Charis Bible College graduate, Dennis Stauffer, is a man yielded to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. His ministry, Hands in Action, is making a difference in the lives of the impoverished in Vista Hermosa, a crime-stricken community within the city of San Benito, Guatemala. Once lost in his own darkness and the downward spiral of gang life, Dennis now shines brightly as he ministers the Gospel of Grace.
Dennis grew up the son of a hard working, heavy drinking, Pennsylvania steel mill worker. His father was a tough disciplinarian, and Dennis grew up afraid of him. Dennis was so fearful that he developed stomach issues. When he was nine-years-old, his dad sat him on his knee. While there, Dennis asked what his dad was drinking. After his father told him it was beer, Dennis asked if he could try it. His dad consented and Dennis drank the whole glass. "I loved the feeling it gave me, I was no longer afraid, and my stomach didn't hurt. That night, I made a vow to myself to stay that way—drunk," said Dennis.
For the next 11 years Dennis chased that feeling though the use of alcohol, drugs, sex, violence and crime. At 17, he very nearly succeeded in his attempted suicide—he died in the hospital emergency room and was gone for four minutes. By 19, he had been discharged from the United States Army and deported from Germany because of his addiction and drug dealing. After his return to the States, Dennis' uncontrollable and drunken behavior cost him his first marriage, child and home. Before Dennis was 20, he had landed the unenviable role of town drunk. Everyone who knew Dennis had given up on him—except One.
After being beaten, nearly to death, by rival gang members, Dennis ended up in his fourth detox program. As he suffered through withdrawal, Dennis decided he wanted something more from life. On November 9, 1984 he made a new vow, one of sobriety, and he has been sober every day since.
Dennis was born again in 1986 at a revival meeting in his hometown. Within three years he became involved with youth ministry at his church. Dennis said, "I really didn't fit in; I had long hair, never dressed up, and my pastor was 'old school'—from the 50's. He just looked at me as if I was nuts, but he knew my history and saw the work the Lord was doing in my life."
Dennis remembers being invited to the pastor's office, "I thought I was going to get a sermon on my style of dress and not fitting in, but Pastor just sat there looking confused. He told me he had been praying for a youth leader for a month, and every time he prayed, I came up in his spirit." Even though his pastor didn't understand it, he offered Dennis the position—a position he held for the next decade.
In 1999, Dennis moved to Colorado Springs. Shortly after finding a new church, he was asked to minister to the fifth and sixth grade students once a month. Recognition of his gift to teach children led the staff to invite Dennis to become their junior high leader. Several people suggested he go to Bible college to receive some formal training for the apparent call on his life. Dennis began to pray about his next step.
As he sought God, Dennis came across Andrew's Gospel Truth radio program. After listening, he responded to the offer to receive a free teaching in the mail. Included with his tape were promotional materials for CBC. Dennis sensed the Lord telling him he was to enroll at CBC. "The first day of school when Andrew got up speak, I had to ask who he was because other than the tape I had listened to, I had no idea about AWM or CBC, I just knew the Lord sent me, and that was good enough for me," said Dennis.
As he attended classes at CBC, Dennis was set free from legalistic bondage that had kept him captive since his rebirth. Initially, when he received salvation, God gave Dennis a supernatural revelation of grace from the books of Romans and Galatians, but due to legalism, he was told he could not preach or talk about grace for fear that the church would lose control of its members. For 18 years Dennis held his tongue. "When I came to Charis, I found out that what I was hearing from God when I was first saved was not crazy, even though nobody else was preaching the grace message," said Dennis. Andrew's teaching reinforced the message God had put in Dennis' heart, and allowed him to develop a deeper intimacy with Christ.
After three years of preparation at CBC, including two mission trips to Russia, the Lord opened a door for Dennis to train with a missionary organization. His first journey was to Guatemala—a place he was not fond of initially. After wrestling with being homesick, something Dennis had never been, God spoke these words to him, "Why are you homesick? You are home." Dennis was stunned. The Lord spoke very clearly to him two more times that He wanted Dennis to serve in Guatemala.
As it turned out, Dennis' missionary base had an opening on staff—for a caretaker. There was one more problem to which Dennis clung; he didn't have the $4000 necessary to stay any longer. Within two days however, the Lord supernaturally met that need as well. Dennis yielded and stayed in Guatemala.
Dennis quickly found himself immersed in ministry to the poor and victimized in Vista Hermosa and just as quickly, he developed a heart for the people. He soon began helping a group of single mothers living in a housing project. The group included 17 people, 13 of whom where children under age 11, and many of whom were starving as a result of local corruption. The Lord led Dennis to start feeding them and while his efforts helped the people and built a strong bond between them, it also led to problems as he stumbled deeper into the embezzlement issues in the region.
In a short amount of time the project Dennis was involved with was terminated, and the residents were faced with life on the harsh and violent streets of Vista Hermosa. The Lord then led Dennis to establish a new project to help and support these families. With the help of his interpreter, Maria, Dennis launched the new project at a community center in Vista Hermosa, which has become known as Hands in Action.
Hands in Action has grown into a community program that not only helps the struggling families, providing food and medical aid, but Dennis and his team also provide Biblical studies and English classes for the youth in hopes of leading them to the Lord.
To learn more about Dennis Stauffer Ministries and Hands in Action, watch the video below and visit his website.