Chaij, Nicolás (1906–2006)

By Daniel Oscar Plenc

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Daniel Oscar Plenc, Th.D. (River Plate Adventist University, Entre Ríos, Argentina), currently works as a theology professor and director of the White Research Center at the River Plate Adventist University. He worked as a district pastor for twelve years. He is married to Lissie Ziegler and has three children.

First Published: January 29, 2020

Nicolás Chaij was an Adventist pastor and a renowned promoter of the publication work in the South American and in the Inter-American divisions.1 2

Early Years

Nicolás was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 21, 1906. His parents, Gabriel (Gebroil) Chaij (1876–1945) and Agustina (Futín) Samaan (1877–1944), emigrated from Lebanon in December 1905 with two children.3 Nicolás was born a month after his family arrived in the country. The Chaij family was looking for better living conditions and wanted to live in a Christian community. They were Christians, faithful readers of the Bible. Gabriel was an Orthodox Christian, and Futin was Evangelical. They first lived in a town called San Fernando, Buenos Aires, and in 1917 they moved to the capital, where they dedicated themselves to commerce. Over time the Chaijs formed a family of eight children, six boys and two girls: Miguel (1900–1957), Alfredo (1902–1964), Afif (1903–1963), Nicolás (1906–2006), Fernando (1909–1991), Victoria (1912–1991), Fortunato (1914–1940), and Adela (1916–2011). Five of them served in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.4 Nicolás Chaij attended an evangelical school and then a public school. He attended the secondary school in Colegio Nacional [National College]. Simultaneously he was attending Sunday school, the Anglican Church, the Salvation Army, and the Methodist Church. He was happy to accept Jesus as his personal Savior.

When Nicoás was 17, he decided to become independent from his parents. He then thought of joining the army and become a soldier. He learned the trade of tailor, then moved to Campana and then to Balcarce, in Buenos Aires province. Although he attended the Methodist church, he felt depressed. On Christmas 1924, in the Methodist church, he met two young Adventist canvassers: Braulio Pérez Marcio and Daniel Hämmerly Dupuy.5 He had never heard of the Seventh-day Adventists. The canvassers gave him Bible studies and invited him to study at the River Plate Adventist Academy, located in Entre Ríos, Argentina.

Education, Marriage, and Work

Nicolás Chaij was the first Adventist in the family. He was followed by his siblings Miguel, Fernando, Adela, Victoria, and Fortunato, and his parents, reaching 30 of his relatives in total. Eleven of them became Adventist workers.6

In 1925 Chaij went to Puiggari, Entre Ríos, where he spent seven happy years in the River Plate Adventist Academy and River Plate Sanitarium and Hospital. In 1931 he finished the nursing course and in 1932 he graduated in theology.7 To support his education, he continued to work as a tailor in parallel with his studies and as a very successful canvasser during holidays. In River Plate Adventist Academy he met his future wife, Margarita Emma Legarda. Margarita was the second daughter of Valeria Gastón and Antonio Legarda, who had emigrated from Spain (1907) and settled in Bahía Blanca, province of Buenos Aires.8 Nicolás Chaij and Margarita Legarda married in the Palermo church, Buenos Aires.

In 1933 he started his first job as a pastor in the church of Junín, Buenos Aires, in a congregation of 40 members, to which were added 20 converts that year. Between 1934 and 1938 he became canvassing director in Uruguay, where he confirmed his vocation to work in the press.9 In this country he had a plan to sell religious books together with Bibles. From a humble beginning he managed to lead the Uruguay Mission to second place in sales in the South American Division. In Montevideo, Uruguay, his son Daniel was born.

After five years in Uruguay he dedicated six years (1939–1944) to work as a canvassing director for Central Argentine Conference, based in Paraná, Entre Ríos, Argentina. And there his daughter Selma was born.

