Saturday, November 20, 2010

An Update on the Healing in Paraguay

Some of you may recall the “healing” I witnessed in August while I was in Paraguay (click here). Maximo and Reinaldo, two of TPI’s teachers in Paraguay, returned to that village, Cruce Liberación, for the first time this weekend, visited the family last night, and gave me this update…

The girl has remained out of her depression and is still feeling fine.
She and her family have been attending the church where we held the TPI classes and she was healed.
She, her mother and her father were all baptized this past Sunday.
This weekend, she will be giving her testimony to the rest of the church.

What an awesome God we serve, amen?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pray for this famine!

"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord GOD,
"When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD." - Amos 8:11

God used Amos to prophesy this famine. Do we have this famine today? I know it exists in some parts of the world, even here in the US, but it is not widespread. Pray that people would hunger and thirst for the words of the LORD. But be careful…

People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
But they will not find it. - Amos 8:12

How can this be, they will not find it? The context tells us that “from sea to sea” indicates from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea, and “from the north even to the east” means from the area of Dan in the north to… the east? Why not from the north to the south? From the west to the east has been covered (from sea to sea), so from the north to the south would follow, right? But Amos says: from the north even to the east. Guess why he didn’t say from the north to the south?

Jerusalem was in the south. Jerusalem held the true “words of the LORD.” The people already had in front of them the “words of the LORD” (Amos and the other prophets) and didn’t like what they heard. (See 7:12 – Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah and there eat bread and there do your prophesying!”) They were searching for the god of their desires, not the God of the bible; the god they thought would give them what they wanted, not the God that was ready to give them what they needed.

Paul warned Timothy that this would happen: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires – 2 Timothy 4:3.

Yes, pray for this famine. Also pray that people search for the true “words of the LORD.” The bible tells us: you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. – Deuteronomy 4:29. Seek the true God, the true words of the LORD, and you will find them; seek your own god and your own happiness, and you will be like those Amos spoke of: they will not find it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wasting Away (but not in Margaritaville!)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Is this true for you? Is your body wasting away? Are you losing hope? Are you “being renewed day by day?”

For me, each day I get a little older – the hair I get to keep is getting grayer, my eyes are getting weaker, my feet get a little sorer. Then I look at Sandy – her body was wasting away prematurely, and the medicine she has to take to get better, made parts of her body waste away early, also. It’s easy to become discouraged, to lose hope.

Paul was writing to people who were hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (verses 8-9)

Each day I go through my devotions, I find these nuggets of truth. I find new meaning in passages I have read before. I find that my mind continues to grow, and my outlook changes from one of discouragement to one of peace and contentment.

Paul continues (verses 17-18): For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

It is not sufficient to say: I have already read the Bible and move on. We need to be in God’s Word daily. Why? Because discouragement and wasting away can occur so slowly that we don’t recognize them. The only way to counter that daily destruction is by a daily renewal of God’s Word, God’s Truth.

Again I ask: Are you “being renewed day by day?” If not, you may be becoming stagnant.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Settling In...

Well, the traveling has slowed down and we are acclimating. No international trips in September, although we did attend the funeral of Sandy’s brother-in-law in Albuquerque, NM and we had the opportunity to visit kids and grandkids in August/ September.

On Sunday we joined Trinity Baptist Church in Southaven, MS ( The pastor here, Chad Everson, went to school with Vance Pitman, our pastor at Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas! Sandy and I have already spoken with a number of people at Trinity about our ministry, Training pastors International (TPI) and they definitely want to get connected with what we are doing in Central and South America. Please pray for this relationship to grow!

As I write this, Sandy is off to the 3rd week of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). The past couple weeks have been difficult for her since her red blood cell count had dropped again; we are taking steps to get it back where it should be, but that takes time. Two weeks ago her blood test showed she was still NEGATIVE for the virus so she is on track to finish treatment in January 2011 – just 3 ½ months away. This is another area we need prayer!

Thanks to the internet in general, and Facebook in particular, I am able to maintain contact with some of the TPI teachers in other countries. 35 minutes this morning with Jorge in Paraguay, 20 minutes with Reinaldo last week (also in Paraguay), and on… what a great way to keep up with what’s going on, and practice my Spanish at the same time.

¡Dios les bendiga! (God bless ya’ll!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

You will be My witness...

If you're reading this blog, I know you are familiar with the passage: You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Like most of you, I had always viewed this as telling my story, what I know, in these places. Last week I learned a new way to see this passage.

I was with Maximo and Reinaldo from Paraguay, and Luis from Argentina, Friday afternoon as we finished our 4 1/2 hour drive to Cruce Liberación in Paraguay (past the HUGE anthills); we were going to be teaching the TPI course on Evangelism to a group of pastors and church leaders in this area.

