30
Jan

How This Journey Began

   Posted by: Ron & Stephanie Kenaston   in

From the beginning… 

 

STEPHANIE

See, we are at the beginning of our journey and I would love to share our story with you, because you have been someone important in our lives, either in the past, present or future, depending on how you ended up here at our site.

I am going to tell you the long version. 

I was not raised a Christian.  I lived through things like being raped as a teen and getting pregnant by an abusive man, and my dear first son dying of SIDS at two months of age.  All that in my first 18 years.  When my husband came along two weeks after my son’s death, I thought he was the best thing ever.  I thought he alone would make me happy.  But I was messed up with cycles of depression, anxiety, fear, anger…and continued on that road for 7 years. 

I had a redemptive dream one night 11 years ago, last October, and was very depressed at the time.  I had a good husband, two beautiful children at the time, and could not explain the emptiness I felt inside.  No one I knew could understand it, of course no one I knew was a commited evangelical Christian or they may have explained it to me.  The enemy had a strong hold on me I cannot explain.  I had decided that night that life really had no deep meaning and that there was not much point to it, yes – I know, sounds like definite depression, but I believe that there was deeper meaning to it.  I was depressed, but I was spiritually starving too.

That night I had a dream that involved meeting the enemy and realizing who my tormentor was.  I cannot explain how I knew to do this.  I believe part of my testimony is the fact that I cannot explain it.  Some things God does for his glory and it must just be obvious that it is Him. 

In my dream I fell to my knees and cried out, “Jesus, save me!”  The entire space surrounding me was filled with the brightest light that swallowed up everything that was around.  The enemy, the pain, the suffering, the emptiness.  I awoke to my bed and my room was filled with this light and I heard the sweetest man’s voice say, no almost sing, “Stephanie, do you follow me?”

 

That week I found someone who could take me to a church.  Before Sunday came I turned on my car radio and it was on a Christian station.  I didn’t even know one existed.  This is how far from Christianity I had been.  But what a testimony to God’s provision.

 

(I had studied once with Jehovah Witnesses 18 years ago.  I lived in another town than anyone else I knew.  I have to tell you that they started me in the Bible book, Genesis, and we never got out of that book in the year I studied with them.  I didn’t even know about Jesus after that long.   To read  God’s  Word and not even know of Salvation.  (Isn’t that sad.) 

 

Anyway, Ron’s cousin (Ron’s my husband) took me to a church she went to once in a while.    She would go in the back after service starts and left before the end so that no one would bug her.  But God used her to take me, interesting…isn’t it.

 

I wanted her to take me again, but she said she would not go two Sundays in a row.  I was so disappointed and was scared to go by myself, but I had to know this Jesus better. So I went back by myself the next Sunday. 

 

I stayed for both services.  It was a youth Sunday.  The kids put on the service and a little girl sung the song, “If this world is a lonely place” by Jaci Velázquez.  I just couldn’t believe that.  It was God speaking to me.  Two weeks later I was baptized. 

 

RON

At this point I was not having anything to do with it.  I grew up in a home with good parents, but where we went to church because we lived across the street from it and were in a small town so we did not want others to think that we weren’t church goers.  But I was never really saved.  I considered myself a Christian just because I had been to church.

Through the grace of God I agreed to finally come to church with Stephanie and the kids.  Actually, funny story, I first went because Steph told me the pastor, Stan, hunted deer.  So I figured he couldn’t be all bad.  Within a couple of months I realized that I needed to repent and be baptized.  Friends, Kirk and Tami, had us over to their house and shared with me patiently the things that I needed to hear.  The rest is history!

 

STEPHANIE 

I immersed myself in bible studies and retreats.  Unable to get enough of  Jesus or the Bible.  A few weeks into bible study a woman asked me when I started following the Lord, I said, “well the night the Lord saved me.”  She wanted a more traditional answer, but that’s all I had.  That “follow me” thing intrigued me because of what I had heard from that voice.  The study had us turn to where Jesus asked his disciples to follow him and it was again a whoosh of confirmation that it really was Jesus.  I am waiting to someday hear the answer from him, when I meet him in Heaven, as to why he asked me if I followed him, instead of commanding it or asking it the way he did in scripture.  But I still believe it was Him.  I had a strong call to missions almost from the start.  I would listen to visiting missionaries and just felt such a yearning and call.  We had two kids already.  And if I shared my yearning with anyone I was often discouraged.  Also there was Ron.

