WHY DIAPERS?

When I first heard the idea for Baby Basics in January 2012, I asked the same question that many ask, “Why diapers?” It’s a fair question since diapers are not exciting or even interesting unless you need them and cannot afford them. One in three moms in America struggles to provide their babies with diapers.  Babies who aren’t changed frequently enough are at a greater risk for diaper rash and other health issues.  The need for diapers is a silent crisis in our community.

As much as diapers seem like a mundane item for families with young children, they are a significant budget item for low-income parents and a necessity for a baby’s hygiene and well-being. And crying and sick babies can cause extra stress in homes where there is already financial stress and potentially other stresses.

Baby Basics Bellevue was “born” out of learning about this diaper need and the toll it takes on babies and their families. Our goal is to help babies thrive and to support families stay above the poverty line.  Food stamps and WIC (Women Infant Children supplemental nutritional program) cannot be used to purchase diapers and that there are no government subsidies for diapers.  By providing the necessity of diapers and connecting families to other services in the community, Baby Basics also helps alleviate the stress of living on the edge for those in our program.

Even with two working parents, one of the families that Baby Basics Bellevue has had the opportunity to get to know and serve has experienced the stress of living on the edge financially. Here is their story:

Baby Basics has been such a blessing to my family. We moved to Bellevue in May 2015. We lost our home in the Spring due to the rising cost of rent in the Seattle area. My husband Robert and I have always had employment, but we could not keep up with the rent increases and the costs to support our family. We were placed in transitional housing in Bellevue through Attain Housing, a program based in Kirkland. While meeting our caseworker weekly, she informed us of Hopelink, our neighborhood resource center, and food bank. She also sent a referral to Baby Basics of Bellevue for us. Robert was working, and I was on maternity leave at the time.

Wow, what a blessing this program has been to us! Relying on diapers from a food bank is a hit or miss. You get a few diapers two times a week with whatever sizes they have available. I quickly switched career paths and started working for Hopelink in June. I am still able to utilize Hopelink’s services, as this is our neighborhood service center.

Even though we are a two-parent household with both of us are working, it is stressful struggling to pay for food and necessities because we make too much to qualify for benefits, yet not enough to be fully self-sufficient. We fall into the gap and that is where the struggle is. A program that provides enough diapers each month for your baby is completely and utterly amazing! This program not only encourages people to get employed and get off government assistance, but they help you beyond just providing diapers.  They are extremely kindhearted and loving individuals, you can tell they love what they are doing.

Thank you, Baby Basics, for all you do for us families that need it. You are such a blessing and inspiration! It has encouraged me to want to start a program like this in the future.”  Meghan P.

As we move forward in 2017, Baby Basics’ challenge and privilege is to continue to respond to the requests for assistance with diapers and with referrals to other agencies able to provide for other needs. Since 2012, Baby Basics Bellevue has distributed over 150,000 diapers to families in the program as well as families in crisis and homeless shelters.

The impact of diapers is far-reaching, helping babies and their families toward positive outcomes. Baby Basics literally needs caring, helping hands to carry on the work we are doing. As a 100% volunteer-run non-profit, we can only do what we do because volunteers give the gift of time, expertise, and kindness.

We are grateful for the support of our generous community!

 

To help meet this great need and raise awareness in our community, Baby Basics Bellevue is having their 5th annual Mother’s Day 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 help to cover a little bottom and will make a big difference to a family. Diapers in sizes 3, 4, 5, and 6 are especially needed.

On Mother’s Day, May 14, Bellevue Presbyterian Church is collecting diaper donations for Baby Basics. Donation bins will be in the church’s main lobby and the Upper Campus.

 

A Position of Grace

 

The scene plays out daily across the landscape of Japan. From the urban metropolis to the rural countryside, it always looks the same. When people meet for the first time on business, they begin with a greeting, and then bow to one another and exchange business cards. Greet, bow, exchange. Greet, bow, exchange.

The exchanging of business cards in Japan is not an afterthought at the end of the meeting, as in “here’s the way to reach me.” It comes at the beginning of every meeting because it presents one’s position in the relationship. Americans value a “we all are equals, flat” worldview, and society is structured horizontally. Japan is stacked vertically, and everything from the depth of a bow to the words used in conversation is based on a person’s rung on the ladder.

The exchange of business cards is less about exchanging contact information and more about determining the hierarchy of position. If the individual works for a prestigious company that commands respect because the best companies only hire the best employees. If they are a manager, then they must be a hard worker and well-connected, and their position will determine where we sit on the ladder in relation to one another.  Not knowing one’s position in relation to others brings communication to a standstill and makes it is virtually impossible to conduct business in Japan.

Living in Japan as a missionary has taught me so much. As Easter approaches, I’ve been thinking about what is on my business card. Not the one that I carry with me every day, but the one I use with God which includes a list of labels which establish my position. You don’t know what card I am talking about? Sure you do! It’s the card we pull out to measure our value and worth. It’s the card we use to present ourselves to God that says things such as, “God, I’m working hard to be more righteous.””God, I’m a failure at obeying you.” “God, I can never live up to the expectations of others.” “I am a loser. I am a winner. I am a missionary. I am a….”

