Letter from the Editor

When my aunt was pregnant with her first child, she was placed on bed rest for several months. One day, my uncle came home with a bag of yarn and knitting needles for her and she taught herself to knit.

Ever since her pregnancy 18 years ago, many of the women in my family have taken up knitting. During summer breaks, which can be quite rainy here in Washington, we would gather in the sunroom in my grandparent’s house and knit for hours.

My first knitting project was a scarf. Scarves are, generally, long and narrow – anyone could cut one out of a piece of fabric. My scarf took on epic proportions. My initial design was 6” across. Somehow, through no fault of my own, stitches kept being added and the scarf grew to two feet wide. It looked like a turtleneck tank top. (more…)

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June 6-July 5

The holy month of Ramadan is a time for fasting, introspection, and prayer. For Muslims, this month of fasting is undertaken with the same reason that we as Christians may choose to fast: the desire to know God in a deeper and more intimate relationship. Participating in Ramadan is one of the highest forms of worship in Islam.

Ramadan is also a month of relationship for Muslims. Rising early to pray and eat as a family, connecting as a community at the daily prayers, and gathering after sunset to break the fast. This month we have an amazing opportunity to be in relationship with our Muslim neighbors and the Muslim world through prayer. To love them as Jesus loved us and to pray for them to encounter Jesus as they seek to encounter God.

Each year, Mission + Serve partners with 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World. We encourage you to pick up a copy of this prayer booklet at BelPres or click here to learn more as we fervently pray for God to reveal himself in this time of seeking. (more…)

Cheered Across the River

A Guatemalan  Impact Team Testimony

“Josiah, bring the soccer balls!”

“Zack and Katie, please lead the learning game, “Correr”!”

“Mrs. Lisa, don’t fall in the river!”

“Erin, thank you for talking with the little girls shyly peeking over the school wall!”

Do you notice a pattern in these quotes from my recent Impact Team trip to Guatemala with Nicolás Fund for Education (NFE)? Josiah, Zack, Katie, and Erin were student members of our team. They traveled with their parents and had important, vital roles in our work. One day, they helped me complete a hike and NOT fall in the river!

Nicolás Fund for Education is a partner ministry of BelPres, and grew out of our long commitment through Agros and Journey with a Village. For two decades, members of our church and Evergreen Covenant on Mercer Island have walked alongside the people of two Mayan villages in the highlands of Guatemala. Homes have been built, friendships forged, churches founded, and Jesus glorified. Now many of the families of La Bendicion and La Esperanza own their land and homes but continue to suffer from poverty, lack of opportunity, and discrimination. (more…)

Family of God

We all long to belong
To someone or something
We long to be known
To be accepted and loved

Some people are born into wonderful families
Full of love and laughter and joy
But others experience something quite different
Where fear, neglect, and abuse threaten to destroy

There is a place where we all can belong
A place we can find the love that we seek
God is waiting to welcome us into his family
Everyone’s invited, the strong and the weak

God is the Father of the whole human family
Everyone is included, he deeply loves each one
God invites us to be adopted into his own family
Simply accept his love shown through Jesus, his Son

God doesn’t want anyone to feel like an outsider
He made us, and loves us, and we can belong
But we have to choose to join God’s family
And accept God’s invitation, we have to want to belong

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and
that is what we are.
(1 John 3:1)

A Volunteer Family

I said, “No way,” to God four times before I agreed to volunteer.

I remember being asked and each time refusing. I had this whole list of reasons why I said no, but I learned God had another story he wanted to write through me. Volunteering as a youth leader at BelPres for six years has been, hands down, the biggest privilege of my life. I didn’t serve students; they served me with their contagious enthusiasm, the ability to have fun in the midst of any circumstance, and through their radical love that comes from Jesus.

