What If…?

By Rich Leatherberry, Associate Pastor for Mission

I met a guy named Dan who has been taking Jesus’s command to love his neighbor seriously. You probably remember the story about the religious leader who asked Jesus what the most important commandment was. Jesus told him; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Mark 12:29-31. 

Most of us interpret Jesus’s command to love our neighbor metaphorically. So we discuss our metaphorical neighbors. And we pray for our metaphorical neighbors.  But the truth about metaphoric neighbors is that they are just so, well, they are metaphorical. They symbolize people we never meet, or talk with, or get to know. 

What if we took Jesus’s command seriously and actually loved the real neighbors next to us? What if we made it a point to learn the name of every neighbor we share a fence with or who lives across the street from us? What if we intentionally got to know them and their families? What if we cared enough to learn what makes them glad and what makes them sad?

Well Dan decided to take Jesus seriously and started to get to know his neighbors. One of his neighbors, named Ken, managed a mobile home park. Ken told Dan that the homes in the park were run down and needed significant repairs. But the people living there couldn’t afford to pay for the repairs, and the owners of the park didn’t have the money to repair the homes either. So Ken felt helpless and desperate because there wasn’t anything he could do about it. When Dan heard Ken talk about this and saw how it hurt Ken, Dan decided to help. So he recruited a whole bunch of volunteers and organized a day where they all showed up and fixed everything that was broken or run down. Dan’s crew repaired and stained decks, painted walls, fixed railings, patched roofs and installed new plumbing. They raised all the money they needed for the work and they got it all done in one day. The people in the Mobile Home Park were totally surprised that anyone would do this for them. Ken couldn’t believe it either and was really, really thankful for his neighbor Dan. 

One of the coolest things though was what happened after the work day. Some of the volunteers asked Dan when they could do it again. One thing led to another and they started a group called the Neighborhood Rehab Project. You can find them on line at www.beatool.org. That’s right. Be a tool. And when you check out their website you can either “Be a Tool” or “Donate a Tool” or let them know “I Need a Tool”. You can also watch the video of this story.

It all started when Dan decided to really love his neighbor, initiated a conversation and learned managing a rundown mobile home park broke Ken’s heart. So Dan rallied some friends, raised some money, and had a great adventure that transformed a bunch of people into tools. And now they have great friendships and are changing their neighborhood. 

We may not all start a new organization. But really loving your neighbor is a great way to start an adventure and show God’s love. 

So what are your neighbor’s names? What makes them mad, sad and glad? What story is God writing with the relationships you have with your neighbors?

Acres of Diamonds

Jen Paddock

Greetings to BelPres from Acres of Diamonds! I am the former Community Outreach Director at BelBres who moved on to be the new Executive Director at Acres of Diamonds. My heart for the poor was discovered and cultivated during my time at BelPres. God was calling me into this incredible ministry, and He used BelPres to shape me for this call. I am so grateful.

So many of you may not know that BelPres and Acres of Diamonds have a long history together. Acres was founded 20 years ago with the support of many families from BelPres, and other congregations. From the beginning Acres of Diamonds set out to be a ministry that provided housing, relational support and Christian community for homeless women and their children. We equip these families to stand on their own and we do this in Jesus name. We know that only He can truly change a life. We have come to understand ourselves as missionaries, because our job is simply to bring the good news and our goal is to see these precious families graduate from Acres into their permanent home.

In these past few months BelPres has continued to provide support and volunteers to help Acres grow. Recently Dan Campi and Ken Wood came out to paint an apartment for a new mother with three little children. Their home looks beautiful and they are safe and warm. This could not have happened without their help.

This summer BelPres donated funds to repaint all of our homes! And this was greatly needed. Through the Legacy Foundation you donated funds to enable us to replace our very old, expensive to run, appliances. This gives our residents a nice place to keep their food, and helps lower our energy bill allowing more funds to go directly to services for the families. Next week Nancy Campi is coming out to our campus to coach our Program Manager in volunteer systems. MaryHelen and Rod Johnson are serving with our children. Jacque Hancock is recruiting volunteers for our childrens programs. The list goes on!!

