THE MIGHTY POWER OF GOD
I love my job! I get a front row seat to one miracle after another of God’s grace to transform lives, including mine. Recently I listened to young people from Weimar University tell their testimonies while I drove them around during their mission trip.
Duncan, riding shotgun with me, was radiant as he spoke of his conversion, the beauty of righteousness by faith, what God means to him personally, and the difference between trying to witness out of duty, and an unconscious witness that simply overflows because you are so in love with Jesus. The group’s flight was grounded on the tarmac in Houston for three hours because of electrical storms. The Belize airport usually closes at six pm, so the delay was
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Your semi-monthly missionary report.
Praise God, our airplane is no longer decommissioned, but very much back on its mission of mobilizing missionaries! After an intense trial of faith, agony of suspense and a lot of prayer, including no doubt many of yours, (thank-you for those prayers!) Captain Jeff Sutton, the pilot was finally able to leave Colombia for Belize with his family and three other missionaries on the 25th of May.
The plane had been seized for exceeding its maximum stay in the country. To recover it Jeff had to import it and pay the duty. The good news is that the plane now has “dual citizenship,” and on future visits to Colombia will be able to stay as many days as needed without incurring any penalties. All things work together for good, and I have a hunch that someday we will find out there was more to this story. Perhaps the airplane’s redemption will have played a role in someone else’s. We prayed that would be the case, by faith I reckon we can bank on a yes to that!
M A Y 2 0 2 1 . V O L . 4 . 2 Left: loading the mission plane.Right: MatthewKuninobu (foreground) and DuncanHeisler(background).2
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depression, no purpose, bad friends, drugs, and alcohol: I stood no chance. At this point things only got worse. I started going to more parties and experimenting with more and different types of drugs. One of my brothers and I rented a house, which we disrespectfully trashed, and were kicked out of. A friend kindly took us in, but again we were kicked out. I moved in with some friends from high school, but continued my harmful lifestyle and developed significant psychological problems. One night what was happening in my mind was more than I could handle, and concerned friends and family took me to the hospital. That night I prayed for the first time in a long time. Little food for three days, a little alcohol, a little marijuana, had landed me in a rehab center for a week. It had been a long time coming. I was diagnosed with psychosis and had the opportunity to talk to mental health professionals, but I lied to the people trying to help me, and turned right back to my destructive life: concerts, drug- trafficking, all the bad things again. About two more years I lived that way.
Something you should know is that my mother and her friends were praying for me this whole time. I am so thankful for them because God did intervene. The day I decided I would be a Christian, I was at work. I had been struggling within my own head for sanity for a long time at this point and was having yet another psychotic day. It seemed as if I were never alone in my own head: someone or something always knew what I was thinking and was 100,000 steps ahead. This day this other person/spirit, or whoever/whatever, was pure evil. They killed, sold to slavery, and did whatever they wanted. I became so filled with hatred for this person and these acts I impulsively decided to become a Christian. I know now to follow Christ, not for hatred, but for love, but that was my decision at that time: revulsion for evil led me impulsively to be a Christian. That decision didn’t manifest in my life right away, but in my mind, I had joined a different side. I started praying to God in my head, and as ugly as my prayers were, I was now praying. I still drank and did drugs for some time after, however. The theme of my story is the same as anyone’s: God’s grace. It’s amazing that he stuck by me, and still does, as I “figured things out” in my own retarded way. One of the things God provided for me at that point was new friends. My step-father was the leader of our church’s youth group. I began spending time with them, and doing homeless outreach. Coming from my life of selfishness, I think serving others was crucial for me, the beginning of a permanent change. This part is still a blur, I can’t for the life of me remember the order that all of this happened (ask my mother, she remembers), but long story short, I started to attend church. I met some people my age and made new friends. I decided to commit to Christ, and got baptized. One of the best things about that time was the influence of my new friends on my life. No longer was I drinking, smoking or anything like that, but I was hiking, mountain biking, doing Bible studies, learning guitar, singing, and feeling legitimate happiness. I was a completely new person, and I want to make sure that you know it was and is a MIRACLE. None of this happened by my own power. This wasn’t simply an effect of “growing up.” God fights for us. He wants us, and LOVES us.
So here I am today, in Bolivia, surrounded by Amazon forest. How did I get here? Somewhere along the way, my stepfather asked me if I would like to go visit a missionary training program in Belize called MOVE. I knew about the program through friends who had been there, and I had met some of the volunteers at a camp meeting . I said yes. The program was great for me, I learned plenty, and I still meditate on what they taught. I think seeing what they do and how they do it was the best lesson for me. (Continued on page 4)
Left: Austin on a building project in Bolivia
Right: Austin while a student at MOVE.