The best part of my job today is working with our volunteer leaders and watching them with our students. They are the true heroes who give up weeknights, sleep in bunk beds, and respond to late night texts from worried students or those who just to talk. I asked two of our leaders to share a bit of their experience. Mike Standard has been serving for three years now, and does not let his age stop him from doing anything:

“Two years ago I was asked to consider being part of the high school ministry. I was 73 years old, and they wanted me to be involved with high school students. I said I would pray about it. I began coming to Wednesday night youth group, and I fell in love with these students. Other adult volunteers encouraged me. During the summer, activities were held outside in parks. I decided to stay on for my second year.  (more…)

The ABCs of VBA

VBA is a lifelong experience, full of opportunities to grow in relationship with Jesus and our church family for kids and adults alike. I grew up in a church much like BelPres and have many significant memories of summer day camp experiences. VBS has always been a family activity for me – from attending with my mom and sisters decades ago, to volunteering while my kids were young, to serving alongside them most recently, I’ve probably experienced more than 25 VBS adventures…and I look forward to many more! As a camper, teen leader, and adult volunteer, I’ve found VBA to be a place to meet Jesus in a new way every year, and to be reminded in tangible ways of the importance of having a childlike faith.


VBA is an Adventure – for one week a year, BelPres transforms into a snow-covered mountain top, an exotic jungle, a faraway castle, or –this year – a gem-filled cave just waiting to be explored. Adventures are meant to be shared, both in the moment of the experience and in the retelling of the adventure. At the end of a full day, it’s great to have the kids greet dad at the door with an enthusiastic, “Guess what we did at VBA today!?!” A week of summer adventure can inspire significant discussions year-round! (more…)

Growing a Community

Our first two years at BelPres, my husband and I crossed paths with people often, but there was little time to connect with anyone. Week after week, we saw the same parents waiting to pick up kids, but we didn’t know their names. In the midst of our busy lives, Sunday mornings seemed like another commitment to complete before we rushed home for baby’s nap, preparation for the week, or the next event.

For us, this was not how we wanted to engage with our church. We have a vision for our family to be in a close community of other families at BelPres. We want to share our lives with a circle of friends who share our values. Friends to confide in, laugh with, discuss life – good and bad. We want friends who will speak into our kids’ lives, and trust us to be a part of their kids’ lives. Who will help us to create the kind of community found in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 where we share our lives together. As we look to the future, we hope that this community will be where our kids build relationships, ask questions, and grow into healthy adults. Developing these kinds of relationships takes time and intentionality. (more…)

The Voices of Our Kids

I came into my office the other day to find a quote on my desk that someone had left for me. The quote read: “Children are not just the church of tomorrow. They are very much a part of the church of today.” As I sat down at my desk it occurred to me that we don’t see children in the Bible “growing up” before they served God; in fact, many of them served God with great effectiveness before they would have been recognized as adults.

Josiah became a king when he was eight years old. Not long after he assumed the throne, he began to go throughout Israel and led a revival towards God and away from idolatry. That’s right: the entire nation of Israel followed an eight year-old towards repentance and righteousness. What’s more, Josiah didn’t buy into the idea that he needed to “grow up” before he could serve God. He served God in his youth and the Bible calls him the best king that Israel ever had. (2 Kings 22) (more…)

Lessons from a Tree

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd…” Luke 19:1-10

I didn’t go to church much as a kid, but when I did, I was all about the flannelgraphs. Some kids liked the stories of  “Jonah and the Whale,” or were the “Loaves and Fishes” types, but I was a Zacchaeus man. Maybe it’s the tree climbing, but I have always loved the story of this diminutive rich guy climbing a tree to see Jesus:

“[B]ut because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.”

Although I can still picture the silly flannel man pressed over a tree, my appreciation for this story has evolved. Zacchaeus was less silly old flannel man and much more local crime boss with a crew that helped him collect taxes for the occupying Roman army. To win the job of tax collector you had to demonstrate you could collect the most money (and to be successful it had to be enough to pay the taxes and make yourself wealthy). It’s not a stretch to imagine Zacchaeus would be despised by most of those in the crowd following Jesus. (more…)

When Daniel Met Callie

Next month I’m marrying a girl I met one year ago.

I had a sense pretty early on in our relationship that this was where things were headed. I mean, I didn’t know within the first 15 minutes. It’s not like it was that dramatic. Still, it didn’t take me long to figure out that this time I was playing for keeps.

