Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dolls and Doll Clothes

Sandy recently returned from her five week trip back to the US. During that trip she shared a simple need we have here for the girls: a lack of dolls and their clothes. Some of the girls had dolls, others did not. Most dolls come from the store new with just paper clothes. Sandy started making doll clothes but then realized that would be a good project for some of the groups that wanted to help us. Hence, she was able to bring back dolls for the girls that had none and doll clothes for everyone.

We numbered the dolls 1-14 and each girls picked a number from a bowl - the numbers were on folded paper so they didn't know which number they had. Sandy sorted the doll clothes into plastic bags so each girl got 2 sets of doll clothes.

Her favorite movie is Beauty and the Beast. A couple of days before we held this event, she had seen this Belle doll, knew the doll would be given to one of the girls, and wanted it for herself, so she started praying that she would get the doll. The topic of the monthly women's meeting at church was meekness, and how we need to let God be in control. It turns out that she stopped praying to receive the doll, and mimicking the Master, prayed not my will but your will, God. When she drew her number she got Belle! God used this to increase her faith as well as show her His love.

This girl is 11 years old and this is the first doll she has ever had.

You put the smiles on these girls' faces!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

¡Estoy Super Feliz! - I am Super Happy

¡Estoy Super Feliz! said Myrian after we presented to her the combination food processor / blender YOU provided for her.

Yep - if you are donating to our ministry here at Su Refugio, this is a sample of what we are doing with those donations. We are acting as a channel for your donations to go straight to the needs at this facility, caring for children and helping women support their families.

We have 20 girls that live here, plus two caretakers at all times. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays we open the comedor (dining area) to another 80 or 90 neighborhood children so they can have nutritious meals three days a week. Obviously Myriam has a lot of food preparation to do and now that is much easier, thanks to YOUR donations.

The older girls often helped cut the vegetables for soups and other meals. Just after preparing this batch, we presented to her the new food processor YOU provided.

Giving thanks to God for His provision through you, our donors and supporters.

If you are already donating, you know how good it feels to be part of God's work here. If you would like to be part of this ministry, and know that 100% of your dollars go straight to the need, follow this link and click on SUPPORT BILL AND SANDY. You can mail checks to United World Mission in Charlotte, NC or you can give online (Designation: Missionary, then select us in the dropdown list).
Your donation is 100% tax-deductible!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Right Place, Right Time - Overcome with Joy!

On Sunday, October 12, 2014…
  • Sandy was at a reception hosted by our friends Jamie and Gidget Graham and was presenting what we do at Su Refugio to our support team
  • Jessica was in Las Vegas with her daughters enjoying family time by a swimming pool
  • Brian went to a Redskins football game with his son
  • I was in Paraguay celebrating the fourth anniversary of the children’s home at Su Refugio

I love my wife, my children and my grandchildren, but I am overcome with joy that I was able to celebrate with my “family” here. You see, we are caring for 20 girls (actually God is caring for them by using us as His instruments), girls that were living in high-risk situations in their homes, girls that the government pulled from their homes and placed with us. When these girls arrive they are usually shy and often reclusive; not because of their personality but because of fear from their previous living conditions. It can take days, weeks or months – sometimes years – before they are able to be “normal” again.

-- I saw pictures of four years worth of children that have passed through this refuge – and every one is special!
-- I received hugs from many of these girls.
-- I saw these girls in their dresses they only wear on special occasions.
-- I heard the testimony of a 13-year old girl that was baptized last week and knows that God wants her to become a missionary and study at Palabra de Vida (Word of Life) in Argentina.
-- I heard these girls sing “Jesus Loves Me.”
Today I was overcome with joy that I am now part of what God started here four years ago, using Wilfrido and Elisa Talavera, Scott and Michelle Kvandal, and so many others.

Yes, I miss my wife, children and grandchildren, but I would not trade what I experienced tonight for anything. It was an amazing night. Thanks be to God!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Urgent Need in the Comedor

   Three days per week, Pastor Pablo drives the Su Refugio bus into town and picks up 90-95 children we have identified as not receiving proper nutrition. We bring them out and give them a nourishing meal for their bodies and a spiritual message for their souls.

   A local organization had been contributing food and financial donations but has scaled back their support and we now do not have enough resources to continue at this level. The total cost for this operation, transportation and food, is about $180 per week, or $2 per child – about 67 cents per meal.

