Letter from the Editor

When I was 19, I moved to Sharjah, which is a tiny, very conservative emirate in the United Arab Emirates, in order to study Arabic. I had completed a year and a half of my undergrad in Virginia, and although I regularly attended Intervarsity’s Friday Night Fellowship, it was purely social and my relationship with God was non-existent.

Growing up in a Christian home and attending a religious school, Christianity was all I knew. In my high school world religion course, other religions were presented as dead religions – religions that were significant in the past, but that ultimately were not practiced today. (more…)

A Career from the ashes

Have you ever felt like your career has gone up in smoke and there is nothing left but ashes? Have you ever lost the passion you had for your work and found you were going through the motions just to earn a paycheck?

Have you found that your career has those Good Friday feelings of loss, but the joy of Easter hasn’t shown up yet? Have you ever faced a lay-off from a job and struggled finding a new one?

I have. (more…)

Meal Packing: A Mustard Seed

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19

Jesus’ resurrection reminds us that the Kingdom of God is already breaking into our world! And just as the disciples and many others experienced a taste of that kingdom with Jesus, we have moments in our lives when we experience God’s promises. Maybe we see a little of the promise, like the little mustard seed, and begin to see how that will grow, flourish, and bring life in its branches. In that kingdom we are all brothers and sisters – rich or poor – in every part of the world. (more…)

What men want

A few years back, I walked out of my therapist’s office completely distraught. In that moment, it felt like all the pain I’d ever experienced (including the loss of my mom to Multiple Sclerosis, a broken engagement, more vocational misfires than I could list, and a lifelong battle with depression) had reappeared to collectively bully me.

Leaving her office in desperation, I did something I’d never done in my 30-something years of life: I called a friend to ask for help.

Not a mentor. Not a counselor. Not a pastor. Just a regular old friend. (more…)

Centurion Moment

Surely this man was the Son of God! Mark 15:39

This quote comes from a centurion who was standing watch at the crucifixion of Christ, according to the account of Mark. He was the commanding officer of the soldiers who mocked and laughed at Jesus while He was up on the cross. He stood by while his soldiers insulted Jesus and most likely joined in on the fun. If he didn’t, then he did nothing to stop it. Have you ever been part of a similar scene? Have you watched some one being abused and done nothing to help or maybe even joined in? (more…)

Marriage Transformed

I was two years old. My father decided the whole marriage and dad thing was too tough. So he took off. He was supposed to meet my mom to sign their tax return and never showed up for the appointment, or ever came home again. To say this left a mark would be an understatement, and yes, it still hurts. As I grew up, I decided I would be an amazing husband and father and would never do what he did to us.  (more…)

Re-Organization: Aligning with Purpose

We are in the middle of a major shift in our culture and things around us are changing almost daily.  As I look at where we have come from and where God is taking us, I can’t help but ask, “God, how can we continue to get on board with You as You call us to partnership to bring revival?” In the light of this culture shift we as a staff have been working with session to shape our vision through the year 2020. (more…)

Thank you, Lars

Walking through the Upper Campus building on Sunday mornings is an inspiration thanks to the playful colors, friendly faces, singing, learning and laughter.  We are grateful to Reverend Dr. Lars Rood for his love, leadership, and vision to help that happen every week. (more…)

Called to Suffer

It was nearly a year ago when I traveled to the Holy Land for the first time along with several other area pastors. Ever since Jesus called me to church ministry, I have wanted to visit the places where He walked, taught, healed people, was crucified, and rose again. I was tired of looking at pictures and hearing second hand accounts; I wanted to see it for myself. (more…)

Middle Winter Camp

On February 6 over 40 BelPres middle schoolers and leaders loaded up a bus and headed to Camp Casey on Whidbey Island. Our theme for the weekend was drawn from Romans 1:6, Ephesians 2:9, and other passages that speak of “belonging” to the family of God. For most middle schoolers, they are just trying to fit in and find a place where they belong. Our goal for the weekend was to remind students that God loves them and that He has welcomed them into His very own family—where they belong.

