Sorry I have been remiss in updating you. I pray this report will bring you a special blessing and some extra holiday cheer. There are a few pictures attached as well. Missing you all and looking forward to the day when we can all be around that fabulous table together with our wonderful Savior! Until then, there is a great work to be done and little time.
Mission Trip to San Pedro
“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and [then] cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” John 4:35
Our second session of classes for the year finished last month at our little missionary training school. One of the highlights for me was the one-week mission trip to the Mayan village of San Pedro Columbia in the southern mountains of Belize. The mission trip is completely organized and executed by the students as the culmination of their three-month training. The staff is simply there to work and follow instructions and intervene only if a major problem arises. It was exciting to see the students learn and grow as they tried to organize the work and work together.
As usual, the best moments of the mission trip for me were the personal contacts with the people in the village. Miguel is a young husband and father who makes his living cutting lumber with his chainsaw. His chainsaw wouldn’t start, so he brought it to us during our mechanics brigade. While I tried to diagnose the problem, he sat and watched, because, according to him, he wanted to learn. I told him I’m still learning myself, but he was welcome to watch all he wanted. In the meantime, he began to ask me questions.
“So why do you worship on Saturday instead of Sunday?”
“Well, that is the day that God himself kept and made holy and asks us to keep holy according to the Scriptures” I explained, and cited Genesis 2:1 and Exodus 20:8-11. “Why do you keep Sunday?” I asked.
“Oh, because Jesus resurrected on Sunday” he replied.
“The Bible does say that Jesus resurrected on Sunday, but I’ve never found a text that gives that as a reason to keep Sunday holy! Have you ever read a verse that says that?” I asked.
“Well, no.” he smiled sheepishly.
“Well if you find one be sure and let me know!” I replied. “It is very important that what we believe and practice be founded on the Word of God!”
Thank God, I found the problem on the chainsaw: it needed a small rubber seal for the needle valve in the carburetor. Miguel left his saw until the next day when I was able to get the part and put the saw back together. God answered my prayer, and we got the saw to run, after fiddling at length with the carburetor adjustment screws. Miguel was quite pleased. Along with his saw, he left with an invitation to the evening meetings as well as some literature on the Sabbath and a copy of Steps to Christ.
Sammy is another young father who works at a Butterfly farm a few miles from the village where he collects and counts thousands of eggs every day. Lyli and I met him while washing clothes at the river. He was very friendly and even invited us to his house to look at his butterfly collection. I was able to visit him in his home on three occasions during the week and our friendship opened the door to share a prayer with them and leave them some literature as well.
One other impressive contact Lyli and I made occurred during the daily house-to-house visitation that Jair and Victor, the directors of evangelism had programmed. We had no assigned area, so we prayed that God would guide our steps.
“Lord, lead us to someone who is really seeking truth.” I prayed. We followed the street past the village school, and turned on another street that took us toward the village outskirts to the south, but noticed that two other visiting groups were already ahead of us on the same road. One group took the next crossroad, and we followed the other group until they passed the next fork in the road that turned uphill.
“Let’s go this way,” Lyli said. The second house on the uphill road was a hut perched another 50 feet up a steep stairway cut out of the embankment.
“¡Dias!” we called out with the abbreviated greeting typical in Belize when we paused halfway up the stairs.
“It doesn’t look like anyone’s home” I remarked, noting the closed doors and windows.
But Lyli called out several more times as we approached. The door opened, and a young man emerged. We introduced ourselves and explained our visit
“We are just getting to know the folks around the community and letting them know about the activities happening in the community center during the week.”
“Oh, that’s nice!” He said. “Please come in!”
As my eyes adjusted to the dim one-room interior, he offered us a seat and then sat down on the edge of his bed.
His name was Arjel. We talked for a few minutes, asking about his family and how long he had lived in the village. He had lived here all his life and his parents lived next door.
Lord, give me an opportunity to turn the conversation to spiritual things. I prayed.
“What are your hobbies?” was the next question that came out of my mouth. That’s probably not the kind of question that will help answer my prayer, I thought.
“I used to really be into music, and even worked as a DJ, but when I started reading the Bible about two years ago I realized that I needed to leave that kind of music behind. Now I just like to study the Bible. In fact I was reading just now when you got here,” he smiled and motioned to an open Bible on a small table next to his bed. I was flabbergasted.
“You couldn’t have a better hobby!” I grinned. “I love to study the Bible too!”
