Congregations for the Homeless

By Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach

Two home-schooled girls took it upon themselves to knit 40 hats for the Congregations for the Homeless men who were housed at BelPres all December! Once the hats were finished, the girls put them into white gift boxes with clear plastic tops. The men were able to choose a hat that fit their style (!) and were incredibly blessed by the gift of these sweet young girls. The girls were able to pull in a few of their friends to assist in the knitting, and thoroughly enjoyed their project. Praise the Lord for these wonderful young people who so sweetly gave of their time, talent and treasure to bring the warmth of Christ’s love through such a practical gift.

Encore!

“Israel’s strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart.”

–“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”

I never dreamed God would have another place for me in global ministry. After serving for twenty years as a director for a mission organization working alongside churches in Europe, I was ready for a quiet transition to retirement, with time to spare for my family and eight grandchildren. Before I could catch a breath, the chair of my missions team and good friend, encouraged me to take the Perspectives course. 

If you haven’t already heard about it, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement is a profound journey that is taught across the nation and around the world. For me, it was a journey of discovery of God’s heart for the entire world, including my neighbor next door. Little did I imagine that it would take me back into almost fulltime ministry as a Regional Director, encouraging classes across the Northwest in communities where there is a vision for churches working together to bring the Perspectives course.

It wasn’t on my screens at all when the Regional Director contacted me to consider taking his place. But, God does have a plan. Retirement is better phrased ‘Encore’. The ‘encore’ in my life has been the opportunity to work with a National and Global Team, and to come alongside a committed core of trained coordinators who are launching classes across Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Alaska each spring and fall. 

One story, among many, shares why I love Perspectives —

Mary is preparing to work full-time with African Inland Mission. The part of her story that will interest you is how God called her, not because she is a missionary kid (which she was), but because she took a Perspectives class. God used this class to touch her heart.

It’s a privilege to have a part in this great mobilization effort. Not only are thousands accepting the call to ‘go’, but because of Perspectives, we are learning how to send them with a strong base of support, to welcome the internationals among us, to pray more effectively, and to consider our part in the Great Commission. If you’d like to learn more, contact Perspectives at: www.perspectives.org.

“Person of the Year”

By Rich Leatherberry, Associate Pastor for Mission

Last week, Time Magazine named Ebola Health Care Workers  as their “Person of the Year.”  The reason was because these workers have responded heroically to save many lives at great personal risk. 

Ebola has been around for decades, mostly in West Africa. But 2014 was the year it shifted to epidemic status and when it did, we learned 3 things.   

The first thing we learned was that we are not as safe as we thought we were.  As soon as we started to hear about cases in Spain, Germany and Dallas, Texas, we recognized there were holes in the public-health infrastructure all around the world and here in the U.S. And that scared us.

Second, we learned fear leads people to react in some pretty crazy and irrational ways. Time Magazine reported that an Ohio middle school closed when they discovered an employee had flown on the same plane as a nurse who had treated the man who died in Dallas from Ebola. The employee, however, was not on the same flight; just the same plane the nurse had flown on. Additionally, a school teacher in the state of Maine was forced to take a three-week leave of absence because she had been to a conference in Dallas. Not the same room or the same hospital as the man treated for Ebola. She had to leave because she was in the same city – Dallas.   

In response, Kaci Hickox, reflected the frustration of many health care workers in saying; “It is crazy we are spending so much time having this debate about how to safely monitor people coming back from Ebola-endemic countries, when the one thing we can do to protect the population is to stop the outbreak in West Africa.” 

Never has any society had so much to protect itself with and yet felt as threatened as we do.  What Kaci and others like her are pointing out is that our preoccupation with personal safety prevents us from doing the most healing and saving thing. 

That brings me to the third thing we learned which is: we need to redefine who our heroes really are. Our culture’s obsession with beauty, power and success has assigned hero status to the celebrities, athletes and business tycoons who have come out on top. But the big difference between them and Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” is that the former make sacrifices which benefit themselves and the latter make sacrifices which benefit others. Heroes save lives.

A couple of weeks ago we commissioned Lynn Pelton, who is now working in a hospital for persons infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone.  Lynn would never, ever, ever think of herself as a hero but in my book, that is exactly who she is.  Was she scared? Yes.  Would she miss out on special family moments? Yes. Did people around her tell her she shouldn’t go because of the extreme risk? Yes. But because Lynne follows Jesus, she has learned to listen to a different voice. And she heard Him, who gave his life for the rescue of us all, ask her to go. So she went.