I had the privilege of officiating a couple of weddings last year. The first wedding I did, Callie and I had been dating for about two weeks or so. Throughout that whole night, during the dinner, the toasts, and all the dancing, I remember thinking to myself, “I need to see Callie.” It honestly wasn’t any deeper than that. I really wasn’t trying to be overly romantic or even prophetic. I simply remember thinking, “I need to see Callie.” And later that night, about one in the morning, I did.  (more…)

The Family Caretaker and Historian: Celebrating Arlene Darby

One of the first people I met when I started working at BelPres over 8 years ago was Arlene Darby. I originally thought she might have been a staff member. She was always around the building working on something: making copies, passing out articles, collecting prayers, dropping off notes, preparing things to mail and checking out everything in the narthex.

At that time we had those rolling cubes in the lobby where the departments put information and brochures for people to pick up or look over. Arlene made sure we had current information and enough available.  She would do her personalArlene Darby inventory and let departments or the front desk know what was needed.  She cared that we had what people may be looking for.

Add to that Arlene’s meticulous and faithful management and leadership of the monthly collection of food and funds for Local Food Relief, it’s easy to understand my confusion about Arlene’s role as part of the church staff.

The longer I was here, however, I realized that Arlene had a much greater role than her opportunities serving as LFR coordinator, prayer warrior, fact checker and copier. Arlene is our BelPres family care taker and historian.

More than those things she does around BelPres, Arlene knows and loves the people who make up and are connected to this church.  She scours the local papers—Bellevue, Seattle, Kirkland—daily to see how her church is part of what is happening outside of the church building. Maybe it’s one of the many articles about the Jubilee REACH Center and the way it is impacting lives of families on the Eastside. Or perhaps it is about how the Jubilee Service Day has changed the way churches and schools come together, or perhaps it is an article about the importance of our food banks and the need for providing food in a place and time where many families find it hard to put enough food on the table each day.

But most often, it is a photo, article or mention of someone—member, grandchild, pastor, child—who is part of BelPres that she cuts out, copies and hands out to various staff members.  Many of us have a very large ARLENE folder in our file drawers filled with these mementos. Like a proud aunt or grandmother, Arlene wants to share the news and brag about her family.

Such a gift for all of us; to have someone who sees the BelPres community as her family and gains joy from finding and sharing those snippets of life.  She knows us, too.  The names of our children, their activities and accomplishments.

She cares for us and about us. She cares about the things we do and she cares about who we are as a church.  Her care for that role as a church has helped her share the word for over 25 years about Local Food Relief, a BelPres partnership with Hopelink and the Emergency Feeding Program which has raised over half a million dollars and delivered many tons of food.  She cares that BelPres is making a difference in lives in her community by helping families put food on the table.

Arlene is beginning to step away from some of these things.  She is starting to hand over some of the Local Food Relief responsibility and she is finding some fellow prayer warriors to share those prayers, but she is still caring for her family—bringing in articles and stories about BelPres—the church and the people she loves.  I wonder who may be next to step in and follow some of the many footprints Arlene has left all over this church. And I hope that we all take a piece of that caring, loving and celebrating that Arlene encourages in our church community.

Wouldn’t that be awesome, awesome, awesome!

Getting to Know our Muslim Neighbors: 5 points where Islam and Christianity Diverge

God-fearing Muslims from many counties are moving to the U.S.  It is estimated that 3.3 million Muslims currently live in this country, which is equivalent to 1% of the population.  Many of us who read this blog don’t know much about Muslims or what they believe, outside of what we see on TV or read in the news.  So I am starting a monthly series on Islam to help us become better informed and learn how to engage in relationship with our Muslim neighbors.  Next month, Muslims will celebrate Ramadan, which commemorates the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. That will be the topic of my blog post next month.  This month, I want to share 5 ways Christian beliefs are essentially different from what Muslims believe.