There were a number of fun activities such as games played in and around the historic Fort Casey; one of the highlights of the weekend was the Saturday Night Talent Show. A number of students had fun showing off their talent in front of their peers, which included singing, magic, gymnastics, and more. (more…)



Sanctuary Chorus and Festival Orchestra

Clara Rottsolk, soprano

Cheryse McLeod Lewis, mezzo-soprano

Ross Hauck, tenor

Jonathan Silvia, bass

Scott Dean, conductor

Through scripture and some of the world’s most revered and beautiful music that has stood the test of time, Handel’s iconic masterwork reveals a portrait of Jesus like no other composition in the history of music. (more…)

The Secret Service of Rev. Norm O’Banyon

I can tell you now that I may run out of space while telling you all you need to know about Rev. Norm O’Banyon, this month’s Secret Servant.  But a quote from his wife, Kathy, sums him up pretty well, “He’s the most wonderful man in the world!” Now that’s a supportive spouse! They seem hand in glove and Norm makes it clear that they are a team in everything. (more…)

Birth Announcements April 2015

Esther Michal Stan
Born 2-24-15 to
Jessica and Kevin Stan

Carter Allen Ziegensuss
Born 1-23-15
to Jocelyn and Matt Ziegensuss

Kalliyan Sugita Hun
Born 12-8-14 to
Marisa Prior and Johney Hun

Walker Dare Jones
Born 1-11-15 to
Kristen and Wesley Jones

The New Baby ministry seeks to greet new babies in our church community with the love of Christ. If you know of a family who is due to have a baby or adopt a baby in the coming months please contact Jenelle Mullet,  jmullet@belpres.org, so we may include them in this ministry.

Janvier: “Impossible is Nothing”

A Story of Renewal after the Rwandan Genocide
The 1994 Genocide in Rwanda left many women & children injured, traumatized, and without family. Orphaned during the genocide, Janvier was left to fend for himself as a child. He acquired HIV/AIDS when sexually assaulted by adults. He had lost family, faith and his health and livelihood.

In July of 2013, we had the opportunity to meet Janvier. On our visit to his ministry, we were struck by how he didn’t stop smiling, preaching, and insisting on his thankfulness to God. Due to his participation in a women’s co-op (yes a male member of the co-op!) he has a future and a hope. He repairs sewing machines for a women’s sewing co-op. He also operates a farm of beans and tomatoes along with his family. The land is situated on a steep, rocky slope, where he waters the acre of plants by hand, carrying jugs from a swampy area up a long, rocky path. He rides his bicycle many miles back and forth from the co-op to the farm over rutted, bumpy, dusty roads. Yet, Janvier was nothing but thankful.


Thank you Janvier for modeling thankfulness in all circumstances and for reminding us in the Hope we have in Jesus power to transform lives. “Impossible is Nothing…”

To hear more stories like this one and to learn about some of the ministries that BelPres is connected to in Rwanda please join us this Tuesday evening at Bellevue Presbyterian Church.

Rwanda Prayer & Interest Group
March 31, 2015, 7PM
Welcome Room @ BelPres

One Year Memorial of the Oso Mudslide

By Becky Gonzalez, Global Outreach Director 

At 10:37am on March 22 we mark the one-year memorial of the Oso mudslide that took 43 lives. This week there are several community events surrounding remembering the lives lost and the community impacted by this disaster. Events listed below.
• Mar 20: Darrington, Oso, and Arlington ministers have coordinated “Gathering in Hope” in memorial of the mudslide.
• Mar 21: A fundraiser evening will be held at the Rhodes River Ranch.
• Mar 22: Hwy 530 will be shut down for 3 hours and Washington State will host a public event for the families affected.

The Church’s Response
In the weeks following the event, a movement emerged of churches reaching out and sacrificially giving to a cause they believed it. More than 30 churches responded by sending a united message of hope to the individuals and communities affected through the Arlington Ministerial Association, a group of churches serving that region. In total, over $160,000 was raised in a matter of weeks and sent directly to the Association churches. This funding was given to the Church, from the Church, with the message that they are not alone in their suffering. This support was meant to empower the local churches, which would be active participants long after the news media left, to have a place at the table in discussion about relief and recovery efforts. Mission accomplished.