After arriving, we learned a 14-year old girl was suffering from depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, blackouts and convulsions. Turns out her cousin had recently committed suicide and they had been very close. This girl, with her family, had been trying to sleep in the church as a last resort (none in her family were Christians).

Maximo and I went to talk with her. As we started, her eyes became glazed over and she passed out. Her family rushed her (seated in her lawn chair) into the church where a group of pastors and church leaders prayed for her. They were mostly Pentecostal and it was very loud. Maximo and I stayed outside and prayed for her. She regained consciousness but was still depressed and anxious.

Just before the Saturday evening church service, we learned she had been "healed". She was no longer depressed, had been able to sleep that night, and felt better than she had in months. PLUS she, her father and uncle accepted Jesus as their Savior that afternoon. They had gone home to get the rest of the family for the church service. Luis preached on Jesus healing the son of the Capernaum official (John 4:46-53). Just as with that man, the rest of the girl's family was saved that night, 12 in all came to accept Jesus as their Savior.

Sunday as we were leaving, we stopped at the girl's house for a visit and the whole family was there. After exchanging greetings, they asked me to say a few words (gotta get used to that as the token Gringo). I spoke to them about John 1:12, and as believers we are all one family: no cousins, no uncles, but all are brothers and sisters with one father. We then spent time visiting with the family, explaining how to read the bible, and playing with the kids (I did most of the playing!). By the time we left, a large group had gathered in the street in front of the house.

I witnessed this event, and more, in the "ends of the earth" and it is now my responsibility to report it. Where are you witnessing God at work? What have you seen God do in your life and the lives of others? How are you being a witness for what you have seen Him do?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

TPI Graduation in Bogotá, Colombia

Saturday, July 17, was a humbling day for me. I was privileged to share the day with 39 men and their families as they were handed their diplomas for completing the 12-week seminary course offered by TPI; they had been looking forward to this day for nearly four years. These are men who have been leading others to Jesus Christ, pastoring churches, and praying for the opportunity to be trained in real theology. There were men in their 20’s and one man who had attained 83 years, yet had the vigor of a 30-something.

Even more humbling, I was asked to give a message to this group of godly men! I shared a message about Light (“that which makes vision possible”); I shared the passage in John 7:25-28 where people had partial truths about Jesus and were speculating about parts they were not sure of. I advised these men that they now have the knowledge, the position, and the responsibility to be the Light (You are the light of the world – Matthew 5:14) and make sure the people they reach have the full truth about Jesus Christ and do not have to speculate any more.

Enjoy the photos!

¡Dios les bendiga!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Divine Appointment

This morning I was working on my computer by the hotel room door (remember, I am in Bogotá, Colombia) and I heard voices in English in the hallway. I felt an urge to go see who was speaking, where they were from, but kept working on my computer. The voices continued and the urge got stronger, so I opened the door to chat with them.

Mike is from Oklahoma and the two girls he was speaking with are Colombians. Turns out they work for “His Feet”, a mission organization that works with local churches to help evangelize areas around the church. Many times, small cell groups start studying the bible and having worship services. The original church provides “mature” members to help these new churches grow.

They described to me the problem they had been praying about: how to get real theological training to the men leading these new churches! Did I mention Sandy and I are now working with Training Pastors International and we provide biblical training for men without access to such training?

Long story short, we met for a few hours, I introduced the three from His Feet to the local pastor-teachers here in Colombia, and we will meet with Gustavo tomorrow morning, the national director for TPI who happens to be in Colombia for our first graduation in Colombia on Saturday!

You never know when or where God arranges divine appointments, but you must always be ready! Amen?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Small Island South of Florida

I also went to a small island south of Florida (I don't want the name to show up in search engines).

What a trip! In the airport, I was singled out for a special 1 1/2 hour interview and inspection of everything I had. I entered with a dry cough and left with a slight case of bronchitis (one of the pastor’s wives was sick). I saw Dodges, Chevys and Fords from the 40’s and 50’s driving on the road with tractors, horse and buggies, scooters with side cars and contemporary Russian cars!
But they know God! I attended a home bible study that had solid biblical teaching (how to pray and listen to God the night I was there). The church is alive and growing there.
These brochures say: United in the planting of churches, transforming [our country] through the presence of Christ. In the time I was there, we held classes in Pioneer Evangelism for almost 300 people. Here is a photo of one of the classes.
Clearly, these men are making a difference in the lives of their students, future pastors and church leaders. They are leading people to Jesus Christ by the 100’s and 1000’s. They are transforming their countries. Please continue to pray for them and their families in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, and Paraguay.

