Racism and the Gospel, a visit with Dr. John Perkins

Racism: the belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them. Racism breeds fear and distrust, robbing everyone involved of their identity in Christ, created in God’s image, to know God, to love and bJohn-Perkinse loved. Racism is hateful and evil, pitting one human against another human, destroying relationships and ultimately bringing death. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I bring you news of great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).  All people. Racism steals away the good news of the gospel.

John Perkins began his life in 1930 in Mississippi as the son of a poor sharecropper. When he was seven months old his mother died and his father abandoned the family, leaving the children to be raised in poverty by their grandmother and extended family. John was seventeen when his older brother was murdered by a town marshal, and John’s family became afraid for his life. Vowing never to return to the place of his birth, John fled to California.

Fast forward to 1957 when John, through his son’s encouragement, attended a church service and encountered the Lord, giving his life to Christ. Though he had vowed never to return to his boyhood home, God had a bigger plan for John. In 1960, John moved their family to Mississippi to share the gospel of Christ with those still living in that area. John became a vocal supporter and leader in the civil rights movement, was beaten, arrested and tortured in jail, but never lost sight of the call on his life or the love of God in his heart. He came through this experience with a vision of a holistic ministry designed to remove the bondage of racism from all people, the oppressor and the oppressed.

Through the next four decades John wrote, spoke, taught, earned degrees and became an international leader in the church. He authored nine books, created non-profit ministries, joined boards at World Vision and Prison Fellowship, and became a leader in community development for impoverished people in urban and rural settings.  In 2004, Seattle Pacific joined with now Dr. John Perkins to launch the campus-based John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development.

Dr. Perkins was in town last week. On Monday, I had the privilege of joining a small gathering of urban leaders for lunch and teaching with by Dr. John. We met at Urban Impact and for two hours we sat at the feet of the master of reconciliation. At 85 years of age, he is an energetic man with a gentle demeanor and an incredible heart for God’s people. Moving around the room as he spoke, he made eye contact with each person. Words of scripture flowed effortlessly from him as spoke about the utter devastation racism had on our country, our communities and our churches.

He asked, “What is the time in which each of us is living? It is not the time to profile and hate, it is the time to start reading the word of God and believe what it says!” God has not designed us to be defined by race; we are all members of one race, the human race. We come from different ethnicities, cultures, lands, and we are all one race under God.

Dr. John spoke on God’s call on our lives to love. He said, “Love is the best chance…people get trapped in their own cultures…we have to love their eyes open…to look for ways to serve both sides.” The Gospel is the power to reconcile people together, and as the church we are called to reconcilers, to let the God of Reconciliation live in our hearts and walk out reconciliation in our lives. As Dr. John stated, “Let’s enjoy loving each other across all lines that divide us.” How do we do this? By coming together, working and learning together, and by staying together no matter what.

Have you experienced racism in your own life? If so, how did it impact your faith and your understanding of reconciliation?

Are you interested in further conversations on race and reconciliation? If so, BelPres has a Justice and Reconciliation team that meets twice a month. For more information contact me,  Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach at mmccracken@belpres.org.

 

 

Working to the Summit

“Keeping a healthy balance and appropriate challenge level at work and living a life of love and serving.” That’s what Jeannette Baker credits the Global Leadership Summit with doing in her own life. Read on to see why receiving her annual dose of “God oomph” keeps her mind and heart open to what God has planned for her.

 

Jeannette is an accountant at Costco and she used to work at BelPres as the Senior Accountant. At 34 years old she is also the owner and dance instructor with Studio B Dance. Recently she sat down with Nancy Campi, the BelPres Staff Summit Leader, where she shared her reflections of the power of the Summit in her life.

 

Nancy Campi: Do you have a favorite Summit speaker?

 

Jeannette Baker: Every year I love the kick-off talk by Bill Hybels. He is an inspirational speaker who really shows you how to effectively move from “here to there” in any aspect of your life…family, relationships, work, and self-development…anything! His talks set the tone for a wonderful Summit filled with inspiration, reflection and “go do” information! I love to see how Bill “walks the talk” in his Church and family life and it inspires me to do the same here in Bellevue. Getting in this mindset opens me up to hear the “change opportunity” God is presenting to me from all the other speakers.