Hero status is not for the self-interested or the personally preoccupied. It’s for those who know they have been given this life to be a blessing to others. It’s for the ones willing to make sacrifices to rescue lives. We can choose safety and isolation from this broken world, but we should be careful what we wish for. We just might end up safe and isolated. Day after day, week after week, year after year, until our lives are filled with big bold dreams we never lived and daring adventures we never experienced.   

One of the marks of the early Christian church was that Christians lived these selfless, sacrificial, heroic lives in ways that saved others, even at risk of losing their own lives.  Because they knew that even if they died they would live. That was one of the most compelling reasons for why so many people became Christians and the Church grew exponentially over the first 300 years.

Jesus isn’t asking us all to go to Sierra Leone. But He is inviting us to listen to a different voice and instead live in courageous ways that save lives. That happens whenever you mentor someone, or in the thousand daily sacrifices you make in order to be a good parent, or in all the ways you reach out to a neighbor who needs your help, or when you volunteer in one of our outreach ministries or in the ways you use your position and influence to help others flourish.

Enough with this cultural preoccupation with safety and our worship of the self-interested.  Bring on the real heroes. 

So how is, or how could God use you to save lives?  Who needs the hero in you?

”For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt 20:28. 

Angel Tree Ministry

By Elizabeth Hayford, Director of Missions Administration

The Angel Tree ministry reaches out to the children of inmates and their families with the love of Christ.  This year, our Angel Tree volunteers here at BelPres have worked tirelessly to contact, prepare and deliver gifts to more than 100 children in the Bellevue and Tacoma areas and also to provide gift cards to almost 50 teenagers in Idaho. This dedicated team spends to fall in preparation and then in organization mode to make sure every child and caregiver receives a gift or gift card when they are all delivered starting December 13. And these special elves don’t just deliver Christmas gifts and cards; they bring the gift of Jesus Christ to each home, too. These volunteers include an age-appropriate Bible and share stories of Jesus with the children when they personally deliver to each home.

BelPres has been blessed in the last couple of years to partner with University Place Presbyterian Church south of Tacoma to help deliver to the families in that area.  It is a joy to share in ministry with our friends in Pierce County.

Here is a quote from an Angel Tree child that shows what these gifts mean:

“I was too young to actually remember my dad. But those Angel Tree presents – I don’t know how to describe it – they made me feel like I was important. I was really happy I got something from him, and to know that he’s OK.”– Akeylah, Angel Tree child

Thank you to this team of volunteers who share the joy and love of Jesus Christ at Christmas time.

Angel tree volunteers, Alice Fong and Jay Baranowski, sort, move and organize the gifts for delivery to Angel Tree children.
Angel tree volunteers, Alice Fong and Jay Baranowski, sort, move and organize the gifts for delivery to Angel Tree children.

If you gave to Angel Tree this year, THANK YOU!  If you want to get involved with this ministry at BelPres next year, contact GetConnected. 

Dog Therapy, Kids on Motorcycles & More!

By Becky Gonzalez, Director of Global Outreach
Highlighted Global Ministry: Children’s Hospice, St. Petersburg, Russia

For 11 years, BelPres has been connected to the Children’s Hospice in St. Petersburg, Russia.  It is a palliative care institution for children and adolescents under 18, suffering from terminal illnesses those with a short life expectancy, as well as children and adolescents who suffer from potentially fatal diseases, whose recovery is possible but unlikely and whose life span can be many years.

Children’s Hospice offers active and comprehensive care, which includes the physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual spheres of aid. The basic attention is focused on providing the best possible quality of life and comprehensive care for the whole family.  They operate beautiful, comfortable facility for rehabilitation and palliative medicine. It has become a model for establishing similar health and social care services in Russia. 

God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain,
but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.

They had a full month of October with several exciting visitors!  Governmental officials, motor-cycle “gangs,” animals from the zoo, and a performing arts troop!  See pictures below of some exciting events from the fall.

Russia_1Russian President’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Mr. Pavel Astakhov, visited the Inpatient Facility of St. Petersburg Children’s Hospice.

Russia_2Pavel Astakhov helped one of the hospice patients, realize his dream to ride a motorcycle.  He contacted members of the biker club “Night Wolves”. Within an hour they arrived at the hospice and patients & parents immediately gathered around to sit on motorcycles and take pictures with their owners. The excited patient got fully dressed in biker’s equipment and had a ride in a motorcycle sidecar.

Russia_3A visit from the curative education and arts center “Arevik”. This center cares for children with disabilities. They arranged a wonderful concert, full of professionalism and exciting songs and dances!

