0roville Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Overseas Mission Reports Beliez 

Stories from Kody Kostenko at MOVE

dateline 02/15/18

“I still can’t believe that there is an Adventist church in Chan Pine Ridge!”
 
His comment caught me by surprise. I had met him for the first time at the church in Chan Pine Ridge that very morning, and now we were enjoying a fellowship meal at the MOVE campus.
 
“I used to colporteur in Chan Pine Ridge and the people were really closed-minded and even downright rude!” the brother continued. “In fact, there was a group that tried to hold evangelistic meetings there, but they got sabotaged. Someone even rubbed Pica Pica on the upholstery of their vehicles!”
 
“Wow, what’s Pica Pica? Sounds like something itchy!”
 
“Yes, it's a poisonous plant with hairy pods and it gives a terrible rash! Besides that they would disrupt the meetings and even cut out the lights. The heckling got so bad they ended up suspending the meetings! So how have people been treating you?”
 
“Quite well actually! They haven’t chased us out of town yet! We’ve experienced some prejudice from a few families in they way of suspicious glances and comments like “we have our church” when we try to visit them. We’ve also been insulted by a couple of drunks, but many of the people are actually quite receptive!” I replied.
 
The work in Chan Pine Ridge began to gain a foothold a few years ago when Miguel and Vilma Chavez, former volunteers at MOVE, felt a burden to take up the work in that community and they began regular house-to-house visitation, community service projects and small group meetings.  An evangelistic series resulted in 14 baptisms and the group acquired land and began building a church. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, most of the new members fell away. When the Chavez family received a call to Guatemala, Yaneth Robles and Ray and Phoebe Sikidge continued the visitation in Chan Pine Ridge and advanced the church construction. Ray and Phoebe were called to the Philippines about the time Lyli and I arrived to MOVE.
 
About this same time, Yaneth was praying fervently that God would send reinforcements: permanent Adventist members from the local vicinity to help raise up the church. God has been answering that prayer in extraordinary fashion. Four families simultaneously began to attend regularly. First there is the Bochub family: Sister Eva Bochub and her husband Agusto and their three children, Abdi, Isis and Uziel have been a tremendous blessing to our group. Brother Bochub has given the sound system, electric fans, and made a beautiful pulpit. They also regularly pick up those who need rides and bring them to church. Sister Eva is full of energy and hospitality and is active in visiting the sick and ministering to the needs of others. She teaches our primary Sabbath school class. The Bochub family has an extraordinary testimony that I will share in a future update.
 
The Tosh family also joined our group. Grandpa Margarito or his son Alberto drive the red work truck, and the rest of the family packs together in the cab and on wooden benches in the back. Margarito told his testimony how God saved him as a young man from falling into a life of drug trafficking. He later accepted the Adventist message after listening to a complete evangelistic series and Fatima bring a number of grandchildren, and Alberto and Lucy come with their two children, Donovan and Keila and some other cousins as well. Alberto grew up Adventist, but when his first wife died, he fell into drinking. At the bar that he frequented, he met Lucy, who worked there as a waitress. When they got married, Alberto decided it was time to quit drinking and began to study the Bible with his wife and two stepchildren. Last November they became the first to enter our church baptistery!

 

Dateline 04/06/18

 

Thank God, faithfulness is contagious! As you may recall from my February report, sometime last year, Alvina Valencia and her two children, Marina, 12 and Isaac, 4 began attending our church. At prayer time, Alvina would ask for special prayer for her husband, Luciano. Once in a while he would accompany his family to church, and last November we had the privilege of holding a worship service in their two-room house (see attached photo). In January, Luciano quit drinking and started coming to church regularly. In February, he started Bible studies.
 
“I’m so happy because God did a miracle in my life with my daughter”
 
Mr. Luciano’s smile spread from ear to ear. We were about to have our second Bible study together, but I wasn’t about to miss this story!
 
            “Tell me about it!”
 
“My daughter Marina was an average student. She was getting by like scrape dog with 72%.”
 
“Scrape dog?”
 
“Yeah, that’s how we call it here when you barely pass. And along with all the rest of the barely passing students, the teachers make her go to extra classes and pay $6 every Saturday. I think it’s just something the teachers do when they need a little extra money.” He laughed.
 
Here in Belize not even public education is free, and many families make big sacrifices to try to give their children a good education.
 
“At first she started going because that was the only day they gave those extra classes and she needed it to pass.” Luciano continued.
 
I well remembered when Marina had begun to miss church. Lyli and some of the other missionaries had spoken to her, encouraging her to be faithful and to be an example and testimony to her family.  Now I learned that Mr. Luciano, who grew up Adventist himself, had been inspired to encourage his daughter at home as well.
 
 “I told her, ’You have from Monday to Friday to learn it.’” Luciano continued. “‘Pay attention and learn it. The teacher can fill your page with demerits for not going to school on Sabbath if she wants to.’
 
