My Eyes Were Opened

I attended the “Frames & Filters Workshop” – an excellent presentation and time well spent!  In the past few months, I’ve also read several of the Justice resources we ordered for the BelPres Library, such as “Tears We Cannot Stop” by M. Dyson and “Between the World and Me” by T. Coates. Even though I spent many of my teenage years being a minority white among black American students and having some black friends, as well as my father participating in the Selma, Alabama march with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the late ‘60s, I only recently became more fully aware of the privileges my “whiteness” affords in our society, and also a deeper understanding of the realities faced by people of color.

This particularly became more personal as I reflected on a recent phone call from our “son”, George.  My husband and I “sponsored” George 20 years ago through an organization called Metro Ministries in Brooklyn, NY.  George was a darling little 6 year old black kid with a big smile who stole my heart when I saw his photo at a Children’s pastor conference.  George’s father, a drug dealer, was murdered when George was 2 and he grew up in the dangerous inner city of NY.  He says without Metro Ministries and the power of Jesus, he would either be in jail or dead.

George is now married with two children and lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, and is a man filled with the love of Jesus.    We usually call or text about once a month, but this time the call came on a weekday evening – a rather unusual time.  He told me he was returning home from work and was on the side of the highway with a flat tire. He was getting it fixed but his wife was worried and there was concern in his voice.  We talked for a few minutes, he said he was about ready to be on his way, and we said our goodbyes and I didn’t think much more about it.  Only later as I was reading Coates book, did this conversation with George come to mind.  My “eyes were opened”, so to speak.   It was what George DIDN’T say that I finally understood – that he was a black man, along the side of the road, and vulnerable to potential harassment by a passing motorist, or a policeman just because of his color.  It saddens my heart to know that George, and now his bi-racial son, and people of color face such concerns each and every day they step outside their homes.

I’m so grateful for the work of the Justice Team to bring the “Frames & Filters” workshop to BelPres, as well as keeping us informed of other opportunities in our community to increase our understanding of each other’s realities and how to live together the 3rd WAY – the JESUS WAY, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and looking for opportunities to bring justice and healing in our own walk in life.

May God richly bless and guide you and your team,

Kandis Losh

BelPres Libraries Ministry Coordinator

 

People Building Bridges

“We refuse to be enemies.”

 

These words greeted us as we approached the Tent of Nations, a farm on a hill near Bethlehem, in Palestinian West Bank territory. The words are inscribed on a stone at the entrance to the property owned by the Nassars, a Palestinian Christian family, for over 100 years. Generations of Nassars have grown up on this land adorned with olive, apricot, and fig orchards as well as vineyards extending across rolling hills.

When the BelPres Israel/Palestine Peacemaking Team visited the Tent of Nations last February, we met around a conference table inside a cave in the hillside where Daher Nassar spoke to us about the farm’s history and ministry and taught us just enough Arabic to join him in singing a song of praise to God. The family then served us a delicious traditional Palestinian meal.

Daher told us about the family’s 26-year struggle to retain ownership of their farm. In 1991, the Israeli government threatened the Nassars with confiscation of their land. He said they were successful in opposing the move in court because his grandfather had registered the property in 1916 with the Ottoman government, which was in power then. They have retained documented ownership of the property spanning the Ottoman rule, the British Mandate, the Jordanian administration, and the current governing arrangement.

At this point, it seems the odds are stacked against them. In 2001, the Israeli government closed the road that leads to their property, and six years ago they gave them “demolition orders,” which means they cannot build anything on their property and they cannot have access to water or electricity.

According to Daoud, once when the Nassars told settlers who were trying to take their land that they had documents showing their ownership since 1916, the settlers responded by saying, “You have papers from here, but we have papers from God.” Over the years the Nassars have endured many types of intimidation, including damage to their property by settlers with heavy equipment and destruction of hundreds of olive and apricot trees.