It never ceases to amaze me the generous heart and the passion for God’s rescue mission that flows from BelPres. Being a part of BelPres has forever transformed my heart for mission, and now I can see God transforming the lives of homeless families through the mission of BelPres. Thank you!!

For more information about Acres of Diamonds, visit their website!

BelPres Missions Week in Pictures

By Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach

Our Mission’s team has been busy the past two weeks! Below are pictures from just a few of our events.

Israel – Palestine Group

The Israel-Palestine group hosted a very exciting event called Hope for the Holy Land. Sponsored by World Vision and hosted by BelPres and Overlake Christian Church, we welcome a panel of people to discuss the most pressing issues in achieving peace in this region of the world.

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Fireside Knitters

The Fireside Knitters continue to work on a variety of projects for men, women and children experiencing homelessness. These beautiful women of all ages meet the first and third Thursday of the month in the Welcome room from 9 – noon.

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High School and the Middle at Mary’s Place

This past Saturday we loaded up the BelPres vans with BelPres FLM and Missions staff, parents, youth, kitchen supplies and PIES!!! We journeyed to Mary’s Place in downtown Seattle to worship with women and children experiencing homelessness. Afterwards, we were privileged to join volunteers from two other churches to serve a hot and delicious Thanksgiving meal, including pies. A great time was had by all! Did we say PIES?!?!?

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Jubilee REACH Festival of Trees

A stellar event kicking off the holiday season in Bellevue. Jubilee REACH staff and volunteers worked tirelessly to create a beautiful celebration of all that the Lord is doing through them to care for young people in Bellevue. The Bellevue community generously gave over $845,000.00!!!
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Smile Power

By Elizabeth Hayford, Director of Missions Administration

Recently I was challenged to be intentional about smiling for a whole week.  Although not a difficult task for me, I embraced fully the idea to actually stop, smile and acknowledge someone else.  From the gym to the grocery store to my co workers and family, I embraced the opportunity to devote 3 to 5 seconds to share a friendly smile.

In my normal routine, I often seek ways to be in solitude and introverted.  Spending much of my day answering phones and greeting people, I often crave the times I can just go through the motions of every day stuff and avoid contact.  But this week I had to look up, make eye contact and genuinely smile.  A week to step a little out of myself and be part of what was around me. 

What I found was a confirmation that we like to be connected to each other even in a brief way.  I liked how the reaction I received was appreciative and warm and not taken aback or annoyed.  Even with my own teenager, the presence of my own smile brought on a few more smiles from her! 

I also liked the way a smile opened the door to say a few words.  I work out with an early crowd at the gym each morning between 5 and 6am.  This smile experiment gave me the chance to connect in a place where we mostly look past each other.  Instead it was this affirmation of presence in the early morning that led to a few “good mornings,” and a small conversation with one of the regulars.  I now know he has to encourage himself out of bed as much as I do.  And I know the woman at the desk struggles with mornings, too, but has a new car that makes the drive to work easier.  So, nothing life changing in making a new relationship, but there is a beginning of a sense of community for me.  And the cool thing was that thinking about that smile just made me smile more and longer.

That was the discovery that has stayed with me.  That idea of community.  We all long to be independent, to guard our freedom and privacy. And yet, there is a sense of wanting to find a connection, a small identification with someone else that lets you know that you are noticed.  And isn’t that so true? No matter if we are in sweaty gym clothes, casual hang out clothes, or our Sunday best, we want to find that person who offers a smile, affirms our presence and maybe even says, “hi.”

I encourage you, especially as we approach the holiday season, to try out the smile challenge and look at someone and give them your best toothy grin.  Who knows what this may do for someone else.  Not to mention you. 

Will YOU take the Smile Challenge?