 

RON

In 1999 I went on a mission trip to Mexico while Steph was 8 months pregnant with our third child.  God had to grow me some.  I had never felt a call to missions, and yet here I was going.  Of course it was to build a home for a poor family.  That is how I justified being qualified.  I had experience with construction.  I could do that.  Just don’t ask me to evangelize!

 

STEPHANIE

I thought it was so unfair to be left behind.  That turned to bitterness and I struggled in my walk for the first time after my son (our third child) was born.  I had post-partum really bad.  It makes you feel bad about a lot of things.  So I thought, ‘How could I have been wrong about missions for myself.’  I was still very immature and thought that it was just going to happen, boom.  I had to grow up a lot before God would see to fruition this calling.  In 22 months I had our fourth child, another daughter.

 

FAMILY

Since then we have moved to a church in our own town, about 6 1/2 years ago.  We have been very close to our Church, Grace Community, and very involved. Our oldest daughter was baptized shortly there after.  We have lived in Dallas, OR our whole Christian walk.  We have only lived in four towns, in two states, yet have moved 19 times.  We have never settled, but we think that restlessness is a trait that God had intentions for.  We started homeschooling the kids in 2002 as we were not satisfied with what the schools were teaching or had to offer our kids.  We have tried all of them at one time or another.  We just feel with God we can do a better job.

 

RON

 When we came to Grace Community Church to check it out I just knew.  The very first service was a send off service for a short-term team to go to Peru.  I felt God tug at my heart.

 

STEPHANIE

Our first Sunday was so amazing.  I had a woman, whom I later would find out was the Senior Pastor’s wife Esther, come right up to me and say “We have been waiting for you”.  I knew that it was God’s way of saying this was to be our Church home.

I began teaching women’s bible studies and had spoken at a retreat.  I was on quite a few women’s committees and actively involved in our children’s ministries.  When the opportunity came along for an all men’s missions team to again go to Peru, Ron did not hesitate and went on the mission trip in 2004.  Again I was very confused.  Part of it was that I was being attacked by a mysterious illness that was leaving me unable to walk and disabling other parts of me.  Our church family took care of me while he was gone, but it was old wounds reopening.  I had not healed, only covered the feelings up. When he came back he was a changed man.  He wept in my lap over the poverty and love he felt.  I could not understand that.  I felt jealous suddenly over his caring so much for a place and people so foreign.  I was ignorant to truly understanding that kind of Christian love. 

 

RON

This journey was one I was not prepared for.  I signed up because we were building a school.  I could do that.  Just like the first trip.  But God intended more and as the training progressed he introduced me to sharing Jesus with the children and people of Peru.  I felt so inadequate.  But I know now God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.

I came back a radically changed man.  I freaked Stephanie out.  Re-entry was so hard.  We here in American, even the poorest, have so much more stuff and opportunities than there.  I was ashamed that I had lived such a wasteful life and raised the kids to be the same way.  I became an advocate for Food for the Hungry and got our church to sponsor the community of Acho Mego, and to sponsor the children who live there.  I so badly wanted Steph to understand what I felt.  I wanted to experience that with her, but with her health I just did not know if that was possible.

 

STEPHANIE

Ron found out a year later that they were taking a couples team back to Peru and asked me if I wanted to go.  I said I didn’t really know.  I would have to pray about it.  But it was through praying about it that really broke the sin in my heart.  The wrong feelings and jealously that had been eating at me and my marriage.  I was also dealing with a recent diagnosis of MS.  Which I do not have (more to explain later).  But what I heard from God was to trust him and go and he would heal me.  So I did.   It was two and 1/2 weeks in Lima, Pucallpa, and Acho Mego.   I will never be the same.  I came home so messed up.  I totally understood what Ron had gone through.  I felt so out of element and could not understand that.  But I did understand why he loved Peru so much.  I knew before I even came home that we were to be missionaries in Peru.  Ron, of course, did not.  He is my level headed, think it through, partner.  I love him so much.  He was satisfied with Short term missions at this time.  So he returned to Peru with another men’s team in 07. 