   You have an opportunity to make a difference. By contributing just $10/week ($40/month), you can keep five children on this list. 100% of your donation would go to the children – we are covering the overhead and administrative expenses. 
   Although all donations are appreciated, for this need we are really looking for repeating donations, weekly or monthly, for any amount. Include in the Memo or Comment section the word “comedor” and we will make sure your donation goes straight to the comedor!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Do You Know God Like This?

IF YOU are a Follower of Christ, and have not participated in a worship service in another culture and another language, you are missing out on a big part of who God is. It’s one thing to know in your head that God is praised all over the world, in many cultures and different languages, but until you have personally been part of it, you cannot fully understand. There are some things you can only get through personal experience.

This concept of personal experience even applied to Jesus: the bible says…
            seeing the people, He felt compassion for them – Matthew 9:36;
            When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them – Matthew 14:14.
Certainly Jesus knew about the people, but the bible says that when he saw the people, he had compassion for them.

If you are able to see people who do things different from you, eat food you’re not used to, speak a language different than yours, in a different part of the world, giving praise to God the same way you do, it will change the way you understand God. You will see Him as bigger than you could otherwise know. You will see Him as caring for people you never even dreamed about. You will see how small you are. You will see how blessed you are that you can be part of such a large family. And if you are a servant of His, you will know how privileged you are to be chosen to serve.

I have been fortunate enough to see people praise God in six different languages. I have seen preachers fervently preach and teach about God in six languages. I have an appreciation for how vast God is because of these experiences, yet still, with each worship service in another culture, I am amazed at the great size of our God and the impact He is having, at least in the parts of the world I have been able to visit.

My plea to you is simply this: visit another country where the language and culture is different from yours, and attend a worship service. If you do not know the language, by all means go with someone that can translate for you. See the passion of the people as they sing the words that you may not understand, see the enthusiasm of the preacher as he proclaims God’s message and know he is teaching about the same God and the same bible you know, be changed for the better! You will not regret it!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

You bought the bins!

Remember our call for donations to buy bins so we could sort and organize the material and supplies that had been donated? Here are some before and after pictures of the material in suitcases, empty boxes, and empty shelves.

WITH YOUR DONATIONS we were able to buy all the bins we needed and Sandy and another “tia” sorted and filtered the donations so now we know what we have and can easily find what we need!




Friday, March 28, 2014

Can Prayer Be Unwanted?

This morning I was reading through Proverbs 28 and verse 9 really stuck out:
            He who turns away his ear from listening to the law,
                        Even his prayer is an abomination. – Proverbs 28:9

I remember where the Bible says husbands that don’t live with their wives in an understanding way can have their prayers hindered (1 Peter 3:7), but here we are told prayers can be an abomination to God. [Abomination: a vile, shameful, or detestable action; hateful beyond belief.]
Who is the person that turns away his ear from listening to the law? This would be someone who knows God’s law, who knows what God desires, yet turns away from these things because it might not be convenient for them. These people are everywhere! I think Solomon is referring not so much to unbelievers, because they don’t generally know God’s law, but to believers – people who call themselves Christians and may even be going to church.

And that is the danger. There are many people who know God’s law but have turned their ears away from His law, looking for something they want to hear.
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4

 How do you know if you have turned your ear from listening to the law? Don’t look at your heart, for The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). Instead, look at your actions, look at how you are living your life. Certainly your actions do nothing for your salvation, but your actions and how you live your life are a reflection of your faith and your belief (faith without works is useless – James 2:20).

The Message translates Proverbs 28:9 like this:
            God has no use for the prayers
                        of the people who won’t listen to him.

Are you listening to God’s word, or have you turned your ear, deciding there are parts of God’s law that just don’t fit into your life at this time? Or are you enjoying the benefits of being a child of God?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Can you afford $6 to buy a plastic bin?

We have received donations of yarn, material and sewing notions, but all of it is still in the suitcases and cardboard boxes they came in. As we develop the Center of Hope, we want to use these items to teach women to sew, knit, cut hair (not with these items, of course!), and other skills to help them support their families.

As you can see, we have a storeroom full of empty shelves. We don’t really want to put suitcases full of material on these shelves; can you imagine trying to find what you want?

We are giving you an opportunity to help (by asking for your direct support). For $6 you can buy a 12-liter plastic bin; for $6.50 you can buy a 20-liter bin; for $8.50 you can buy a larger bin (I don’t remember the size).

