Thank You

It has been one year since I started working at BelPres. It was exciting to go back to work after a 14-year hiatus to raise kids. However, I was afraid I would be a failure and not be up to the task since this is my home church. And I was also worried that I would find the guts of the church to be messy and not be as pretty as what I see on Sunday mornings.

Like any other workplace, there is a mix of personalities and working styles. I was happy to find people with incredible talents and genuine hearts to serve our God and community at BelPres. Our Prayer+Care team visit and pray for our congregants in hospitals when their family cannot come. Our Belong+Grow team helps families build community through mealpacking and eating burgers. Our Worship team sings heartwarming songs to fill our souls with hope and peace through the tragedies of this year. Our Facilities team provides jobs for new immigrants and homeless to get them on their feet. Our pastors share stories of our congregants that inspire all of us to love others because we were loved first.  Each department and person doing their part to make BelPres a church community.

And then there is Mission+Serve department, which has become my home this past year. I’m biased, but I feel like Mission+Serve is the heart of BelPres; serving, teaching, sharing, and growing our BelPres family. We provide food to hungry neighbors; we donate diapers for babies, we send people to help after the devastating hurricanes in Texas, we give much-needed supplies and gifts through AGM. We offer tutoring services for kids needing extra help through KidREACH; we come together to let go of racial prejudices and become compassion neighbors, we bring presents for homeless and children with a parent in prison, and so much more.

And “we” is not exclusive of the staff at the Mission+Serve. “We” is not “we” without our dedicated volunteers who support, lead, pray and give of their time, money and gifts. So much of the work in Mission+Serve is done by our tireless volunteers.  I learned that there are many programs that serve our community that were founded right here at BelPres because our volunteers saw a need that needed to be met.

I am learning from all of you what it means to serve with all your heart.  So thank you for serving along with us in Mission+Serve. Thank you for being God’s hands and feet.  Thank you for giving to God and His children.  May God’s blessings overflow in you in 2018 so that you may share your blessing with others!

Happy New Year!

Advent 2017: Letter From The Editor

Advent is an interesting time for me because we did not celebrate Advent in my home as a young Kat. Christmas was definitely on my radar but only for presents and food. One thing that I noticed growing up is that my family kept everything reasonably simple. My guess, finances were not abundant; therefore we could not afford all the extra bells and whistles. Somehow, though, my parents found ways to purchase presents and a tree. We would drive down to our local Chubby and Tubby (for those who remember the good old days) to pick out our
tree. But aside from the tree, that was it. We didn’t typically have lights for outside the house, no nativity scene, or eggnog or any of the other standard US Christmas paraphernalia.

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Human Anything Helps

Although I work at Congregations for the Homeless, I don’t have much contact with our clients. I’m the IT Guy, so I mostly work with the office staff and case managers. I stop by the various computer labs, but it’s easier to do my work when nobody’s using the computers. So my
impressions of homeless guys tend towards the ones we all see—somebody standing on a corner with a cardboard sign that says “Homeless Anything Helps.”

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Behind the Scenes: Williams Family

“Volunteering as a family is two good things put together,” says 13-year-old Emi Williams. “First, I get to volunteer to help others, and
second I get to do it with my family.”

Emi, her 16-year-old brother Reece, and her mom and dad – Alicia and Doug Williams – have volunteered for the past 3 years to supervise the preschool class during all the Easter morning services at BelPres so that other families can attend worship.

The family reminisces about some of their favorite memories with the 3, 4 and 5 year-olds. They speak fondly of the time a tiny 3-year-old boy jumped up during the preschool worship time and announced: “God loves us so much; He loves us forever.”

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Unexpected Results

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them,“”Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” – Luke 2:8-14

Whereas most kids love Christmas day, my kids don’t. It’s an unexpected, and in many ways wonderful, result of a decision my wife and I made 15 years ago. When we first arrived at BelPres, we decided that in December I would dramatically reduce the number of evening meetings I attended to allow for more family time during the Christmas season. That decision led to the question, what should
we do with the extra time? We decided we would create a variety of activities that we would do every year – drive around looking at Christmas lights, Snowflake Lane, take my daughters to the Nutcracker (my son was nevern interested in that one), drink hot chocolate and eat Christmas cookies by the fire while watching Christmas movies. At the time my kids were toddlers, but as they grew we added other traditions like a day spent in downtown Seattle to shop, look at the Gingerbread house display, and visit the Pike Place Market.