The Nassars believe this action is designed to provoke them to respond with violence or give up and leave the country, leaving the land open to be taken over by Israeli settlers. Instead, they have responded based on Matthew 5:14 and 16. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The Nassar family says they believe in justice and refuse to be victims, but they also refuse to hate. Their goal is to respond not as expected, but in what they call “the Jesus way,” which is “to overcome evil with good, hatred with love, and darkness with light.” They admit that it is much easier to say this than to live it.

I grew up on a farm and understand the challenges of operating a farm even when you have access to electricity, running water, and waste removal. I am fascinated at how the Nassar family has used this extremely difficult situation for good by creatively solving the problems that arise. They have made their farm self-sustaining by harnessing solar power to generate electricity, collecting rainwater to use for running the farm, composting and reusing much of the waste the farm generates, and by recycling wastewater.

Tent of Nations also provides education to children of the villages and refugee camps in the area. They hold summer camps where children learn about the farm, participate in arts and drama classes, play soccer, and take part in discussions about non-violence as a solution to the problems they face every day.

The Tent of Nations has become a model for how to respond to threats and violence with love. It is a center where people from many nations and religions gather to learn, share, and build bridges of understanding and hope. The Nassars invite Israelis to come see their land and hear their story. By simply working the land and inviting guests of all faiths and nationalities to participate, they have made their farm a symbol of peace and hope. Despite the difficult circumstances, the Nassar family continues to live and act based on their conviction: “We Refuse to Be Enemies.”

Deacons of BelPres: Alice Fong

“I guess the thing that I’m thinking about the most because I’m starting my own business is about my parents’ small business. They had a little Chinese restaurant in Tacoma, and because my work is about relationships, their restaurant really modeled that for me. They were very relational in their work, and it was a lot of fun. They still have relationships with people – they’re excited when they see them at Target or wherever they’re at. One time, we were at Anthony’s Seafood Restaurant, and somebody was staring at my parents, and then they came over, and it turned out they used to eat at our restaurant. I loved the restaurant because of how relational it was. I didn’t love all the work, but I did like being able to have conversations with people, to learn their story, and I think that is the coolest part of my childhood. I never felt sad that I didn’t get to do what normal kids did my age because I went from school to the restaurant, but it was fun because I just love talking to people. That built a really strong foundation, and it carried me through my whole career thus far and into my business, Gwaan Hai. Gwaan Hai means “relationship” in Cantonese. I started coming to BelPres to play badminton when I first moved out to Bellevue. When I moved out on my own, my mom told me I should find my own church, so I asked my badminton friend Geoff where I could go. He said, “why don’t you come to my church?” I asked where his church was and he pointed out through the double doors from the Community Center and said, “it’s right here!” So I came, and I didn’t fall asleep during the sermons. Scott is funny! So I kept coming. I actually was very hesitant when I got the call to be a Deacon because you have to pray for people. They gave us prayer training, but it didn’t sink in until the last couple years. I’ve had to pray more, and I got better at it, and I just realized that it’s not me praying, it’s God praying. Yeah, I guess that is probably the best thing. I love a lot of things about BelPres, but the prayer journey is just magical.”

-Alice Fong

Deacon for Area 2, 98004 & 98039

Replying to Seattle’s Displacing Economy

Inspired by the popular television show, Shark Tank, Urban Impact successfully held its 2nd Annual Sharks at the Beach Social Venture Pitch Competition in March. Urban Impact’s version of Shark Tank addresses poverty by promoting local business and supporting local entrepreneurs with coaching, as they present and work on their business plans.

This year’s winner, owner of Jacob Willard Home, an antique furniture store for over two years in the heart of Hillman City, Karl Hackett is launching a groundbreaking process of helping local small businesses remain sustainable and keep up with a neighborhood that continues to see change and development as a result of ongoing gentrification.

As a 20-something, Karl grew up during a time when it was still affordable for a young person to live alone and easily foster relationships with small business owners in the community.  As a homeowner in the Central District, he began to see the effects of gentrification in his community over the years.  He realized that the very thing that made a neighborhood “cool” to live in was being diluted by raised rents that pushed locals out, as new wealthy residents moved in.  As a business owner in the Hillman City neighborhood, he and others saw their leases increase by 50% over a short period of time.

