hurry.” I want you to know I stood on my feet, and I said, “Dear Lord, if You will lift up my foot I will put it down.” And I walked out there. “Thank You, Lord.” Put it down. “Thank You, Lord.” Put it down. I got on that plane, and I want you to know in no time at all I was well and strong again; just an amazing thing! When you get sick, don’t go to bed, don’t quit work, don’t stop, don’t gripe, don’t find fault. Just get up and go about your business, and you get well. Isn’t that a marvelous thing? Save the doctor bill, save the hospital bill, save all the days of getting sick.
And now, as I say, it is a wonderful thing to get off and look at yourself, and here is a looking at us. I am grieved that I cannot speak more in this hour because there are some things in it of a great spiritual encouragement that I will not have even the beginning of time to mention, though I had planned it this morning.
But I want to speak of this one thing because we are in it and up to our ears in it here in this church. The inflationary pressures of the world I have seen ever since I have been beginning these long mission journeys—around the world one time and up and down it half a dozen times. But I never had been conscious of them so much so as I was in this trek. For example, in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, I took out a few dollar bills to exchange them for money. And I got five thousand bolivianos in one note and ten thousand bolivianos in another note; the pressures of inflation. When I got off in Chile, took a few dollar bills to exchange them into their money, I got five thousand escudos in one note and ten thousand escudos in another note. When I got off the plane in Brazil, I have in my hand what you would say is a dollar bill, beautifully presented. It’s a cruzeiro. There are three thousand six hundred of these cruzeiros to a dollar; three thousand six hundred of them to a dollar.
Brazil is one of the great nations of the world and, in my humble persuasion, has the greatest potential of any nation in the earth. Brazil is bigger than the United States, what we think of as continental United States. It is a larger nation. We do not compare in resources with Brazil. One of the missionaries in the interior placed in my hands a rock. It was practically solid iron. And the missionary said to me, “There are thousands of square miles of these mountains made out of solid iron.”
The city of Sao Paulo has eight million people in it. Sao Paulo and the two other cities, they are all one, eight million people. And it is the fastest growing city in the world. In Brazil there are practically one hundred million people now, and before the end of the century, within a few years, there will be more than two hundred million people in Brazil. But they face a spiraling inflationary upwardness that apparently the whole world is helpless before.
For example, if a great corporation goes to a bank to borrow money in Brazil, they will pay thirty percent interest by the year. And if you go to the bank to borrow money as an individual, you will pay two hundred percent interest a year.
When I said I cannot imagine such astronomical interests, they said to me, “But the inflationary pressures are so great in this country that, when you pay the money back, the money you pay back is increasingly worthless”; so that is why those vast, astronomical interest rates. Now, the phenomenon that I saw in the cities of South America, and they are vast, they are vast. Buenos Aires has a population of seven million. They are vast. When I went through those cities in South America and looked at those great, teeming, throbbing metropolitan areas, and especially in Brazil, there are literally miles and miles and miles of unfinished buildings; great apartment buildings, standing there gaunt; great skyscrapers standing there gaunt.
On the state university in the city of Rio, I looked at a mammoth building, twenty stories high, three to four blocks long. I asked the missionary “What is that tremendous building?” And he said, “It is the hospital, the teaching hospital for the great university.” “Well,” I said, “why isn’t it finished?” He said, “It has stood there for fifteen years just like that, just like that.” And that is the typical of uncounted buildings you will see over that country and in those great cities. So I said, “Why don’t they finish them?” And the answer was plain. “They have run out of money. Inflation has destroyed their ability to complete these projects.” Here is a man who would have a million cruzeiros to build a vast apartment complex. But by the time he got started in that building, inflation had made his million cruzeiros a drop in the bucket; the tremendous pressures of inflation. Now, those pressures are worldwide. And there has been no government, and there had been no nation yet that has been able to resist them.
So I come back to the United States of America, and I say to myself, “What a tragedy the bolivianos, what a tragedy the escudos, what a tragedy the cruzeiros, what a tragedy the inflation that simply destroys the ability of a people to build. What a tragedy!”
Then I began to think, “Why, is that unusual Bolivia? Is that unusual Chile? Is that unusual Argentina? Is that unusual Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil or the rest of them? Is that unusual?” Look at us! And let’s take a good look at us, a good one!
Between what you call the Criswell Building and the Riley Building, when I came here there was a residence on that lot. When I came here that residence and lot was offered to the First Baptist Church for $3,500, and the church turned it down. It cost too much. After I was here just a little while, I had an option, I had it in my hand, on the Riley building, the building at the corner, for $65,500. I pled with tears and on my knees that we buy that building. They officially appointed a committee and returned with a verdict, “It is too much money.”