“I gave her 50 cents every school day to buy juice and chips at school. I told her to be faithful to God and pay her 25 cents of tithe each week. I don’t know how it happened, but it’s like a miracle! When she stopped going to reinforcement on Sabbaths and started paying her tithe, her grades went up from 72% to 88%!” He beamed. God’s faithfulness to Marina when she decided to be faithful to Him has obviously encouraged Luciano to be more faithful too.  Praise God for His great faithfulness and that He is willing to make us faithful too!
 
 “Since I stopped drinking this new year, there is so much more peace in my home.” Luciano told me. “I don’t fight any more with my wife. I want to be a good example for my kids. The other day the police raided a house on our street, and took the young man away in handcuffs. Isaac asked me why, and I told him because he was doing bad things like selling drugs. Isaac said, ‘I’m so glad my Daddy doesn’t do bad

 

 

 

 

Dateline Aug 5,2018

 

“God’s Hand Still Intervenes”

 

The title of this mission report is adapted from that of an old book by W.A. Spicer and Helen Spicer Menkel published back about the time I was born.  The book tells 27 incredible stories of God’s miraculous intervention that surpass the wildest tales you’ve heard on Television, or the sensational facts and stories you may have seen in collections like Ripley’s “Believe it or Not”. As I read the astounding descriptions of God’s saving grace in action, I was struck with the thought that, if we are faithful, one day we shall all read from the records of our own lives in the heavenly registry, equally miraculous and epic accounts of God’s direct intervention. We may not now be often privileged to trace His providence in the details of our daily lives, but there are still times when the eye of faith captures the movements of His ever-present fiery hosts, just as Elisha’s servant saw them on the hills of Dothan. 

About two weeks ago, Lyli and I returned to our mission post in north-central Belize to help staff a five-day summit for missionaries from a number of different projects across central and South America. Jeff Sutton made a flight south in the Conquest to pick up eight of our visitors in Bolivia and Colombia, but suffered a series of setbacks ranging from the red tape of international aviation to malfunctioning hydraulics on the landing gear. Their prospective Wednesday noon arrival turned into Wednesday evening, then Thursday morning.  

“Please pray for the mechanic who is helping Jeff work on the plane” one of the passengers, our friend Jenny Cardoza messaged Lyli. “He has an important test today and he sacrificed his study time last night to help Jeff.”

Just before breakfast on Thursday, we learned the plane was still grounded in Medellin, Colombia.  I knew Jeff would be spending a lot more time working on the plane, and maybe it was the message we received the night before, but I felt impressed that God had more important plans than ours in all of this, and it could very well have something to do with this mechanic. As Lyli and I prayed, I felt compelled to ask for something specific.

            “Lord, please give special wisdom and patience to Jeff as he works on the plane, and despite the stress, frustration and discouragement he surely feels, help him not to miss any opportunities to witness that You may put before him. As he works with the mechanics, may they be open to receive truth, and may Your name be glorified. You know we would like the plane to get fixed and be able to come today, but we want Your will to be done and we leave everything in your hands.” 

It was hard to plan or decide how to proceed with the summit. Everything was up in the air, except for the mission plane and our would-be travelers, of course. More complications postponed the group’s prospective arrival to Thursday afternoon, and then pushed it back again to Friday morning. The needed tools to flare the tips of a piece of aluminum tubing were nowhere to be found in all of Medellin.

Meanwhile, here in Belize, Keila decided to begin the summit activities with the half dozen or so missionaries who had arrived from Mexico. By Friday afternoon, Jeff’s last-ditch effort to liberate the plane and make the final segment of the journey before Sabbath, fell through, and at least it was now clear they would not be able to join us even for the weekend.

Oh, I should mention that the name or our mission summit was “By Many or by Few,” (taken from the words of Jonathan to his armor bearer before they launched their two-man attack on the Philistine hordes.) It would seem God was testing our willingness to put our theme into practice, as we watched our planned attendance dwindle away like Saul’s army.

Interestingly, one of the purposes of our mission summit was to encourage unity and teamwork between mission projects. God took that in hand, as few things unite people more than to pass through trials together! The stranded missionaries prayed together, shared food and resources, and no doubt bonded in ways they never could have simply through our summit meetings and activities!

            Sometimes it’s hard to understand why our carefully laid plans and best efforts end in apparent failure. Especially when all we want to do is something good in the work of the Lord. But it is a beautiful thing to know we can trust God anyway. I love that quote from the chapter “Help in Daily Living” in the book Ministry of Healing. 

            “Often our plans fail that God's plans for us may succeed.[…] Even when called upon to surrender those things which in themselves are good, we may be sure that God is thus working out for us some higher good.”  {MH 473.3-4}  

                  We had the privilege of seeing at least part of that higher good in this case when Keila shared an exciting piece of news with us. 

“Guess what! The mechanic who helped Jeff is quitting his job and coming to MOVE to take the next course!”

In a matter of three days, Sebastian Diaz, a 22-year-old aeronautics mechanic working for Avianca airlines, quit his job, sold his motorcycle, got his passport, packed his suitcase, and boarded the plane with the other missionaries, occupying the seat vacated by a missionary who was forced to stay in Colombia because of the delays.