Bill leaves tomorrow for 2 1/2 weeks in Colombia.

On these trips, I again learned the impact we have. One of the men told me they are especially encouraged when we are able to personally assist and encourage them. The actual visit, eye contact, handshakes, and hugs, mean a lot to them.

Please pray for us.

If you’d like to be part of our financial support team, tax-deductible donations can be made out to TPI and can be sent to the following address (please include a note indicating the donation is for Bill & Sandy Stevener):
Training Pastors International; PO Box 2135; Grenada, MS 38902

Honduras June 2010

I have to tell you about El Bordo, a small town 4 hours from Danli, Honduras, via an old decommissioned US school bus over dirt roads, through overflowing creek beds.
Electricity comes from a solar panel that feeds 4 car batteries and a power inverter. Internet is something they have heard about.
But they know God! 17 men, some leading churches, some wanting to lead churches, are hungry for the training we offer, training they cannot get any other way, training that is taken to places like El Bordo.
Pedro, 63 years old, had walked for 4 hours to attend this training. Henri, 22 years old, was ecstatic that I was there: the 2nd day of classes he was proud to show me his deportation papers (yes, he tried to enter the US illegally – through Guatemala and Mexico) and asked me what they said (they were written in English). We agreed that had he not been caught and sent back, he would not be in this training, preparing to serve God and his neighbors. Henri is the oldest of 6 children and still lives at home. I was humbled by these men… this was their 12th week of training over the past 3 years and they will be ready to graduate in November (they have asked me to return).

Clearly, these men are making a difference in the lives of their students, future pastors and church leaders. They are leading people to Jesus Christ by the 100’s and 1000’s. They are transforming their countries. Please continue to pray for them and their families in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, and Paraguay.

Bill leaves tomorrow for 2 1/2 weeks in Colombia.

On these trips, I again learned the impact we have. One of the men told me they are especially encouraged when we are able to personally assist and encourage them. The actual visit, eye contact, handshakes, and hugs, mean a lot to them.

Please pray for us.

If you’d like to be part of our financial support team, tax-deductible donations can be made out to TPI and can be sent to the following address (please include a note indicating the donation is for Bill & Sandy Stevener):
Training Pastors International; PO Box 2135; Grenada, MS 38902

Saturday, April 24, 2010

¡Somos Graduados!

We are graduates! Friday April 23, 2010 was our graduation ceremony at the Instituto de Lengua Española (ILE) just outside San José, Costa Rica. We arrived here in late August 2009 hoping to learn Spanish and we are leaving with much more!

One of the most visually impressive things we can show you is this list of our friends who will be serving with us in the kingdom throughout Central and South America. Look at this list of graduates, arranged by country. Missionaries are leaving here to work in 14 countries! We saw a similar group of people leave for 13 countries in December!

We had an amazing opportunity to fellowship with these men and women of God. We heard their testimonies in chapel twice a week, we heard how they were called into the mission field, and we heard how God will be using them in so many ways throughout Latin America. That kind of education cannot come from any textbook – you have to live it and God led us to it!

Due to the economic downturn, and the feeling of some mission boards that Latin America is becoming saturated, enrollment at this institution is falling and they were forced to let 3 of the instructors go after graduation. Please pray that God would continue to encourage the people that are working here and give them clear guidance how they are to proceed… they are facing difficult choices right now.

Click here to see some other graduation pictures we posted on Facebook.

¡Dios les bendiga!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Another Amazing Gift

I just want to share another amazing gift God has given me. 32 weeks into the treatment and I’m tired. It is getting much harder to motivate myself to get up and go to school. We went to Nicaragua to renew our visa again. I got there and was so tired from the trip that I slept all day Sunday and was not able to go to the small church that our friends worked with. This church had planned a service for us to attend followed by a dinner and cultural dancing by the children. I was really looking forward to it but didn’t feel I was up to the long bus ride and the heat so I stayed in our house and rested. By Tuesday I had an upset stomach so I didn’t go on the beach trip or the cathedral tour or the boat ride around the lake where monkeys actually came onto the boat and sat in people’s laps. By the time we got back home I was really sick. For the whole next week I couldn’t go to school, could hardly walk ten feet. Everything I ate went though me in a matter of minutes/hours so I was getting no nutrition and adding to the weakness and headaches. I was getting very depressed. I was ready to quit, there were only two more weeks of school. What could I learn in only two more weeks? I just wanted to stay home and be sick.

Then my sister came to town. She is ten years older than me so when we were kids we didn’t get to really know each other. She was moved out by the time I was eight. It has only been in the last several years that we have actually gotten to talk and get to know each other. She came to Costa Rica from Canada (where she lives) to have some dental work done. She had no idea where in Costa Rica I was in relation to where she would be (someone recommended a dentist for her) and she had made her reservations last year. Turns out she was a 15 minute taxi ride from us. She had three days off while they were making her crowns so she came to visit.