 

NC: How have you applied what you have learned at the Summit in your work?

 

JB: One of the ideas I have applied from the Summit is from Bill Hybels’ talk regarding balancing your “challenge levels” at work. I keep a conscious awareness now that I am not in the “under challenged and unfulfilled” level and also not at the “dangerously over challenged” area of the scale but instead keeping a healthy balance in the appropriately challenged level. I used to run a work life that was always in the strained side of things. At that point I thought that was always good … a long to do list MUST be a good to do list! Well, that wasn’t doing well for me or my job in body, mind and spirit. Now I recognize when my bucket reaches overfilled status and needs to be replenished. I can now acknowledge that I do my best work as a leader when (like a muscle) I am stressed enough for growth but not so overstressed that I break down.

 

NC: How have you applied what you have learned at the Summit in your personal life?

 

JB: In my personal life I have embraced the sentiments from Craig Groeschel when he says “If you are not dead, you are not done!” I approach each day looking for what makes it special … there is always a task to be tackled or an experience to be lived … I just have to open my eyes and my heart to find what that opportunity is! Live it! God has plans for me!

I also love several sentiments from Bob Goff’s talk. We are to “Love God, Love People, Do Stuff” and develop over time … like a polaroid picture! I love this thought pattern to approach my life and realize that if I live a life of love and serving, my life details will slowly come in to focus on a great picture of a great life!

 

NC: This will be your 7th Summit, why keep attending?

 

JB: I wouldn’t miss it! The Summit is an annual time of renewal and reflection for me. I walk away from the 2-day event with a revived spirit ready to go out to the world and serve God through my actions and attitude. I feel empowered with a renewed drive to strive to be a better Christian in all aspects of my life. I love the annual dose of “God oomph” I receive at the Summit and each year it is different and wonderful. No two Summits have worked on my heart the exact same way – so while I always leave the time refreshed – I never know what area God has in mind to be working on that year. What will my heart’s 2016 focus be? I can’t wait to see! In the words of Bill Hybels … “everyone wins when a leader gets better!”

 

Like Jeanette, many of us that are regular Summit attendees find it difficult to put into words the impact and impressions of the Summit. We leave each session thinking how we wish others could have heard a particular message and know others that would have found it of great value. Such was my case, and after a few years of listening to me quote Summit speakers and seeing its impact on my life my husband Dan, finally had the opportunity to join me at the Summit and now considers it a “no-brainer “ to attend each year. Dan shares Jeanette’s impressions of Bill Hybels, “[He is] very inspiring, real and captivating.” He also found Susan Cain’s talk about the power of introverts and Jim Collins’ Seven Questions: Beyond Good to Great especially fascinating. Both sessions provided Dan with valuable insights and lessons that he still refers to and applies every day in his work as VP of Business Development and Marketing at Kardin Systems, Inc. He looks forward to the Summit as a “relaxing way to explore new ways of thinking about leadership and relationships.”

 

Another BelPres member fairly new to the Summit is Chuck Pilcher. Chuck was drawn to the Summit by speakers like General Colin Powell, Bob Goff and Pastor Andy Stanley but adds that “some of the very best speakers have been world-class leaders I had never heard of before. Surprises like this remind me of the way I felt as a child as Christmas morning approached to see what’s going to be the next present?” Chuck is a self-proclaimed Summit evangelist and says “Whether you are leading a work group, a family, a group of friends, a sports team, a church or a major corporation, everyone can use the skills taught at the GLS. This is down to earth, practical material that can make everyone not just a better leader but a better person.”

 

One of the greatest things about hosting here at BelPres is that area leaders from over 35 churches and community organizations have the opportunity to join us to experience the Summit here. It is the pleasure of BelPres staff and volunteer Summit team to once again host this two-day event telecast live from Willow Creek’s Chicago campus August 11 and 12. For further information visit the church website or contact Nancy, ncampi@belpres.org.