This is a 12-liter bin, cost = US $6

This is a 20-liter bin, cost = US $6.50

This is a larger bin, cost = US $8
PLEASE, consider buying 1, 2, 3, 5 or 10 bins for us. You send us the money and we will buy the bins! How else can you contribute directly to needs in-the-field?

Since we’re in Paraguay, how can you send us the money? It’s a few keystrokes away (if you want to do it, you can do it – but will you do it?)…
1)   go to
2)   click on GIVE
you can mail a check to the address shown, or use a credit card…
3)   click on GIVE ONLINE (for credit cards)
4)   under Designation, select Missionary
5)   below Missionary, scroll down and select Stevener, Bill & Sandy – 27668
6)   to the right, in the amount area, enter how much you want to spend on the bins
7)   click “Add” to finish this part of the form
8)   continue to fill out the rest form (name, address, credit card info, etc)

Please send us an email or FB message letting you know how many and what size bins you want to buy.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Schooled by a 7-year old!

Sunday morning service was held in the amphitheater because we had no electricity on the complex, hence no fans in the church building. When it came time to pass the offering bag, the usher first passed it to the group of adults and older kids. When it got to me, I was going to pass it over to the younger kids, but the usher asked for the bag directly. I gave it to him and he passed it to the other adults and older kids. Eventually the bag made it back to me from the side of the younger kids, and I noticed they were all putting in their coins.

Apparently the offering bag had bypassed one of the younger girls. After the usher had collected the bag and was putting it away, this young girl came quickly and put her coins in, also. That act made a big impression on me.

Admittedly, there have been times when an offering bag didn’t make it to where I was sitting and I was content to save my offering for another time. This girl was different. She had a choice: save her offering money for something she might like, or give it to God’s work in the church. After all, no one would know if she didn’t make her offering. It wasn’t her fault the bag didn’t get to her. She was willing to give, but didn’t have to make the extra effort. But she did. Wow!

How many reasons do we come up with for not giving? Who else can learn from this little girl? Giving is a privilege, not an obligation. Take advantage of it!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Being "In the Loop"

We’ve heard this phrase over and over… keep me in the loop. What does that mean? Does it mean I want to know what’s going on? Does it mean I want to be part of the action [but from a distance]? Does it mean Keep doing what you’re doing; just let me know what you’re doing? A few days ago I got to see what “being in the loop” was all about.

Some of the 40+ from the town that come to our feeding program.
Here at Su Refugio in Paraguay, we have many of God’s blessings, two of which are extremely pure artesian water from deep below the ground and children. You see, we have a feeding program here for many of the under-nourished children from the neighboring town of Tobati. Three times a week we go into town at lunchtime to pickup these children (sometimes 40, sometimes 70), bring them out to Su Refugio, and provide two meals for them: one from the kitchen and another from the heart – the gospel.

I had the opportunity to help serve these children. After making sure they all had plates of food I was taking around pitchers of God’s pure artesian water. As I saw the children stretching out their arms with the metal cups to receive this water, I realized how blessed I was to be “in the loop” for passing God’s blessings on to these children.

Next time you hear that phrase, “in the loop”, ask yourself if you are in the loop for passing God's blessings on to others.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Travel and Preparations

On Wednesday, February 12, I (Bill) will be leaving Costa Rica again, this time for Paraguay.

On Saturday, February 15, Su Refugio will be celebrating the grand opening of the Centro de Esperanza (Center of Hope). This long-awaited facility is where we will focus our attention on training the people, especially, the women, of Tobati in skills so they can start small businesses that we hope will help them support their families.
Interior of the Center of Hope - 1 week before the grand opening!
In the photo, taken from the main entrance of the building, there is one large meeting room on the left and two smaller classrooms on the right. The large central part of the facility is open to allow for large gatherings. At the back of the building are two small 1-bedroom apartments.