Medal of Valor
On March 18, “…a grateful state will pay tribute to those three communities and the tribe ‘in honor of outstanding acts of valor, risk of injury and death, and personal sacrifice in assisting in rescue, recovery and relief efforts’…Volunteers worked tirelessly and selflessly to help friends and neighbors in their hour of peril and helped their communities come together and heal.” Source here. This week, our friends from the Arlington Ministerial Association joined the Mayor of Arlington and others in traveling to Olympia to receive the State Medal of Valor, followed by a reception at the Governor’s Mansion. These churches shared with us that the prayers, concern, and financial gifts from over 30 churches played a significant role and led to such an honor for these communities.

The letter below is from a pastor in Arlington who has been very closely connected to the relief and recovery efforts and he shares some of the challenges. It has not been easy and there are complexities to providing this type of help. He expresses gratitude and honor to be walking alongside these communities this year and for the years to come.

To Him be the Glory. Amen.


Dear Becky,
Thank you for checking in. I am actively involved in the weekly meetings that take place every Thursday at the Rhodes River Ranch in Oso. There will be a “Gathering in Hope” event to be held in Darrington on March 20 at 7pm. 

In our naiveté, all of us (the government agencies, the mayor of Arlington and the pastors of the region) thought we would have completed the process of dispersing resources. The processes have been quite slow because there are ramifications and implications in giving finances to people. Let me give a few examples:
• If a family is on welfare, will a large gift push them off of welfare and assistance programs?
• In the initial months any monies families received will be deducted from a legal settlement from the government to each family.
• The uniqueness of this disaster was that loss of belongings and land was complete. In most events, even if the house is destroyed, you still have the land to build on. In this case, land is a complete loss never to be built on again.
• Losses of vehicles in the mudslide, for example, were not covered by insurance since the slide was considered an Act of God.
• If a bank or escrow decided to forgive debt for house and land, it is regarded as income and taxes are still owing. A forgiven debt of $300,000 would leave people with a $100,000 bill and nothing to show for it.

Here are a couple of needs we have made to date:
• At Christmastime we purchase gifts for about five families comprising about 25 people.
• A number of cars that survived have been paid off.
• A young man was able to enter an in-patient mental health program for 40 days.
• Make repairs to equipment used in the initial response of people who sought to rescue any survivors.
• Paid moving and living expenses for some who have moved out of the area because of the trauma.

At the end of this month I will have our accountant print out an exhaustive accounting of the dispersing of funds and known funds about to be sent out.

The one-year anniversary is about to be remembered and even today (Feb 26) people have for the first time stepped forward requesting help. The emotional, spiritual, and financial strains pressed on families are varied and different and each individual/family responds at their own pace. We certainly understand this, but with such a large loss of life and property, the dynamics of grief are further intensified. Likely we will be involved in this process for a couple more years! At the beginning, we all would have thought we would have completed our responsibilities within 6 months! We are all honored to serve in the capacity we each hold!

Four Things You Should Know About Your Call

By Rich Leatherberry, Mission Pastor

My oldest daughter and I used to invent games to play when she was really, really young. One of our favorites was right before bedtime.
I would lay on the floor along the side of her bed so she couldn’t see me. And she would start out on top of the bed and crawl slowly to the edge – knowing I was down there somewhere, but not able to see me. Then with a loud squeal that was half giggle, half scream she would dive off headfirst. And I would catch her. Holding her in my arms, I’d kiss her, turn her around and then toss her up into the air
– up over the edge of the bed and back onto the mattress again where she would bounce around a few times. More squealing. More laughter. Some silence. Then suddenly she would dive off the mattress and I’d catch her again. And again. And again. Dive, catch, toss. Those were great times. Great Daddy game right before bed time. Don’t you think? It’s in the dad job manual by the way. Page 3. “Get the kids all wound up right before bedtime and then leave them for Mommy to deal with. It’s actually the last page of the dad manual. I think my wife’s manual was 3 volumes. But I’m not sure cause I wasn’t paying attention like she was.