 

Read on for more insights from other Global Leadership Summit attendees.

“I appreciate the insights of top leaders who also are guided by Christian values.”

 

“It helps me continue to grow in my confidence and leadership capability. I’m inspired by the presenters and by Bill Hybels.”

 

“I have cited quotes from Bill Hybels and others in facilitating meetings outside church with positive reactions.”

 

“Every year I learn new truths that I can apply immediately. I have been challenged and equipped to be a better leader in my church, workplace and family.”

 

“Great leadership training from great leaders. Superb speakers who are entertaining as well. It is just FUN!”

 

“It is my annual revival… it revives my spirit, my energy and my drive to become a better leader!”

Letter from the Editor

Five years ago my sister and I took a gap year and went to New Zealand to live life as the Kiwis do. Our first day in our new home, a small farming town called Putaruru (pop. 3,777), we joined our host family and their home church as they erected a new worship center (much like a barn raising). Our hosts, worried about our sensitive American skin and the hole in the ozone above New Zealand, took us to the farm supply store before the event so we could get coveralls, gumboots, and giant straw hats that were essentially cowboy hats.

After, my sister and I decided to walk home from the church, so we trudged along the road in our new cowboy hats. (more…)

Memorial Day 2016

Memorial Day is an important time and opportunity for Americans to remember our veterans and those who have served our country. It is also an opportunity to honor those loved ones who have gone before us and the sacrifice made. Join us in honoring the countless heroes who have given their lives for our hopes and dreams.  

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Philippians 2:3-4

Available, Able

Showing up – it’s important. As cheesy as it sounds, being present really can be a gift. A gift that gives in more than one direction.

In a sermon earlier this year, Dr. Scott Dudley shared that when it comes to impacting another person’s life, what matters most is “not your ability, but your availability.” He shared that often the most significant gift we can offer another person is our time, and the most valuable tool at our disposal is our willingness to be present. Despite our flaws and lack of “credentials,” we witness amazing things when we allow Jesus to work through us in his power. (more…)

Content & Grateful Stewardship

Contentment.

Gratitude. 

Do these words come to your mind when you think about Easter? And why am I writing about Easter anyway? Wasn’t that was last month. But as I reflect on this most recent Easter season and the my focus during this time on the resurrection of our Lord, these two words are strongly connected with both Easter and stewardship in my mind. 

Contentment. Are you content with your belief in the resurrection? Are you content with your time of prayer or in Bible reading or study? Contentment is a key focus for all of us in the church. Flowing from contentment is thankfulness to God for the things we have, not those things that we do not have. This deeply felt contentment grows into gratitude. (more…)

Across Borders and Languages

Have you ever wished your children could experience another culture?  Have you ever wondered if your children understand how truly blessed they are to live in the United States, where they have food, clothing, a roof over their heads, good schools, great opportunities? Have you ever prayed that your children would develop a heart for mission? A family mission trip is one great way to help your children see the world from a different perspective.

Imagine what your children would think if they visited a culture where, when driving down the road, lane lines are optional, and in fact, speed limits are optional. Speed bumps, however, are the real deal, and everyone slows down for them, so much so that local people set up tables to sell food items and trinkets at every single speed bump. The majority of the vehicles are actually mopeds, not cars. Imagine that your hot water heater is a black tank on your roof, heated by the sun—that is, if you are lucky enough to have plumbing and a hot water tank. Imagine that your home is a 20×20 square foot home with wood siding, a metal roof, a cement floor, and curtains to divide the rooms instead of walls. Imagine doing your laundry in a series of three tubs with a bar of soap, and hang drying your clothes on your barbed wire fence. Imagine having only two outfits and one pair of shoes. (more…)

A Dealer in Hope

One morning I woke up and realized what my job description is – it all boils down to this: it’s to love people and to be a dealer in hope. I figure that’s pretty counter-culture, don’t you? I’m not hearing too much talk about hope or love right now. I am hearing people dealing in fear, and distrust, and discord.