I had gotten some antibiotics from the doctor and was finally felling a little better when she arrived. We had a great time chatting away “like cackling hen” as a dear friend of mine would say. As I went to bed after the first evening with her some puzzle pieces fell into place. (That’s how I describe what happens when God shows me how He has orchestrated events in my life.)

That very morning my husband had shared with me that two days ago in a bible study he went to he had an epiphany. The study was on Satan and discussed the mistaken impression people have of his powers. The story of Job is a very profound story with layers of meaning and revelation. Like all of God’s Word reviewing it only reveals a new angle and insight previously overlooked. He shared the fact that Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job, showing that God is more powerful than Satan is or ever will be, and that God had a special interest in Job that Job was unaware of.

If you don’t know the story here is a brief re-cap. Job was a devout man of God. He had a personal relationship with God and God had blessed him with a wonderful family, prosperous fields, wealth, and great stature in the community. Satan was allowed to take away each of those blessings one by one in hopes that Job would give up on God if he didn’t have all the “stuff”. But Job did not falter although he lost his family, his lost money, his crops failed, and he became sick. His best friends told him that it was because of sin in his life but Job knew that he was right with God and held fast to that belief.

What my husband shared with me is how it related to our situation. Job did not know that God was aware of this process; he did not know that Satan had asked permission and that God had granted permission. Job only knew that his life was falling apart around him. But what he did know was his God. He knew that God was faithful and that whatever he had or didn’t have was more than he deserved. My husband shared that he saw the parallel in what was happening to me; that God is in control and is aware of everything I feel and go through, and must have taken a special interest in me at this time in my life. I am not saying that this illness was brought on by Satan – it could have been, or it could be circumstances of life – that is not the point. The point is that God is in control of EVERYTHING!

So when my depression was getting the best of me, just when I couldn’t take any more, God sent me my sister to lift my spirits and cheer me up! How great is our God? It’s hard to understand that he would care so much for me, even in the details of sending my sister to cheer me up; for who am I that He would bother to arrange such an encounter? And not a last minute solution but one planned almost a year in advance. God knew a year ago that this week I would need encouragement. If she had come one week earlier we were in Nicaragua and I would have missed her. Two weeks later and we would have already been headed back to the states. She had no idea where in Costa Rica we were when she made her plans. Yet God’s timing is perfect, as always.

I feel so rejuvenated and ready to go to my classes and finish my task. And so humbled that the God of the universe cares so much for me that He would make the effort to arrange so many details just to lift my spirits and give me the encouragement to finish the task that He has placed before me.

I bow before Him once again in awe that a sinner such as me should have such a privilege.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Santa Semana in Nicaragua (Visa Renewal)

We arrived last night (Thursday, April 1) at our “home” in Costa Rica… “home” is where you can put things in drawers, know the neighborhood, and yes, walk around in your underwear (not that we do, but we could!).

We knew the border crossing going into Nicaragua would be bad… the Saturday before Santa Semana (Holy Week) is a big travel day. Santa Semana is like Memorial Day and Labor Day in the US, but bigger because it lasts a week. Every one goes on vacation, and since Nicaragua and Costa Rica are both officially Catholic, holy events like Easter are a big deal.

We had a 5 hour bus ride from San José to the border, 5 hours at the border – 2 ½ hours waiting to “leave” Costa Rica and 2 ½ hours waiting to “enter” Nicaragua… officially we didn’t exist in ANY country for the 2 ½ hours waiting to get into Nicaragua!

We certainly saw a difference in the two countries: Nicaragua has a lot more trash along the roadways, the highway system is not as developed, and things are generally cheaper. We had seen street vendors and beggars many times, but never saw people that came to your table while eating, stare at our food, and ask for some. One guy even had a make-shift chair he carried around and sat down to eat at the corner of our table. He finished one of our hamburgers, the French fries, and asked the waiter for a bag for the other hamburger!

The weather was hot but the evenings were cool when the breeze was blowing. Jeff, a pastor from Michigan who has visited Masaya, Nicaragua many times previously, had arranged a few tours for us, including a church service, cultural entertainment, and dinner. We got to visit several cathedrals, go shopping, tour an active volcano, and simply relax.

What a way to stay “legal” while renewing our visas!

Encouraging the people not to litter - "Granada is not a Trashcan"

Everyone joined in the "procession" - one of many, 2-3 every day of Santa Semana

Statue on left is Jesus, on the right is Mary - compare the sizes

A little cultural entertainment at the church

From the edge of the volcano

Ready, aim, FIRE! First the flag, then the church!