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Expectations

Last year l purchased some gorgeous deep burgundy colored nasturtiums at the local nursery, and carefully collected their seeds at the end of the season. It was with great expectation that I sowed these seeds in my planting containers and awaited the coming colorful display. In time, my garden boxes were filled with a profusion of blooms in just about every color except the original burgundy! My vision for the garden was not achieved, so I had to decide whether to rejoice in this unexpected development or rip out the offending plants and start over at the nursery.

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Worship Interrupted

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – Luke 2:4-7

Keychain leadership is easy to recognize and has unexpected benefits. When I was a teenager, I was blessed with the opportunity to share my musical gifts in worship. Our youth leader handed over the worship time to the youth group. We built each other up, we learned new songs, we gained new volunteers, and we formed a strong worship team with a bunch of high schoolers. Over time as I transitioned from high school to college, I took a more significant leadership role in the youth group. Our youth leader began to give us more and more responsibility, to the point of giving me keys to the fellowship hall. Handing over the keys to the building led me to ministry that I could have never imagined.

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Behind The Scenes: Lily Larsen

Picture of Lily Laursen

“Church feels like a blessing. It feels like home to me,” says Lily Laursen, who has been at BelPres since she was a baby.

Her grandparents — Lew and Judy Steves — have been involved at BelPres since its early years and raised Lily’s mother Dana in the church. Lily’s parents Ross and Dana Laursen are also active at BelPres and have participated in teaching, playing on the softball team, serving as an elder and volunteering with the youth ministry. Lily has a 13-year-old brother Erik.

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Behind the Scenes: Abbie Weaver

Abbie Weaver Volunteer

When her youth group peers and leaders talk about Abbie Weaver, a 17-year-old student going into her
senior year in the fall of 2017, they smile.

“Abbie leads and loves through a compassionate heart,” says high school director Steven Johnson.

Her friend Lily Laursen adds, “Abbie is good at serving people. She knows how to get ‘messy” with people – she asks real questions and goes deep.”

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Bright and Hopeful

“K” came to the U.S. as a strong but defensive Muslim. A stellar university student from a remote part of Central Asia (C.A), he received a scholarship to study in a major university and was also accepted into our leadership program from among 400 applicants. He was further selected for a one-year internship in the United States. “K” excelled in his internship, so he was recently invited to a worldwide young leaders meeting at a major U.S. university. He will be a very important young leader in his country at many levels. He tells his story.
“I spent 12 months in Seattle as part of a facility resource company’s financial teams. Looking back, taking a year off (from university) and doing an internship were the smartest decisions of my student life. My internship allowed me to use my theoretical knowledge in practice and jump into the business world.”
“By participating in leadership meetings at my company and executive meetings with other Seattle-based CEOs, I learned about strategic leadership and becoming an influential business leader. Moreover, I became a student member of CFA-Seattle Society where I met financial professionals who shared expertise with me, improving my communication and networking abilities.”
He and his family are devout Muslims. In one of our first conversations, he told me why the Koran was right and the Bible was wrong. One of the first events he attended in the U.S., was BelPres’ Christmas Eve Service. He was more than a little amazed and culturally disoriented. The warmth, light, and friendliness were not what he expected. After a year of being loved and served, and after several conversations, his attitude toward Christ and the Bible softened. Though not yet a believer in Jesus, he has moved to a more open, middle ground. “K” continues in our alumni group and our conversations about Jesus continue.
Pray for “K”, our other C.A. friends and for us; that we are faithful to love, serve and share the wonder of the Gospel with our C.A. friends.
“My Father is working until now and I am working.” Jesus, in John 5:17
Although we readily identify with Jesus in Central Asia, E2 is not a mission organization.  It’s a charitable, educational organization developing leaders to renew their nations.  

 

All We Want For Christmas…..

I’d like some metal roofing for Christmas this year, so the children at Raymond Jean Bois don’t have to go to school under a tarp. It was a pretty easy decision as decisions go – either take the roofing off the old school before Hurricane Irma arrived or have it blown away. In the last several years, every storm has taken a few sheets, but none were like Hurricane Irma.

We are building a new building around the old building. The guys have the floors, the walls and the trusses done for the new church and school building – except for the roofing. Roofing Plan A is on a boat in Miami, loaded since April but has not sailed yet. Roofing Plan B is purchased in Port-au-Prince but, with so much rain right now, we can’t even go home in a 4-wheel drive Landcruiser.

For my Christmas beverages, I’d like a couple of glasses of water. Not just any water, mind you. I’d like one glass out of the pipeline we are repairing with the Lacoma church and community. The other glass of water (that will taste really good) is out of one of the seven new fountains to be installed in Moustiques … until the pipe got delayed on that same boat in Miami.