Sandy and I will be co-directors for the use of the facility, coordinating the activities and trying to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Another reason I am going to Paraguay is to hopefully finalize our purchase of a piece of land so we can start construction on a new house. While we were in Paraguay a couple months ago, we discovered there are very few houses for rent (we didn’t find any available) and only a few houses for sale. The price to buy a house, and then make repairs, was as much as it would cost for us to buy the land and build the house that we want.
Tobati, Paraguay - Su Refugio to the south, and where we want to build
Paraguay does not use an escrow system, so it is basically bring a pen and a bucket of money: sign the papers and hand over the bucket. We tried doing this from Costa Rica but it just didn’t work out. Without an escrow system, we could not find a way to get the money to Paraguay. We don’t have a bank account, the person I gave power of attorney to sign for me does not have a bank account, and the people we know with bank accounts did not want to accept large transfers for fear of government investigations as to why they were receiving so much money. Banks trying to avoid money-laundering have created problems like this.
Closeup of the land we are trying to buy

Prayer requests:
  • safe travels (I will be carrying a lot of money – but less than the $10,000 limit!)
  • good weather and turnout for the grand opening – that people will come to learn more about Su Refugio
  • clean transaction while buying the land – we already know the homeowner adjacent to the land we want built his house slightly over the property line and we have to fix the documents, in addition to buying the land… Welcome to Paraguay! I was told

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Where Are We, Paraguay or Costa Rica?

Once we completed our coursework in the US (a week-long interpersonal skills workshop and a four week intercultural missionary course), we left the US to spend three weeks in Paraguay. We hired a “handler” to help us navigate the immigration offices and translate, validate, and file our permanent residency paperwork. We also took some time to visit with the families we know there and looked for housing options: no rentals available so we will have to buy a house or build one!

As of January 5th, we are in Costa Rica to begin five months of language training, primarily for Sandy but also for Bill. While Sandy is in her classes, 7:30 am – 12:10 pm, Monday – Friday, Bill is helping in the school that teaches the missionary children, as well as some of the local Costa Rican children. He will be teaching computer applications, two Spanish math classes, and tutoring several students that need help with math. In the afternoons while Sandy is doing her homework, Bill will be getting Spanish tutoring of his own three days per week and tutoring another Costa Rican student to help prepare him for upcoming English exams, and in February Bill will be teaching an ESL class with AMCA, a Christian youth organization. Needless to say, we have a full schedule!

It’s easy to get focused on our various tasks, to get discouraged by the piles of verbs, confusing sentence structures, dirty streets and broken concrete but God sends us reminders of the beauty that surrounds us each and every day. We wake up to the beautiful smiling faces of the wonderful family that takes care of us so we can focus on our learning and we even have fuzzy flowers to make us smile!

The first of June, we plan to return to Paraguay and start to get settled, buying a car, a house, furniture for the house, etc.

Prayer requests:
  • that we learn and retain as much Spanish as possible 
  • that Daisy and Rudolpho (our host family here in Costa Rica) continue to see God’s blessings in their lives
  • that the Holy Spirit would continue working in Paraguay, preparing the hearts of the people we will be serving

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What's In a Name?

LAM? UWM? Su Refugio? What’s going on? Are you trying to hide something?

Those of you supporting us financially may have noticed a change after the first of the year… allow me to explain.

We are (will be) working for Su Refugio Ministries in Paraguay. Latin America Mission (LAM) is an organization that partners with existing ministries in Latin America, like Su Refugio. LAM is the mission organization that handles some of our state-side logistics, such as collecting donations, sending the funds to us when we have ministry expenses, and handling our IRS/tax obligations.
United World Mission (UWM) is an organization similar to LAM that does the same thing as LAM (partnering with existing ministries) but it works world-wide, not just in Latin America.
On January 1, LAM and UWM merged, closing the LAM offices in Miami, FL and moving their functions to the UWM offices in Charlotte, NC. Because of this merger, UWM is now collecting our donations, sending them to us when we have ministry expenses, and handling our IRS/tax obligations.

Any donations you setup through LAM, through their website, telephone, or mail, have automatically been transferred to UWM (so I’ve been told!).

If you want to start donations for us, here is the procedure:
      1)   go to the UWM website:
      2)   click on GIVE
      3)   mail a check to the address indicated (include a note the gift is for Bill & Sandy Stevener)
           -or- click on GIVE ONLINE… if you are giving online, a new window will appear…
      4)   under the Designation label, select Missionary
      5)   below Missionary, scroll down and select Stevener, Bill & Sandy – 27668
      6)   to the right, in the amount area, enter the amount
      7)   click “Add” to finish this part of the form
      8)   continue to fill out the rest of the form with your name, address, frequency, etc

If you have any questions, you can call UWM at 800-825-5896, Monday-Friday between 8am - 5pm EST. You can also call one of us at 702-866-9548.

NOTE: LAM and UWM are both 501(c)3 organizations and your donations are fully tax-deductible.