The Bolivia Industrial School, (BIS) is a volunteer-staffed, faith-based boarding high school and non-boarding primary school that provides free Christian education in northeastern Bolivia, South America. This experimental project forms part of Gospel Ministries International, an organization that provides medical, educational, and media services worldwide.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

MOVE REPORT #1

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 his 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 and the Middle East. 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 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 was quite impressed. He is a doctor's son who is here at MOVE because his parents told him they would take him to Cancun if he finished the missionary-training course, and up until know has been wavering between the world and a full commitment to Christ. 
“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 struggles to decide what to do with his life. 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.


Friday, February 17, 2017

A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Greetings friends! 
Lyli and I are at MOVE. We got here Wednesday night after a 36 hour trip that started with a round-about ride to the airport because of closed roads with the Oroville dam spillway crisis and subsequent evacuations. We continue to pray for those at risk in that precarious situation. Once on the plane at the airport in Sacramento, we waited on the ground for two hours while a crew remedied a mechanical problem and we missed our connecting flight. We were able to rebook for the next morning and spent the night in Minneapolis compliments of Delta. Anyway, we are very glad to be here, for what promises to be a challenging, busy and rewarding year. We had orientation on Thursday and Friday with the 14 students for this session who hail from a total of six different countries. Classes start Monday. Also, a group from Weimar Academy is here helping on construction and maintenance projects and doing health evangelism meetings in the evenings. Tonight it was my turn to translate for them. Tomorrow I am slated to give a mission report and preach at a different church in the area. MOVE lives up to its name. :) Anyway, I will try to send more reports later, but for now I had to get this story out to you about how God saved our lives last month, and what I learned from it. I call the story: "A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT"

            “Sorry to abandon you all, but I’m scheduled to share a testimony at the Spanish church in Chico” I informed my parents and their guests. Lyli, my wife, had told me she was going to stay and sleep, so I was surprised to see her get up.
“You don’t have to go if you don’t want to” I told her, “Although I’d be glad for your company.”
“Wait for me then” she said.
A few minutes later, we prayed for safety and headed north on Oro-Bangor Highway while a gentle drizzle darkened the asphalt.  I was still trying to decide what story to share at church. Something encouraging, of course, as my friend Daniel Orozco had dubbed these short testimonies “words of encouragement.”
“I should have had you speak tonight.” I teased Lyli. “That’s what the guy at the Friday night vespers did. His name was on the program, but his wife spoke in his place! You could tell how God saved you in the plane crash.[i] And you can’t use the language excuse because there’s going to be a translator.”
“Oh no! No way, take me home right now!” she laughed.
We continued to chat until we passed the first corner after Swede’s Flat. Lyli was about to recline her seat for a nap when we entered the second bend: a long, sloping corner cut out of a high bank that keeps the road ahead completely out of sight, until, when the curve finally dissipates and slopes down into a straightaway, in the last possible second, I saw them.  
“Kody!” Lyli gasped and instinctively braced herself.
Three vehicles dead ahead: two parked trucks, their drivers outside, partially blocked my lane, and the third, an oncoming van, approached rapidly. There was nowhere to go. I was already on the brake, but the back of my car broke traction immediately and swung left. The brakes were locked out of any possible response. We slid sideways toward the parked trucks for an instant, while my adrenalin arms cranked the steering wheel left. Behind us (I learned afterward) the van whizzed by, hugging the narrow shoulder. In a shade more than a mere car’s-length shy of hitting the stalled pickup, my tires suddenly gripped and we hurtled across the opposite lane and off a sharp embankment. Lyli screamed. All I saw was countryside and trees.
In that helpless moment of terror a strange calm came over me. I closed my eyes. If I died, at least no one would have to close them for me.[ii] I think I started to pray, (better late than never) but if I did, I didn’t get past “Oh Lord” before I felt impact, followed by an abrupt spin that stopped us dead.
Except, we weren’t dead. I opened my eyes. We faced a large oak tree on a steep slope, a flattened section of fence, and the highway above. A lone tennis shoe from my trunk decorated the downed fence.  I looked over at Lyli. She was in one piece, and I didn’t see any blood. Oh Lord, this is the last thing she needed. Please, don’t let her be hurt!
 “Are you okay honey?” I asked.
“I think so. But my head hurts.”
“Where?”
“Right here,” she touched the back-left side of her head. I looked closer but could see no obvious signs of injury.
“Do you feel dizzy?”
“No, it just hurts.”
“Just sit still for a minute,” I told her. “Don’t try to move.”
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine. My elbow and thigh hurt, but I don’t think anything is broken. I just feel like I’ve been kicked.”
I carefully turned to inspect the vehicle. The smashed rear-right passenger door bulged inward behind Lyli’s seat, and the entire rear-end of the car was crumpled up like a wad of used paper. Shattered window glass decorated everything.
“Well, the car is obviously totaled” I reported.
“Can you call your parents?” Lyli asked.
I pulled out my phone. “There is no signal here.” I opened my door go get out and saw a frightened looking young man hurrying down the hill in our direction.
“Is everyone okay?” He called out.
“I’m fine!” I replied. “I’m not sure about my wife.” I circled the car and met him at the passenger door. “She had a blow to the head.”  
“I’m Daniel. I’m an EMT and I volunteer at the fire station just up the road. I’m the one from the stalled truck. The man who stopped to help me is directing traffic.”
He opened the passenger door and began to ask Lyli questions, also recommending she not move until the paramedics arrived.
A large man with a long white beard appeared at the top of the bank. “I was in the oncoming van. My wife went ahead to find a house where she can call 911.”
Daniel asked me if I had my keys so he could turn off the car.
“They should be in the ignition,” I replied. They weren’t. Strangely, the keys were nowhere to be found, so Daniel and the other man disconnected the battery.
During the following long minutes, we piled Lyli with jackets to try to keep her warm and from going into shock. Lyli meanwhile silently prayed that my parents would show up by some miracle. A couple of fire trucks arrived, and the firefighters repeated Lyli’s interrogation.
“What county are you in?”
“We’re not from here!” Lyli protested. “What’s a county?” She glanced sideways at me for help.
Un condado”  I translated. “We are in Butte county.”
“How many quarters are in a dollar?” the questioner continued.
“I don’t know! I don’t use quarters.”
 I had to explain to the firefighters that we are missionaries just home visiting my parents.
 “You’ll just make her head hurt worse with those kind of questions!” I attempted to lighten the tension.
“Oh, okay.” The fireman laughed. “How about this one? Who is the president of the United States?”  He obliged with what would surely be a no brainer.
“Oh, the new one. I can see his face, but I just can’t think of his name!” Lyli was mortified. Now they must really think my head is damaged! She thought.
Somewhere in the midst of the questioning the highway patrol arrived, and so did the answer to Lyli’s prayer.
“Look, Kody, there’s your mom and dad!”  She pointed excitedly to the road above. “God answered my prayer!” Sure enough, I saw the Prius and Dad’s face of consternation looking out the driver’s window. Moments later he and Mom were both scrambling down the embankment. What a relief it was to see them!
“We’re okay!” I waved, hoping to share a little of our relief with them.
The firefighters got Lyli in a neck brace and on a backboard and carried her to the ambulance while I gave my report to the police and Mom and Dad gathered our things out of the car and somehow found the car keys lying on the ground. Afterward, I joined Lyli in the ambulance. All of her vitals were stable and there didn’t seem to be any serious damage, but because of the nature of the crash scene, the dispatchers sent us to the Enloe trauma center in Chico. On the way I called the church in Chico.
“I’m really sorry we aren’t going to make it to the meeting tonight. We’ve been in an accident and we’re on the way to Enloe. But you can share a testimony for us if you would. The word of encouragement is that God saved our lives!”
At the hospital the emergency staff took Lyli in for CAT scans and X-rays. We were overwhelmed with gratitude for the kind visits of concerned church family members, including one who works at Enloe and got the process speeded up. The scans came back good, so we were released to go home by around 10:00 pm. 
The next day Dad and I went out to look at the crash site. Strangely, we couldn’t find any skid marks. Our tracks on the embankment were almost exactly straight down. We most likely would have rolled the car or hit the oak tree head on if our trajectory had been any different. Just two “we would have, ifs” on a very long list of possible scenarios that ended with us dead or severely injured, and likely killing someone else too. Dad can’t quit talking about it.