FROM TRIPPIN’ OUT TO MISSION TRIPPING Austin Shupe
I have been in Ixiamas, Bolivia for over half a year. If you had known me five to ten years ago, this isn’t the place you’d have predicted me to live. I am amazed beyond words for the changes that have happened in my life!
So, in high school, like many others in this fallen, broken world, I fell victim to the selfish, “feels good” lifestyle of music, drugs, fornication, and ultimately destruction. It started with my friends or brothers saying “drink this,” and “do you want to smoke?” After some time, I gave in. I had no plan for my future, except college, like, just to be cool, or something. I had no purpose for myself. So, with the bad decisions I was making, I began leading a life of pointlessness. I did ok as far as grades in high school and enrolled in a good college, only to drop out halfway through the first semester of my freshman year. No motivation, bad study habits, 3
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Left: The group in front of their nearly-finished product. Center: getting started. Right: halfway up!
It was nearly the middle of May before I even heard they were coming. Professor John Peacock of Weimar University had been charged by his bosses with planning a mission trip for a group of students. He has planned dozens of mission trips in the past, but never in the midst of a pandemic, so he asked Mr. Ostap of Build and Restore International to help him. Mr. Ostap does dozens of trips every year. For weeks the two men called every location they could think of, including places where Weimar has gone year after year for decades, but everyone said “don’t come!” “Not now!” Or “Maybe,” only to cancel.
“Do we have a location yet?” was the habitual question at their weekly planning sessions, and Mr. Peacock could only hang his head. The number of students planning to go on the trip slowly dwindled as some lost hope. Finally, someone suggested Belize, and Mr. Peacock called Keila, who was still in Colombia finishing up MOVE’s spring session at Shilo (see last month’s newsletter).
“Yes, you can come!” Keila replied, fully expecting that she would be leaving any day for Belize and have enough time to make all the arrangements. That didn’t happen. She ended up arriving on May 14, three days ahead of the group.
Meanwhile, Mr. Peacock’s challenges were not over. Now that he finally had a place to go, administration began to backtrack. “Now really isn’t the time to go” they said. Mr. Peacock couldn’t believe his ears. “You asked me to plan this trip, and now that God has opened a door you’re telling us not to go?” Chagrined, the leadership backed down and told him to proceed. “I have never planned a trip on such short notice, and I hope to never do so again, the beleaguered professor said.
The group of 15 staff and students held a two-week crusade at the Tower Hill church, did four health expos, eye-glass clinics, visited, gave Bible studies, performed a concert, and put up the walls for the children’s division of the Louisville (pronounced Luis-Ville) village SDA church.
Streetside eye clinic, Louisville Health Expo in Santa Marta
THE MISSION TRIP THAT ALMOST WASN’T
Nathan checks bloodpressure 4
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Duncan’s friend was driving with her dad, and she shared Duncan’s message with him. When they stopped at a rest area, the dad spontaneously started whistling the tune in the men’s room while washing his hands.
“Hey, I haven’t heard that song for years!” remarked a stranger the next sink over. That started a spiritual conversation that ended with an earnest appeal and a prayer for the stranger who grew up in a Christian home but has strayed away from God. How many times do the smallest actions that spring from a heart of praise create ripples that race around the world? Only eternity will measure.
As for the delayed flight, the airline, perhaps in a bid to save itself the cost of putting up a planeload of travelers in hotels for the night, called the Belizean aviation authorities who kindly agreed to keep the airport open and even secured government exemption from the 10 pm curfew so travelers could get do their final destinations. We arrived at MOVE by midnight and the mission work began the next day with minimal delay!
Speaking of the mighty power of God, Matthew Kuninobu, a nursing student from Weimar University, shared the following three stories with me during our hour drive back to the MOVE campus from the construction site:
“I had the great opportunity of growing up Adventist, but there came the point where I had to decide several things for myself, the big one being, is there even a God? Another being, is he personal, does he care about me? Praise the Lord, God powerfully answered all those questions for me on my last mission trip to Belize six years ago.
For our trip, our group of about 20 people split into three to do evangelism in three different towns. My group was in the very small rural town of Arenal with a population of not more than a couple hundred, right on the Guatemalan border. We were doing ten meetings, and I was the designated speaker.
