October 2016

Dear Friends,

Six months have passed since our last letter - longer than we usually wait.  Numerous events and changes have taken place in those months, and it will take a long letter to describe them.

As we last wrote, our neighbor Gerrie was dying of cancer.  She did, in fact, die shortly after our letter.  Her last weeks were clouded by dementia, and we don't know if she ever surrendered herself to God.  Gerrie's family asked if I would officiate (speak and pray) at her funeral; that was difficult, but it provided yet another opportunity to speak of God to those who came.

We also asked you to pray for my summer trip to Hanoi with college and graduate students.  In terms of logistical details, it was the best trip yet - no travel problems, no illness, no problems of any kind.  The American students made good friends among the Vietnamese students, and each person had opportunities to share their faith in private conversations.  Please pray for their ongoing friendships and conversations (by internet).  Pray also that God will incline some of these six fine students to use their gifts and professional skills to serve God and reach lost people.  Some students from previous summers are now in strategic full-time ministry.

Although God answered your prayers for my trip to Hanoi, things back home did not go well.  In the best of times, Eva can be difficult; when I'm away she can be even harder.  Furthermore, my summer trips usually start while Best is in the midst of her annual end-of-the-school-year pressures - a bad time to be 7,846 miles away!  What's worse, this was precisely when her anti-depressant medicine failed.  Such medication often loses its desired effect over time.  The last one worked will for 17 long years, but - as sometimes happens - it simply quit working, and Beth fell into a severe clinical depression while I was far away in Vietnam.

Some of you may recall that Beth has had such depressions before, and had a severe one back in 1995.  Until then, I did not know that clinical depressions is a medical illness - not just 'a mood thing'.  Certain chemicals in our brain become unbalanced and then our neuro-transmitters don't work right.  Anti-depressant medications are supposed to fix this, but Beth's medical people have still not (after five months!) found a medication to relieve her illness. We are exploring other medical options while praying and waiting in hope.  Psalm 27:14 says, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."  Please pray with us for Beth, that she will be healed, that this dark cloud will lift, and that God will soon restore her usual joy.

Although we hate this illness and long for healing, God has used it to bless us in some unexpected ways.  Beth has never been closer to God.  She leans on Him all day, every day, through His Word and prayer.  Another blessing: we've never felt closer to each other.  Clinical depression is awful, but this is actually strengthening our marriage!  The Enemy may want this sickness to defeat us, but God id defeating him and using this trial for our good and His glory.

Since returning from Vietnam, because of Beth's health, I have cancelled several planned trips.  It's simply not wise for me to be far away until Beth is much better.  God is also directing us, after much prayer, toward making a significant change in ministry.

You likely know that  - since 1998 - the Navigators have 'loaned' or seconded me to serve Vietnam through Resource Exchange International (REI-Vietnam)  Now, though, through prayer, wise counsel and a variety of circumstances, God is leading us to serve within the Navigators intself, in their International Student Ministry (You can learn a bit about ISM at their website, http://www.nav-ism.org/ ) This means that I will no longer be traveling to Vietnam; rather, I will focus upon internation students (from everywhere!) studying at universities her in Colorado, andthere are many.  We're familiar with this sort of ministry, of course, because we reached students for years in universities in China and Vietnam, then I also led Bible Studies for international students during my graduate studies in Bolder.  Still, there will be a few new skills to learn, and we're already building relationships with some international students.  Pray...

This ministry will keep me closer to home.  I will likely make occasional, brief trips here in the U.S.  - for conferences, fundraising, etc. - but I won't be 7,846 miles away for weeks at a time, as I was in Vietnam.  Once she recovers,  Beth will also be able to have a greater role in this ministry than she had when I flew to the other side of the world!  For example, we'll invite students into our home for meals and converstaion.  I will also appreciate Beth's everyday teaching expertise whenever I help students with their English.

Other nations send their brightest scholars to study in America.  Here, many have greater freedoms than at home, and thy're eager to learn what they can about everything - including our faith.  As we befriend them, help them with English and other needs, we will have chances to share the truth of Jesus with them.  Then, most will graduate and return to their own countries.  Among these, we hope some will go home with faith in God, ready and eager to "delare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples" (ps. 96:3)

Our move to ISM will take place January 1st.  For those of you who now support us through the Navigators, that will not change at all.  A few of you have supported us through REI-Vietnam, and that will change.  With this letter, we'll include a card for you with information about how to ove your support to our Navigator account (effective immediately).

Forgive this long letter, but we though you would want to know the specifics of these ministry changes - and why.  Beth and I feel enormously privileged to have you with us 'through think and thin.'  For your faithful support in prayer and/or financial gifts we are very grateful.

May God richly bless you in every way.

Jeff & Beth Stebbins 

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