 

RON

I could not believe, and yet fully understood, the change in Steph after the trip.  She probably handled it better in one way or another, but we both had our areas of struggle.  It freaked me out a little that she wanted to go full time.  She was honest in how she felt, but I could not imagine giving up a great job, health insurance (with her MS), the medicines she and I had to take, the kids (Our oldest having no desire for missions), and we owned a house and had too many bills.  I was preparing for another all men’s team to Peru for 2007 so I focused on that.

 

STEPHANIE

2007 was the beginning of our journey in the desert.  I was cleaning out my closet the first week of September, as stupid as it sounds, merrily, yeah, and Ron walks in the bedroom at lunch time.  Now, he was down in Bend, 4 hours away, at a meeting.  So this was a shock. 

 

RON

I got blind-sided.  Going to Bend for a meeting with the bigwigs from work.  I had been with the company for 12 years.  First as a water delivery driver, and then as a manager.  At this point I had received multiple awards for being successful, and had survived through 3 company change of hands.  This is a company with branches across the United States and I had nothing to worry about.  Well, that was my thought.  They decided they could get someone else and pay them less.  No good explanation.  Just a month severance and that was it.  I got one days notice.  I had worked my way up and did not have a college degree.  I simply worked hard and did a great job.  Unfortunately that does not go very far when this is happening the same month the market crashes in the US.  We had just bought a new home at the top of our price range a month before.  We really believed at the time God was going to work things out smoothly for us.  So I went just a month later on that mission trip to Peru and was sure God was just waiting for that to get out of the way for him to just “fix” things.

 

STEPHANIE

Why we thought that I am not sure.  He had never SMOOTHLY worked out anything in my life.  WE always do it the hard way.  It is how he gets beyond my rebelliousness.  Ron went to Peru in October, just a month afterwards, because we had faith that God was going to do something big when he got back.  I actually had my mind made up that he was going to tell Ron to go into full time missions in Peru while there.  But he came back more certain that he did not believe that.  That he was to do short term missions there forever.  I was so sad.  I was not exactly in that picture.  So what does my future look like?  The kids were in Public school now and I got a job in November 07 at a Retirement home as an Activity Coordinator.  It was fun and demanding.  It kept my mind busy.  But it was contrary to where my heart was.  It tore at me.   I was neglecting my husband at home by being gone all the time.  He decided to go back to school and found a university online to get his Associates.  But he was always doing school work and the kids always had to be independent and interdependent on each other.  Our oldest at this time was 16 and started suffering from depression.  He expressed how helplessness he was feeling.  The little ones were running around the house without really being watched, too much; Ron in the other room doing school work, and our oldest daughter was a constant babysitter.  I prayerfully considered what to do and I quit my job.  I know that sounds extreme and crazy, but I had no doubts about what I was doing. 

I came home and began working on getting our family healthy again.  Ron was always my rock and I didn’t know what to do with this man who was unable to understand what God wanted from him.  No one would hire him and we were losing our house and would need to give up much more before the process was over.  But together, with God’s mercy, we have managed to emerge with stronger spirits that we have ever had and a better testimony of his love in this place of little.  We sold at least half our belongings to pay bills.  We gave up our van; We could not afford it.

 

RON

When I got home from Peru I was maybe more confused than every.  I wasn’t sure what God wanted me to do.  The economy had just dumped and suddenly I wasn’t a commodity.  No degree and a fired manager.  I tried to get anything that I thought would pay our bills, which was equal to our previous income.  IT wasn’t going to happen.  All signs for me seemed to point to going back to school to get a degree.  So I went and found an online college to get my associates.  I like to help people, so a degree for social work and counseling was where I felt lead.  This last trip to Peru involved a lot more ministry that I had ever been involved in before.  I felt God stirring my heart, but what did it mean?