“Do you believe that God can speak to us through dreams?” he asked.
“Why yes, the Bible gives us many examples of people who had dreams from God” I cited several examples, being careful to mention that dreams from God will never contradict the Word of God (Deut 13:1-4).
“I had a dream that I need to be baptized in the river, I don’t know why” Arjel continued. “I was baptized as a baby in the Catholic church, but I don’t even remember it. It seems to me that the Bible teaches that baptism should be a choice we make for ourselves when we desire to have a new life in Christ.”
“Yes, that is what I find in the Bible as well!” I confirmed. “Have you ever read in the Bible about the way that we should be baptized and why that is important?”
“No, I haven’t” he replied.
“Would you like to see some verses about that?”
“Oh, absolutely!” He replied, and immediately retrieved his Bible.
“I think that will help you understand why you should be baptized in the river or a similar body of water instead of just being sprinkled!”
I took him through the story of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan and the emphasis in the Scriptures on immersion and how that symbolizes our participation in the death and the resurrection of Christ (Col 2:12-13).
“Wow, that makes sense!” he enthused.
“Do you have anyone here to fellowship and study the Bible with?” I asked him, hopeful to connect him with the small group of Adventist believers.
“No, not here in San Pedro” he replied. My hopes soared, and I could already imagine him being baptized into our fellowship in the near future.
“There are some brothers who come visit me occasionally, and they seem very biblical. They are from a church in Guatemala, it’s called La Iglesia de Dios la Hermosa. They have the power of the Holy Spirit, and even cast out demons. They put their finger on the person, and the demon comes out, because in the Bible it says that Jesus cast out demons with the finger of God. What do you think about that?”
Immediately, several Bible texts flashed into my memory and I realized I had studied this before!
“I remember that verse where Jesus said that He cast out demons with the finger of God. Let me see if I can find it” I answered, knowing that I had the reference for the companion text written in the margin.
“Here it is, in Luke 11:20. ‘But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.’ One thing that is really important when we study Scripture is to compare what the Bible says about the same topic in other passages. In Matthew 12:28 we find an almost identical verse. It says, ‘But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.’ So here we see a parallel between “The finger of God” and “The Spirit of God.” Also, if you read the accounts of Jesus casting out demons, I can’t recall that it ever mentions that he touched them in a certain way with His finger. Instead, He merely spoke, commanding the devil to come out. When you study the connection between the Spirit of God and the Word of God, you will see that they are inseparable. Which reminds me, it was the finger of God that wrote the law of God on the tables of stone! That’s why the Word of God is alive and powerful. The Holy Spirit will never work contrary to the Bible.”
We continued to share with each other from the Bible. The time flew by and soon we had to excuse ourselves to return to the Community Center for lunch. Curious about the church Arjel had mentioned, I looked them up on the internet. The only page I could find mentioned that they had services on Sabbath as well as Sunday, and I hoped
I was not able to visit Arjel again until Sabbath morning before church. I found him working in his yard. I gave him some literature and invited him to join us for church or at least for the concert planned in the evening. Unfortunately he never came, but I continue to pray for him and that the Holy Spirit will guide him into all truth as he continues to search the Scriptures.
Again I am amazed by the singular fashion in which God answers our prayers and condescends to use weak, imperfect instruments like me in such a grand work. May we be ever more faithful, more attentive, more passionate in the mission our God has given us.
This class session ended with 17 students committed to the following mission posts for from six months to two years:
1.Melinda Tzib and Ellie Kahler, Bible workers working with the Conference of Northern Peru
- Nayeli Castillo, Marisol Juarez, and Isai Perez at Familia Feliz in Bolivia
- Jair Flores, Red Advenir, TV station in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
- Ana Paola Santander, UETIRG, Bolivia Industrial School, Guayaramerin.
- Israel Rayos, Japan Christian Services, Japan
- Aaron Chavez, MAJAL, Mexico
- Nathan Wheeler, Bethany School, Guayana.
- Joshua Pimentel, He’s Coming Back Network, Philippines
- Rachel Skuva, Pioneer work, Ukraine.
- Grace Queva, Springs of Life, Poland
- Katelyn Johnson, Adventist Frontier Missions, Ireland.
- Wendy Gamboa, Orphanage in Tanania.
- Victor Adonis, PAMAS, Philippines.
- Jonathan Benson, returns to MOVE, previously fulfilled his six month assignment in Familia Feliz, Bolivia.
Kody & Lyli Kostenko