Mustard Seeds into Christmas Trees

Jesus’ parable of a mustard seed, growing expansively, illustrates the growth of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:31-32). In 2006, Jubilee REACH, a mustard seed planted by BelPres, opened to show Christ’s love to 20 high-needs children selected by the neighboring school. That mustard seed has grown!

In a city and school district where 86 languages representing 117 countries are spoken, Jubilee REACH grew into a hub for community and Christ centered hospitality. Strangers–estranged from countries, cultures, friends, families, and even from God–came to be welcomed and loved. Volunteers developed multiple services and activities, showing the love of Christ through English classes, dental, medical, and vision clinics, community meals, after-school activities, community care, and more.

Then, encouraged by the Bellevue School District and city officials, Jubilee REACH stepped in to the gap to provide after-school activities to the district’s most diverse and challenging middle school. On the second day, the two biggest bullies disrupted the crafts table and spit on the floor in front of an elderly volunteer. Coach Carlos, himself a converted gang member, escorted Jorge and Aldo to the gym. Fifteen of their gang followed. Rather than punish what they did, Carlos simply asked, “Why?” Then, with a soccer ball, Coach Carlos loved the bullies and watched as the gang transformed into a team. Anissa, the school’s principal, reported that the reading test scores of all those bullies improved two to four grade levels.

Now, Site Coaches, serving daily inside 14 schools, are like shepherds – students know their Site Coach’s name and voice (John 10). Student bullies (Sauls) have become bold leaders (Pauls). Jubilee REACH is a fully integrated partner with Bellevue School District and has a contractual agreement to care for the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of students in every school.

This mustard seed story prompted a Christian community leader, familiar with Festival of Trees Christmas celebrations in other major cities, to say, “Why not Bellevue? Why not Jubilee REACH?” Last year, 800 people experienced the inaugural Festival of Trees. Many exclaimed, “From the moment I walked in, it felt like Christmas had returned to Bellevue!” BelPres planted a seed and continues to nurture its growth as the Jubilee REACH Festival of Trees brings Christmas back to Bellevue again this year.     

And as for those former bullies? Jorge attends UW, leads a discipleship group, and serves as a middle school coach. Aldo attends Seattle University and coaches/mentors students after school. And at that first middle school, graffiti has been replaced with achievement award banners and Anissa was named Principal of the Year for the State of Washington.

Be part of the mustard seed story at the Festival of Trees, Friday, November 13, at the downtown Bellevue Hyatt.

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