As it turns out, Sebastian was the same mechanic our friend Jenny had written about and who we had prayed for! What a thrill to be allowed to participate in God’s plans even in such a small way! On Wednesday, August 1, the mission plane arrived in Belize.

Over the last few days we have had a rerun of our mission summit with the second batch of missionaries, and I have been able to piece together a little more of Sebastian’s story. His parents separated before he was born, and his aunt, who is the only Adventist in all his family, raised him until the age of eight years. He credits this early upbringing as the reason he is an Adventist today. After a couple of years wandering in the world as a teenager, he was reconverted, and felt God calling him to mission work. By this time he had completed most of his studies as an airplane mechanic, but had been unable to get the internship that he needed in order to graduate and obtain his license. For quite some time he was without work, and he began to study the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy three hours a day.

“That was when I read Counsels on Diets and Foodsand God convicted me I needed to change my diet.” Sebastian told me. “I quit eating meat. Then I quit eating animal products all together. When God shows me something, I like to implement it right away! I became very active working with the local church. All the while, my conviction that I must go to the mission field deepened. Somehow I found out about a mission aviation project in Guyana. I was so excited! I didn’t even know that such a thing existed! Since I couldn’t get an internship to finish my mechanic’s license, I decided to apply for every mission project that I could find that had anything to do with airplanes. Out of a half-dozen applications, not one responded. So I prayed and said, ‘Lord, I don't understand! If you want me to go to the mission field, please let one of these projects contact me! If you have other plans, at least help me get an internship so I can finish school and get my license but please don’t leave me hanging here with nothing to do!’ After that prayer I miraculously received an invitation from a company to intern with them without the arbitration of the mechanic’s school on my behalf. Usually the school finds internships for their students, but they had been unable to place me, and now I got an internship out of the blue without their intervention. I took that as the answer to my prayer, and started work with the company. Not long afterward, I received a response from one of the mission projects, and I had to tell them that I was finishing my certifications now, but I would be available in a year and a half, as soon as I had my license.”

During the first three months of his internship, Sebastian faced tremendous pressure to break the Sabbath.

“I knew that eventually the test would come where I would be forced to choose between getting my mechanic’s license and being faithful to God regarding the Sabbath, and I prayed that God would strengthen me to pass the test when it came.” Sebastian told me. On multiple occasions he was disciplined with pay cuts and was given the worst shifts and the dirtiest work for his refusal to work on Sabbath. Eventually the company gave him an ultimatum:

“If you don’t work Saturday, the next day you come in you will be fired!” they threatened.  

“My family told me I was a lunatic, and that my church had brainwashed me and that I was going to lose everything I had worked for. But when I went back to work after keeping Sabbath, no one at the company said anything to me. Somehow they never followed through.”

Then one day the licensing school called.

“We’ve been receiving a lot of complaints from the company about you. If it were anyone else we would have expelled you from our program long ago, but you have been one of our top students with exemplary conduct and service! We just don’t understand what is going on! The time has come for you to make a decision. Either you work on Saturday, or we will have to cancel your transcripts and your scholarships”  

“Cancel them” Sebastian replied without delay.

“Are you sure? You can’t be serious! You will lose everything you have worked for up until now!”

But Sebastian’s mind was made up.

“I literally felt a hand on my shoulder as I made my reply, and it was as if a voice in my head said, ‘you did the right thing.’ I have never felt such peace and assurance as I did at that moment” Sebastian testified.

God worked miraculously on behalf of His faithful child. Not only did Sebastian not lose his internship, but he finished with decorations as the best intern the company had ever employed. Of the three interns who finished simultaneously, he was the only one to be offered employment within two days of receiving his license. Not only that, but he had Sabbaths off!

“Even though God blessed me so much with such a job, I knew that I must still go to the mission field, but I didn’t know when!” Sebastian continued. “My coworkers pressured me to join them in their materialistic and worldly pursuits, and I vowed that after two years I would quit my job no matter what, because I was afraid that in my present environment I would lose my vision. Then Genith, a friend of mine, called and said that a mission plane would be passing through the airport where I worked if I wanted to see it and meet the pilot. That’s how I met Jeff. As we talked, I felt the great desire to go with them on that plane and take the course at MOVE, but I was sure it would not be possible. When I watched the plane take off, I thought ‘at least now I can forget about it.’ I was so surprised when Genith called me again a few hours later and said the plane had returned because of the problem with the landing gear.”

Besides helping Jeff work on the plane, Sebastian ended up spending Sabbath afternoon with the mission group. When Ruth, one of the traveling missionaries told Sebastian that she would not be able to leave with the plane because of the delays, she told Sebastian, “That seat is for you!”

And you already know the rest of the story! “God’s hand still intervenes!”

 

 

P.S. Let me know if the pictures don't come through. Attached should be a picture of Sebastian and the plane as well as a group shot of Jeff, Sebastian and all the missionaries. 

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Kody & Lyli Kostenko