Jesus and Mary "floats" during the "procession" - carried by purple-robed and hooded volunteers

Passing by the church, with local Hot Dog vendors ready!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We Have to Leave Again!

After the Christmas break, we arrived in Costa Rica on January 5. Since we only have a "tourist" visa, we are only allowed to stay for 90 days at a time. Although we could have applied for a "student" visa, that is a costly and timely process, so we opted to keep just the "tourist" visa... besides, it makes it necessary for us to visit other countries! Last fall we were "forced" to visit Panamá!

Catholicism is the national religion in Costa Rica and Thursday and Friday of Holy Week (Semana Santa) are national holidays; many people take Monday-Wednesday off and vacation the whole week. Our school will not have classes next week.

One of our classmates works with a church in Nicaragua. He has organized a trip to Granada, Nicaragua during Semana Santa, allowing us to visit this city and interact with the people in his mission. We will leave Saturday morning, March 27, bright-and-early at 5:00 AM, endure the 6-hour bus ride to the border, deal with immigration and customs, and drive another hour to Granada. He has arranged for us to stay in homes of people from the mission for 5 days, and then we will return to Costa Rica on Thursday, April 1.

When we return to Costa Rica, we will have another 90 days before we have to leave again. We plan to return to the US, however, at the end of this trimester at the end of April.

Don't you just love international rules?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back to Normal?

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that Sandy just reached a milestone where she no longer has the Hep-C virus yet must stay on the medication for another 40+ weeks. Once again, however, God arranged for someone to bring the medicine to us from the US (thank you Susan from Asbury Church in Madison, AL!). So, we now have a supply of medicine and we can get back to normal.

But then I step back and think: since when does having a 90-day supply of interferon in the refrigerator, an extremely potent and dangerous drug, and well over 500 pills to be taken 3 at a time twice-a-day, that cause tremendous headaches, become “normal?” What’s wrong with this picture?

Thursday morning in chapel, a fellow missionary and piano player was sharing an appropriate message. It is dealing with the ordinary things in life, day after day, that shape who we become: obvious and profound. She gave a great object lesson by playing a song on the piano metronome-perfect. She then played it again with feeling and expression and it sounded like a different song. She played the exact same notes, but she played with another motivation and the song was completely different. She also talked about how the smallest acts we do every day, the smallest decisions we make, all add up to place us where we are at any given time: simple yet insightful (and from C.S. Lewis!).

What is “normal” in your life? Do you go day-by-day thinking there is no point? Do your circumstances dictate who you are or how you feel? Or do you know who God made you to be? Do you spend time with Him everyday, not only in your devotions but with all other activities in your life? Are you living your life “metronome-perfect” or do you live every moment as if it had meaning, and thereby give yourself a new life?

No, we’re not happy about what has become “normal” for us, but we don’t let it determine who we are or how we look at life. We don’t ask God: Why has this happened, or why does Sandy have so much pain? Rather, we ask God to help us bear it, to help us remain faithful, and to be a witness to others.

Dios les bendiga!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

NEGATIVE Is a Positive

We got Sandy's blood test results yesterday - she is NEGATIVE for Hep-C, which is a POSITIVE for us! Praise God for this act.

As we have learned so many times before, God is always on-time, and seldom early. One of our classmates has a team coming here from the US on Saturday. We now have just enough time to schedule a delivery for them to arrive on Thursday and they can bring to us on Saturday.

Please pray:
1) nothing goes wrong with the shipment to Asbury United Methodist Church in Madison, AL
2) the storage for two days, and delivery to us on Saturday are uneventful
3) Sandy's endurance remains high - she has another 46 weeks of treatment!
4) thanks that God has so well provided for us!

Bill & Sandy

Friday, February 26, 2010

Update on Sandy’s Blood Sample

It is now Friday morning, February 26, and we should have had the results by now (the hospital lab drew her blood Monday, the 15th). This past Tuesday I checked with the lab in Miami performing the test and they told me the sample sent by the hospital here was insufficient for the test. That was disturbing news.

I called Sandy’s doctor here and he said that sounded very strange because they generally send double the amount needed. We got a call from her doctor yesterday afternoon and he told me the lab said the sample was coagulated and not enough remained to be tested and we would have to draw blood again. That’s easy to do and would be OK in most situations, but we needed the week 24 sample, and it is now week 25!

So, we are off to the hospital this morning to have double, or triple, the amount of blood needed and try again. I will be calling the insurance company to see what the options are in our current situation.

