Dear friends and family, silent readers, and fellow soldiers in the faith, greetings from Belize!
We thank and praise our Great God for His mercy, grace and power that has preserved us alive to this day! We also praise and thank Him for each trial and test, yes, even for old COVID! Thanks to the pandemic, people are more open than ever before to the gospel. The fields are teeming, there is work everywhere you turn, the sick, the despondent, the fearful, the spiritually dead and dying and bleeding are crying out for the hope and healing that God alone can give. We have been obliged to work differently and at times we feel limited and frustrated, yet looking back I can say that God has definitely led, at times in very unexpected ways, as He continues to patiently teach us to depend more fully on Him.
Last year’s spring program, session #13, officially ended in May with an on-campus mission camp challenge instead of the traditional mission trip, because we were in complete lockdown. In reality, session 13 extended through the summer as students were hardly able to leave campus, let alone the country.
About the same time, toward the end of May, my computer died a lingering death from which I did all in my power to save it but to no avail. For almost two months I was on an imposed computer sabbatical, and was forced to recognize how dependent I am on my computer! I believe that in the days ahead we will all have to learn more lessons of greater dependence on God and less on our machines, programs, strategies, and human helps. Although I got behind on a number of projects I had been working on, I had more time in the evenings for reading, memorizing Scripture, and going to bed earlier!
Lockdown restrictions were eased considerably in June and July, and we took advantage of the opportunity to ramp up evangelism in the surrounding villages. From June 25-27 one of our students, Jairo from Panama, organized a youth mission campout at the Chan Pine Ridge Church. The Youth camped at the church and during the day dedicated their time to visitation and community service projects. One morning we held a health fair on the church sidewalk and served 29, including 71 year-old Manuel Merino a habitual jogger who was impressed and stayed to talk about spiritual things.
The first week of July I made a trip to Cayo District, a three-hour drive from MOVE, to drop off three of our students to help Pastor Campbell, director of Personal Ministries in the Southwestern Belize conference and pastor of 9 churches. “This is a mission house!” he announced as he welcomed us into the spacious, nicely furnished parsonage. In the living room he had a studio set up where he was recording a series of messages based on Haskell’s book “The Cross and It’s Shadow.” Seeing a Macbook among the equipment, I thought to ask if he could recommend to me a computer dealer, and he gave me the contact of an Adventist brother in Belmopan who sells and repairs computers! Thanks to that contact, I got back in business with my computer situation, but I seem to have quite gotten out of my writing rhythm, and have as yet to recover.
July was also the month of vacation Bible schools. Lyli, Keila, Keren, Mindy and Lorena did three weeks of back-to-back vacation Bible schools in three of the local churches, and finished off teaching the sisters of a fourth church how to do the program themselves.
At the same time, Keila coordinated with Pastor Marshall Tzib, the president of the newly organized Northern Belize Mission to send some of our staff and students out to needy districts in Copper Bank and Sarteneja. The Shaw family labored in the latter village for three weeks with very positive results, as backsliders returned to church and 12 were baptized. Luis and Freddy made a similar effort in Copperbank. Santiago and Jairo camped out in Santa Martha and Chan Pine Ridge again, doing visitation and Bible work.
August witnessed a peanut crop harvest of several tons, over half the weight coming from the thick clay that clung to the shells in sticky clods. Hoop-houses for shading tomatoes and sweet pepper crops also made a great difference and we harvested hundreds of pounds of tomatoes which sold for up to $7.00 USD a gallon. (Prices rose through the fall and peaked at about $10 per gallon in December!)
In August, at Keila’s instigation, I also organized a one-week rotating mission campout to three different locations for youth from some of the local churches. One group offered mechanic clinics, another health consultations including blood sugar and blood pressure screening. The third group focused on personal evangelism and bible studies.
The day before the camp was supposed to end, we had to cut short our activities as the number of COVID cases suddenly began to skyrocket and the lockdown and curfew restrictions again came into force. By this time, most of our session 13 students had trickled out to their six-month assignments. I took another batch of four to the northern border where they crossed with less drama than the girls who had crossed in June. (You might remember the story I wrote “Miracle at the Border.”) They were bound for two mission projects in central Mexico. A remnant of a remnant remained here in Belize for triple overtime, including an impromptu, greatly modified class session #14 with a small group of youth from the local churches. Said class session only lasted a few weeks, but provided enough material to be the subject of a small book. Two of the students were recent converts baptized in July during an evangelistic effort spearheaded by the Chavez family in the village of Trinidad. After their baptism, Owen and Bryan both participated in the one-week rotating mission trip, and when it was over begged to come stay at MOVE and work and take Bible studies and mission classes. Owen unfortunately has backslidden to his old life. Please pray for his return! After his time at MOVE, Bryan Puerto went home to help his family. His first mission convert was his own dad who he persuaded to quit his life of drugs and drinking and give himself to Christ. Mr. Benancio Puerto is a new man since last December, and he can’t quit talking about how God used his son to call him back to Christ. The change in him has been remarkable and such a joy to see! While working with his dad, Bryan saved money to travel to Colombia where he just finished session #15 and will be going to serve at the new Hebron project in Laticia, Colombia.
As you may know, Lyli and I were supposed to go with the group that has been in Colombia this spring, but Lyli got sick just days before departure, and we ended up having to stay in Belize. We were disappointed to miss being a part of the adventure, but we can see God’s providence working through the unexpected change of plans. More on that later, Lord willing. Attached you will find a newsletter with pictures to catch you up on some of this year’s happenings.
Thanks for your interest, your prayers and support. May the grace of God sustain you day by day.
Kody & Lyli Kostenko