Everywhere I go throughout my day I encounter people looking for something or someone to give them hope. Wherever I show up I seek to bring hope, whether it’s at the gym, the grocery store, a hospital room, the ER, a rehab center, your home, my office, pre-surgery, a coffee shop – wherever I meet with people. We all need a daily infusion of hope especially in our current culture. I tell people they can borrow hope from me when they need to. Sometimes we simply can’t do it for ourselves. That’s why we need other people walking with us.  (more…)

Bread Pudding

It was Sunday morning, but my neighbor invited me to the casino in the mountains with the legendary buffet, so I went.  As a valet whisked away our car, I whispered to myself, “This is gonna be good.”  Inside the handsome oversized door, I imagined a Chihuly chandelier and beautiful, happy people like in casino commercials.

Instead, suffocating noise and stale air slapped me in the face.  A hideous orange and purple carpet, an undulating stain of cheap red wine and pepperoni pizza, rolled out in every direction. No Chihuly, just rows of machines with expressionless people, zombies staring at screens. And it was packed! Out the side of my mouth, I spat, “Wish this many people went to church on Sunday,” ironic since I wasn’t at church either. (more…)

Being Christian in a Post-Christian Culture

“Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

The Good News of the Gospel is God loves us the way we are. The even Better News of the Gospel is God loves us too much to leave us that way. When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior over our lives, he begins to change us; or in the words of the passage above, he transforms us. 

The Christian faith is about release, recreation and renewal. Jesus releases us from sin, shame and the things that bind us. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He recreates us to move with his courage, live in his joy, experience his power and love as he loves. One thing that made Christianity so attractive in the first few Centuries were followers of Jesus who genuinely became recreated. Those early Christians caused an epidemic of holy jealousy. People wanted what they had. (more…)

Man Enough

The relationships I’ve built through the BelPres Men’s Retreat are what I value most. God and Jesus are all about relationships: with them first, through the Holy Spirit, and then with other people.  The retreat has enabled me to meet new guys and develop relationships that might not otherwise have occurred. Over the past five years in particular I’ve gotten to know at least twenty guys at a different level connecting with them in church and outside of church.

In particular, I’ve been able to build open and transparent relationships with two men- each younger and each with a different story. To be honest, initially I misjudged one guy’s personality and his emotional and spiritual depth…another head smack for me about judging others. I decided to reach out to him to get to know him better. The other guy and I connected in a discussion group at the retreat and in that group we openly shared about personal issues.  We decided to stay in touch and meet occasionally. Over the past three years with many coffees, lunches and other events with each guy we’ve been able to discover more what is in our hearts and minds and to counsel one another on day to day practical issues and personal challenges.  I feel comfortable in laying out my weaknesses and in being a mentor or advisor when appropriate.  And since I’m older, I’m able to offer up comments from the perspective of someone who’s been through similar experiences. (more…)

Volunteer Appreciation

Dear Volunteers,

Every year thousands of people’s lives are made better in our church, community, and in many places around the world because of the ministries of BelPres. None of those life-changing and soul-shaping things could happen without you. People are being set free from poverty, having their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs met. Youth are finding community and experiencing the transforming power of Jesus. Friendships are being formed. Marriages are being healed, and Jesus is getting good press because of all that happens in and through us as a church. (more…)

Behind the Scenes with Christie Kauffman

When I was in grade school, I had a mustard seed necklace. The seed found home inside a small round plastic bobble hanging on a gold chain. I wish I still had it; it seems at least one other person in the congregation had one too, Christie Kauffman. Let me tell you her faith story.

Christie was born into an agnostic family, but her grandparents were believers. Every year their family traveled to see them for a visit. Her grandparents were clever enough to request the family visit at the same time each year so Christie and her siblings could attend Vacation Bible School. Through this ministry, Christie came to Christ and upon her return home, wanted more. Though her parents weren’t churchgoers, she was allowed to attend the nearby Episcopal parish where she was dropped off each Sunday. It was there that she grew in her faith. (more…)

Baby Basics Mother’s Day Diaper Drive

Can you imagine having to choose between disposable diapers for your baby or paying your rent on time? This is the kind of choice low-income Eastside families face daily. Baby Basics Bellevue, a non-profit, all volunteer run organization has been distributing diapers since October 2012 to help meet diaper need in our community.

