Letter from the Editor

I love breakfast food. As a child, whenever my mom couldn’t get home in time to fix dinner, my dad would make us pancakes, or french toast, or waffles. I always looked forward to these evenings because they were so rare and a special treat.

This love for breakfast food has carried over into my adult life and when Jake and I planned our honeymoon to Norway, I was thrilled to learn that every hotel served afternoon waffles! Even better, they were free! It was absolutely normal there, but to me it was something incredible: an opportunity to indulge in something I love.


Fourth of July

On Independence Day, we are reminded of all those who have sacrificed for our freedom, following the example of Jesus Christ. Please take a few moments for silence and appreciation this Fourth of July for all we have in our lives. May God’s blessings ever ring out over our land. In the words of Katharine Lee Bates:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

2015 Confirmation

“God is the God of the ridiculous.”

Upon first sight, this statement might make you cringe a bit. Maybe it conflicts with your own personal view of God and His character. Maybe it simply sounds funny as you let the words roll across your tongue. Read it again.

“God is the God of the ridiculous.”

God Himself is not ridiculous; rather, He uses the mundane, the miraculous, and yes, even the ridiculous in order to reveal Himself to His people.

This idea arose during Confirmation at BelPres this year. During one of the sessions, 18 Middle School students found themselves discussing the story of the fall of Jericho, wondering why God asked the Israelites to march around its walls seven times in order to bring them down and deliver the city into their hands. After a moment of pondering over the story, one student commented that God’s instructions seemed a bit ridiculous. At this open and honest remark, Reverend Rich Leatherberry replied, “Well the thing we have to remember is that God is, in fact, the God of the ridiculous.”


Broken Cisterns

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13

My life is an endless sea of tasks, a machine churning out productive successions of non-stop accomplishments and failures. Even in sleep the rush of the world does not rest. I am a father of three, a husband, a full time employee, and a volunteer. In all this I find joy in serving, in completing tasks, making projects succeed, and watching my children grow. But in the midst of the freight train of my life, I get lonely, tired, and sometimes find myself hollow and broken. It is at these points that I have no one to turn to, because everyone is looking to me for what to do next. It is then I realize I have not taken the time to dwell with God.


Seven Ways to Renew Your Faith in Fitness

In our busy lives, it is hard to determine our priorities when we have so many obligations pulling us in every direction. Just like faith, it is easy for our fitness to be the thing that gets pushed aside.  As the owner of Shine Fitness, and having worked in the fitness industry for the past nine years, I have had the opportunity to sit down with many individuals and talk about their fitness goals.  A common theme I hear is, “I don’t have five hours a week to exercise.”

I am here today to let you in on a little secret…you don’t need to have five hours a week to see a significant difference in your body and your health. I can honestly tell you that the people who are most successful at working out consistently, work out three days a week. Many of those people didn’t start with three days a week, but worked their way up to it.  This can be similar to our faith.  It would be great if we could all do a Bible Study every week and start every day with our half hour of morning prayers, but for most of us, myself included, we are lucky to get breakfast and five minutes to read a daily devotional before heading out the door for a busy day.


A Refiner’s Fire

From the time I was five or six, I was involved in church, singing in cherub choirs to adult choirs and quartets and even a solo or two. When I arrived in Washington, to help my son through the agony of the early death of his wife, I saw an article about a performance at the First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue. I decided to attend. I was hooked.

I showed up again the following Sunday, and the minister remembered my name despite having only met me once. Within a week I auditioned and joined the choir. I sang with this large and wonderfully supported group for nearly four years. And they supported me, singing for my wedding at BelPres in 1998. I stayed with it for a while after moving to Whidbey Island, commuting twice a week. For perhaps a year, I sang with Whidbey Presbyterian in Oak Harbor, and even had one or two solos.


Spiritual practice

Like many children, I was enamored with loud machines and vehicles that seemed capable of feats beyond my understanding. My own two-year-old daughter, Anna Glory, runs to the window every Monday morning yelling, “Gawbage twuck!! Hi Gawbage twuck!”

