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Kody Kostenko dateline 3-26-2017 Belize
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 I have heard it said that the faster you move the slower you age.  Here at MOVE, however, time seems to rocket right along with us. We are halfway through the first three-month training course. The last six weeks have been a blur. I am teaching English classes to the nine Spanish speakers out of our group of fourteen students. Additionally, I am in charge of off-campus evangelism, and am taking mechanics and welding classes as well as a leadership class, all as part of the mentorship program. Among other things, we have learned how to inflate a truck tire without an air compressor using gasoline, and Friday Jeff showed us how to weld with nothing more than welding rod and two twelve-volt batteries connected in series! Talk about a practical mission-outpost skills. I tried it and it actually welded up smoother than the AC welding machine! 

 

            Today it is our turn to watch campus while everyone else is gone on Sabbath-afternoon outreach with the local churches, and I am taking advantage of this breather to write you a quick update.

 

It wasn’t my turn to speak, but the person on the schedule wasn’t able to make it for our Wednesday night prayer meeting at our church-plant project in Chan Pine Ridge, a village about fifteen minutes away from the MOVE campus. As I stepped in last minute, I asked the Lord to guide the service. We started with song service, and I asked for favorites. As we sang “Lamb or God,” “Behold what manner of love,” and “The Love of God” the Holy Spirit spoke powerfully to my heart through those beautiful lyrics, and between songs I began to comment on the immense need of our suffering world, and the astounding sacrificial love of God. I shared how that very morning I had been asked to substitute teach for the director’s world mission class, and part of the lesson was a slide show of heart-wrenching images. One pictured a teenage boy slumped beside the yellow ribbon of a crime scene, his mouth agape, his countenance twisted with an anguished cry that transcended the page. Nearby stood an officer who had just informed him that his only brother had been shot and killed in gang and drug-related violence. As I spoke, I could see I had Enrique’s attention. Enrique is a lad of 17, and beyond his occasional church attendance with his older brother Danny (one of our deacons), he doesn’t seem to have much interest in spiritual things. Often he whispers and laughs with friends, or passes much of the service distracted with his cell phone.

But tonight was different.

“Please pray for my friend. His brother was found dead in the river yesterday.” Enrique said when it was time to share prayer requests. Suddenly I understood his intense interest, and I marveled at how God had answered my prayer to guide the subject of our meeting.

You should talk to him afterward and share Deuteronomy 33:27. I felt impressed. But after prayer there were announcements and preparations for the health expo we were organizing for the following Sunday. The village chairman had invited us to have a booth at the annual village anniversary fair. We had a lot of planning to do and I forgot to speak to Enrique until the impression returned. As I glanced around, I spotted him standing alone, and I seized the opportunity without further delay.

“Hey Enrique. I’m so glad you could join us tonight. Sorry to hear about your friend’s loss. May I share a couple of verses with you that meant a lot to me when my mom died?”

“Yes please” Enrique responded. “I want to help my friend, but I don’t know what to say.” As I read, he pulled out his phone and asked me to repeat them so he could type them into his phone.  

“So do you know what happened?”

 “His brother was into drugs and gangs and stuff.” Enrique replied. “I’m worried about my friend too. He’s not a bad person, I can talk to him just like anyone and he doesn’t even use bad language with me, but he hasn’t been back to school since they found his brother, and I’m afraid he’ll try to take revenge.”

“I will definitely be praying” I responded. “In fact, can we pray right now?” He nodded. “What’s your friend’s name?”

“Wilbert”

            We knelt together and I prayed for Wilbert and for Enrique, that God would give him the opportunity and the courage to bring some hope and comfort to his friend. Please help me pray for them both and for all the youth of Chan Pine Ridge.

 

            There is another Wilbert I would like you to help me pray for as well. Mr. Wilbert Valencia is a merchant from nearby Orange Walk who handles imports and exports for the Mennonite communities here in Belize. A few months ago he began to attend the Chan Pine Ridge church plant in answer to the fervent prayers of MOVE staff that God would send some faithful members to assist in the work there. He and his wife Ana have been attending faithfully every since. He was much impressed by Lyli’s testimony about the plane crash, and he feels God calling him to get more involved in mission work.

“When I told my son who is studying medicine at Montemorelos University your wife’s story, he said ‘They already told us that story here at the university! The pastor said those people are crazy!’

‘Yeah, they are crazy for Jesus, and I have them here with me in person,’ I told him.” Mr. Valencia grinned. Tomorrow he will be joining us for our weekly Sunday afternoon visitation. 

            Also joining us tomorrow is Pastor Abimael Lozano, the director of student missions for the theology department at Montemorelos University who arrived to visit us yesterday. Pastor Lozano is passionate about missions, and although he began to suffer from multiple sclerosis eight years ago, a rigid diet of raw fruits and vegetables and the grace of God brought sufficient healing to keep him active in the field. Over the last five years, he has been able to orchestrate a radical shift in student missions at the university including curriculum changes to focus more urban and intercultural evangelism. Current missionaries are also trained in Arabic and Russian and most of the over thirty current student missionaries from the theology department are now working in countries from the 10-40 window in Northern Africa, the Middle East including countries like Jordan, Turkey, Morocco, Uzbekistan, and many more. The University also sponsors students to come from those countries and train as missionaries to return to their homelands.  Last night pastor Lozano told us about one of his Waldensian students who volunteered to go to an extreme fundamentalist Islamic state as an exchange student and began to carefully share his faith with others at the university. One day he noticed he was being followed by a police officer, and turned to confront his persecutor.

“Why are you following me?” he demanded.

“I know why you are here. You are here to try to convert us to Christianity, and I am going to kill you for it!” the officer said as he brandished a knife. “But not today.”

The student was very afraid and tried to avoid that officer from then on. One day he confided in a friend that he was afraid for his life and told him of the incident with the officer.

“Which officer threatened you?” the friend asked. When the student pointed him out, his friend said. “I know that man. He is a friend of mine as well. Let me talk to him.”

“Why do you want to kill the foreigner?” the friend asked the officer.

“Because he is a trying to change us into Christians. I hate him!”

“That is because you don’t know him.” Said the friend. “Come have dinner with us and you will understand.”

The officer did not like the idea, but finally he agreed out of respect for his friend. At the dinner, the officer put his knife on the table and said

“If you do not convince me in this meeting, I will kill you.”

The student missionary did not say much about Jesus at that dinner, but he behaved like Jesus and was kind and courteous to his would-be-murderer.

 At the end of the meeting, the officer said, “You know, you are actually a very good Muslim (which means “believer”). I want to know more about your Jesus. Can you get me a Bible?”

The student missionary was able to smuggle an Arabic Bible into the country and give it to the officer. Not long afterward, he was warned to flee the country for his life. He is currently finishing his studies at Montemorelos. The officer has become a secret Christian!

On hearing this story last night, Sebastian, an intelligent and active lad of 19-years and the son of a doctor in Colombia who is here at MOVE because his parents told him they would take him to Cancun if he finished the missionary-training course, was quite impressed.

“I’ve finally found my purpose!” he exclaimed to a friend. “I’m going to be a Bible smuggler!” Please pray for Sebastian as he is struggling with the Holy Spirit and has not yet made a full surrender to the Lord. Sebastian is in my advanced group in my English class, and so I give them special homework projects. Tonight I downloaded the story of brother Andrew, “God’s Smuggler” for him to listen to for his listening comprehension homework. I am praying God can use it to deepen his conviction to surrender his life in service to the gospel.

 

 
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Kody & Lyli Kostenko