Oh, I guess I am going to need more than two glasses of water. I was over at the Lacoma job site. The church folks were loading sand onto donkeys, mules, and horses to carry down to the men making the concrete conduit to protect the pipe. A lady was smiling when she said I owed her for transporting the sand. I said, “OK, I’ll pay … in water.” She said, “It will cost 10,000 gallons!” “No problem,” I said. That is less than two hours of water flowing through the pipe once it’s fixed. So what I am really looking for is 10,000 gallons plus two glasses of water. Did I mention we have a lot of 4” PVC pipe sitting on the ship in Miami?

When I was a kid, doing major construction projects under the backyard apple tree, I wanted Tonka trucks and construction equipment for Christmas. Amazing things have happened since then. God has blessed us with real construction equipment. This year, I’d like to have the parts to fix the grader and some new grader tires. It has been raining for a week. We are stranded outside of Port-au-Prince at friends because the roads and mud are so bad; like unusually-once-every-ten-or-fifteen-years bad. The roads were barely passable before the rain and now I can’t imagine. The old tires aren’t done yet and the paint that is on the way will make this grader look new, but for now, we could get by with just the parts to fix the drive train. As soon as it dries out, we need to get on the road with the grader and fix it. Did I mention the parts, paint, and tires are all loaded on the same ship that hasn’t left Miami yet?

I know I am asking for a lot. I didn’t ask for much last Christmas, so I feel I have some ground to make up. There are several irrigation pumps on my list too. I know that sounds crazy asking for pumps with all this rain, but I am fascinated with diesel engines and pumps. After it rains too much in Northwest Haiti, there is always a time when it doesn’t rain. These are really special hydraulically powered pumps powered by trailer-mounted, air-cooled diesel engines made especially for us by friends. You guessed it … these two irrigation pumps are on the same ship with everything else waiting until all the problems are figured out so they can sail.

We haven’t sent out an update for a while because we have been waiting for good news. It is always “next week; something is going to happen.” But it hasn’t yet. They are talking about getting the last part, and the manifest straightened out and have just told us “next week,” again! The bottom line is the ship hasn’t sailed yet. And we are talking about Christmas coming up … all I want for Christmas is for our ‘ship to come in.’

Wearing a Helmet

Develop Our Village Economy (DOVE)

I went with a team to visit Tong Neak, my home village in Prey Veng last year. I usually suggest we take a short-cut: a bumpy road that is now much improved. We crossed the longest bridge in Cambodia, the 2.2 km Tsubasa on the Mekong River funded by the Japanese government. No need to take the ferry as in the past!

“Where is my bumpy road?” Ray Durr asked. We all laughed. Cambodia has two problems: there are not enough good roads and now, with some good roads, we face another problem – road accidents.

Nineteen students are in Onyx Phnom Penh program this year, including Ms. Chhun Thida. 24-year-old Thida is a dorm leader and an English teacher with a Cambodian Christian organization that empowers garment workers. One Saturday in May, students were heading home after Onyx class. On Street 271 near the Phnom Penh Sports Club, there was a crowd of people stopped on the street.

Mr. Ren Trea, 25 years old and another Onyx student, spotted a scooter lying in the middle of the street. “What happened?” he asked the bystanders. They replied, “There was an accident. The owner of the scooter is in severe condition and she was taken to a hospital already.” It looked similar to Thida’s scooter he thought, so he called her, but no one answered. He kept calling, and at last, it was answered. It was her sister, who said, “My sister forgot her phone at home.” He told her, “I saw an accident and the scooter looks like Thida’s scooter.”

If Thida had not forgotten her phone at home that day, there would have been no answer. She was unconscious after the accident. Her family confirmed the scooter was hers. Then they checked into the nearby hospital and found her there. The hospital hadn’t started treating her yet because there was no one to authorize treatment. If Thida hadn’t been wearing a helmet, she could have died.

In Ephesians 6:16–17: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

In Thida’s case, the helmet saved her life. If Trea hadn’t seen the scooter and Thida hadn’t left her phone at home, nobody would have known where she was.

Ruth, the Moabite, came to glean in Boaz’s field. Ruth was a newcomer to the land and did not know which field to glean and God brought her to Boaz. God takes care of us: every breath and step we take, he is there with us.

Praise God that Thida rejoined the Onyx class in mid-June after being unconscious for 3 days and spending 3 weeks in the hospital.