For me, it was the lawn mower. What was this machine that chewed up and ate our grass—a machine that only my father seemed capable of operating safely? Starting around age seven, I begged my dad to let me mow the lawn. “Nope, you’re too young, it’s not safe.” Finally, when I was ten, he relented. I was ecstatic—certain I was about to experience something on par with being a fighter pilot or underwater welder.


Call for Articles

We recognize that BelPres is full of many inspiring stories that detail God’s work and presence throughout the congregation. While we sometimes hear of these stories, most of the time they go unrecognized. We would like to extend an invitation to submit articles (400-800 words) to The Messenger.

Guidelines for Articles:

The Messenger is a publication provided by Bellevue Presbyterian Church. Full of inspiring true to life stories of people’s walk with Christ, their struggles and triumphs, in order to help lift one another up in Christ.

To submit your piece for consideration, please email Katie McRoberts at KMcRoberts@belpres.org.

Rebuilding Eden

We live in the Evergreen state. Chances are, if you look out the window, you will see trees all around. In general, people in the Pacific Northwest love to get outside and spend time in nature.

Can you imagine looking out that same window in 30 years and seeing desert where those trees used to be? That is what is happening in much of the world. In the last 60 years over half the world’s forest have been cleared.

Roger Hoesterey, a 20+ year BelPres attendee, thinks about this issue daily as the CEO of Eden Reforestation Projects, an international non-profit organization that works to combat deforestation in third world countries by hiring locals to plant trees. (more…)

Revive in God’s Waterfall

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  John 4:10, 13-14 (more…)

Transformed by Stretch

Senior Stretch began last autumn to help prevent falls through strengthening muscles and bones, as one out of three over age 65 falls in a given year. The class has turned out to be so much more—incorporating social, intellectual, spiritual, as well as physical aspects of our lives. We’ve all made new friends and two attendees reconnected after 45 years. 

We’ve shared new experiences, such as eating Jack Fruit for the first time, as well as sharing health related information. One participant had attended Sunday services only and is now participating in other church activities and will soon join the church. Another has found gardening easier after our stretches. One came with a “frozen” shoulder, but can now get her arms over her head. C.K. found the exercises helped prepare her for total knee replacement and influenced the healing and strengthening afterward, amazing her doctors at how well she did. C.F. says she feels better when she leaves than before the class. One with neuropathy finds the class helps with balance and awareness of her surroundings. J.F. comes to stretch even after her physical therapy session. We all stand taller and walk straighter than when we began in the fall.  (more…)

Jubilee Joy

As we approach the eleventh year of Jubilee Service Day, I was curious to see how ten years of service had blessed those volunteers whom God nudged and responded to serve. The joy of participating in something bigger than us, and that makes a significant impact within our community, is a calling of both the heart and hands. This participation in what God is doing is an expression of gratitude, as believers, to the grace God freely gives us.

I have been a logistics coordinator at Spiritridge Elementary School for the past few years. What a blessing it is to pray in each classroom with the teacher and volunteers before they begin the many tasks it takes to set up a classroom for a new school year. It is great to watch parents and their children working side by side to set up a classroom in a school they are not even attending. God has been present in those precious four hours as “two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). What a blessing to watch when “two or more are gathered together” around a table making light work out of the many projects that are needed to be done. After our four hours of service we look around and smile because we know that the teachers and children that will occupy the halls and classrooms are prayed for and the rooms are prepared.

-Diane Grayson    (more…)

Behind the scenes with annie roth

Ahhh, the Middle.

That creamy center of the Oreo; the halfway mark of a good book; the celebrated spot of negotiation—it’s where you find the good stuff.

And this is where our story begins, at The Middle with Annie Roth. A gal who’s loaded with the good stuff! She’s a devoted volunteer to kids at BelPres in grades 6-8 who attend The Middle, a Sunday and weekday program designed to help guide their spiritual growth. This program encompasses Bible study, fun activities, and small groups. (more…)

Calling all photographers

Submit your photos for the September, October, and November issues of The Messenger.