Karl took a leap of faith and allowed God to use his passion for collecting chairs to become something much grander.  Impacted by the work of Urban Impact and Community Development Hub at Rainier Avenue Church, he has seen the impact of what an active church in the community looks like. He believes that Urban Impact shares his vision of breaking stereotypes and endless cycles that leave a community crushed. Karl would like to see more churches get involved in their communities and step outside the church walls to do outreach like he has seen with the Urban Impact Community Development Church Hubs.

In his business plan, Community First Development is the idea of promoting cooperative commercial ownership in the community that will allow small business owners to purchase their rental space. Karl’s team is hoping to partner with contractors to acquire buildings that are in need of updates so they can be purchased at an affordable rate, remodeled, and units can be sold in a coop structure that would be affordable for local businesses to buy and sell, essentially acting like an HOA (Home Owners Association) for a business with the idea to keep small locally run businesses at the heart of the community.

Although the hope was to launch this venture in a year, it will be a challenge due to the fast pace of the economy. However, he is confident that they will have the full support of the community to reach their starting goal soon, and will be launching a fundraising campaign to raise capital to acquire their first project. Stay tuned!

Letter From The Editor

Spending almost every waking moment of my days taking care of two very tiny boys, I have little margin for much else. I barely have time to get my teeth brushed or take care of basic human needs like getting enough sleep or eating more than leftover scraps off a highchair tray.

But I always, always can somehow squeeze enough time out of my day for a good story.

I will, 100% of the time, sacrifice precious sleep to listen to absolutely anything my husband wanted to share with me about his day. I literally delight in hearing his stories about work or friends or the run he went on during his lunch break. (more…)

Why Young Life?  

It’s easy to be discouraged about teenagers by looking at the headlines. Depression and suicide rates are on the rise. Church attendance rates are dropping and too many teenagers enter college and abandon their faith.  It’s easy to be alarmed and wonder how the next generation is going to choose to follow Jesus.

Right here in Bellevue are 35 adults investing time and energy to introduce teenagers to Jesus and help them grow in faith.  Those 35 adults are Young Life (YL) leaders living out the Great Commission: going directly to middle and high school kids and “sharing not only the Gospel of God but (their) very lives as well.”  1 Thessalonians 2:8

Over the last 2 years, a YL leader Greg has been invested in the life of Russ, a high school sophomore.  They met at a Young Life summer camp where Russ attended with quite a few of his friends.  At camp, there’s always a lot of fun and adventure during the day and a message of Christ every night. And Russ was a challenge for Greg.  He wasn’t interested in hearing about Jesus and even made fun of the kids who were.  Russ’ attitude made it almost impossible for Greg to have real, authentic conversations with the others in the cabin because Russ mocked anyone for any ideas or thoughts they expressed.  Greg was discouraged and felt like a horrible leader.  Camp ended and Russ’ attitude hadn’t changed.  For Greg, it seemed like a wasted week.

But Greg stayed with it.  He continued a friendship with Russ.  He went to Russ’ basketball games, texted Russ to check-in and then, invited Russ to bible studies. Slowly, Greg started to earn Russ’ respect.  Russ didn’t attend many things Greg invited him to, but he saw Greg keep showing up in his life.  Without pushing or being annoying, Greg just stayed consistent.

This last summer, Russ went to Young Life camp again.  Greg was excited to have Russ back but was hesitant to have him in his cabin.  He didn’t want a repeat of two summers ago and he didn’t want the week ruined.

This time, Russ was a different person.  Because of the hard-earned friendship, when Greg talked, Russ listened.  When Greg asked questions, Russ responded.   When Greg asked Russ to be respectful of others, Russ was.  Before the week was over, Russ decided to follow Jesus.  Because of God’s grace and Greg’s consistent caring, it was a huge first step in a faith journey for a challenged teenager.