One morning about four days in, I woke up with a cough, runny nose, and a terrible sore throat. Worse still, my voice was almost gone, I could barely talk in a whisper. Through the whole day I was praying: Oh Lord, I have to speak tonight,
going to cost them a day out of their trip. While some worried and others fretted, Duncan reveled in the power of God on display in the tempest. “I sing the mighty power of God…” the familiar tune flashed through his mind with the lightening. The words so impressed him that he wrote them out and sent them to a friend. The One who with a word can call or calm the storm had brought them this far: He would not leave them now!
At the end of the three-month training I made a commitment to come to this secondary school in Bolivia. Not too long after arriving, I was able to share my testimony. Afterward a local guy my age approached us to share his story. He said he felt convicted to make changes, and wanted Bible studies. We started a group study with him and some others twice a week. It was amazing to see my mistakes being used for good.
Again, my testimony is the same as any, God’s Grace! It’s amazing! I’m amazed because of my new life. I love learning about Jesus, I love studying His Word. I have a long way to go and a lot to work on, but I know who is going to get me there and get it done. Please send up a quick prayer for me, and please pray for Ebenezer, the school where I am working here in Bolivia. With tons of love, Austin Robert Shupe.
THE MIGHTY POWER OF GOD. Cont. from pg. 1
FROM TRIPPIN’ OUT TO MISSION TRIPPING.
Cont. from pg. 2. 5
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seen! No one else was in sight as far as the eye could see! Awestruck, the elder and his carload of children drove to the church, praising God for sending his angel to answer a little girl’s prayer to learn more about Jesus.
This last story happened at the kid’s meetings in the same village where I was preaching. The pastor’s wife and two other young people from our group led out. The very first night, there were six or eight children, the second night there were twelve, and by the third night there were 15. The thing about these kids, when they saw the colored pencils, they went wild. They were so excited to color; it was as if they had never even seen colored pencils before. They thought it was magic. So, by day three or four, the leaders said, “If you behave well, we’ll get to color again tomorrow night! Bring your friends too!” The group had brought 25 coloring books on the eight natural laws, and there were only 15 kids, so they thought, we’ll be okay. But when we arrived the next evening about half an hour before the program started, there were already twenty kids there. That number quickly grew to 55! Throughout the program, they kept asking, “Do we get to color? Do we get to color?”
“Um, yes!” the pastor’s wife replied, but she knew she only had 25 coloring books! “Oh Lord, help us! multiply the books if you have to!” She prayed with her helpers. After prayer, they began to pass out the coloring books one by one to all the kids, and every kid got a coloring book!
what am I going to do? My dad and a few others from the group prayed together for me just before the meeting. After song service and announcements, I got up to speak, and suddenly all my symptoms were gone! No cough, no runny nose, and for the duration of the sermon God sustained my voice and gave it back to me! The sermon ended, I greeted the people at the door, and then got into the truck to leave, and just like that, all my symptoms returned: cough, sore throat, runny nose and I couldn’t speak. The next day, the same thing happened. And the next. And the next. For five days in a row, God healed me temporarily just so the message could get across, and then the symptoms returned. God proved to me that he is a personal God for me!
Another story happened at one of the other sites where one of my friends was preaching. Before each meeting, the head elder of the local church would drive around and pick up six or seven kids in his little SUV to bring them to learn about the Bible. They were driving through a very flat, agricultural area where the highest crop was only two or three feet high, so you could see quite a way around you. Suddenly, he noticed the temperature gauge indicating that his vehicle was overheating. He pulled to the side, turned off the engine and looked under the hood, and sure enough, fluid was draining out of the bottom of the radiator. Oh no, what are we going to do now? He said.
‘Hey, let’s pray!’ piped up a little girl in the back seat. Everyone got out and knelt together, and the little girl said a very simple prayer:
‘Jesus, help us to get to the church so we can learn more about you! Amen.’ As soon as the prayer was finished, an old man came walking around from behind the car. The elder didn’t know where he came from. The old man approached the elder, stretched out his hand with a tiny bottle and said “here, you need this.” It was a bottle of radiator sealant. Joyfully the elder opened the bottle, poured it into the radiator and turned to thank the man, but he was gone, nowhere to be seen
Dear MOVE alumni: If you have a story or a mission experience about your current work that you would like to share in a future MOVE newsletter, please send me your submissions of 700 words or less to firstname.lastname@example.org or to my What’s App account at +501-630-0540. If you have any relevant photos, please send them too! Blessings! — Kody Kostenko