Themes: Fall Season, Leaders/Mentors and Disciples, A Thankful Heart

Photos must be in jpeg form, ideally raw, with minimum size of 1600w x 2400h x 300 dpi.

Questions? Ready to submit? Contact Katie, KMcRoberts@belpres.org.

Birth Announcements July 2015

Ashley Kaitlyn Ingraham
Born on 4-11-15 to
Mary and Joel Ingraham

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 Di Alexander, dalexander@belpres.org, so we may include them in this ministry.

KidREACH Celebration

It is a known fact that BelPres seeks to actively serve others – bringing revival to the Eastside and around the world. This past year, I have personally seen God’s love manifested through many of you here at this church. God’s heart for His people is so evident to me at BelPres.  Tutors, students and families involved with KidREACH have shown me this. If you are not familiar with this tutoring ministry, you may ask yourself, “how is helping a struggling student with homework a part of Kingdom work”? The first words that come to mind are those of Jesus Christ instructing His disciples “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). These words spoken by God’s Son are powerful, yet humbling. In order to bring God’s Kingdom we must humble ourselves as Jesus teaches.

Tutors, volunteers, parents and students—the KidREACH family—have taught me that humility and dependence on Christ are absolutely necessary in order to be an effective worker for God in building His Kingdom. As children and youth, ranging between the ages of 5-18, begin tutoring often overwhelmed or lost in their studies, I see tutors exemplifying Christ by giving themselves up for these children. That being said, learning disabilities or lack of motivation do not disappear overnight or even over the course of a year, making the consistent commitment by tutors and families a necessity. The challenges are real and complicated for many of these students, but through relying on God and humbly sacrificing time and energy, volunteers are slowly seeing new confidence, motivation and interest in their student.

I am so grateful to God for His faithfulness to this amazing ministry!  In this ministry, much more than solving tricky math problems or preparing for a vocabulary quiz takes place. God’s Kingdom is alive in so many little things: the energy and joy tutors find by serving at the end of their busy days, the smiles and laughter of the students, and the peace seen in the entire family as a result of this supportive community. God’s Kingdom – a place where God is known, loved, and worshipped – is not only being built in the lives of the students and families that come for help, but in the lives of each volunteer as well. Lives are being transformed through snack time, talking about classes and life, and celebrating the culmination of another school year.  Tutors cement the truth that “it is better to give than receive” and that together, by humbly giving ourselves up for others, God’s Kingdom is brought to Earth.

Earlier this month KidREACH celebrated its 14th end-of-year party. The following pictures are proof that God’s Kingdom is alive and tangibly felt in this community.

If you would like to learn more about this tutoring ministry or would like to be involved, please contact GetConnected.

Eastside Academy Seniors: Isaac

Over the last few weeks, BelPres Missions has been sharing stories of the nine seniors scheduled to graduate from Eastside Academy this month. Isaac’s story concludes our series.

Eastside Academy Senior: Isaac

Before Eastside Academy, I didn’t have much purpose.  I was a drug addict who didn’t think he could get his diploma.  I went through gangs, drugs, and thugs.  I did a lot of damage and was dealt a lot of damage.  Since coming to Eastside Academy, I have a purpose.  I love people.  I have family and friends.  I love myself.  I am happy and strong without hate in my heart.  Soon, I’ll finally have that diploma!  I’ve achieved what once seemed impossible to me.

After graduation, I plan to move back to Melbourne, Australia.  I’m going to serve the world of recovery there and help my friends and strangers get clean and achieve happiness.  My goals are to get married, have a family, share recovery, and start a Narcotics Anonymous meeting to help people get clean.


Eastside Academy Senior: Kylie Part Two

Over the last few weeks, BelPres Missions has been sharing stories of the nine seniors scheduled to graduate from Eastside Academy this month. Here is more of Kylie’s story.