 

STEPHANIE

Last summer I went with our church youth group to Mexico for a mission trip.  I wanted to believe that that would help squelch the hunger that God had placed in my heart.  But it only increased it.  I came home to an offer from a church family for our family to live on their farm in an apartment in their outbuilding.  Out of God’s prompting they even did renovations for our family.  We have 4 children.  No small undertaking for anyone.  The kids and I began homeschooling there in July.  The whole time I felt like I was preparing for the mission field, yet Ron was still not hearing from the Lord the way I felt I was.  I knew that if this was really God’s call, it would be to Ron too. 

 

RON

I cannot tell you what it does to a guy to have to accept help from other people when you feel like a failure.  I couldn’t keep our home.  I couldn’t afford what we needed.  We went on food stamps.  Man, to feel that way is hard.  I was feeling really depressed and poured myself into my schoolwork.  It was something I could succeed in when I felt like I was failing in everything else.  Unfortunately everyone was suffering.  I could not do school and work (when I got a farm job) and take care of the house and kids while Steph worked.  Things started imploding.  When Steph quit it was with my blessing because I was at my end too.  After moving to our friend’s farm and farm work season was over I got a job working with the homeless and driving truck for Union Gospel Mission in Salem.  I cannot tell you how much it has grown me.  I began to minister to these guys who had given up on life.  Most of the people on the streets are being provided with food and shelter.  There are so many organizations and churches helping them that they have a choice of where they want to eat and sleep.  But spiritually they are feeling hopeless and need someone to tell them that with God all things are possible.  This has been a great jump start to ministry for me and even though it is a scary call, I feel God pulling on me that way.

 

STEPHANIE

Finally, in December, I really laid it all out for him.  I had spent 2 years hearing the Lord’s call in everything and constantly voiced it to Ron and he could not hear it.  I had to know why???  On the last mission trip he began realizing he had fears about what it would take to go as a family on the mission field.  But what he also was coming to realize was that it was fear, not the lack of a call from God, which was getting in the way.  Fear was not anything I thought was the issue.  I just didn’t know.  When he told me this I remember just saying that it took trusting God to get over that fear.  But I let go of my hearts pursuit for this mission.  I laid it all down for God to take up.  I put my two little ones in a little school up the road where we are in the country, in Dec. I home schooled them because, first because I love to, but also in preparation for the field.  I literally was shell shocked about not going.  I figured if God had not changed Ron’s heart by now, or after hearing my outpouring, then I was wrong.  I have not felt so empty in a long time.  I had to figure out what it was that God wanted me to do then, with this passion in my heart and because I had been preparing myself in all ways to do missions.  I saw all the stripping away in our lives as God’s preparation.  Everything Ron used before as an excuse for not going into missions was taken out of our lives.  This I saw as confirmation.  First it was his job, and insurance, then our home… the list goes on.  All stops have been removed.  But I guessed I was mistaken and I was missing the mark.  What else could I believe?  I found out for Christmas that they have made the determination that I do not have MS or anything associated.  It is funny.  Because, though I have neuropathic pain, I do not have the debilitating symptoms I had in the past.  They figure they must have been mistaken.  What they saw on my tests before are no longer present and so now I am healed.  At least that is what I say.  That’s of God.  One more thing checked off the list.  I am down to only one medicine, and that is not even pain medicine!

 

RON

One night as Steph poured out her heart about her longing for Peru and how all these things in our life were signs from God I got so moved, and yet I just wanted to hear from God myself.  She said some interesting things.  And saw things that I just looked passed.  I may be the level headed one, but she is the one who sees everything from a heart/spirit side.  She was right on a lot of counts.  She pointed out that everyone asks if I am going to pursue going into some type of ministry.  I just could not see why.   Everyone knew I had a heart for Peru and missions, but short term missions, I said. I just could not picture how missions would look long term with a family.  She pointed out everything that I had used as an excuse God was removing, and boy did that hit home.  As I examined each thing my feeling of conviction and confidence grew.  Could it be he really is calling me?

 

STEPHANIE 

I went to Church as the New Year started and I heard from our pastor, who had just gotten back from a mission trip to Peru, and he was preaching on not being afraid, because fear is from the enemy and it was like God saying not to give up.  It was so clear and yet so frustrating.  I had prayed and prayed and just didn’t know what to do.  God, why give me this desire in my heart and then tell me no.  OR was he.  God can you just show me what we are suppose to do?