“Diapers may seem like a simple thing but here are no government subsidies or tax breaks for diapers. Diaper Need is a silent crisis and an important issue in our community. Sadly, diaper b2016.04_FLM_Diapers_Web_1.1anks in King County cannot keep up with the on-going need. Clean diapers are a basic necessity for a baby and helps the entire family,” explains Kim Stone, Co-founder and Director of Baby Basics.

The low-income families that Baby Basics serve are hard-working parents who do not receive federal or state cash funds. They may or may not have access to food stamps, which cannot be used for diapers. The parents may be the single mom working at Bellevue Square or the young father working at one of your favorite restaurants. Many of the parents are working jobs that pay minimum wage or just above.

To help meet the need and raise awareness Baby Basics Bellevue is having their fourth annual May Diaper Drive. The gift of diapers is an ideal way to honor mothers and to show support for low-income working moms (and dads!) on the Eastside.

Your gift of diapers this May will not only help cover a little bottom but will make a difference to a mom and her family. Diapers in sizes 4, 5, and 6 are especially needed.

These community friendly organizations and businesses are springing into action with Baby Basics and collecting diapers:

  • Bellevue Presbyterian Church, 1717 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, Mother’s Day, May 8
  • Chace’s Pancake Corral, 1606 Bellevue Way SE, Bellevue, Collecting change for diaper change
  • Café Cesura, 1015 108th NE, Bellevue, Collecting change for diaper change
  • Kirkland Way Storage, 11200 Kirkland Way, Kirkland
  • QFC – Bellevue Village, Saturday, May 7, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
  • Sacred Heart Church, 9460 NE 14th Bellevue, Mother’s Day, May 8

Learn more about Baby Basics HERE!

The Whole Story — How God Uses Prayer

Nan’s Note: This is a long post from Peter & Wendi, but if you receive the  Mission + Serve ENews and prayed at all for their request regarding renting a building in Sanda, Japan, OR if you are a person who likes reading about the extraordinary things God does when people pray, this one is worth your time. Praise and glory to God! (If you don’t receive the Mission + Serve ENews, join the prayer warriors who do by clicking on the button to the right. >>>)

by Peter Thomson
Backstory

SONY DSC

Upon moving to Sanda in 2004, we recognized that reaching the city was a Kingdom-sized task that would require many. We also knew it would require a new model for evangelism and discipleship. A traditional model of erecting a building and inviting people in would not work. First, we could never afford it. Second, the city zoning laws wouldn’t allow it. Third – and most significantly – Japanese people feel no need to ‘go to church’. They just don’t come, even with impressive programs in place.

Our plan was to rent a house in the center of the community, develop relationships, and live as salt and light. We’ve done this, and we are seeing Jesus save people and the community gradually transform. But not fast enough! We have a ‘holy discontent’ with the speed at which progress is made. Our house serves as a church building, English school, youth clubhouse, counseling center, and hostel for teams: which we love! We love it all, but… we need more!

In 2015, we believe Jesus made clear to us that future growth would require greater faith and greater risk now. We need more workers, both Japanese and international, both from the harvest and mature believers, to come to Sanda. We have the faith that they will come, but are we willing to risk the complexity of human relationships that come with a growing team? (We already have one missionary commissioned to join us in the fall and two more in the application process.) Jesus is meeting our family’s financial needs, but are we willing to believe he can meet the needs of an expanding ministry? We have a house that serves as both our residence and ministry base, but would Jesus provide another in our community for team members? Jesus has said, “I see your faith, now walk forward in risk.” So we are.

It Started with Prayer

We have always bathed the start, middle, and end of everything we do in prayer. There is no other way. So, on February 6, 2016, we included the following prayer request in our monthly newsletter.