Young Life works when a leader shows up in the life of a teenager, sharing not only the gospel but their very lives as well.  Whether at Camp, a monthly Club gathering, a Campaigner group bible study, or a kids’ basketball game….Young Life leaders just keep showing up.

Thank you to all at BelPres who, by your support of our staff and our leaders, allow us to keep “showing up” in the lives of teenagers, bringing them the hope of Jesus Christ that can change lives forever.

We are grateful!

Scott Didrickson, Area Director

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Young Life leader in Bellevue, please email  bellevueyloffice@gmail.com.  To financially support Bellevue Young Life, please go to younglife.org

Fingerprints and Footprints

Some kids played sports growing up; others played video games. My sister and I read. While she leaned toward fantasy and science fiction, I read all the kids’ classics, and we both tore through piles of Regency romances when we were in our early teens. Since my parents weren’t readers themselves, and we weren’t the kind of kids who got into any trouble, no one paid any attention to our pastime. We could read whatever we liked, and we did. (more…)

We Are Not Alone

I may be 33 years old, an older “Millennial,” but I love to read on paper. I subscribe to the paper Seattle Times daily, I tote a heavy paper planner in my purse along with an assortment of pens, and paper books are my most treasured possessions. I lug my leather-bound study Bible to my weekly Bible study, even though the entire text for that day’s lesson could be easily accessed on the phone I keep out in case my son needs me in the Child Care Center. (more…)

The Manner In Which We Journey

I was a voracious reader as a child. Picture an elementary student walking home from school with a copy of Gone with the Wind held open in front of her face, high enough that she could both read and watch for upcoming curbs. Pulling books from decorative tableaus at Marie Calendar’s to keep herself occupied until the food arrived. Sitting in a corner at the family Christmas party with a pile of Time magazines at the age of seven. I was that kid. Reading was my very favorite escape, where I could imagine myself as Pipi Longstocking or Nancy Drew or Anne Shirley – strong and independent, quick to get into trouble and, after some quick thinking, certain to get myself out. I pictured my life as a series of found treasures, solved cases and long walks with Gilbert Blythe – an interesting but predictable life where problems are mere plot twists on the sure path to the storybook ending. (more…)

The Power of Books

When I was a little girl, I had a friend name Ramona. She was much more daring than I was, willing to say things and do things that I was too timid to try. She was so much fun, so I loved being in her presence. I lived vicarious through her mischievous actions which I thought were crazy but I secretly wished I had the nerve to do. Ramona didn’t go to my school or live in my neighborhood or even my state. She lived in Portland, Oregon with her parents and sister Beatrice who outright called her a pest! She was a character in a book but I could so relate to her! She felt like my friend that who was always with me as I started elementary school. (more…)

The Christmas Sweater

My wife and I have several Christmas traditions and one of them is watching the movie, The Holiday. There’s a scene in that movie where Jude Law describes himself, not ashamedly, as “a major weeper.” “A good book, a great film, a birthday card” will bring him to tears. I’m not sure I’m a major weeper, but I’m definitely not ashamed to say I cry, especially when I hear a story or experience a moment where it is apparent to me that the Holy Spirit is truly active. On rare occasion, I have even been moved to such an extent that I do become a “major weeper” and when I reflect on these moments I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to feel the Holy Spirit within me to that extent. (more…)

Don’t Give Up

I started a school in Rwanda when I was 17 years old. What motivated me to start this school was the genocide. So many children lost their parents and were orphans. God spoke to me and told me that I could do something to bring new life.

That’s the way I started the school.

There were many different challenges that wanted to stop me. (more…)

Behind the Scenes – Man Rescues Presbytery From Drowning

That’s the kind of dramatic headline that gets our attention these days, although we might ask, “What kind of a person has a name like Presbytery?”

The headline is correct, though, except the Presbytery mentioned was drowning in red ink, not water and is not a person but a group of Seattle-area Presbyterian churches, including BelPres. The member churches meet on a regular basis, worship together, enjoy community, encourage outreach and mission, and come alongside one another in various ways.

How did our Presbytery survive red ink? (more…)