Building Homes in Baja

Dear Friends and Family,

Wow! The weekend in Mexico was phenomenal. It’s amazing what 12 people can do in just 72 hours. God taught so much on our journey to Rosarito and Tijuana through our mission, our team and those we ministered.

One thing God taught us: love has no language—you can see love simply through emotions. We were in an all Spanish-speaking part of Mexico. Our team and the translators were the only ones who spoke English. It was difficult communicating with the family and the others while sharing the gospel. When we handed over the keys of their home to Nina, the mom, we didn’t need words or a translator. The tears of happiness that flowed spoke more than anyone could’ve said.

On Friday, we built a house in Rosarito for the Barreto Family (Fabian-29, Nina-26, Eduin-12, and Elias-7). The house was built quickly by our fantastic team with no injuries on the building site. (God was definitely watching over us.) On Saturday, we went to Tijuana where we invited families to come hear the word and team members’ testimonies. It was unbelievable seeing people, invited by complete strangers who don’t even speak Spanish, come to a park to hear the word of God!

Our lives will never be the same because of this trip and we thank you for your prayer, encouragement and financial support. Without your partnership, our mission trip might not have been possible. Thank you for investing in us for the Kingdom’s sake! God wants us to be bolder about sharing our faith – not just in Mexico, but right here in Kirkland.

May the Lord bless you and your family for being a part of God’s transformation, not only of the many of families we served but also in our life.  Please don’t stop praying for them: that they accept the gospel and for protection of those who recently accepted Christ.

Love in Christ,

Molly, Mark, and Leslie  Behrends


Please pray for BelPres’ next Impact team to Baja on April 5-8.  If you are interested in going on the Baja trip scheduled for Oct 11-14, please contact Chuck Pilcher at


First Response Radio

In December 2016, a small First Response Radio(FRR) team responded to an earthquake in SE Asia which displaced 90,000 people, by setting up a radio station in a local government office building. They broadcast information about tent distribution, what to do in case of aftershocks, stories from the affected community, trauma counseling, and they distributed radios. Listeners thanked them for being the only radio station to address their need for information. Save The Children also appreciated the radio programs allowing children to tell their stories, noting the vulnerability of children in trauma situations.

Mike has been waiting many years for doors to open allowing FIRST Response Radio (FRR) to train people to support Hazeen, the one-man FRR ‘team’ in Pakistan. It could be said that a good day in Pakistan is like a disaster anywhere else in the world, and Hazeen has single-handedly responded to earthquakes and floods there for many years. Last year Hazeen was given 5 minutes to talk to the Director General of Pakistan’s Radio Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), and as he prayed for wisdom how to use his 5 minutes, he decided to show the FRR promotional video ’72 Hours in 72 Seconds’ which had been translated into Urdu. One hour later they were still talking, and FRR was given permission to bring a radio-in-a-suitcase into Pakistan. In April, Mike and Hazeen demonstrated it to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and their head of Communications offered to work with FRR. 35 people from 10 agencies attended the one-day ‘taster’ event which explained the role of radio communications in disasters. FRR has been invited to hold a full training event in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the visas were not granted for this year, and FRR will continue to push for this training. Suffice it to say; God opened doors for FRR beyond what we asked or imagined.

On October 17th, FRR Philippines did Early Warning messaging anticipating Typhoon Lawin passing through Northern Luzon, Philippines. This was the first time FRR served a role in Early Warning. They coordinated with the Humanitarian community and the Philippines Government Office. Broadcasting on the station DZMR in Santiago Isabela, they shared information from UNOCHA to the impacted community and FRR Philippines officially deployed their Alpha team to respond in the aftermath of Typhoon Lawin.


To find out more about First Response Radio, go to their Facebook page here.

Missing Molly

There’s an old saying that goes: “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” When my husband, Warren and I moved into our new home on 101st Street NE in Bellevue in August of 1953 we couldn’t have known that sometime in our future we would experience a life-changing, heartbreaking tragedy.

As we began building a life in Bellevue, we watched curiously as a new church began construction just down the street. It was to be the First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue and in 1959 we became members. The church became a second home for our family over the coming years as all four of our children were baptized there.

Those were joyous years for our young family. I taught Sunday School and Bible School; prepared food for the Junior High Youth Club; served as a deacon and worked on Session. We made many lasting friendships and life was good.

Then, in January of 1986, our world came crashing down. Our beautiful, caring 28-year old daughter Molly was killed in her apartment during a violent robbery. Everything about Molly’s tragic death seemed so senseless to us. How could God allow such a terrible crime to end the life of our sweet girl?

Molly was warm and caring, vivacious and outgoing. Her life was filled with many friends. She had attended the University of Washington and graduated from Washington State’s Hotel and Restaurant Management Program, making steady career growth working in Houston, Denver and then Seattle. Her death was a heartbreaking shock to us and to everyone that knew her. We prayed for her soul to be with Jesus and asked God to help us through those difficult times.

