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A Journey of Faith

Steve Kasperbauer

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Steve Kasperbauer and his business partner decided to start a tourist business in Guam. As the business boomed, Steve and his wife decided to buy his partner's share. When unexpected crisis hit Guam there was no where to turn and everything seemed to be headed to complete loss. His once thriving business looked like it was about to colapse until Steve decided to do something radical. To everyone around him, his plan seemed like a sure fail, but when the creator of heavne and earth intervenes there are no limits!

Conference

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  • December 21, 2007
    12:00 PM
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Good afternoon, everyone. It is certainly an honor and a privilege to be your plenary session speaker for today’s GYC Conference here in Minneapolis. My family and I are attending the GYC Conference for the second year in a row, and we have again been blessed greatly by the Spirit-filled content of this conference. GYC is our family’s Christmas gift to each other, and it is my hope that this GYC Conference has been a blessing and a gift to you as well.

 

I would like to thank the organizers of this GYC Conference for providing this opportunity for me to share with you my personal testimony on my journey of faith as it was tested on stewardship and the Sabbath. The title of my testimony being delivered to you today is “Be Faithful,” or specifically “Be Faithful When,” when tested on stewardship and the Sabbath. The title of the message is in line with the theme of this year’s GYC Conference “Be.”

 

We must be faithful when tested on stewardship and the Sabbath because, with the exception of love, the Bible has more to say about our faithful stewardship over money and use of our time and talents than any other subject. Additionally, as Seventh-day Adventists, we all know that our willful and faithful observance of God’s holy Sabbath day will be a test that will decide the destiny of our very souls in these last days.

 

It should then come as no surprise that God uses our stewardship over money, time, talents as well as our faith and faithful observance of His holy Sabbath as a test of our commitment to Him, and, most of all, to prepare us for the Time of Trouble that lies ahead in the future. However, at this time, and before we proceed any further, I would like to invite everyone listening to pause and to join with me for a word of prayer.

 

God, our Father in Heaven, You have brought us together today to train and prepare us all for the trials that will test our commitment to you. In our times of trouble ahead, please use the testimony of my failures combined with Your mercy to provide the conviction that is needed to be faithful, needed for us to be faithful stewards of all that we have and to honor You on Your holy Sabbath days. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Once again, my name is Steven Kasperbauer, and I come from Guam. And in the early 1960s and early ’70’s, I grew up in Guam. Guam is a small tropical island in the Pacific Ocean. It is a United States territory with a rich culture heavily influenced by the early Spanish heritage of today’s modern America. Guam is predominantly Catholic, and the Catholic Church strongly influences the culture and family relationships on Guam. My parents and grandparents were devout Catholics who prayed constantly and went to mass often. As an altar boy at the village church, I learned to love and trust God and to believe in Jesus from a very early age.

 

Shortly after finishing college, a business partner and I started a very small tourism beach business. We had a few jet skis, several kayaks to rent, and we were ready for Guam’s growing Japanese tourism industry. However, over the next 15 years, the business expanded rapidly. We added an Avis rent-a-car franchise, parasailing tours, dolphin-watching tours, real estate investments, built a hotel condominium, and a jet helicopter tour service with three helicopters. Our company also operated nine beach-front rental locations for hotels like the Hyatt, the Hilton, the Westin, the Marriott. With as many as 185 employees and over 1,000 customers on a busy day, we had grown to become one of the largest tour attractions on Guam.

 

In 1993, I married my lovely girlfriend Carmen; she’s from Guam, too. And we soon had a son Lawrence and a daughter Caressa to add to our family. And in the year 2000, my wife and I, with great confidence, purchased my partner’s shares of the business and became the sole owners of the company. We were excited for our future, and what could possibly go wrong?

 

Well, my next section is called “Business in Trouble.” Over the next few years, the effects of September 11, 2001, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) caused the majority of Japanese tourists to cancel vacation plans to Guam. To make things worse, in December of 2002, Guam was hit by super-typhoon Pongsona, which struck Guam with nearly 200-mile-per-hour winds and waves 20-feet tall. In just a few hours, the typhoon destroyed over 4,000 hotel rooms and Guam’s tourism industry. Sound familiar for the future?

