Bryan & Cheri Stensaas
Cheri and I have been missionaries since 1977 when we were accepted by Baptist International Missions, Inc. (BIMI). I was saved at Bethel Baptist Church in Rota, Spain, in 1975 while I was in the military. Cheri was saved at Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1977, while I was attending Bible college. We served as missionaries to the military for eight years before returning to the States where I pastored Faith Baptist Church in Sedalia, Missouri. While I was pastoring, God led us to surrender to be missionaries in Africa where we have been serving in Uganda up to the present time.
I have been battling peripheral neuropathy in my feet and legs for 14 years and cannot get into the villages to do the work God called me to do. We had to make the decision that we would have to leave the full-time ministry in Africa and join the Assistance and Relief Missionary (ARM) program of BIMI for a period of two years. ARM is a program that will allow me to continue my mission outreach in a different or limited manner.
Even though we cannot continue in a full-time capacity due to health problems, our hearts are still in missions and with our people in Uganda. We have been able to see much fruit in Africa. Many souls have come to Christ. The Lord has enabled me to establish 13 churches, many preaching points, four Bible institutes, and three radio stations. Cheri has taught English classes and conducted ladies and children's ministries. There have also been ministries in prisons and schools, and translation ministries have been established during these years.
We want to make sure that this fruit remains. In order to accomplish this, we need to have a presence there for at least a few years. This is not to maintain authority but to provide counsel and needed confidence to our pastors. To just leave the field without keeping that presence for a few years while the nationals mature gives them the feeling of being abandoned. It also opens the door to the false religions that would be glad to step in and give them their advice.
It is very difficult for a young church in Africa to get its own land and building. So we have set up a plan that when a pastor and his people have proven themselves to be serious, we provide the capital for them to rent enough land and buy seed to plant a crop. We have them contract the land for a three-year period. The pastor and church members provide the labor to work the land. When the crop is harvested, the money is brought to the church in Mbarara and held in escrow. From that point, some of the money is used to continue paying the rent on the land and seed for the next crop. They do this for approximately 1½ years until they are able to buy their own land with what has been saved. This money is then released to buy the land. The church members continue throughout the next approximately 1½ years to provide the necessary expenses to build the church building. They have overcome two of the major hurdles that seem to kill works here. This provides ownership of the church to the people and not the missionary. This also keeps the missionary from asking for more and more from the supporting churches. Although we do provide leadership and help during this transition, they provide the labor, and their confidence is built up so they can continue on by themselves.
It is somewhat the same for the radio ministry. They too can do most of the work well, but if there are problems with equipment, they have no access to fix or replace the equipment from within the country. We provide the contact and expertise that is needed. This also gives them confidence that when a problem occurs, they can get the needed counsel and help.
We also maintain contact with the church planting team through Pastor Claudian in Mbarara. Having someone in his corner gives the help, direction, and confidence any fighter needs. These men are fighting battles with tradition and culture. They need someone to encourage and stand with them.
The ARM program over the next two years allows us to continue to be involved in missions in a needed but different way. We will continue to be very busy in missions. The Lord has given us the added privilege of teaching missions at West Coast Baptist College. We will be teaching church planting and other practical courses preparing missionaries for the field.
We need missionaries to not only replace us but also expand the outreach through Uganda and Africa. I will be taking students to the field (not for a sightseeing tour) in order to get them into places and with people where God can really work in their hearts. I have developed a student missionary program where the students will spend six weeks of intensive training on the field before they graduate. This will help eliminate missionary casualties on furlough or in their first term. They will know what they are facing.
We will also be available to preach in missions conferences and special missions meetings. Our desire is to assist local churches in any way we can. Pray for us. We would appreciate any monthly support you can give to make this ministry a reality.