In the months following Molly’s funeral, we began receiving scores of letters from her friends and their relatives. We always knew that Molly loved people, but these letters were a revelation and revealed to us the truly warm, loving, good-humored women our adult daughter had become.

In the midst of our pain and grief, her friends’ letters glowed with appreciation and empathy. They give us comfort that only God can provide. Here are just a few examples:

“My memory of Molly is seeing her flash that bright smile with a friendly word for everyone. She was so full of joy and such a fun person to be with.”

“Molly touched many lives with her warm and cheerful smile. I worked with her and will treasure the laughter and tears we shared.” The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking. May he be close to you and know how much we care.”

“May you be sustained by the knowledge that Molly’s life brought so much happiness to so many people.”

We have so many beautiful memories of Molly. We’re so thankful to all of our friends who shared with us their remembrances of her. A grief support group was formed at church. One of the methods they teach those coping with pain and suffering is to collect all of these wonderful memories of your loved one to create a special booklet – and we did.

In July, 1986, we took Molly’s ashes to the beach at Seaview on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. We spread her ashes, with our tears, at the water’s edge. It was one of Molly’s favorite places, filled with memories of happy times with her good friends, Kim and Marylyne Polak. We could never have endured those emotional days without the prayers, love, comforting and hugs of the caring believers of BelPres church.

My husband, Warren died three years ago and I know he and Molly are happy together in our Heavenly home, just waiting
for me.

The Continuing Legacy of Molly McClure

True Crime writer, Ann Rule has included the story of “Molly’s Murder” in her first anthology, A Rose For Her Grave.

Here are just a few of the many tributes generated in memory of Molly:

Perpetually endowed scholarships at Washington State University and Alpha Chi Omega Sorority
Three plaques at the entrance to Bellevue Park
A tree planted in Redmond’s Marymoor Park
A plaque in Seattle’s Children’s Hospital
The hand-carved podium in BelPres Church’s
Fellowship Hall

My Daughter’s Heart

When I first walked into the hospital room and saw my beautiful daughter Katie, lying in the hospital bed at Seattle Harborview Trauma Center, It was jolting! Katie had just turned 40, and had been the picture of health. Now, she lay still before me in a medically induced coma. I could see no movement or sign of life.

In her mouth were tubes for oxygen and intravenous feedings. Medical monitors, glowed with statistics displaying what was happening in her body. As I looked at her, I asked God to take me instead. After all, I am “the Mom.” I felt that I should be first in Heaven and be there to greet my children after they’d lived a good long life. My husband Tom told me that he had offered the same prayer. Katie was too young to leave us. Her family needed her.

Tom and I were in California, getting settled at Sun City Shadow Hill retirement community, when we received the call from her husband Peter, informing us that Katie had experienced a cardiac arrest and was hospitalized. How could this happen? She was the picture of health. She ate organic foods, exercised and ran regularly. She also had a successful career with a great company, and served as a deacon in addition to teaching a class at BelPres church.

I told Peter we would be flying home ASAP. Tom got us a flight that afternoon and our son Kevin picked us up at the airport. Visiting Katie at Harborview that night, we were overwhelmed seeing our daughter in that condition. Peter stayed with Katie that night. Even though we knew in our hearts that Katie would be okay, seeing her in a coma was extremely difficult for our family. If only she could give us a gesture to let us know she could hear us.

The Appearance of God’s Heart

As I stood by Katie’s bedside, my dear son-in-law, Peter, put his arm around me and said, “Look, there’s a heart on her face.” He knew well the family story. Katie at age 7 was accidentally burned by fireworks on her face, neck, and chest. She’d been rushed to the hospital where friends and family prayed for quick healing.

A month later, we noticed the appearance of two skin discolorations shaped like a heart and a fish. They took years to slowly disappear and served to remind us how God had been with her during her time of need. We felt strongly that the heart on Katie’s face was a sign from God, telling us that he was loving and protecting her. In that moment, I just knew that Katie was going to get well and come back to us!

The Doctor Briefing

We joined the doctors’ meeting to discuss Katie’s condition and their treatment plan. They simply didn’t know why her heart stopped, especially since they had determined that her heart and arteries were in excellent condition. They had cooled her body temperature to 33 degrees Celsius, a state known as Therapeutic Hypothermia and were monitoring her brain activity.

The following day, Katie’s sons, 10-year old Torsten and 8-year old Niklas were brought to the Hospital to visit their mom. They held up well with help from Peter and the hospital staff. Katie was surrounded by family, except for Brian who was flying in from Dubai where he’d been on business. Brian’s wife Daniele told me that, “Brian said he’s coming to wake up Katie.”