The most important driving principle to understand behind Islam, recited in the call to prayer, is La ilaha illa Allah—”There is no god but Allah.” This heavily influences all other Muslim confessions, and explains why many Muslims don’t “get” Christian faith.

1)  There is no category in Islam for the Trinity. Muslims believe that Jesus was the son of Mary and was a Messenger of God.  But since God is only One God, Muslims would never agree that Jesus was in very nature God; “I and the Father are One”; John 10:30.

2)  Muslims do not accept our primary source for faith, the Bible, as Divinely Inspired.  Christians bDome of the Rockelieve that the Bible is authoritative and inspired by the Holy Spirit.  God used real people at specific times to write in their own words, exactly what God wanted said.  Muslims find it unbelievable that God would speak through many human beings rather than dictate directly to one messenger of God, i.e. Muhammad. For Muslims, only Muhammad was the incorruptible conduit of God’s word.

3) Muslims understand ‘Isa—Jesus, very differently than Christians.  Muhammad viewed Jesus as an important prophet—along the lines of Noah, Abraham, and Moses—but not Immanuel, God with us.  Muslims do honor Jesus and affirm the miracles associated with him, but they would never consider worshiping him.  Muslims agree that Jesus was condemned to die on the cross, but they claim he was never crucified.  In Islam a prophet would never be executed as a criminal.  Even more inconceivable is the idea that a Son of God would be a slave or be publically executed as a criminal.  If Jesus died on the cross, enduring shame, then, from the Muslim perspective, Jesus was an utter failure.

4) Salvation by grace through faith makes no sense for a Muslim.  For a Muslim, the validating sign of faith is in what a person does. (James says something similar in James 2:14.)  But for a Muslim, the idea of an undeserved gift–like Jesus taking all our sins on Him so that we could take all His righteousness on ourselves–is incomprehensible.

5) In Islam, God is all merciful, all knowing, and all compassionate.  Muslims actually have 99 names for what God is, but none of them conveys the intimate relationship with Abba Father that is a major characteristic of God in the Christian faith.

So what’s the point?  Our media often portrays Islam as a violent religion.  Some Muslims are violent but most are not.  Islam is built around the core tenant that there is no God but Allah.  Muslims are deeply devoted religious people.  They are also very hospitable.

Christianity is essentially relational.  We love our neighbors, one another, and the God who has come to us in Jesus.  This love is unconditional and the relationships are intimate.  It is this latter reality that makes Christianity so attractive.  Muslims won’t become convinced about Jesus or the Bible or grace through a quick conversation or a debate.  But they will see the real Jesus when we show grace and the effects of an intimate relationship with Abba Father.  So who are the Muslims God has put in your life and how can you show them love, grace and Abba Father?

Want to Change the World? Sponsor a Child

In 2013, Christianity Today participated in a study of the effects of Child Sponsorship. The data gathered from that ground-breaking study was a powerful recommendation for sponsoring children as a way that we can truly have kingdom impact. I decided, this week, to share an article from that issue, that, three years later, still sticks in my mind. Please take the time to read Bruce Wydick’s excellent piece –Nan

A top economist shares the astounding news about that little picture hanging on our refrigerator:

“What can an ordinary person like me do to help the poor?” When people find out at parties and social gatherings that I am a development economist (and yes, we economists do attend such events), often they ask me this question. For a long time my response was the same: “Perhaps sponsor a child?”

I suppose I gave this answer because I myself sponsored a child, and if I was supposed to know something about helping the poor, I should encourage people to do what I was doing. After all, child sponsorship makes sense: By focusing on youth instead of adults, it aims to nip poverty in the bud, providing children in the developing world access to education, health services, and, in some programs, spiritual guidance. But over time my autopilot response started to annoy me. The truth was that I hadn’t the slightest clue about the effect child-sponsorship programs had on children.

Dissatisfaction with my pat answer began to inform conversations with my graduate students. “Have you considered researching the impact of child sponsorship?” I would ask. One student was interested, and she followed the topic long enough to find out that no one had ever investigated the topic, despite 9 million children sponsored worldwide, and the more than $5 billion per year being channeled into sponsorship programs from ordinary people wanting to help. But we were having trouble finding a sponsorship organization willing to work with us. What if the research discovered that sponsorship didn’t work? This was the risk that some organization out there had to take.