Work in the Inter-American and South American Divisions

In 1944 he was called to work as a director of the Publications Department of the Antillean Union Mission (including Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico), based in Havana, Cuba. Before moving, he was ordained as a minister by Reuben R. Figuhr, president of the South American Division. He served in the Inter-American Division for five years.10 

On two occasions Nicolás Chaij went to the United States to study for a short period of time: at Washington Seminary (1947), and at Southern Missionary College, Collegedale, Tennessee (1952), where he received the Bachelor of Arts degree.

For three years Nicolás Chaij worked as a Bible and literature professor at Colegio Vocacional de América Central [Central America Vocational College] (currently Central America Adventist University) in Costa Rica, which belongs to the Central American Union. Margarita worked and taught at the same institution. In that school Daniel graduated from high school and Selma from primary school.

After his educational experience Nicolás worked for two years (1952–1954) at Pacific Press as director of Hispanic publications and director of El Centinela [The Sentinel] review, along with other editorial responsibilities. There he prepared 26 mission brochures, called “Guiding Pages,” for the Hispanic churches. Meanwhile, Margarita worked in the bookbinding department.

In July 1954 the General Conference session meeting held in San Francisco, California, appointed him as a director of the Publishing Department of the South American Division, based in Montevideo, Uruguay. They remained in South America for 12 years, where they worked intensively and joyfully.11 Each year Chaij used to teach approximately 25 to 30 courses. Meanwhile, Daniel and Selma settled in the United States.12 In the General Conference session (1966) in Detroit, Michigan, Chaij was appointed as a director of publication for the Inter-American Division, based in Miami. He worked there for seven years, until his retirement.

Later Years

In total Nicolás Chaij worked for 40 years, 19 of them as publication director of the South American and Inter-American divisions. It was, in his words, the happiest years for him and his family.13 He retired at the age of 67, in 1973. Then he devoted his time to translation. He translated 14 books, articles, and other minor works. The Stampley Enterprises Press of Charlotte, North Carolina, commissioned him to do the orthographic corrections of the 1909 Reina-Valera version of the Bible, which was published in 1979. For seven years he worked on revising the Reina-Valera 1909 version, comparing with other Bible versions and Bible comments, with the help of Bible scholars.14 Thus the Nueva Reina-Valera [New King James Version] was launched, and the Emanuel Bible Society was registered in 1985 in Florida.15 In 1985, Montemorelos University granted to Nicolás Chaij an honorary doctorate.

After 28 years of living in Miami, Chaij and his wife moved to the rural area of Avon Park, Florida. Nicolás died peacefully in his sleep, at the age of 100, on May 31, 2006.

His Legacy

Nicolás Chaij became an Adventist because of the beautiful work of the student canvassers, and he dedicated most of his life to the publishing ministry. He seems to have made more than 35,000 visits during his canvassing work. During the five years he served in the Antillean Union Mission, he accompanied 125 canvassers. He was always close to them, training them and accompanying them in their work. In his autobiography he says that he had the privilege of working for God in all the countries of the three American continents.16 He was a true leader and teacher of the Adventist publications.17

Sources

Chaij, Nicolás. “¿A quién enviar?” [Whom to Send?]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], February 1, 1949.

———. “Así alumbre vuestra luz” [Thus Shine Your Light]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], June 1, 1936.

———. “Colportores que ganan almas” [Canvassers Who Win Souls]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], December 1, 1959.

———. “Diez milagros en el colportaje” [Ten Miracles in Canvassing]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], September 1, 1963.

———. El colportor de éxito [The Successful Canvasser]. Buenos Aires: South American Spanish Publishing House, 1961.

———. “Frutos del colportaje en Uruguay” [Fruits of Canvassing in Uruguay]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], August 31, 1936.

———. “Lo que relata un nuevo colportor” [What a New Canvasser Tells]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], August 31, 1936.

———. Maravillas del colportaje [Wonders of Canvassing]. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1973.

———. “Maravillas grandes y pequeñas” [Big and Small Wonders]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], September 1, 1962.

———. Métodos de campeones [Champion Methods]. Miami: APIA, 2000.

———. “Milagros divinos en el colportaje” [Divine Miracles in Canvassing]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], July 1, 1959.