There is usually a long list of titles on our card, labels we set ourselves and those ascribed to us by others. Each one determines our position and shapes our relationship with God. These labels influence how we love God and love others.  But is our position in Christ based on our accomplishments and performance, set in place by our own doing? I believe not.

We fall into a precarious place when we allow human standards to define us. We put our identity in the hands of humanity’s fickle heart and mind. We are stuck with a life of untrue observations of how good (or bad) we are, an endless pursuit of justification and acceptance based on performance, and a self-worth rooted in ourselves. So what should be on our cards?

Recently, our church in Japan has been looking to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for answers. The believers in Ephesus were holding cards that read ‘second class citizen of heaven,’ a label ascribed by some Jewish believers. They were feeling looked down upon as non-Jews.  Paul corrects their thinking by appealing to two crucial points. First, everything flows from who God is. To understand ourselves, we must start with a right understanding of God. Paul tells us that we have a loving Father that blesses us with every blessing (1:3), purposefully chooses us (1:4), lavishes grace on us (1:6), gives us access to himself (1:18), and is our foundation for living (2:20).  Second, what this God says about us is infinitely greater than what we might say about ourselves. The Father says that we are his ‘workmanship’ (2:10), we are his children (2:19), and have his seal of approval in us, in the form of the Holy Spirit (1:13).

Our loving, grace-giving, foundation-giving and accessible God states that we have value beyond comprehension as His children and we are worthy of His Holy Spirit living inside us. Paul urges the Ephesians to use these words when describing themselves and these words give them their position in the world. Remembering that everything flows from God’s grace (2:8), their position is not based on what they did, but solely on who God is and who God says they are, which brings us back to you and me. By grace, we have been given new life in Jesus through his miraculous death and resurrection. It is the full and complete work of a loving God. It is in no way dependent on us. So why are we trying to move from living in the position of grace to that of performance? Why are we trying to add more to our cards? Is there anything we can do to increase the love of God for us? Expand his grace? Alter how he defines us? No! Never!

We are invited to live in a position of grace because it is the only True Place in which to live. This Easter, let’s shred the cards that measure us by performance and instead, introduce ourselves to the world based on our position in grace. This is the Good News that we will be proclaiming here in Japan, to those of us already living as believers and to those still on the journey. As for me, I’m going to stop thinking that if I am a good enough missionary, the Father will love me more. Instead, I will accept that by his grace, my position as his beloved is secure for eternity.  Now that’s a business card I am glad to share with others.

To better understand Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Peter recommends spending two weeks reading the entire letter, start to finish, once a day. It’s short, and doing so will only take about 20 minutes. This is the way the letter was meant to be read; all at once and in one sitting. Take the two-week challenge and watch how Scripture will come to life!

Opening the Door to a New Home

Most Habitat homeowners display a tremendous amount of determination to reach their goals in life, despite the obstacles and curveballs they encounter along the way. Not only does Rosa Mondoa, the recipient of our 2017 Newcastle home, fit into that category, but another homeowner from a previous Habitat community and also a member of the BelPres community does as well. Rosa and Kathy Weatherbee were both raising their families as the head of their households when they applied to Habitat, Rosa in 2015 and Kathy in 1999. These two women have led differing lives and yet both embody the spirit of the Habitat homeowner.

Rosa came to the states in 2001 from Sudan as a refugee. Kathy has lived in the Seattle-King County area for over 30 years after relocating from Idaho. Rosa was encouraged to rebuild her life in the states, with two of her three children, by a local Tukwila church she still attends. Although she first applied in 2001 and did not qualify, she came back in 2015 and was eligible to take the next steps to achieve ownership of a home for her family. Kathy applied to Habitat in 1999 after working for three years to meet the requirements for a Habitat home. In 2002, she moved into a home that she would come to own and then pass on to another family working towards stability.

In 2016, Kathy decided to sell her home back to Habitat and move on to the next phase of her life, which opened up the door for Rosa to close on a home for herself and her three daughters. The Bellevue home locations are a commodity, mostly out of the reach of the population Habitat seeks to serve. For Kathy, an assistant teacher at a pre-school, getting her Habitat home meant she was able to keep her two children in the schools they had grown accustomed too and, in particular, afford her son the unique experience of attending Bellevue’s International School. For Rosa, this home will strengthen her children’s access to neighborhood resources and safety. It will remove the dangers and temptations her family faced in their old neighborhood, particularly the drug activity that drove her eldest son out of her household and into a rehab program.

The Bellevue Habitat home is a manifestation of the independence both women have worked towards for years. Kathy was able to move out of a house that belonged to her former in-laws, a home she continued to live in for three years after she finalized the divorce from her ex-husband. She has been able to keep giving back to her community through her career in education and her work at her church. Rosa will be able to continue solely supporting her children; while her eldest son now supports himself as an electrician in Seattle, her eldest daughter is attending college for engineering, and her youngest daughter is still in elementary school.

Both women have put in a substantial amount of sweat equity hours in partnership with Habitat, to gain something that will help them support their families in attaining their dreams and creating sustainable lives for themselves. While Kathy has never met Rosa, her determination and the work she has put into her life has afforded Rosa the same opportunities to achieve her goals. Habitat is especially proud to help facilitate the cycle of accomplishment that stable, affordable housing can establish.

To get involved, join Women Build Month in May at all Habitat sites. Find out more at Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County. Contact volunteer@Habitatskc.org to get involved!