A couple years later, another graduate student, Joanna Chu, became interested in the topic, in part because she was sponsoring a child with Compassion International. Chu put out some feelers with Compassion’s research director, Joel Vanderhart, who decided to risk what no other child-sponsorship organization was willing to risk at that point: to allow its program to be scrutinized. We were able to carry out the study with one major condition: Compassion would remain anonymous. They would be referred to as “a leading child-sponsorship organization” in any academic publication.

In the course of talking with Vanderhart, we stumbled upon a vein of gold for any development economist: He casually mentioned that Compassion had used an arbitrary age-eligibility rule when they underwent a major worldwide expansion during the 1980s. When one of Compassion’s programs entered a new village, typically only children who were 12 and younger were eligible for sponsorship.

With that, our strategy for identifying the causal impacts of the program became clear. We would obtain early enrollment lists from different village projects introduced during the 1980s, and track down the families of those who were first sponsored in these projects. Then we would obtain information on the life outcomes of these formerly sponsored children—now adults—and compare them to their adult siblings who had been slightly too old to be sponsored when the program arrived in their village. In this way we would be able to control for genetics, family environment, and a host of other factors that the siblings held in common. The only difference that could affect adult life outcomes across the sample would be the fact that Providence had allowed some of these siblings and not others to be age-eligible for child sponsorship.

The Results

Chu found a partner for her research project: Laine Rutledge, now a doctoral student in economics at the University of Washington. The two graduate students spent the summer of 2008 in Uganda, where they obtained data on 809 individuals, including 188 who were sponsored as children. The students had a number of adventures in the field, including a run-in with a wild dog that took a bite out of Rutledge’s leg. A couple of months after they returned, Chu and Rutledge stopped by to share the results. A nervous excitement quickly filled my small office. MORE.

Celebrating Child Sponsorship–May 15!

It was 24 years ago that Ted and I first sponsored a child. We helped a young boy in Kenya get an education and the food that he and his family needed to keep him out of the workforce and in school. At the time, we were having fertility issues (we had our first kiddo 12 years after we were married), and it meant a lot to me to have Nzokia to care for, even from a distance.  We prayed for him, sent him birthday and Christmas gifts (cash, which the project leaders would use to give him gifts) and corresponded with him via snail mail.

Since then, we’ve sponsored a girl in India, and another Kenyan boy. We have sponsored new children as each of our biological kids have come along. Currently we sponsor Putu, a little Balinese guy, and Kelvin, who lives in the Dominican Republic. We’re not the best at sponsorship. I go months without writing my kids sometimes. And we’ve never visited any of our sponsored kids, either, though I sure would love to.

But it is so fun watching these kids grow and develop into healthy adulthood. The opportunity to pray and write to children outside of our own culture is so world-expanding for our kids, too. I love that they have a larger understanding of the kingdom of God through our sponsorship children. And now we can do it through email, though I still love getting Putu’s drawings a few times a year.

Last Sunday, some of our BelPres families who sponsor children shared stories of how sponsorship has impacted them. John Kim was there, and caught their testimonies on video. Hear from Laurel Fortin HERE, and from Brian Los HERE.

If you sponsor a child already, great! We want to celebrate you! Please stop by the giant map in the Lobby and put a pin in your child’s location. You DO NOT have to have sponsored through BelPres Partner ministries to put your pin on the map. We want to get an idea of how many BelPres families have Child Sponsorship as part of their family giving profile. We hope you’ll participate! We praise God for your gift of sponsorship.

Of course, we will also have many children available for sponsorship, as well. Kids from many of our ministry partners.  It is so fun to see the faces of all the kids who have been sponsored through past sponsorship Sundays, and pray over the faces of those in need of sponsors.

So come by, have a snack, pray for the children, put a pin in the map, and maybe pick out a new child for sponsorship. BelPres is a congregation that believes in children!