“One of the challenges of having teams come and serve with us is trying to find housing. We would love to have more people work with us, especially those exploring God’s calling in their lives. One of the best ways to do this is to come and work alongside us for 1-3 months. While we can host for a few weeks, longer durations are a bit difficult. And potential missionaries need to experience life on their own. We are currently exploring two housing options. 

Option 1 is to rent a second house. This would provide a residence for missionaries, both long and short term, and a place for fellowship and community. The downside is that it could be costly, especially if there are extended periods of no missionaries helping with the rent.

Option 2 is to rent rooms at a small Japanese pension near us. Peter teaches English to two boys whose family owns the pension and live in it with their mother and sister. The rental rooms are currently unused. Renting rooms from this family could be a win/win situation: income for a single-parent family and flexible housing for missionaries. We are trying to set up a meeting to talk directly with the owner this month.

We are not sure which option is best, so please join with us in prayer.”

Honestly, our hopes were on option 2. It seemed the most ‘doable’ and the most ‘safe’. But six days later, we had our answer: it was NO.

Divine Contact

The next day, we were walking together to the local supermarket, which is just a few minutes from our house. Across the street from our route is a store/residence that has sat vacant for eight years. We have been praying for eight years, “Jesus, that place would be awesome. If it is your will, can we have it for ministry?” We had researched renting it on the internet, but there was never a listing. We inquired with the owner of the store next door and he said, “Impossible. It’s owned by the president of a clothing company and he’ll never rent.” While we did give up on searching, we also never stopped praying.

So, on a Saturday, one week after we asked people to pray and the day after we received a ‘no’ on the pension rooms, on a random trip to buy some tofu, there in front of the vacant store was a nicely-dressed man pulling some weeds. “That’s odd.” Peter said to Wendi, “Maybe that’s the owner. Should we see?”

Wendi said, “Sure.”

Peter immediately chickened-out. “No, probably not. Let’s not be a bother.”

Wendi said, “Let’s go see.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“I’m going,” and Wendi started to cross the street. Faith in action!

So we went and approached the man, who was with a woman (his wife), and a summary of the conversation is…

Yes, they are the owners. They feel bad about it being empty. Yes, they are looking for a renter. They asked how much we could pay. Come back on Tuesday and we will show the place.

After eight years of praying, a week after asking our supporters to pray, on a seemingly random trip to the store, at the exact moment that the owner was standing in front of the property, we made a divine contact.

We may have even forgotten to buy the tofu.

Who we Are

Three days later, we were meeting with the president of a clothing company with factories in China and retail shops across Japan, his business manager, and some family members. Out of our league!

They took us through the entire building. 800 square feet of retail space on the first floor, and a combined 2,000 square feet of living space on all three floors. Recently remodeled bath and toilets with new fixtures. Three bedrooms. Restroom and kitchenette in the retail space. Light, airy with a lot of natural wood.

“Umm. Jesus, this is so out of our league. What were we thinking?”

Then Jesus said, “Just tell them who you are.” So we did. We told of our vision to serve the community. We explained our work with local families, the book we are writing on marriage, the volunteer work in schools, and the up-coming launch of the after-school program. We told about cooking events, craft classes, and outdoor programs. We shared how we respected what the government is doing to help families, but that we didn’t believe the answer is only financial assistance. We shared that our vision is for a company that equally values financial profit and social purpose, and that true success and impact is not limited to spreadsheets and bank accounts.

We inquired as to their asking price and they simply said to “call the business manager later and talk about it.”

“But Jesus, this is so, so, so out of our league.”

As we left, the company president said, “It was an amazing coincidence that we met on Saturday.”

“You know, about that… We are followers of Jesus Christ, and to be honest, one week ago we wrote to our friends in America and asked them to pray that we could find another building to expand our work. And it was just days later that we met.”

“No, you didn’t. Really, you wrote and asked people to pray?”

“Yes, and then we met you. After eight years of searching. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but we think that it might just be God at work.”

After which we thanked them for their time and headed home excited about the possibility, with one glaring reality… we have no money budgeted for this.