———. Milagros en mi vida [Miracles in My Life]. Miami: Inter-American Division Publishing Ministry, 1998.

———. “Oraciones y lágrimas” [Prayers and Tears]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], July 20, 1936.

———. “Una cadena de milagros” [A Chain of Miracles]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], August 1, 1965.

———. “Una necesidad urgente” [An Urgent Need]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], January 1, 1958.

———. “Una obra divina” [A Divine Work]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], March 1, 1961.

———. “Un colportor chileno relata diez cosas edificantes” [A Chilean Canvasser Recounts Ten Edifying Things]. Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], December 1, 1961.

Chaij, Nicolás. Victorias del colportaje en Sudamérica [Canvassing Vctories in South America]. Montevideo, Uruguay: South American Division, 1966.

La Voz del Colegio [Voice of the Academy]: Review Monthly Published by Students of the River Plate Adventist Academy 10. Puiggari, Entre Ríos: November 1, 1932.

Notes

  1. Much of his career can be read in his autobiographical work, written at age 91: Nicolás Chaij, Milagros en mi vida [Miracles in My Life] (Miami: Inter-American Division Publishing Ministry, 1998). Additional information can be found in his letter to Humberto Raúl Treiyer, written in Miami on October 16, 1980, with a personal record, available in the archives of Ellen G. White Research Center, Argentina. Also see: Nicolás Chaij, “Oraciones y lágrimas” [Prayers and Tears], Adventist Review, July 20, 1936, 14.

  2. They are the following: El colportor de éxito [The Successful Canvasser] (Buenos Aires: South American Spanish Publishing House, 1961); Victorias del colportaje en Sudamérica [Canvassing Victories in South America] (Montevideo, Uruguay: South American Division, 1966); Maravillas del colportaje [Wonders of Canvassing] (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1973); Métodos de campeones [Champion Methods] (Miami: APIA, 2000).

  3. Gabriel (29 years old) and Agustina (28 years old) arrived in Argentina with their children Miguel and Alfredo; his son Afif remained in Lebanon with Samaan grandparents until he was 16 years old. He married in Lebanon in 1898. In his autobiography Nicolás Chaij writes his mother's last name as Sammán. Two brothers of Gabriel, called Emilio and Abraham, were the first to move to Argentina.

  4. Fernando Chaij, Nicolás’ younger brother, accepted Adventism at age 18. He was an educator, writer and editor. He got a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Buenos Aires. He was editorial director of the South America Spanish Publishing House (Buenos Aires, Argentina), general director of River Plate Adventist Academy (Entre Ríos, Argentina) and director of Inter-American Publications of the Pacific Press Publishing Association (Mountain View, California). (See: Nicolás Chaij, “Mi admirado hermano Fernando” [My Beloved Brother Fernando], Milagros en mi vida [Miracles in My Life], 160–165). Victoria was a secretary at the River Plate Adventist Academy for 35 years. Adela Chaij studied at the River Plate Adventist Academy, was a teacher and accompanied her husband, educator David Hall Rhys, in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, and the United States.

  5. Braulio Pérez Marcio (1904–1974) was an outstanding pastor, founder, and speaker of the radio program La voz de la esperanza [The Voice of Hope] in Spanish. Daniel Hämmerly Dupuy (1907–1972), another outstanding Adventist worker, evangelist, educator, and prolific writer. In his book Milagros de mi vida [Miracles of My Life], Chaij states that his contact with Adventists occurred on Christmas 1925.

  6. Examples of this are Gabriel Chaij and Enrique Chaij, Nicolás Chaij’s nephews (see Nicolás Chaij, “Dos grandes sobrinos” [Two Great Nephews], Milagros de mi vida [Miracles of My Life], 183–185).

  7. La Voz del Colegio [Voice of the Academy]: Monthly Review Published by Students of the River Plate Adventist Academy10 (Puiggari, Entre Ríos: November 1, 1932).