One GREAT thing that happened last week: we spoke with the Academic Director at the school about Sandy’s condition (she already knew the background), and how mornings are Sandy’s most difficult times. She offered to let Sandy drop the first two hours of her Lenguaje (Language) class and use a private tutor to cover the same information in the afternoons. Praise God for small miracles!

New prayer requests:
1) that God give us patience to continue dealing with the hospital here, and this whole process
2) that the insurance company grants a waiver to the week 24 rule and allows this week 25 sample
3) that this new sample arrives safely in Miami and is usable for testing
4) that the results are accurate
5) that the results are ready in a timely manner
6) that the results show a negative report (no virus found) (which means 48 more weeks of treatment!)
7) that we are able to get the next shipment of medication delivered to someone in the US in a timely manner
8) that Sandy’s physical side effects (headaches and weakness) are manageable

We know God is sovereign and already knows how this will turn out and that His plan is best for our lives. But just like you and everyone else, sometimes it can be hard to live day-by-day, and even hour-by-hour, in the midst of trials like this.

Bendiciones. (Blessings)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

God’s family…

We know that we are part of a family, God’s family, but it never ceases to amaze me how incredible His family is and what a privilege it is to be a part of it. God’s family… seems like it would be so big that you would get lost in it, but God continually shows me how intimate His family is. This weekend I had the privilege to go to a women’s retreat that was being put on by a church in the US for the women of ILE (the school we are attending in Costa Rica).

Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee sent a team of women down to minister to the specific needs of the women missionaries who are learning Spanish here in Costa Rica. As it turns out, this church was one of the three churches that sent a team to Las Vegas Nevada nine years ago to start a church there. You guessed it! Hope Baptist Church. What an incredible time it was to meet with the very people who started the church that sent us as missionaries to Latin America!

The speaker at the retreat was Amy Barron. Amy worked for Bob Pitman, pastor at Kirby Woods, and is father to Vance Pitman, our pastor at Hope! She knows Vance and Kristy personally and it was a great time to see how God has brought back full circle the plans He has made.

And here is the topper! A few months ago we were having difficulty getting my medicine approved for shipment. Time was short and it seemed like everyone Bill spoke with, even though he told them we were living in Costa Rica, they still wanted to know our zip code before they could proceed! The stress was unbelievable. He was finally able to speak with someone that understood our situation; Rebecca offered to track down the right people in her company that could help us, she called us back several times to confirm details – she had compassion! Turns out, Rebecca is Amy’s daughter-in-law! To now to find out that she is part of our family is such an incredible blessing!

All of this is a reminder to me how Great our God is, how intricate His plans are for us, how He takes care of our needs before we even know we need them, and what a blessing to be able to see that pattern as we walk the road he has led us to.

As Paul says in Philippians 4:19, And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

I believe his glorious riches are many things, one of which is the family network that He creates to take care of His children.

We are the only arms God has to hug his children with.

NOTE: We are still waiting to hear the results of my blood test form Monday the 15th.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We are in serious need of prayer…

We are in week 24 of Sandy’s treatment for Hepatitis-C. This is a major milestone – if the medication has fully destroyed the virus, she will be able to continue on the treatment for another 48 weeks (11 months, through January 2011). If, however, there is any remaining virus, she will be considered a slow-responder and will have to terminate treatment. As bad as the side effects have been, it would be nice to quit treatment and get back to a normal life. We realize, however, that we would then have to start over in the fall of 2011 when the next drug, currently in clinical trials, is ready.

Sandy has responded remarkably well to the treatment: her viral load was almost 11,000,000 when we started treatment, 180,000 6 weeks into the treatment, and 1800 12 weeks into the treatment. We have already drawn the blood for the 24-week report, but do not yet know what the viral count is (but certainly God does!). It takes two months to determine the results here in Costa Rica. Our insurance company requires that the test be performed in the US. The hospital here sent her blood sample to the US yesterday.

Always remember that the power resides in the one being prayed to, not the one offering the prayer! No need for eloquence, the bible tells us that the Holy Spirit will supply the words if we make the effort. Please make the effort.

This is where we need prayer support as we continue to trust that He has everything under control, as He has displayed so many times:
1) pray that the sample is safely received in the US
2) pray that the sample is not lost
3) pray that the results are accurate
4) pray that the results are ready in a timely manner
5) pray that Sandy shows a negative report (no virus found)
6) pray that we are able to get the next shipment of medication delivered to someone in the US in a timely manner
7) pray that Sandy’s side effects would ease (her headaches have gotten worse and now she has occasional upset stomach)
8) pray that God gives us strength and patience to see this through

Thank you.

¡Dios les bendiga!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Who Is That Man? (Jesus!)

This exchange took place during the Feast of the Booths (Tabernacles), in Jerusalem, among the Jews and Jesus.