 

Most of our company’s business locations and equipment were also destroyed or damaged by the typhoon. Let me explain. Guam’s tourism economy is based mainly on the Japanese tourists coming from Japan. We receive about a million tourists a year in Guam. And these tourists come to Guam through travel agents. They don’t book direct like a lot of us. They make their arrangements through travel agencies. And when 911 happened, and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan started, they became scared to travel, like a lot of people, but more so to Guam because Guam is a United States territory, and they really felt that this war was between the United States and someone else, and they didn’t want to be caught in the middle of it.

 

And then, of course, when we had this typhoon, since we have all these beach locations, well, everything on the beach got damaged. So, now we had no tourists and nothing left to offer.

 

So, let me continue. The effects of September 11, wars, SARS, and the typhoon resulted in a 75-percent reduction in business for our tour company, which forced 130 employees to be laid off, millions of dollars of debt, and several hundred thousands of dollars in negative cash flow, and a daily operating cash loss of several thousands of dollars a day. In only two years, from the time my wife and I had purchased my partner’s shares of the business, our business became financially worthless and apparently hopeless.

 

Amazingly there was hope for our hopeless situation. And I’ll talk to you about my conversion now. Shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, my cousin Dwight persistently asked my wife and me to participate in a Bible study together. Being very secular and content with our former faith, my wife and I declined Dwight’s invitation to Bible study, not once, not twice, but many, many, many times, until we finally gave in and said, “Okay, we’ll have a Bible study. Okay?” He’s my cousin; it’s the least I could do, right?

 

It starts there, doesn’t it? Well, Dwight and his wife Sandy arrived at our house one evening with an elderly Japanese-American Adventist couple in their 70s. We were introduced to Joseph and Verna Nozaki, who were working as a mission doctor and a nurse for the Guam Seventh-day Adventist Clinic. Ladies and Gentlemen, that was the very first Bible study that my wife and I had ever had in our lives.

 

We continued to have Bible studies once or twice a week from that point on. After a few months, our family accepted an invitation to attend our first Sabbath service and listen to a special sermon being preached by the pastor. Not knowing exactly what to expect from a Sabbath service, we delayed our arrival by at least a half an hour. We didn’t know. I mean, on a small island where you’re raised Catholic, you know, you’re a little careful about going to another church. Maybe some of you can relate to that.

 

And so, anyway, we showed up about a half hour late, but we didn’t know that Adventists enjoy (what?) fellowship, Bible study, singing, children’s story, special music before the sermon is even preached, so, essentially, we were still on time. Couldn’t get out of it. Well, I’ll tell you that was one powerful sermon. It was so meaningful. We had never heard God’s Word preached like that before. It was a spiritual eye-opener, and we looked forward to going to church every Sabbath.

 

My Carmen accepted a call to be baptized in 2002. I admired my wife, and I wanted to follow. I wanted to follow her, but I couldn’t because the tour business was still open on Sabbath, and I felt too guilty. I felt too guilty about being open on Sabbath and too guilty to be baptized, so I continued to study the Bible and pray.

 

So, I had a dilemma over Sabbath and stewardship, and during this time our company and Guam’s tourism economy were recovering very poorly. Every month, many local tour companies, friends that I had known who had businesses, and others, were closing down. Guam’s economic situation was the worst it had ever been over the last 60 years. Our company remained open on Sabbath because Saturdays were amongst the largest revenue days of the week.

 

After owning the business for nearly 20 years, I knew that closing on Saturday during those economic tough times would logically force the company into bankruptcy; it would lay off the rest of those hard-working employees that survived. I mean, we already had to lay off 130. And they didn’t deserve to lose their jobs. And it would cheat the banks and the vendors out of a chance of ever, ever being paid back. And that’s millions of dollars that we owed. I determined that triggering such a chain of economic disasters would be a greater sin than breaking the Sabbath.