Take the Risk

We went back to praying and consulted with trusted friends and co-workers. We all heard the same message from Jesus: take the risk and make an offer based on what we think we can afford (Which would be ‘free’!). We researched store rental rates for in Sanda and quickly realized that the price of the retail space alone would be way over our budget idea.

“Take the risk.”

“Okay, I’m calling today,” Peter told Wendi. Faithless fingers dialed, as he recalled the Jr High nervousness of dialing a girl to ask her to the Spring Dance.

“We would like to make an offer on the property. Would you accept ¥130,000 per month?” (At the time, the exchange rate was $1=¥110.)

“Well, the property is worth a lot more than that. However, our president said that he would like to try and help you. We were hoping you could pay ¥200,000. But I will take your offer to our owner and see what he says.”

After one week, “Our owner is in China on business, please wait a little longer.”

A few weeks later, we received a call that Peter summarized as follows. “I have no idea what they were saying because they used complicated real estate language. They want us to meet with a realtor. I have no idea of the price’ BUT THEY DIDN’T SAY NO!”

They didn’t say no! As foreigners in Japan, we have been denied numerous rentals simply because we are not Japanese. That they didn’t say no, despite our not knowing anything else, gave us all the reason to hope and pray.

The ‘Meet’

We set up a meeting with the company and their realtor, and they graciously allowed Peter to bring an experienced Japanese co-worker with him. They were probably relieved to not have to muddle through his imperfect language skills.

In preparation for the meeting, Peter prepared various financial scenarios. In order to rent in Japan, everyone is required to pay ‘key money’. These are extra fees required to receive the keys. They usually include paying four to six months rent as a ‘security deposit’, and four to six months rent as a ‘gift’ to the owner. Providing the place is not damaged when the contract is up, some of the security deposit may come back. The gift money, of course, does not. Peter’s figures were based on a combined eight months of key money.

Our Japanese co-worker believed that at ¥200,000, it would be a bargain to rent the place. Yes, but that is also about ¥200,000 more than our budget, not to mention the cost of utilities. Oh, and furniture and appliances! It’s just an empty building, after all.

So off we went to meet. Remember, this building is just about a three-minute walk from our home. The business manager and relator were there, and after the traditional bows and exchanging of business cards, they launched right into it.

Talking to our co-worker, “As you know, Thomson-san has made a proposal to rent this building for ¥130,000 per month. We would like to rent to him, but we would like to ask for more money.”

Here it comes… the wrecking ball is already in motion…

“We are asking for ¥140,000.”

(Don’t smile, keep a poker face.) “Yes, I believe that would be doable.”

“Also, our president said he would like to help Thomson-san, so there is no need to pay gift money. As for the deposit, if he can pay three months, that would be adequate. Our president wants to help you.”

(Resist all urge to dance. Wait until you get home.)

We eventually finished our meeting and said that we would call soon with a decision. If it were America, we would have said, “Give me the papers, we signing now, we’re all signing now.” But Japan doesn’t work this way, and there is a designated process for everything.

After we returned home, in the papers we received was the official advertised figure. The rent alone was listed at ¥400,000!

The next day we called and agreed to rent starting from August. The paperwork is in process, and will be completed soon.

Favor from the Lord

Throughout this entire series of events, we have continually asked, “Did Jesus just do that?” Not that we are doubting Him, but it has just been so amazing.

We have tried to understand why it is working out, and it really comes down to favor from the Lord. Not based on us, though we believe Jesus is acknowledging our ‘risky faith’. Why would a company president look so kindly on a couple of foreigners? We can’t explain it other than being Christ at work. Even if the owner likes us, why would he rent at such a deep discount? We can’t explain it.

Truth be told, we don’t really need an explanation. Jesus is not wanting us to understand everything; He is simply inviting us to walk in faith and obedience.

Two months and a day after asking people to pray, we now have an additional ministry location in our neighborhood. We have a multi-purpose space that will allow us to launch further into our community. We have a residence with a ‘great room’ large enough for meetings and three bedrooms for co-workers.

“Did Jesus just do that?” YES HE DID!!!!