If trying to calculate correctly in those fragments of seconds before a crash is anything like the results of your first cold-turkey multiplication time test, than you know that working through the aftermath is more like raw calculus. First there was the totaled vehicle disposal to resolve to avoid more storage fee accrual with the towing company. Dad told the tow-company owner about our situation and the Lord must have softened his heart because he cut our bill by nearly two-thirds! Then there were calls to the car-insurance company, first responders, Nor-cal Radiology, the hospital billing department, and a MediCal application and interview, and so forth. We are still dealing with all that. But I can’t be anything but grateful. Instead of asking “why me?” the question I have right now is “why not me?” Why am I still alive? Some people say God must still have work for me to do, and of course they are right. There is no such thing as an unemployed Christian! But beyond that, I know that God still has work to do on me. My wife and I both pray that when our time comes we will be ready to meet our Lord in peace. Our every breath is an intake of grace. Oh Lord, don’t let us waste it! Would to God we would live henceforth with “no reserves, no retreats and no regrets.”[iii]
Ironically, just a week or two before the accident I attended a Spanish small-group study and shared a story where everything went wrong for us. Afterward I was proud of myself for controlling my temper, but God spoke to my heart and said “this problem is not all about you. Did you ever stop to think about what I might be trying to do here for the other people involved? Are you willing to cooperate with Me in this?”
I need to see things the way God does. As a Christian, nothing that happens to me can really be about me. Somehow I need to stop seeing myself as the protagonist. The honor of God is at stake here. People’s salvation is at stake! If only I could lose my self-love and self-pity and ask God, ‘what are you trying to accomplish here?’ I would see that, while He is working on me, He is also working on something a whole lot bigger. If I would be others-centered when I’m tempted to feel like the victim, that would be a marvelous work of grace. That would be the faith and character of Christ in action. That would be God vindicating His wonderful name, remaking this poor wretch into something good for His glory. Only eternity could tell the results.
In the case of this accident, perhaps Daniel is part of the bigger picture. He’s practically a neighbor, he lives across the highway from my parents, but they had never met before. After the accident he called and even came by the house to see how we were doing and offered to help with anything he could.
“I’m so glad you are okay! God surely had his hand on you!” he marveled. “I know it’s easy to second-guess yourself and feel guilty, but it’s not your fault, so don’t blame yourself” he counseled.
“Well I hope you take your own advice too.” I told him later when he kept repeating how bad he felt for being the cause of the accident. “It’s not your fault your truck broke down right where it did. We don’t blame you, so don’t blame yourself either.”
            “Thanks” He smiled. “You are a true Christian.”  
            “Praise the Lord, He’s still working on me” was all I could say.
As it turns out, Daniel has been on a job with one of our church elders, and got our contact information from him.
Oh Lord, help us be attentive to your providences and complete faithfully our tiny part in Your big picture! That is what we are living for.