 

 In January of 2004, though, a pastor-evangelist named Louis Torres came to Guam and conducted a two-week evangelism series – two weeks – not very long. As the series unfolded day by day, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me a much deeper understanding of the gospel, the commandments, and the importance of the Sabbath. I desperately wanted to be baptized to show my love and loyalty for Christ. And at the end of each evangelistic presentation, I would fill out my decision card (You know those decision cards? Are you familiar with them?) indicating that I believed in Jesus as my Savior, believed in the commandments and accepted the understanding of the Sabbath. Significantly, I had not checked the box on the decision card asking if I wanted to be baptized.

 

Well, to my surprise, a few days later, Pastor Torres and our church pastor stopped by my office for a visit. Well, Pastor Torres wanted to encourage me for my decision to accept Jesus as my Savior. How did they even know where I worked? “How do you people do this,” I thought, you know? He wanted to encourage me for my decision to accept Jesus as my Savior, the commandments and the understanding of the Sabbath.

 

He also delicately inquired why I had not indicated my desire for baptism. Well, my decision card revealed a personal enigma. How could I accept Jesus? How could I accept the commandments? How could I accept the understanding of the Sabbath yet not accept baptism?

 

I explained to Pastor Torres that I could not with a clear conscience be baptized. Now, remember, earlier I couldn’t be baptized because, you know, how could I maintain the business, right? I mean, I could not, with a clear conscience, be baptized because our business was still open on the Sabbath. I also explained that without the Saturday revenues, we would go out of business, forcing innocent employees out of their jobs, defaulting on our bank loans and debts, which, in a sense, I thought, or rationalized, would be stealing. So, which sin is worse? Stealing from the banks, the vendors, putting employees that have worked, co-workers out of business, out of their jobs. They have mortgages; they have car loans.

 

Well, Pastor Torres gently explained that baptism would give me the strength I didn’t have to overcome those problems. So we prayed together in my office, and I admit, I cried, and then decided to be baptized, regardless of the perceived consequence. So, I was about to embark on a leap of faith. I was baptized at the end of the evangelism series in January, 2004. Two weeks makes a difference. You can make a difference: Support evangelism. I encourage it.

 

By April of 2004, three months later, we closed our main tour business operations on Sabbath as an act of faith. In addition, we gave up our agreements to operate the numerous different hotel beach rental operations we had managed for more than a decade, allowing operations to be closed completely on Sabbath for the first time since 1986. Pastor Torres was right; baptism did give me the faith and the strength I needed to close the business on Sabbath. Amen.

 

But before closing the business on Sabbath, I prayed and asked God for forgiveness for being such a poor steward with His resources. I came to recognize that I never really was the owner of this business that had, in fact, always belonged to God. Also, prior to closing the business on the Sabbath, I prayed that since it was God’s business, for the goodness of preserving His reputation and their understanding of the Sabbath, that He would not let any bank, vendor, or employee or anyone else that we ever owed money by our company to go unpaid. That was my prayer. “God, it’s Your business, so You take care of the bills.”

 

In order to close our tour business on Saturday, we had to first write letters and hold meetings with travel agents, hotels and vendors to explain why we were turning away their business, turning away their business on the busiest day of the week, Saturday. I had to explain the same reasons to the employees, my family, and my friends. By informing all businesses, employees and friends that our business was closed on Saturday, God was now using me and the company to promote and make all our business partners, employees and friends aware of God’s Sabbath. I had my first chance at witnessing, huh? Well, let me tell you, it didn’t come easy. You just don’t walk out and say, “I’m closing on Sabbath.” What was that? You more or less come out after not being a Christian understanding this for a long time, and these were my friends. We served on community boards. We had been doing business for a long time. I had been in business, open every day for almost 20 years, and this was tourism.

 

So I said, “I’m closing because I’m a [gibberish-on purpose] Sabbath. Family day, yeah, a family day. Everybody needs a day off. What are you looking at? Don’t you need a day off?” I’m going to tell you, you know, you’ve got to start somewhere, so for those of you who are challenged, just start. You’ll get comfortable, trust me. It’s a little easier now.

