TBS Founders Celebrate 20th Wedding Anniversary
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us (I John 4:10)
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." I Timothy 2:4
Once upon a time, a young man named Antonio, Brazilian professor and church leader, was praying for a ministry-minded wife. Meanwhile, I (Barbara), was praying for a Godly husband. Then a miracle occurred—we met each other in Recife International Airport at 2 a.m. on August 19, 1992, just months after my father passed away. I was headed back to the mission field and Tony was part of my welcoming committee. My Roland electric piano was missing from my luggage, so I was standing at the counter to make a report.
Right then and there, Tony walked up and introduced himself, looking so calm and confident, giving me the common Brazilian greeting of 2 kisses—one on each cheek. How many girls do you know meet their future husband and simultaneously get kissed by him? We soon began spending time together, going for walks, sharing our dreams. Our hearts became entwined. The rest is history.
We married a year later. At some point, we stopped being two and have become “one”. Now we can’t imagine life without the other. We work together as a team. Over the last 2 decades, God has blessed us with “spiritual children” from several nations. We’ve worked as missionaries in Brazil then came to study, serve, and minister in the U.S. We’ve learned each other’s language, customs, and cuisine, even came to love each other’s home, family, and heritage as if it were our own. In all, we realize life is much better—together.
At our wedding, as the singers sang their lovely song, everyone watching attentively, we stood looking deep into each other’s eyes, smiling brightly, and I thought to myself something I’d never thought before : “This is it! No turning back! We’re glued together from now on. No matter what. No matter what lies ahead. And if God brought us together—He will surely keep us together.” I have remembered those few minutes in time ever since. How true those inner thoughts/prayers have been, also how amazing the Lord has been, seeing us through many a trial, many a heartache, and bringing many blessings. For sure, the will of God will never take you where the Grace of God can’t keep you.
Jump ahead a few years to one of the biggest miracles in our lifetime. While on deputation, we stayed at Vera’s house in Rootstown, Ohio. One day a fellow called who had received our prayer letter just days prior. He wanted to stop by and give us something. Soon came the knock on the door, and then the envelope with roughly $2,200 dollars inside. This dear man had heard about our necessary ministry expenses, and sold the Pontoon Boat that he had sitting in the yard—just to help us out. He joyfully—yes, joyfully!—handed us that envelope and we promptly got out of debt and have thanked God to this day for His provision. Certainly, that’s the only time in our lives that we have received a gift of this nature, but just knowing that God has the power to answer our prayers any way He desires, by carrying us through the hard times or literally rescuing us, setting us on high ground, our faith has grown. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (I Thess 5:24).
At some point, with family on 3 continents, we decided to give ourselves a break and modify house rules just a bit. First, we established that we would express ourselves in Portuguese at home since that’s the language in which we met and courted. In public, we’d speak English while with English-speakers and vice-versa, unless something needed further translation. We also declared any day that we can get together with family or friends to be a “holiday”, since it’s such a rare treat, as most live pretty far away. Then we count official holidays on the calendar as days that are OK to be geographically far from loved ones, if need be. But they can also be opportunities to meet with others in the same boat. So far, our modifications have worked out pretty well. The strong sense of “missing” friends and family (“saudade” in Portuguese) - a longing to be somewhere else— is greatly reduced. The self-pity and bitterness that sometimes creep into international couples’ lives have been eliminated, and we can focus on the task of daily living and just being who God wants us to be. Godliness with contentment is great gain (I Tim 6:6).
With Love from Tony and Barb Sistelos
Ministering in Houston
In Houston, Barb had the opportunity of joining Karen Fortner (wife of Dr. David Fortner, seen in photo left) in their weekend ministry activities throughout the greater Houston area. She also taught a seminar to STLTS Women in Leadership called "GraceBook - The Urban Guide to Godly Living". What a blessed time that was! At the end of the seminar, all agreed that God has truly brought each one to a unique point in their spiritual lives - a moment of focusing on Christ and further equipping themselves in God's Word.
At the same time, Tony had the opportunity to present to the men in leadership throughout the Houston region the Seminary's new structure, how courses are going to gradually be converted to "online" format, and how STLTS has the potential for future growth via distance education. He pointed out that life-long learning and in-depth study of the Bible with focus on understanding the Scriptures according to Pauline theology is key.
The men were encouraged and returned to their respective ministries inspired and invigorated by God's Spirit!
TBS MINISTRIES UPDATE
- Jan 2012 - TBS Online Learning courses developed, pilot courses given: A-OK
- April 2012 - TBS Online Learning Course Graduation Ceremony in Evansville, IN
- May 2012 - St. Louis Theological Seminary Graduation in Denver, CO
- All 2012 - Church visits / Bible Conferences (IN, WA, OH, WI, MI, IL)
- Summer 2012/2013 - Barb speaks at Women’s Conference near Chicago, and STLTS Ladies in Houston: “GraceBook - The Urban Guide to Godly Living”
- May 2013 - St. Louis Theological Seminary Graduation in St. Louis, MO
- July 2013 - Email received from A.L. of FL: “Love my Grace Library CD. Want upgrade.”
- Continued opportunities to share Christ with spiritually hungry individuals
- Protection, wisdom, funds for travel expenses, office, and accreditation expenses
- Strength and open doors for Dr. David Fortner, Dean, STLTS-Houston Satellite
- Funds for TBS Ministries / TBS Online Learning, equipment, course accreditation, fees - $3,000
- God’s direction regarding Barb’s two books, ready to publish
Ministry Expansion: Texas, Indonesia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea!
And he gave some... pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).
One of the most gratifying and yet humbling moments in our lives was Tony’s acceptance of the invitation made by Pastor Rick Owsley of St. Louis Bible Fellowship (St. Louis, MO), to become President of St. Louis Theological Seminary. The seminary was founded by Pastor Owsley in 2006 and since then has graduated many well-trained leaders/grace believers, allowing them to serve more knowledgeably in various churches and fields.
The faith of Pastor Rick and the church in the ministry of the Body of Christ through His saints and their confidence in Tony’s education and visionary attitude to serve in such a capacity were decisive. As the organization has grown, it is clear that much work is yet to be done. So please pray that the Lord continue to guide and provide the needs of the seminary, its leadership, and students.
A recent trip led us to visit Dr. David Fortner of Houston, Texas, where he serves as Dean of the STLTS-Houston campus. We were delighted to have the opportunity to meet him and his wife, Karen, plus many wonderful students and graduates. Some are working adults seeking to deepen their understanding of the Word of God. Others are involved in ministry full or part-time, desiring proficiency. No doubt, this growing seminary extension with an abundance of locations throughout the greater Houston area needs our incessant prayers!
In a recent meeting with Dr. Mario Indino, Director of Grace Beyond Borders Ministries, Inc. in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea, an educational partnership was formed, taking both St. Louis Theological Seminary and TBS Online Learning to those countries for the purpose of enhancing the seminary program and courses already in operation. Our goal will be to expand the existing program at various levels in order to train Godly men and women in “rightly dividing the Word of Truth”.
Pastor Indino is an extraordinary man, well-seasoned in ministry, multilingual, and especially, possessing the gift of trusting solely in God together with us to make all our dreams (of glorifying God with the fruit of this joint ministry) come true. May God bless Dr. Indino and his wife, Ella, who awaits his return to Indonesia this coming November.
Our God is an Awesome God!