Stories from Kody Kostenko at MOVE
“I still can’t believe that there is an Adventist church in Chan Pine Ridge!”
His comment caught me by surprise. I had met him for the first time at the church in Chan Pine Ridge that very morning, and now we were enjoying a fellowship meal at the MOVE campus.
“I used to colporteur in Chan Pine Ridge and the people were really closed-minded and even downright rude!” the brother continued. “In fact, there was a group that tried to hold evangelistic meetings there, but they got sabotaged. Someone even rubbed Pica Pica on the upholstery of their vehicles!”
“Wow, what’s Pica Pica? Sounds like something itchy!”
“Yes, it's a poisonous plant with hairy pods and it gives a terrible rash! Besides that they would disrupt the meetings and even cut out the lights. The heckling got so bad they ended up suspending the meetings! So how have people been treating you?”
“Quite well actually! They haven’t chased us out of town yet! We’ve experienced some prejudice from a few families in they way of suspicious glances and comments like “we have our church” when we try to visit them. We’ve also been insulted by a couple of drunks, but many of the people are actually quite receptive!” I replied.
The work in Chan Pine Ridge began to gain a foothold a few years ago when Miguel and Vilma Chavez, former volunteers at MOVE, felt a burden to take up the work in that community and they began regular house-to-house visitation, community service projects and small group meetings. An evangelistic series resulted in 14 baptisms and the group acquired land and began building a church. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, most of the new members fell away. When the Chavez family received a call to Guatemala, Yaneth Robles and Ray and Phoebe Sikidge continued the visitation in Chan Pine Ridge and advanced the church construction. Ray and Phoebe were called to the Philippines about the time Lyli and I arrived to MOVE.
About this same time, Yaneth was praying fervently that God would send reinforcements: permanent Adventist members from the local vicinity to help raise up the church. God has been answering that prayer in extraordinary fashion. Four families simultaneously began to attend regularly. First there is the Bochub family: Sister Eva Bochub and her husband Agusto and their three children, Abdi, Isis and Uziel have been a tremendous blessing to our group. Brother Bochub has given the sound system, electric fans, and made a beautiful pulpit. They also regularly pick up those who need rides and bring them to church. Sister Eva is full of energy and hospitality and is active in visiting the sick and ministering to the needs of others. She teaches our primary Sabbath school class. The Bochub family has an extraordinary testimony that I will share in a future update.
The Tosh family also joined our group. Grandpa Margarito or his son Alberto drive the red work truck, and the rest of the family packs together in the cab and on wooden benches in the back. Margarito told his testimony how God saved him as a young man from falling into a life of drug trafficking. He later accepted the Adventist message after listening to a complete evangelistic series and Fatima bring a number of grandchildren, and Alberto and Lucy come with their two children, Donovan and Keila and some other cousins as well. Alberto grew up Adventist, but when his first wife died, he fell into drinking. At the bar that he frequented, he met Lucy, who worked there as a waitress. When they got married, Alberto decided it was time to quit drinking and began to study the Bible with his wife and two stepchildren. Last November they became the first to enter our church baptistery!
Thank God, faithfulness is contagious! As you may recall from my February report, sometime last year, Alvina Valencia and her two children, Marina, 12 and Isaac, 4 began attending our church. At prayer time, Alvina would ask for special prayer for her husband, Luciano. Once in a while he would accompany his family to church, and last November we had the privilege of holding a worship service in their two-room house (see attached photo). In January, Luciano quit drinking and started coming to church regularly. In February, he started Bible studies.
“I’m so happy because God did a miracle in my life with my daughter”
Mr. Luciano’s smile spread from ear to ear. We were about to have our second Bible study together, but I wasn’t about to miss this story!
“Tell me about it!”
“My daughter Marina was an average student. She was getting by like scrape dog with 72%.”
“Yeah, that’s how we call it here when you barely pass. And along with all the rest of the barely passing students, the teachers make her go to extra classes and pay $6 every Saturday. I think it’s just something the teachers do when they need a little extra money.” He laughed.
Here in Belize not even public education is free, and many families make big sacrifices to try to give their children a good education.
“At first she started going because that was the only day they gave those extra classes and she needed it to pass.” Luciano continued.
I well remembered when Marina had begun to miss church. Lyli and some of the other missionaries had spoken to her, encouraging her to be faithful and to be an example and testimony to her family. Now I learned that Mr. Luciano, who grew up Adventist himself, had been inspired to encourage his daughter at home as well.
“I told her, ’You have from Monday to Friday to learn it.’” Luciano continued. “‘Pay attention and learn it. The teacher can fill your page with demerits for not going to school on Sabbath if she wants to.’
“I gave her 50 cents every school day to buy juice and chips at school. I told her to be faithful to God and pay her 25 cents of tithe each week. I don’t know how it happened, but it’s like a miracle! When she stopped going to reinforcement on Sabbaths and started paying her tithe, her grades went up from 72% to 88%!” He beamed. God’s faithfulness to Marina when she decided to be faithful to Him has obviously encouraged Luciano to be more faithful too. Praise God for His great faithfulness and that He is willing to make us faithful too!
“Since I stopped drinking this new year, there is so much more peace in my home.” Luciano told me. “I don’t fight any more with my wife. I want to be a good example for my kids. The other day the police raided a house on our street, and took the young man away in handcuffs. Isaac asked me why, and I told him because he was doing bad things like selling drugs. Isaac said, ‘I’m so glad my Daddy doesn’t do bad