 

Initially, closing the business on Saturday was inconvenient for travel agencies, hotels and vendors that supplied our company with customers and services. Since we were now closed on Saturday, the travel agents, hotels and other vendors informed us that they would have to recommend that their customer choose our competitors who are open on Saturday. We were also informed that we should expect to lose a substantial portion of our Sunday business as well because most of our Sunday customers made their reservations on Saturday.

 

More than ever, the decision to close on Saturday appeared as if it would be the final nail in the coffin for our struggling business. We heard them say, “Well, you don’t have to be open. You don’t have to work. Just have somebody answer the phone.”

 

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”

 

“Steve, what’s wrong with you? Answering the phone? Is that a sin?”

 

You know, how do you explain that? Well, God will give you the words, trust me.

 

Next, morale within the company was tense, as well. Closing on Sabbath was not a democratic decision made by a majority vote of the employees. Their job security was now threatened by the decision to close. I could sense the employees questioning my leadership ability during these tough and delicate times. Win or lose, I was committed to close on the Sabbath no matter what. Besides, this was God’s business. And now, well, I was just His steward.

 

I continued to pray and to be optimistic, holding on, holding on to God’s many Sabbath-keeping promises right here. Truly it would take a Bible miracle from God to make this business plan work. It was my time to test my faith.

 

Well, if I remember correctly, the first Sabbath we closed, Friday night we had put the reservation phones on an answering machine and then left for the night. On that first Saturday that we were closed, the weather changed, and unexpectedly it rained terribly hard all day. Let me explain that. First of all, how many of you would like to call up and make a reservation for a special tour that you had never done before? You know, you’re going to parasail; you’ve never done that. You can jet ski. You are going to go dolphin watching and talk to an answering machine and feel like everything is handled, how much you have to pay, what time you’ve got to be picked up, everything else, and say, “That’s fine,” or send a fax. Well, that’s…We didn’t…To tell you the truth, I had faith in God, but I didn’t have faith in that answering machine that night. I didn’t expect to have anybody have a reservation for Sunday. Second, they already told us they’d have to send them somewhere else.

 

So, Saturday comes along, Sabbath, and I’m driving to church. I’m saying, “My, we’re closing in April. April’s a beautiful time of the year in Guam. It’s always sunny. Friday was beautiful. What happened here? It’s getting dark.” It got dark real early in the morning, and then it started to rain. Not the kind of rain that comes down like this, but you know that rain that goes this way? Have you seen that kind of rain? We’re on a tropical island, and it’s, you know, it’s in the middle of the day, and people are driving around with their headlights because it’s raining so hard. That’s the rain that happened on Saturday.

 

Well, when we came into the office on Saturday evening, our answering machine and our fax machine were filled with enough reservations. I couldn’t believe that. Reservations for Sunday because nobody wanted to book their tours on that first Saturday that we were closed due to the very bad weather.

 

On Sunday, the weather was perfect; it’s like it never happened, no bad weather. And many same-day reservations were called in. It appeared that the rainy weather on Saturday proved to be a blessing and preserved the business through the first Sabbath-day closure.

 

Let me tell you something. For the next six months or so, a similar pattern of weather continued: Great weather on Friday, crazy rainy weather on Saturday, and good weather on Sunday. God was providing. I could never have figured that one out for the business plan. That’s more than 1,001 ways, by the way, that He will provide.

 

Other miracles? Here are some other miracles that happened at work. Equipment and supplies were lasting much longer than they had ever lasted in the past, which reduced operating expenses tremendously. We had been keeping records; this thing should last this long. Now it lasts this long. I’m not going to argue. Even though the tour agents and the hotels tried at times to recommend our competitors, well, the customers would reject their recommendations and insist they go to our business instead. That never happened before. Within a few Sabbaths of being closed, employees seemed to be better rested, more productive and better team players. Our customer satisfaction and employee safety records also improved.

 

With the Sabbath rest came clear and better management decisions, okay? And these decisions, well, they made the company more efficient, thus increasing revenues and reducing unnecessary expenses. Christians, we have many unnecessary expenses.

 

Within time, the travel agents and the hotels changed their opinions about our closing on Saturday. Why? Because for unexplained reasons, our company was making more profit for them than ever before. Their customers were satisfied, and our safety record was excellent.