  8. Legarda had six daughters and one son: María, Margarita, Faustina, Angelita, Aurora, Rosario, and David.

  9. See Nicolás Chaij, “Así alumbre vuestra luz” [Thus Shine Your Light], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], June 1, 1936, 16; “Frutos del colportaje en Uruguay” [Fruits of Canvassing in Uruguay], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], August 31, 1936, 10; “Lo que relata un nuevo colportor” [What a New Canvasser Tells], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], August 31, 1936, 11.

  10. See Nicolás Chaij, “¿A quién enviar?” [Whom to Send?], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], February 1, 1949, 9.

  11.  The following articles correspond to this period: Nicolás Chaij, “Una necesidad urgente” [An Urgent Need], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], January 1, 1958, 2, 3; “Milagros divinos en el colportaje” [Divine Miracles in Canvassing], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], July 1, 1959, 9, 10; “Colportores que ganan almas” [Canvassers Who Win Souls], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], December 1, 1959, 16; “Una obra divina” [A Divine Work], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], March 1, 1961, 3, 5; “Un colportor chileno relata diez cosas edificantes” [A Chilean Canvasser Recounts Ten Edifying Things], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review] (December 1, 1961): 12-13; “Maravillas grandes y pequeñas” [Big and small wonders], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], September 1, 1962, 10, 12; “Diez milagros en el colportaje” [Ten Miracles in Canvassing], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], September 1, 1963, 10; “Una cadena de milagros” [A Chain of Miracles], Revista Adventista [Adventist Review], August 1, 1965, 16, 17.

  12. Daniel Chaij earned a master's degree in administration from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. in administration from Andrews University. He married Vivian Maas. He was counselor minister for the United States Foreign Service. Selma Chaij was a dentist in the Adventist Health White Memorial, California. In 1971 she completed a master's degree in nutrition at Loma Linda University, California, and in 1982 she got a Ph.D. in psychology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She married Orlando Andrés Mastrapa. She was director of the doctoral program of the Department of Psychological Counseling at Andrews University.

  13. Chaij, Milagros de mi vida [Miracles of My Life], 132.

  14. The review group was made up of 49 evangelical, Catholic, and Jewish Bible scholars, from 12 denominations, 12 universities and ten countries.

  15. The version was published by the Inter-American Division Publishing Ministry. The rights were intended to help missionary students. The 1996 edition was printed by the Review and Herald Publishing Association. The Nueva Reina-Valera 2000 [New Reina-Valera 2000] is published by the South American Spanish Publishing House of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as New Life Editions.

  16. Chaij, Milagros en mi vida [Miracles in My Life], 196.

  17. Alberto R. Treiyer said: “For several decades Pastor Nicolás Chaij personified the Adventist publication ministry in Latin America, having held leadership positions at the conference, union, and division levels. Many of us learned from him or his disciples the technique of presenting the books and reviews of our church with dignity and persuasion. It is possible that no other Adventist worker has visited more cities and towns in the Americas than Mr. Nicolás, spreading the Bible truth that transforms lives. . . . Nicolás Chaij was a leader of medium height and distinguished appearance, who spoke politely but with deep conviction. He had a simple and exemplary life of dedication and faith. After retiring from the denominational service, he devoted decades and effort to the book he knew thoroughly and that was his daily spiritual food, the Word of God. What began as a personal project of in-depth study later became an editorial project. Based on the classic Spanish version of the Scriptures and with the advice of scholars, Chaij was patiently and neatly developing the Nueva Reina-Valera 2000 [New Reina-Valera 2000] that is known in wide circles of the Hispanic world. . . . Dedicated, modest, faithful, Mr. Chaij sleeps the sleep of the righteous and await the call of the Creator of Life on the glorious morning of the resurrection.” Sent to an email group called Pastoral Meeting as an announcement of the death of Nicolás Chaij.

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Plenc, Daniel Oscar. "Chaij, Nicolás (1906–2006)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed February 26, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8I80.

Plenc, Daniel Oscar. "Chaij, Nicolás (1906–2006)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access February 26, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8I80.

Plenc, Daniel Oscar (2020, January 29). Chaij, Nicolás (1906–2006). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 26, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8I80.