Imagine a large crowd, making their way into the temple area, discussing the upcoming festival and rumors of The Healer they had heard about… and then Jesus appears. Certainly many of them had heard of Jesus, probably knew he had been teaching and healing people. Some knew at least part of the scriptures and knew that God had promised them a Messiah (Christ). But they didn’t have the full truth. Hence the discussion we have in these verses.

25-So some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill?”
26-“Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they?”
27-“However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.”
28-Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.

--(John 7:25-28)

Their thoughts and ideas were confused by what they had been taught, what their neighbor had said, and what they had seen. Do you see this happening today? Whether it’s the health care bill, the economic recovery plan, or Jesus, when people have some information, but are missing other pieces, they tend to fill in the blanks with information from their neighbors and their own ideas. We start with an idea and then add to things it, which may or may not be correct. Know any one who has done that?

This passage reminds me why it is so important to be personally aware of God’s Word, what it says and how it applies to our lives. It is also a clear reminder why Sandy and I are now involved in full-time ministry, doing what we can to make sure people know Jesus Christ from the bible.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Beginnings…

If you think it’s too late for “new beginnings”, remember, it’s still January (although not by much)!

I’ve got to say up front… many of you know we sent out an update letter at the end of December, discussing our future ministry plans and requesting that you join us on our journey and help support us with prayer and finances. When the TPI accountant sent us our first monthly report, I was blown away and greatly humbled. I let out a holler and Sandy came running, thinking something was wrong! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Although it is easy to track who is helping us financially, we also want to know who is helping us through prayer, also. We know there are many of you praying for us since we have seen many results of those prayers. Email us ( or, phone us (702-866-9548), or contact us through Facebook (Bill or Sandy).

We are now 3 weeks into this 2nd trimester and it will be harder for us than ever before. Even with her medication, headaches and weakness from the medication, Sandy was fairly comfortable with what she was learning last trimester because she had taken 2 introductory courses in the last 2 years at the community college. Now, however, in addition to the medication, headaches and weakness, she is learning new stuff – it was hard enough without her medical handicaps! Please pray for her.

For me, I have gone from 1 hour of homework every day to 3-4 hours every day. Every Monday I have to explain a current event article to our class; every Thursday I have to present a 15-20 minute bible study; every Friday I have to report on 3 interviews I had with other Costa Ricans (Ticos). All of that in one class – Lenguaje. In Gramática, we are pushing through more verb conjugations and tenses, many of which have no counterpart in English (the subjunctives) and the normal exercises and exams. Plus I will be teaching an ESL class every Wednesday afternoon for some of the Ticos through a local outreach program. No complaints – just a statement of how things have changed this trimester.

We have also moved! Although we had a very nice apartment, and great neighbors, the 8-9 block walk was hard on Sandy. We were able to find a new apartment next to the back gate of the school. Our 18-minute walk with a rest break along the way is now a 2 minute walk! Here are some pictures of our new place (more available on our Facebook page, click here).

Time for a little more homework before watching the Pro Bowl game (with Spanish-speaking announcers!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Next Steps...

We are now in our second week of classes in our second trimester and it is very different than our last trimester. Previously we were learning vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation – the teachers kept stuffing our heads full of new stuff. NOW, they are helping us sift through what they taught us and helping us to USE what got shoveled into our brains!

We think this will be our last trimester and in May we will be able to start working more closely with Training Pastors International (TPI) ( We will leave the protected environment of our school and classrooms and reenter the “real world.” We do not want to go on this journey alone. Although we will be working with Greg Moore, founder of TPI, and the pastors and families scattered throughout Central and South America, we are looking for a group of people, a team if you will, that we will be held accountable to; someone we will need to report back to about what we have been doing and where God is leading us next. We want to share God’s activities in Central and South America with those that can’t go there directly, but still want to take an active role. Does that make sense?

Soon we will need your support more than ever – both in prayer and financial. We have seen the results of your prayers (look through some previous articles on our blog) and we are now asking for you to join us with financial support as well.

Although we don’t know exactly how God will use our talents, we think it will involve promoting what TPI does to other churches and organizations and showing them how they can also get involved. We think we will be making videos, brochures, live presentations, teaching classes, and more. All of this will cost money. We are fortunate that our pension will provide for our basic living expenses so every dollar donated will go directly to the ministry needs!

Let me give you some specifics: when we send out mailings to our support team, it costs about $45 for postage and supplies – maybe you could fund that need for us. If we had 5 people donating $20 every month, that would help with computer and office supplies (ink cartridges, blanks CDs and DVDs, photo paper, software, etc). If we had 20 people donating $50 each month, that would help with our transportation costs to/ from churches in the US and training locations throughout Central and South America. Believe it or not, it is cheaper to travel to and from many Central and South American cities from the US than it is from other Central and South American cities (supply and demand!).