This was the start of a new season of adult Sunday school classes and I had been helping with the high school youth for a year so I decided to attend classes this term.  I went and the teacher made a comment as he was taking prayer requests that for some reason when that class prayed things happened.  So I actually asked, in front of 45 peers, for God to move Ron’s heart because of how I felt God’s leading AND that if I was wrong that God would change mine.  That took a lot.  Giving it up in front of all those people and God.  It meant truly letting go.  How would God honor this prayer? The next day Ron asked me if I wanted to go to a mission conference in two weeks, in Portland. 

 

RON

So my mentor in the Advocate program for Food for the Hungry asked me if I would bring Steph and come to a mission’s fair that was going on.  Helping some with the FH booth, but also to go to the different seminars.  I didn’t know if Steph would want to go, but when I asked she was so excited.  She printed out the brochure and poured over it.  Circling all the classes she wanted to go to.

 

STEPHANIE

I was so thrilled.  I thought about it all night and I don’t know what came over me the next morning but I told Ron that if this was just to appease my desire for missions then I did not want to go.  I told him it just hurt too much to get so close with no hope of going on the field.  You will not believe what he asked me, he asked me if I would like to find missionary work in Peru.  He was sincere.  I don’t know what exactly changed him.  He says it just all hit him.  All the signs, all the signals, all the attempts by God to speak to him and, though he does not want to jump right into going into a dangerous area with the kids, he knows we should go.

 

RON

I don’t know what finally did it for me.  But the more I thought about it, and I could hardly think of anything else, the more this seemed right.  I prayed and felt a peace about making this decision.  Going to the mission fair was just one more confirmation in it.  Great classes, a great motivator, and a great time to think.  I had and still have a lot of questions.  I want, as the man, to make sure that my family is cared for in all aspects as we go on this adventure for God.

 

STEPHANIE

So ever since then I had been online trying to hone in on what God’s direction for us was now.  Ron is comfortable with FH, yet they did not have anything that fits us for service.  So we waited on his guidance and direction.  Then the weekend at the mission fair came and I am very excited to say that God was ever present and placed people in our path to give us direction.  FH actually appeared to have a real need for us.  Just not advertised yet.  So we applied, but we were not qualified due to schooling degree requirements.  So now we must wait for God to direct us.  Now I must practice patience.  Patience is my life lesson.  I just know it because I am not good at exercising it.  In the mean time I am finding peace in the kids being in public school by realizing even that was from God.  God knew that our lives this year required a lot of preparation for what we didn’t necessarily know was coming.  Now I realize that I needed this time to grow alone, where God could find me in a quiet place and minister to my heart and help me to let go of things.  Praise Him!

 

RON

We told the kids and no real surprise to any of them.  The oldest one said he knew we would, we were just waiting on him to grow up since he did not want to go. lol. He will be on his own here at home and be starting college.  My parents, sister, and her family are here in town for support.  Steph’s extended family is only an hour away too. Our oldest daughter, with her humanitarian and animaltarian heart, is excited and scared, just like any normal person would be.  But she seems the extreme good that will come of this for everyone involved.  The two young ones are gung ho.  I have a good feeling about how they will adjust.  They are lovers of excitement and bugs and kids and getting dirty.  Sounds like Peru to me.

 

YOU

So how do you fit into all this?  Well if you are here it is because God lead you to this site, to this blog, and to our story.  But you will have to determine why.  Maybe you are family, friend, and/or fellow Christ follower.  Maybe a search line tag intrigued you.  But what ever it was you can now decided what you will do with all this.  Will you pray for our family?  Will you decide to support our journey financially?  Will you be inspired and want to go and serve too?  I can’t answer that.  But I know you can if you pray and ask God’s direction.  My prayer is that your heart will be open to the answer and your joy is multiplied as ours is.

 

If nothing else, I thank God for letting me write all this down so that I can see all that has happened and find great comfort in waiting on God.

 

If you feel any leading from the Lord please pass this site on.