Eastside Academy Senior: Kylie

Before Eastside Academy, my life was driven by drugs.  Besides drugs, my abusive boyfriend was my center because he gave me worth.  I wasn’t attending school and I wasn’t in contact with my family. I hoped to die before I was 18 years old.  Being at Eastside Academy, I’ve learned that I have a purpose and was chosen out of many people who could benefit from EA.  Everything has happened so my “plan” can fall into place.

Now, I have a good relationship with my family, good grades, good friends, and self-worth.  I’m graduating on time.  I have learned to communicate, accept support, love and be loved.  I have motivation and I know I have a good life with value.

I’m really proud of the fact that I have two years sober!

After graduation, I plan to work part-time and start going to Shoreline Community College.  Then I’ll transfer to a four year college so I can become an art therapist.

Christ In the Middle East

By Rich Leatherberry, Mission Pastor

Reports from the Middle East fill websites, newspapers and television news stations with bad news about terrorist groups and uprisings. Our own government rightly strategizes and builds coalitions to bring peace to the region and protect national interests. But true peace is not established through military dominance or economic sanctions. True peace is found in a person and His name is Jesus. Forgiveness and Reconciliation are only possible through a relationship with Him. This is the message of the Christian church today in places like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. These Christians trace their ancestry back to the first church born at Pentecost. Sadly, many are forced to flee their homes, neighborhoods and work places in order to find refuge in safer places. But some Christians are staying. They refuse to be enemies with those who persecute them. They choose to love rather than hate. They have faith that their Christian witness will point to the only one who can bring true peace. As hard as it is for us to imagine here, they believe that staying rather than leaving, enduring persecution and suffering, is what Jesus is asking them to do. It is the cross they are being called to carry.

On June 18, Muslims around the world will begin 30 days of fasting during a season called Ramadan. 23% of the World’s population is Muslim with 20% of those living in North Africa and the Middle East. This season creates a great opportunity for Christians in the West to join with Christians in the Middle East in solidarity and mission. Through prayer, we engage in an act of love for Muslim people, understanding their concerns, learning about their customs and praying they will discover Jesus as the true object of their devotion.

I invite you to pick up a copy of 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World in the lobby or at the Welcome desk. This guide will help you learn about Islam, what God is doing in the Muslim world and how you can pray for them. You can also find the guide and more information at www.30daysprayer.com. Our hope and our peace are in a person. Prayer is our most effective way of bringing change to the Middle East and supporting our Christian brothers and Sisters who are still living there.

Eastside Academy Seniors: Sasha’s Story

Over the last few weeks, BelPres Missions has been sharing stories of the nine seniors scheduled to graduate from Eastside Academy this month. Here is Sasha’s story.

Before EA I was going to a local high school in Seattle. I was a very depressed person. I didn’t like anyone; I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and most of all I hated myself. I was doing okay in school but when a close friend of mine passed away it was different and I was just depressed. The middle of my junior year my parents started looking at different schools that would be more fitting for me. They found EA online and we decided to give it a try.

My time at EA has been shaky and I have had my ups and downs. It’s a small school and it feels different and people know each other. I like how tight we are and when someone’s not doing well we always want to cheer each other up.  My favorite class is Pre-Calculus. I never thought I was good in math, but when I came to EA I felt like I had a chance. I felt encouraged to do a harder class and was challenging by my teachers. Now I can work one on one with my Math teacher and I love Math class. I disliked my recovery class at first because we had to share our feelings but now I see that it’s helpful to know each other and to be able to support our friends.

Being vulnerable and open is helping me let people in and has helped me be more accepting of myself. I now take my classes more seriously and I have all A’s! Having smaller classes and more time with teachers is helping me get good grades.  I now enjoy my time in class.

I’m graduating in a few weeks and I’ve applied to Bellevue College. After that I plan to go to law school because I want to be a lawyer. I want to help the people that can’t get the help they should.

If it wasn’t for EA I can honestly say that I would be dead. I was very depressed before EA and I didn’t have the help that I needed. Now I have a counselor, Recovery class, and relationships with teachers and classmates that have helped me view myself better.

Prayer requests: I want to pray for all the kids that haven’t had the opportunity to be in a school like EA and pray that they find the help that they need.