Our little game is a great picture of what it is like when we are living into our calling. God launching us out on the ride of our lives
and us jumping into God’s arms because we are totally dependent on His power and His love to make it happen.

There is one other part of that story that is really important for us to understand if we really want to live into our calling. And here it is. Nothing happens until we get off the mattress. We have to leave our places of safety and security in order to experience the adventure of our call.

There are four principles we all should know about our calling and here they are.

First. Finding our calling is a process. It takes time and it takes some patience. It means trying new things; discovering what give us life, brings us joy and makes time fly by when we do them. It also means we will experience the opposite when we are doing things that are not our calling. Life gets drained from us, time drags on by and we wish we were somewhere or someone else.

Second. We are called to be like who we are, not to be like someone else. That means while God called Moses, He has not called me to be like Moses’ or like Peter or like Scott Dudley or like any other person on staff. God calls us to be like who God uniquely and wonderfully created us to be. Its your best ‘you.’

Third, our calling is not something we create. Its something we discover. We discover our calling when we examine how we are made, what we are good at and what we are not so good at. What we really care about. All the stuff that makes you, you. And through a process of self examination over time, we begin to discover things about ourselves. Like whether we are a people person or prefer keyboards and screens. Analyzer or intuitive? Creative type or logical and linear? Are you better with your hands or with your mind or with your speaking ability? Do you prefer helping other people or solving problems behind a desk?

When we pay attention to ourselves, how we respond to different situations, the kinds of things that, when we do them, bring us joy, then we begin to discover our calling. Our calling isn’t a job someone else thinks we would be good at. And it isn’t a set of goals we create for ourselves so that we can earn a certain kind of lifestyle or live in a certain place. We can’t create ourselves. Because the person we create will be different than the person we really are. Calling is within us. It wants to be discovered.

Fourth, our calling is daily. Most of the time we think of our calling in terms of the bigger purpose and mission of our lives. Big decisions we have to make or choices that will shape the trajectory of our lives. Like the job we think God wants us to have, or the person we think God wants us to marry or the volunteer opportunity we think God wants us to take.

But there is a part of our calling that is so daily. Each day is filled with dozens of opportunities God gives us to bless other people. Each opportunity is like a door God opens up before us and His call is for us to go through it. It could be noticing someone who needs help and so you walk through that door. It could be the opportunity to heal a relationship so you walk through that door. It could be the opportunity to offer to pray for someone so you walk through that door.

That might be in the job you have now or in the school you are at now or with the friendships you have now or in the neighborhood you live in now. When we start recognizing the doors God is opening up for us each day, life becomes an exciting adventure.

So what is God showing you today about your calling? What are you discovering about the ‘you’, God has created you to be? What doors is God opening for you today?

Letter from the Editor

When asked, most people I know tell me they observe Lent for two reasons: first, it is socially expected in their circles, and second, it is a chance to give up a bad habit for a maintainable length of time, although if they are anything like me, these habits are almost certainly reintroduced at some point.

The trouble is, God is not only concerned with what we do not do. It is what we do do that also matters. I have not always appreciated this idea, but Ephesians 4:17-32 recently fell into my lap and as I mused on this passage, I came to the realization that giving something up is not why Christians observe Lent. (more…)

Good and Faithful Servant: Thank You Anne Korsmo

If you read The Messenger, Anne Korsmo has touched your life. For years, Anne has been a faithful Communications team member. Month after month and year after year she has combed through articles, calendars, and announcements looking to make sure they make sense, are spelled correctly, and are pleasing to read. Her love for words and reading has blessed these pages and brought us God’s message in correct English and proper grammar. (more…)

41 Days

It took me 41 days, in the spring of 1996. After working 19 years in my home church in Los Angeles, I needed a reboot. I said goodbye to family and friends, loaded two geriatric Labradors into the back of my Volvo station wagon, and hit the road. It was Monday, sunny and warm; the first day of Holy Week.

My three brothers lived in the Pacific Northwest; I’d stay with one of them until I found work. I felt reborn. I put the car in drive, popped in a cassette, and started singing, the dogs howling in harmony as we left the LA basin.

And then it began to rain. (more…)