After I was here at the church for a while, I said to one of our leading deacons in the church, “You see that corner lot right there? There are two boarding houses on it. And they are for sale. They want $9,000 for each one. It covered that entire area there, $9000 for each one.” “It’s too much money.” And it sold, I’m talking about after my coming, I’m not talking about the 1870s; after my coming here that lot sold for $18,000. And when I pled and begged and made appeal and finally for $35,000 we bought it. It was over the bitter opposition of some of the men in our church—too much money.
I think the Brazilian government ought to take a good look at themselves! I think the United States government ought to take a good look at itself. And I think the First Baptist Church in Dallas ought to take a good look at itself. You cannot detain or deter these inflationary pressures. And the story of our government and the story of the governments of the world has been the same throughout the ages and the ages. There is no exception.
And the story of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, from its inception to this present time, has been, “It is too much money. It is too much money.” And through the years and the years and the years, we have seen slip through our fingers some of the finest opportunities in this earth with that sorry myopic vision, blindness, “too much money, pastor, too much money.”
Well, this is what happened to me. Did you know I planned to resign my ministry in this church when I became sixty years of age? And next year I will be sixty years of age. I planned my ministry, after I had been pastor of the church here twenty-six years, I planned to retire from this pastorate. Next year, at the end of next year, when I am sixty years old, I had planned to retire. Then something happened to me in the Amazon jungle. It is a miracle of God, a miracle of God that I survived the fall of that plane in the Amazon jungle. And when I came back home, you can see on the map, from Brazilia to Panama, we flew over that Amazon jungle for over four hours, going five hundred and eighty miles an hour. We flew along the Amazon River for about three hundred miles.
And in that four hours I was over the Amazon jungle, I never saw a settlement. I never saw a bridge. I never saw a road. I never saw a sign of life for four hours in a big, four motor jet flying over that Amazon jungle. Yet when my little plane fell in it, there was a village right there below us, right there below us, the only one in thousands and hundreds of thousands of square miles, right there below us. So, I took it before God, and the Lord said to me, “I am not done with you yet. Not yet.” And God said to me, “Nor has the time come for you to lay this mantle down. There is a great assignment I have for you yet.”
So I have been probing the face of God and the mind of the Almighty, “Lord, what is that assignment?” Now some people will say, “Well, you are president of the Southern Baptist Convention.” Did you know I never think of that? Somebody has to remind me that I am president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I never think of it. But by day and by night and on my knees and in prayer, I remember I am pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And that assignment has become very clear to me, very clear. While I am still strong and well and have my finest faculties now, I think God has laid upon me as the pastor of this church, and upon the deacons as the elected custodians of our destiny, and upon this membership as fellow servants in the kingdom of God; I think God has laid upon us the final expansion of this church ministry.
Now that means not thousands of dollars. That means millions of dollars. It means millions of dollars! But I don’t want to hear from any man in this church what I have heard for twenty-four years—“Pastor, it cost too much.” I have been listening to that for twenty-four years, when the thing cost $3,500, when it cost $9,000, when it cost $65,000. I don’t want to hear that again! I’ve heard it for the last time under God! What I want our men to do and our membership to do is to sit down together and say it is not a question of how much. It is a question of how, and if it is possible to do it, tomorrow let’s begin, or yesterday.
And instead of weeping and lamenting and wringing our hands over the turn of events in the world, let’s do something about it! Let’s get a-hold of these youngsters. Let’s get a-hold of these young people. Let’s get a-hold of these young marrieds. Let’s get a-hold of these people. Let’s preach to them the Word of God! Let’s get them out of the den, and the dive, and the joint, and the road, and the parked automobile. Let’s get them down here in God’s program.
And then if we can let’s put our arms around the whole city. If we’ve got seven missions and God wants us to have fourteen, wonderful, Lord, here we are. Say the word and send us. And if they want us to help down there in that river ministry, and I am hereby asking our Chapel Choir this coming summer to go down there to that river ministry. You’ve got two sides. You’ve got Texas on one side and Old Mexico on the other. I want you to go down there and shake that whole earth for God down there, up and down that Rio Grande River. You’ve got, I don’t know how many, you’ve got a million people, two million people up and down that river. And you’ve got Old Mexico on the other side.
God has said something. Let’s listen. God has called us to a great assignment. Let’s get ready. Roll up your sleeves. Undo your tie. Take off your coat. Get down on your knees. Tell God about it. And let’s start. If it’s of Him, He will see us through. I am counting on you as I believe in God.
Now we are going to sing our hymn of appeal, and to have you come this morning would be a joy to our souls. Put your life in the church. Take Jesus as your Savior. The whole family of you, “Pastor, this is my wife and these are my children. All of us are coming.” As God shall say the word and open the door, make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.