Please pray about how you might be a part of our “team.” If you want more information, you can call us at 702-866-9548 or email us at You can also contact Pastor Shane Critser at our sending church, Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas, NV at 702-896-5924.

Please only respond as you feel God leading you; through prayer support, financial support, or nothing at this time. You can send your tax-deductible gifts to Training Pastors International; PO Box 2135; Grenada, MS 38902. Checks should be made payable to TPI; please include a note that it is for Bill and Sandy Stevener.

Gracias y bendiciones a todo.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

He Believed - What would you have done?

Jesus said to him, "Go; your son lives." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. - John 4:50

How many times have we read stories where Jesus heals someone without being there, and skip right over them because we know Jesus was a healer. I invite you to slow down, and read a little more carefully.

In this event, Jesus was in Cana, the man and his son that was dying were in Capernaum - about 20 miles apart and a two day journey. This man had obviously given up on the local doctors and, while his son was dying, took a two day journey to ask Jesus to come heal his son. After searching for and finally finding Jesus, he pleads his case: Sir, come down before my son dies.

Jesus tells him: Go, your son lives.

Wow! After leaving his dying son back in Capernaum, traveling for two days, worrying about his son's health, wondering if he could convince Jesus to travel with him back to Capernaum, hoping they could get back there in time, and then arriving in Cana and searching around the town for Jesus, he finally finds Jesus, explains his situation, is anxious to get going and Jesus simply tells him: Go, your son lives.

What a letdown that must have been. Keep in mind, this man was not a Jesus follower nor a believer (see verse 53). What would you have done? Continue to plead with Jesus? Give up and go home? The text says this man believed!

He started home and the next day his servants found him (they had also been traveling for a day) and told him his son was living. Surprised and excited, he asked them when the son got better and they told him "yesterday at the 7th hour" (about 1 in the afternoon). Of course, this was the same time Jesus told him: Go, your son lives.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

She Gave Her Testimony

I'm now going through the book of John as part of my morning devotionals and came to this verse:

From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all the things that I have done." - John 4:39

What a GREAT example of Jesus' command to us as He left in Acts 1:8 - you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth

Not only did this happen in Samaria, the GREAT thing is that the woman "only" gave her testimony, what had happened to her and what she knew, and many believed in Him! She didn't start a campaign, she didn't start a church, she didn't prepare tracks to pass out - she simply gave her testimony and people believed!

Nothing wrong with those other things, and we need to do all of them, but let's not forget the simple things, or put off doing the simple things, because we have big plans!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Final Thoughts for the Year

Yeah, that’s the title I wanted to use a couple weeks ago, but with everything going on (visiting 4 countries, 9 cities, packing and repacking) I never got this post written. Although we are back in Costa Rica, I still want to make this post and will update our new status (new apartment, new classes, new phase of our ministry, etc) in a couple weeks… stay tuned!

The language school is setup with 3 trimesters of 4 months each; they have a graduation ceremony at the end of every trimester. On December 11th, the graduation of 50+ men and women entering service as missionaries in 13 countries (see photo of part of the graduation program) was truly awe-inspiring. The graduates entered the chapel carrying the flag for the country where they would be serving. As I have said before, Sandy and I are learning so much more than just the Spanish language – we are learning about God’s activities throughout Latin America and the world. Most students are from the US, but we also have students from Canada, England and Korea. We are learning more about our own faith as we deal with health and family issues (see previous posts). We are learning about how God interacts with people as students share their stories in chapel every Tuesday and Thursday.

During Christmas break we were fortunate to be able to visit with “family” in Honduras and Nicaragua. We were in a “sandwich shop” (pupuseria) in a small strip mall in Danli, Honduras, waiting for Gustavo and Manuel. On the door they had the standard PUSH and PULL signs (en español, por supuesto, EMPUJE y JALE). In addition, they had Christian messages (see photos). Busca a Cristo (Look for Christ) and Cristo te ama (Christ loves you). Then, inside the restaurant, attached to their sign by the cash register (caja), was the message: Jesucristo muy pronto vendrá ¿Ya estás listo? (Jesus Christ will come very soon – Are you ready now?).

When Gustavo and Manuel arrived, I commented to them that stores or restaurants in the US would not display such signs because so many people complain about being offended. They said signs like this were normal throughout the country! Is the US moving closer or further from Christianity?

It was great seeing our Hope family. We extend a special thanks to Tom and Mona for providing a place to park our stuff while in the US!

Thanks for following us on our journey – watch for opportunities to get involved! We serve a BIG GOD!