How Texting Can Change Lives

In the last year, REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade) helped over 100 women take steps to exit the sex trade and start reaching their goals. Over 70 of those women are now participating in REST’s case management program which assists women in receiving much needed services to move forward with their lives.

REST has begun a new program of text outreach. This program sends a text message to women in the sex trade who have posted ads online with their contact phone number. The text message reaches out to women asking them if they need help. If a woman responds to person-woman-hand-applethe text she is immediately contacted and offered services at REST. In the short time that the text outreach has been in existence, over 50 women have responded asking for help. REST has helped many women get jobs, begin recovery from substance abuse, start college courses, tak
e steps of faith and build a positive sense of community.

One area that is remains a challenge for REST is in providing women a safe place to stay. This year there were no beds available in King County for nearly 40% of women who called the REST hotline looking for a safe place to stay. These brave women took an incredible risk and reached out for help only to be told, “There’s no place for you to go.” There are still critical moments, when safety counts above all else, when the counselors at REST have to say, “I’m sorry, there are no beds available for you tonight.” It’s devastating to both the staff and the women who are risking it all to reach for help.

The good news is that REST has signed a lease, hired a program supervisor, and started the renovations on the space for their Emergency Receiving Center (ERC) which will provide short-term emergency shelter and crisis intervention services for victims of sexual exploitation. As soon as additional funds come in, REST will hire the additional team members needed and open the doors. This is an exciting opportunity for REST.

Please join us in praying with REST for the needed funds to come in for the ERC and that the text outreach program will continue to be a wonderful avenue for reaching women trapped in the sex trade. Visit REST at www.iwantrest.com to learn more about this BelPres ministry partner and opportunities to volunteer with them in bringing transformation to our community.

Freedom Schools: Reaching Kids Through Love and Education

As you probably know, the summer months are when many children, especially children in low-income communities, experience a significant loss in what they have learned throughout the school year due to inactivity.

However, beyond even the academic challenges, children in the community often lack the social, emotional and spiritual support that they need to deal with various challenges in their lives.

Here is a story that one of our interns shared with me recently about one of his Urban Impact Freedom School scholars:

One day I was told that one of my scholar’s mom had cancer and that it was getting progressively worse. The following day I expected him to stay at home and spend the day supporting his mother. But when I walked into the Harambee room where we all meet every morning, there he was. Although he showed up, his arms were crossed, his hood covered his face, and he would not say a word.

As we started the day, we were high-fiving, making jokes in the group, cheering and chanting, inspiring, and sharing love all around. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him murmuring and clapping his hands lightly to the Harambee rhythms. As the day passed, those murmurs turned to words and his clapping hands were now willingly receiving high-fives from his peers. The more love we showed him as a Freedom School community, the more he started to open up and share with the group.

The supportive community of Freedom School helped him to cope and process some of the hardship that he and his family were facing. By the end of the day, he had turned in the best work he had ever done in my class. His peers continued to be inviting, understanding, and supportive for anything he may have needed. I was inspired not only by the quality of his work, but by his perseverance and the way the Freedom School community supported him in his time of family hardship.
-Khyree Smith, Urban Impact Freedom School Servant Leader Intern 2015

Students shared some of the things they endure and encounter on a regular basis. What we found to be true is their desire to be in school had little to nothing to do with school itself, but everything to do with what was happening in their homes, their neighborhoods, their thoughts, and emotions.”

 As a BelPres mission partner, Urban Impact is doing incredible work for the kingdom of God in the Rainier Valley. Please pray for this year’s Freedom School, for their staff and for all the youth that are attending. If you are interested in learning more about the Freedom School and how you can help out, please visit www.urbanimpactseattle.org

Grieving with Orlando

The following letter was sent via email to the BelPres Family on June 14, 2016.

Dear BelPres family,

Like all of you, I was saddened and sickened when I got home from church on Sunday and saw the news about the shootings in Orlando. So many victims.  Each one made in the image of God. Each one loved by God. So I want to take a moment to say in this email what we would have said on Sunday had we known all the information we do now.

In times like these Jesus instructs us to grieve, pray, trust, and love as Jesus loved. Grieve with those who are grieving. Pray for the victims, their families, and their communities. And trust that he loves each one of the victims and their families, that he is at work in our world to bring healing, that terror cannot ultimately win because he is love and he is still Lord, which means he will triumph over prejudice and hate. In the words of one of my favorite hymns, “though the wrong seems oft so strong, he is ruler yet.”

It is easy to feel helpless and afraid, but one thing we can do for sure is pray.  So here are some of the prayers I’ve been praying:

Jesus, we mourn with those who are mourning.
Help us to experience their grief with them so they do not grieve alone.
Jesus, we pray for the victims, their families and friends, the LGBTQ community that was singled out in this attack, and for Muslims who will be unfairly associated with the actions of one man.
Please bring your comfort to all of them.
Help them know that you are there and grieving with them.
We also pray that you would protect them, and that you would transform the hatred in our world and in our hearts into your love.
We also ask for the healing of our country and of our world.
May your peace and justice be done here on earth as it is in heaven, and show us how we can help that happen.
Where there is hate, help us to sow love. In your name, amen.

Dr. Scott Dudley

Praying for Muslims in Ramadan

Dome of the Rock (1)The evening of June 5 will mark the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month for followers of Islam all around the world.

Each year Muslims look forward to Ramadan with great excitement.  It’s a time characterized by religious zeal and deeper community with other Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst” and “sun-baked ground.” It is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who will spend from dawn to sunset in a complete fast, abstaining from all food, drink and other physical desires such as smoking, physical intimacy, etc. It also expresses the spiritual thirst for God. Muslims view fasting as an act of faith in, and worship of, Allah. Fasting allows the reverent to atone for sins and prepare to receive holy visions.

A typical day starts off by getting up early and sharing a meal together, before the fast begins at dawn. Prayers are offered throughout the day until the fast is finally broken at sunset.  Then, participants will eat together and go to the Mosque, where a part of the Qur’an will be read and a final prayer offered.

The last ten days of Ramadan are particularly significant, especially the 27th night, which is also called the ‘Night of Power’, or the ‘Night of Destiny’. This is when Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an.

Ramadan is a time for Muslims to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-discipline and sacrifice. Through fasting, the humbled follower sympathizes with those who are hungry and have very little to eat every day. Through increased devotion, the passionate seek to draw closer to their Creator.  Through increased charity, the faithful foster generosity toward others.

For ten years, BelPres has joined with Christians world-wide in praying for Muslims during Ramadan using the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World Guide.  The guide has great information about what Muslims believe, shares testimonies from Muslims who have encountered Jesus during this holy month, introduces specific Muslim people groups and provides specific things to pray for. Each day has a different focus.

Paul Filidis, north American coordinator of 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World points out that praying, “expands our ability to love. As you pray for people, you can’t help but get God’s perspective, and His heart for them, which is very different from the fear, anger or even hate that is so easily incited when only focusing on the actions of extremists.”

Since 2001, there have been 72 movements of at least one thousand Muslims turning towards Christ, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. This great awakening among Muslims has occurred at the same time as another great movement that has been taking place–the movement among Christians to pray for the Muslim world.   This is what the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World is all about.

God has given us a force that can call on all heaven and bring its power here on earth. It has been said that when we work, we work.  But when we pray, God works.  We will not impact Muslims through our arguments or by our shouting.  But we will impact them through our bold prayers in Jesus name.  Pick up a copy of the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (or download the .PDF) and join the great movement of Christians who are praying throughout Ramadan.