Dear friends and family


You must pardon my stylistic deficiency in this report as I type this on the fly as we wrap up this year’s first three-month mission training program with a flurry this week. The commission ceremony for generation nine will take place this coming weekend, and 12 fine young people will go forth to their respective mission posts, from Nepal to Bolivia and other places in between.

We just got back from the customary weeklong mission trip organized, planned and executed by our student body at the conclusion of every three-month session. This time we were in Punta Gorda, commonly referred to as P.G., a distinctly Caribbean seaside town of about 6000 people where one of the main drags is appropriately dubbed “Rasta man Street” and a large oceanfront billboard in Creole reads “Ya da fu we, Belize!”  (Translation: “This is for us, Belize!”)

Sharon Mejia, the student mission trip director who hails from Guatemala did an excellent job of organizing our team and the trip events which included daily health education activities at the Adventist school, (which also doubled as our campsite for the week) constant door to door visitation in the community, cooking classes, health fair, mechanics brigades, nightly meetings in both the Spanish and English church, and a sacred music concert on Sabbath afternoon.

On arrival we were greeted by an enthusiastic Pastor Edwin Valiente, new to the district, and new to Belize as well, (He comes from Honduras) Through all of our activities, Pastor Valiente was Johnny on the spot, lending a helping hand, giving words of encouragement all around, and greeting and welcoming community visitors with irresistible exuberance.

Our last day in P.G., pastor Valiente confessed that when he initially receiving our students’ request to work in his district, he was tempted to say “no.”

“When I’ve had missionaries come work with me before they’ve been nothing but trouble and head-ache and one problem after another!” He exclaimed. “So I prayed and said, ‘God, I need this group to be different!’ and He has more than answered that prayer! I am so thankful for the love and service you have shown this week! I have learned a lot from you.”

Pastor Valiente’s district has now been added to MOVE’s growing list of mission outpost options for our students to do their six-months of fieldwork. After hearing our Sabbath afternoon concert, the pastor also plans to send a small group of the church youth to MOVE for a weeklong seminar on music.

My job on the mission trip, as usual, was with the mechanics brigade, directed by Santiago, an ex-air force soldier from Colombia with the gift of service who also happens to be our only mechanics student this current session. Our first day in P.G. we set up shop on the sidewalk in front of the Bethel S.D.A. church. Despite heavy promotion, not a soul was in sight at starting time Monday morning, not even the elder who was to open the church for us so we could plug in our extension chords. So while Santiago called the elder, Jeff and I went up the street from house to house while brother Jorge Maldonado and Jonathan went in the opposite direction to invite the neighbors. In less than half an hour we had our first four or five machines. From there on out we saw continual action until we closed down shop Friday afternoon. Many people driving by stopped to ask what we were doing. Most thought it was a yard sale.

“You’re fixing the machines?” They were surprised. “How much does it cost?” When they heard it was free, most were overjoyed, but some were incredulous.

“What’s your agenda?” One black man demanded, his brow wrinkled into a topographical map of doubt. Jeff talked to him for at least half an hour explaining the goodness of God and why we do what we do.

When people arrived with their machines, they would sign in, leave their name, number, type of machine, and a short description of the problem, and we tried to work on them in the order they arrived. Some guys sat to watch us work, while others just dropped off the machines and came back later. The second day we improved our strategy by bringing along someone from the health brigade to take blood pressure and give tips on healthful living to the men while they waited. As they were leaving, we gave them free literature and asked them to fill out a short survey about their experience, and what future services they might be interested in, including personal finance, gardening and stop smoking seminars. Many also signed up for personal Bible studies.  We left all the contact information and surveys with Pastor Valiente so the church members can follow up on things.

During the four days that we worked on people’s old junk we helped 54 different people and diagnosed, fixed, or tried to fix over 70 tools and machines. Overall, people were very grateful.

“Thanks so much for doing this, it means a lot. Even if you can’t fix my machine, just the fact that you are here trying to help us is worth a lot. Nobody has ever come to help us like this before” one man told us.

Mr. Tony was another man who was especially touched. Jeff and Jorge serviced his truck and spent time explaining to him the different kinds of motor oils among other things. He wanted to pay them, but when they refused his interest increased even more. When his current night job is over in about a month, he says he will start attending church. He also signed up for personal Bible studies.

Another man we helped is the leader of the ecumenical church in town. He was also very favorably impressed, and when we offered him free literature, he chose the book The Great Controversy!

I was able to minister to Mr. Tito Bol after Jeff fixed the reverse lights on his pickup truck and got his weedeater running again. When I asked Tito if he had a prayer request he told me he has a brother who used to attend the Adventist church but is now in the hospital in Belize City with liver and kidney failure. We had special prayer for him and his family, and I passed the information to the pastor. Mr. Tito chose a copy of Desire of Ages and also signed up for Bible Studies.

Mr. Oscar, the Bethel school watchman, was the last person I helped. He and his wife with their brood of cute, curly blond-tipped black-haired munchkins live less than a stone’s throw from our campsite, in a little matchbox house on stilts in the corner of the school campus. Recently married and baptized Adventists, they emigrated from Honduras several years ago and still don’t speak much English.

On Friday afternoon Oscar brought over his Homelite weedeater.

“What’s wrong with your machine?” I asked.

“Nothing, I was just hoping you would clean it up for me and tune it up”

I should have recalled the favorite adage of many a father: “It it aint broke, don’t fix it!” But hoping to please the man, I cleaned the spark plug and the carburetor. As I worked I chatted with Oscar and he told me how much he loves this machine.

“This morning I cut three yards” he said with pride. “I used to sell my weedeater every three months and buy a new one, because I cut yards every day for a living. I used to do up to 7 or 8 a day, but I was burning out my machine too fast. Now I just do three or four yards a day. But this machine I have had for over a year and I don’t want to sell it! I’ve had people offer to buy it, but I keep it because it is very economical with fuel and it has good power.”

To my horror and chagrin, when I finished my cleaning job, the machine didn’t want to start! I re-cleaned it, rechecked the adjustment needles, and tried about everything else I could think of, without success. It was getting late. I felt terrible, especially after hearing how Oscar depended on this machine for his daily living. I apologized profusely, and suggested we pray. After prayer, I kept trying but nothing seemed to help. Soon Jeff came to see how I was doing and took over the operation. After about 20 minutes of fiddling with the adjustment needles he was able to start the machine and finally got it tuned up, praise the Lord

Before we left Sunday morning, Oscar came to say good-bye.

“How is your machine? Have you tried it out yet?” I asked with trepidation.

“I already cut one yard this morning” he replied with a wide grin. “It’s running like a dream, as good as new!”

What a relief and what an answer to prayer!

If fixing simple small motor equipment can be such delicate work, how can I ever hope to be of use to the Master in repairing souls damaged from sin? I need to study, practice, and above all, constantly depend on God. Like our mechanics brigade, the work of tending to needy souls is an incessant flow of hard work and careful attention to detail. It often seems that our labors are in vain. But when God’s hand is in the work, it cannot fail. Sometimes it seems the work will never end. But eventually time will run out and the last effort will be finished. May God grant us the grace to persevere and be able to someday say as Jesus did, “I have glorified Thy name in the earth. I have finished the work that Thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4).


Kody & Lyli Kostenko

Mission stories: 

“There is no limit to the usefulness of the one who, putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.”  {8T 19.3}