 

Some other miracles. In February of last year, our Japanese sales and marketing director and general manager and I together, we went to Japan to meet with the country’s largest travel agency, which was also our company’s largest supplier of tourists and revenue. At that meeting, our Japanese sales director was questioned about our policy of closing on Saturdays. In reply he explained that we were closed because we were a Christian-owned company that followed the Sabbath.

 

Japanese senior management also asked our sales director, “Well, we can understand your policy, but what about exceptions?” What if we would make an exception for large groups or special holidays, could we open on Saturdays. You know, when our sales director had to explain that my Christian principles were at stake and not money, the Japanese tour managers paused and talked amongst themselves for a short while before coming back and talking to myself and my Japanese sales director. Well, we waited, and it was tense. This was the person that I asked to do better than last year while closing on Saturday. This is a person that is not a Christian yet; he’s from Japan. This is a person that can’t explain why his boss closed on Saturday, but is just saying, “Well, I’ll trust you.”

 

Well, when the Japanese tour managers came back after, I mean, they’re the largest tour company in the world. They supply all our business, for the most part, and they’re making a request, which is more like a, “You have to do it.” And we told him our reasons. Actually, he interpreted, so, now, he’s witnessing, thank God. The Japanese senior tour managers expressed their sincere understanding. Their next statements made me say, “Praise God,” when they respectfully informed our sales director and me that it had been a long, long time since they had done business with another company that felt that their principles were worth more than money.

 

People, don’t be fooled. If you want to talk business; it’s just business. When they find out what you’re all about and what your principles are, then you’re talking God’s business.

 

Furthermore, they agreed that they now had a higher level of trust for our company and agreed to protect and increase their support for our business relationship.

 

Similar experiences could also be recorded for most of our business suppliers. Since my baptism and closing of the business on Sabbath in 2004, God has blessed this company and our work with many small and large miracles that testify to his wonderful love and protection.

 

Today our company has been blessed with conversion and baptism of employees – and their families who are now active in different Seventh-day Adventist Churches on the island. Although Guam’s tourist arrivals haven not yet completely recovered to the previous September 11, 2001, levels, we’re still not even back to the old numbers, our business is doing better than ever before in its history. With God in His proper place as Owner of His tour company here in Guam, the finances have turned around. My prayer that God would pay the business debt to everyone that the business owed has been accomplished or exceeded.

 

Most importantly, God has proved that obeying the Sabbath, closing the business, was an important and necessary way to tell and show employees, the people of Guam, the Guam business community, and especially me, that with God all things are possible.

 

My initial altruistic concern about staying open on Saturday to protect the employees’ jobs and pay back loans and venders was a terrible sin of pride. God has proved that having enough money was never an issue for Him to run His business operations.

 

I thank God for His loving mercy by letting me continue to serve Him in this business. I realize now that there is more security and assurance in being a servant for a generous and loving God than to be the sleepless owner of a business with a million problems. Today, God is using the revenues of this business to generate needed tithes and offerings to assist the Guam Seventh-day Adventist Churches, evangelists around the world, schools and other necessary mission work.

 

I’d like to add a few additional blessings that I’m really, really thankful to God for. I’d like to add that our two children, Lawrence and Caressa, have also been baptized, and they love the Lord dearly. My wife and best friend, Carmen, changed her job and is a teacher at the Guam Adventist Academy on the island. Our family is closer and more loving than ever before because of our shared love for God and most definitely because of the time we spend together on Sabbath. You know, that’s quality time.

 

I would also like to mention another miracle. After we were baptized, my wife and I discovered that we had been on another Adventist prayer list for conversion long before we had ever had our first Bible study or had met Dr. and Mrs. Nozaki. People, keep them on your prayer list. If at all possible, please add my wife’s and my parents, siblings and their children to your prayer requests for conversion.

 

Well, my testimony today is dedicated especially to all of you young people here at GYC as well as to all others listening to this message. You, young men and women, you represent the hope of the finest generation of Adventists needed at this critical time in Earth’s history. And this can and should be the finest hour of your lives. God has trusted you to be His faithful stewards of His holy Sabbath day. God has trusted you to use your talents at school, work or in the marketplaces to further spreading the true gospel message. Let nothing tempt you or delay you in being faithful to this calling.