Finding Hope Amidst Grief: Marvin Charles and the story of D.A.D.S.

For the past two months I have been walking a grieving road. Psalm 116:15 reads, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” When my mom died suddenly in early February, the Lord reminded me of his care for, and love of, my mom. In the heartbreak of losing her, the Lord’s presence with me has been a comfort and a consolation.

Death is not the only time we grieve. As I have discovered on the grieving road, one loss taps into other losses that I have experienced. If I am not careful I can topple over from the strong winds of sorrow. I have had to purposefully slow down and be mindful of what God is speaking to me. I have had to plan extra time for quiet, for rest, for being with myself and others who have been affected by my mom’s death. Things seem to take longer to get done, and my energy is drained. Grieving well takes intentionality and hard work.

BelPres Community Outreach ministry partners care for people who have experienced multiple losses in their lives. The cascading effect of loss can bring people to paralysis, to feeling hopeless, to being without any anchor in their life. People make choices out of their heartache that are not always healthy, leading to a cascading effect on their stability and an altering of their future paths.

BelPres prison ministry partners provide safe spaces for about speaking about personal loss, for discovering the truths in what has happened in people’s stories, and for healing from devastating grief and loss.  One ministry partner, D.A.D.S (Divine Alternative for Dads), has a powerful ministry for fathers who have lost relationship with their children through addiction, incarceration, or broken rela74a6f9_db5678bd058646c3bd7ea7eaa97efbbftionships. D.A.D.S. website gives this picture:

“Marvin and Jeanett Charles started D.A.D.S. in their living room in 1998. They wanted to apply the lessons they had learned during their own recovery and the rough period when they put their family back together. They had been homeless, unemployed addicts with a ‘sketchy’ life of those who operated beyond the boundaries of the formal economy.

Marvin and Jeanett had lost several of their children to the foster care system, under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Child Protective Services (CPS). They were facing termination of parental rights when a CPS worker gave them a 90-day deadline to become sober, find housing and find employment. They took strength from their renewed religious beliefs in the saving power of Jesus and their commitment to each other.

Today, they live in their own home with three daughters and a son. One former CPS caseworker worked part-time in the office as administrative assistant to Jeanett. Many community leaders and volunteers support D.A.D.S. and the important work that D.A.D.S. does.

Much has changed since 1998, while so much has remained the same for fathers who are down and struggling.  Whether they are recovering from addiction, coming out of prison or just dealing with the difficulties of life, D.A.D.S. works with fathers, one dad at a time, to strengthen and support them and to help them build a better world for their children”.

Marvin and Jeanett are familiar with grief and loss, with the hard work of recovery, and the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ. They have walked the grieving road, and have turned dark times into pathways of light for themselves, their family and the community they serve. Psalm 34:18 says, “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath” (the Message). Marvin and Jeanett chose the Lord and chose to recover from the grief and loss in their personal lives, and in turn, the Lord has used them to bring light and healing to countless fathers who are walking their own grieving road.

On the D.A.D.S. website there is a video of Marvin Charles’ personal story, which powerfully relates how God answered the prayers of his birth mother to find him after 44 years of separation. Again, while there was much grief and loss, God redeemed the lost years and has restored Marvin and his mother to each other. Watch the video HERE.

In the midst of walking the grieving road, I have been privileged to meet Marvin and Jeanett, to see the joy on their faces and their obvious love for each other. Their delight in bringing hope and healing to fathers and their children is evident in all they do. While they have known great struggle, their even greater joy in the Lord is a blessing to all around them. They have encouraged me by their redemptive story, and I look forward to getting to know them better in the months to come.

Are you walking your own grieving road? I pray for comfort, peace and patience for you in the season ahead. You are not alone. If you need someone to talk with, please call me or someone in the BelPres Prayer and Care department.

Have you walked a grieving road and have space now to offer encouragement to others? Consider contacting D.A.D.S. and finding out more about how you can volunteer with them to impact children and fathers for eternity. Or reach out to BelPres GetConnected for other ideas of where you can serve out of your healing and hope in the Lord.