[i] Lyli was on her way back to the school in Bolivia back in 2008, when the single-engine Piper Malibu mission plane began to lose oil pressure. It was night, and they were off the coast of Nicaragua. The pilot headed for land, but the engine didn’t have enough power to make the nearest lighted runway. They searched for a closer, unlighted runway, but couldn’t find it in the dark. In the forced landing that followed, Lyli suffered lacerations to her intestines and compression fractures to L5 and S1. The latter was only discovered over 48 hours after the accident when the nurses had her walking after the emergency surgery on her colon, and she began to lose feeling in her legs.
[ii] On the phone several days later, my wife described our wreck to a friend: “It was like a movie” she lowered her voice and giggled, almost embarrassed. Unlike me, she kept her eyes open the entire time.
[iii] Quote from a real missionary named William Borden. Read his story here and be inspired. https://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/regret.htm.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

End-time Education Part 2

Here is part two of the my series-in-progress, which looks at the Three Angel's Messages of Revelation 14:6-12 one phrase at a time, in the context of education.

2 True Education GIVE GLORY


More presentations from Kody Kostenko

Friday, February 03, 2017

End Time Education Part 1 (Downloadable Powerpoint)

True end-time education is powerfully outlined in the three angel's messages of Revelation 14:6-12.  I have been putting together a series of presentations on the topic, starting with the first phrase: "Fear God." Those two words take in a whole lot of real estate as you will see. You can download the presentation in the following link

 End-time Education #1: Fear God 

or simply view it below. May you be blessed!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Move to MOVE


Beginning  next month, Lyli and I have accepted a call to join the team at MOVE (Missionary Outreach Volunteer Evangelism) a missionary training school in Belize where we will be teaching classes, preparing educational materials and completing a mentorship training program. We are very excited for this opportunity to learn and grow. Many of our volunteers at the Bolivia Industrial School the last few years have been MOVE graduates, and they have done excellent work. 
Recently I came across the following excerpt and it made me think of MOVE and the work being done there. I look forward to being a part of it.
     
"The third angel is represented as flying in the midst of the heavens, showing that the message is to go forth throughout the length and breadth of the earth. It is the most solemn message ever given to mortals, and all who connect with the work should first feel their need of an education, and a most thorough training process for the work, in reference to their future usefulness; and there should be plans made and efforts adopted for the improvement of that class who anticipate connecting with any branch of the work. Ministerial labor cannot and should not be intrusted to boys, neither should the work of giving Bible readings be intrusted to inexperienced girls, because they offer their services, and are willing to take responsible positions, but who are wanting in religious experience, without a thorough education and training. They must be proved to see if they will bear the test; and unless there is developed a firm, conscientious principle to be all that God would have them to be, they will not correctly represent our cause and work for this time. There must be with our sisters engaged in the work in every mission, a depth of experience, gained from those who have had an experience, and who understand the manners and ways of working. The missionary operations are constantly embarrassed for the want of workers of the right class of minds, and the devotion and piety that will correctly represent our faith.  {RH, June 21, 1887 par. 1} 
     There are numbers that ought to become missionaries who never enter the field, because those who are united with them in church capacity or in our colleges do not feel the burden to labor with them, to open before them the claims that God has upon all the powers, and do not pray with them and for them; and the eventful period which decides the plans and course of life passes, convictions with them are stifled, other influences and inducements attract them, and temptations to seek worldly positions that will, they think, bring them money, take them into the worldly current. These young men might have been saved to the ministry through well organized plans. If the churches in the different places do their duty, God will work with their efforts by his Spirit, and will supply faithful men to the ministry.  {RH, June 21, 1887 par. 2} 

     Our schools are to be educating schools and training schools; and if men and women come forth from them fitted in any sense for the missionary field, they must have impressed upon them the greatness of the work, and that practical godliness must be brought into their daily experience, to be fitted for any place of usefulness in our world, or in the church, or in God's great moral vineyard, now calling for laborers in foreign lands.  {RH, June 21, 1887 par. 3} 
From COUSELS TO TEACHERS chapter 70, “OBTAINING EFFECIENCY”