 

God does not make mistakes, and you are not here by chance. He knows your identity. He knows what you can be. And more importantly, He knows what you should be. And He gives you all the training you need through your trials and temptations to be faithful. Your identity is to be, be faithful.

 

You know, I wish that I had never wasted the younger years of my life. The millions of business dollars that was God’s, but I had spent recklessly against God’s will while running, or should I say, ruining His business. What a terrible sin I had committed, and how many of God’s loyal workers should have been benefitted from the money I wasted. How about the 2,120 Sabbaths that I was one day late for? And yet, most of the rest of the world is still one day late as we speak.

 

I wish that someone like you, a Seventh-day Adventist, had come to me, come to me when I was in high school or college. I wish that someone like you witnessed to me earlier in the workplace.

 

You know, the Spirit of Prophecy writes that we are often afraid to render to God that which He had entrusted to us, engaged in worldly enterprise, but investing little, if anything, in the cause of God, expecting others to bear the burden of the work. It continues by saying how perilous is the condition of those who, growing weary of their watch, turn to the attractions of the world, while the man of business is absorbed in the pursuit of gain, while the pleasure-lovers seeking indulgence, while the daughter of fashion is arranging her adornments, it may be that hour that the Judge of all the earth will pronounce the sentence, “Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting.”

 

You young people at GYC, those listening, this, this can’t be you. This cannot be you. And I am here to encourage you to be, be what? To be the mission, to be ye “transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove,” that you may prove, “what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” You must, and we must, all be missionaries, delivering the Three Angels’ Messages to the world.

 

Spirit of Prophecy says for those who follow Christ are ever safe under the watchful care of angels that excel in strength and are sent from Heaven to protect them. The wicked one cannot break through the guard which God has stationed about His people.

 

If you continue to study this Bible and be faithful always, you can overcome these challenges. But most of all we need to share that, share that message with the rest of the world. Like I said, I wish somebody had come to me earlier in my life. I wish that I didn’t waste millions of dollars that could have helped this mission, but I have faith. God owns all that money anyway. He’s going to figure it out. The fact of the matter is, will you be a part of that?

 

You know, perhaps like myself, many of you are struggling with some of these issues, stewardship, how you spend your time, how you spend your money, what you spend your time on and what you spend your money on, your talents, your relationships that you’re in, the relationships with your family and friends. You know, I had to make a decision myself to separate from a lot of people that I used to be with, for a short while because my intention is to go back and spread that message and bring them back over. We just have to accept that promise.

 

And at this time, if you want to make a commitment, a commitment to change, a commitment to being more faithful with your stewardship that God entrusted you, with His assets, your talents, or His talents given to you, your resources are His resources given to you, your time is borrowed time from God, if you’re struggling with these issues the way I did, and you’re rationalizing in some way or ignoring that call, join me as I pray. Just raise your hand up. You don’t have to go anywhere. Just raise your hand up. Anybody struggling with this? I still struggle. The devil tempts me all the time. He’s looking at a way for me to rationalize, say somebody else is going to do it. Why don’t we all pray?

 

Dear God, our Father in Heaven, oh, gracious Father, kind and merciful and most of all patient, You have the solutions that are there already for us. All we have to do is accept them by putting our trust and faith in You. Challenge us, Lord, to be faithful. Give us the trials and temptations that build our courage, our faith and our strength, in preparation for the times of trouble ahead. Let us gladly accept these challenges, knowing that You already have the solution in hand; it’s just the character that You’re trying to form in us, giving us every opportunity, one, to show on what side we stand, and that’s Yours. And, two, to be a witness to everyone around us. Don’t be fooled. We all know that people are watching us all the time, sometimes without us knowing it, and that this character that we pray for, Lord, is a character that they’re looking for as well. I pray that everyone who has their hand up or those who are silently in prayer with this request, that You grant them special peace, and that they be faithful, faithful unto death. Amen.

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