Russia_4Visit from “Association for Support and Development of Canine Therapy” and the Leningrad Zoo.  Patients saw rabbits, a rooster, a boa constrictor, an owl, and even a skunk. Dog “therapists” provide love and affection to patients and families.*Note: You can help provide services like this to children in need by supporting pet therapy through the BelPres Alternative Gift Market.  Click here for the Russia area page.

For more information on Children’s Hospice, click here.

An Impact Team from BelPres will travel to Russia in May of 2015 and will visit the Children’s Hospice along with several other Russia ministries.  Contact patty@hirz.net for more information.

Disabled Children Get New Mattresses- Thanks to BelPres!

Highlighted Global Ministry: African Inland Church Childcare Center, Kenya

Children at the AIC Childcare Center in Kajiado, Kenya are anxiously awaiting the delivery of the new mattress which were purchased this year by the support of BelPres Global Outreach.  The center (a project of Lift Up Africa) serves children with physical disabilities who are treated with corrective surgeries and physical therapy. They are looking forward to the added comfort and good night’s rest, especially critical in for these children’s recovery.

AIC kids

It is located in a remote area in Kenya, where children with disabilities and their families face have many challenges to overcome. There is widespread poverty in the area, with many families struggling to make ends meet. Dealing with day to day tasks is trying enough, and the extra care these children need is too overwhelming for most to handle on their own. In addition, there is widespread stigma surrounding disabilities which prevents these children from getting the resources they need. AIC Childcare Center address the physical, educational, and spiritual needs of children with disabilities as well as works to educate parents and the community to reduce stigma.

So far this year, 98 children have benefited from corrective surgeries through the center. Physical needs are met for the children living at the center, and also through the home care our outreach program offers. The 57 students living at the center attend integrated schools in the community. We are so proud seeing the kids grow up and succeed; three students are enrolled in college and two are in vocational programs.  AIC Childcare Center does all of this as an extension of the love of Christ. The students are encouraged to be active in the community church, and many show off their musical talents in the church choir.  By connecting these services to Christ’s love and healing, students and their families gain spiritual as well as physical strength.

For more information on the AIC Childcare Center, click here. 

Story of God’s Transforming Love in Costa Rica

By Becky Gonzalez, Director of Global Outreach
Highlighted Ministry: The Abraham Project

Each summer for the past several years, BelPres HS ministry has spent a week serving growing and learning while serving with the Abraham Project, in Villas de Ayarco, Costa Rica. The Abraham Project has the vision of seeing their local community transformed by offering programs and services where people can encounter the love and salvation of Jesus Christ. 

Last summer I had the opportunity to spend 36 hours in Costa Rica, where I met Stephen and Georgiana Thomas, saw the beautiful children’s homes, and toured their extensive campus providing services and outreach to vulnerable children and families.  I was also able to spend a morning watching our students (and several amazing leaders!) work hard together on a construction project in a nearby church and observed them listening intently to the testimony of the local pastor.  The Abraham Project is effective in reaching the most vulnerable in Jesus name, and we are honored to continue to partnering with the they allow us to participate in the work of transformation.

Over the summer on their blog, they shared a story of one of the children in one of their children’s homes.  See an excerpt below.

We want to share a story about one such boy and God’s perfect timing.  Anthony has been struggling in school.  He is super smart, but just dislikes school.  Our house parents, Esteban & Gabby, don’t have any problems with him at home.  They say that he’s obedient and helpful, however, at school and in the daycare it’s like pulling teeth!  He is disobedient and disrupts class by talking and acting out.  We have all been at our wit’s end trying to figure out how to reach him. 

On July 10th, the prayer group (all women) carried out an activity with the kids in the homes.  At one point, they broke off and prayed with the children individually.  We noticed that the lady that was praying for Anthony was leading him in the sinner’s prayer.  Afterwards, she told us that unprompted Anthony told her that he wanted to accept Jesus as his Savior. 

Since that day, he has been a different young man!  You can see the difference on his face.  He’s still working on his behavior at school, but he hasn’t brought home any notes from the teacher (in one week he had brought home 10 notes from the instructor about his conduct!).  Anthony has a servant’s heart.  We have often put him to clean or do something around the homes as a consequence and find him happy as a lark!  Instead of being a consequence, he finds joy in doing and working!  He has very admirable characteristics and we know God is doing good things in his heart!  Even though we would love for Adoptions to find him a family right now, we can see God at work even in the timing of things. 

We have always viewed the children’s homes like a clinic for brokenhearted kids.  Our goal is for every child to leave this place as emotionally and spiritually healthy as they can before integrating into a new family. 

Abraham Project: www.abrahamproject.org

Abraham Project blog: www.abrahamproject.wordpress.com

BelPres High School Program will return to Costa Rica in 2015. Contact DTriller@belpres.org for more information.