Friday morning, Tom, Brian, and I arrived at the hospital to attend another doctors’ briefing. They all wanted to know if anyone in our family had experienced a sudden-death episode. The MD’s agreed they would attempt waking Katie late that afternoon after gradually warming her body to its normal temperature.

At 4:00pm our family was called into Katie’s room. We surrounded her bed; leaving little room for her doctors. The lead physician asked Katie to give him a thumbs-up with her left hand and then her right. It was awesome to see her response. She was then asked to open her beautiful eyes.

She struggled because they were filled with tears. Immediately all of us became tearful as well. Thankfulness filled our hearts. The Doctor continued testing Katie with various questions to access her reasoning ability. She could not understand why she was in the hospital, but loved being surrounded by family.

Katie’s heart showed us that God cared, but what was going to happen now? Could we dare to presume that everything would return to normal? We prayed that it would. Our family and Peter’s family were one and although we were frightened and saddened by Katie’s physical state at the time, her heart gave us hope.

After waking from her coma, we were concerned that Katie repeatedly asked Peter why she was in the hospital. He repeated that her heart had stopped beating during her presentation to her company’s internal auditor. The auditor himself had given her CPR and called the medics. She was taken to Harborview, given CPR again, then shocked with a defibrillator and stabilized by placing her body in a medically induced coma.

Peter asked us to visit on Sunday. Katie had asked to see us and Brian because she’d forgotten everything from the day before. We were no longer worried. God doesn’t give you more than you can deal with. Kevin and Suzie’s daughter Ashley, mentioned to me that she and Katie had just watched the movie, 50 First Dates. She hoped her aunt Katie
would remember.

Thanks For the Memories

Thankfully, Katie remembered everything that day! Two days later, she went to UW Medical Center to have a defibrillator, (a life-saving device) implanted in her chest. The doctors viewed her condition as similar to athletes that experience sudden death cardiac episodes for unknown medical reasons.

Katie went home the next day. She still had some pain from the implant surgery as well as her five broken ribs from the CPR efforts. What a perfectly wonderful gift that our Katie was able to return home healthy! We’re so thankful to God for his healing powers. As I write these words, It’s been only a few weeks since our daughter woke up from her “sudden death” three-day coma. The Heart-shaped spot on Katie’s cheek, though it may fade over time, will serve as a reminder of God’s Love.

Katies Reflections

I couldn’t end this story without the reflections of daughter Katie. “When I awoke from the coma,” she said, “I was overwhelmed to be surrounded by my wonderful family, friends from BelPres church, neighbors, sorority sisters and others. My friends are close like family and our family is close like dear friends.
“Following my recovery, my friend Denise told me how she’d gone outside alone for a walk while saddened by my condition. While walking, she saw a beautiful rainbow in the sky. As she gazed at God’s colorful promise, peace filled her mind and relaxed her stressed body. In that moment, she knew in her heart that I would be healed and everything would be okay.
God speaks to us in many ways, if we just open up and listen for his voice,” said Katie.

The Young Woman in Red

I had not been to this church just 12 miles from my house in more than ten years. When we finished work on the school, the pastor’s house and cistern, I no longer had a reason to suffer roads that defy description to go to this church.

The reason we worshipped with folks this particular Sunday had to do with construction. We have half the money to build a cistern for drinkable rainwater at the church-sponsored school and are hoping to use the cistern water for new construction. We were to have budgeted for the new church building so they could apply for funding. We should have had the budget done a long time ago, but there is the eternal shoving match between WOW! and functional. We were looking for a solution: something buildable in ‘wow’ with little letters and no exclamation point. And there was a hurricane almost a year ago that disrupted our schedule and rhythm so that some things haven’t happened yet; like this budget and church plan. Any construction means building a cistern first for water to make concrete.

The existing church building is masonry with attractive laid-up stone on the outside. Inside is low and primitive and hot. Upon entering, we take seats on the ‘benches’ with doors on both sides for a little breeze. However, as honored guests, we often get upgraded to the better chairs on the front row where there is “no breeze.”

Ever the engineer, I assess the structure overhead. Even if this building were big enough, there is nothing we can do here. Unreinforced masonry walls in an earthquake are not safe, let alone permitted by any known building code. The roof framing is squared off saplings. The roofing tin has enough pinholes of light to be a planetarium; however, I don’t recognize any constellations. It is obvious from the hole-patterns in the tin, it has roofed a building in another life or weathered a major storm.

It is a Haitian church, and despite no sound system save a set of drums, we love to sing. Following a hymn, comes a group of ladies from the church. Next up is a young woman.

There are women in this world that make whatever they wear look great. This young lady is one of these women, and she had taken extra effort with her hair and the perfect red dress to knock it out of the park.

She starts singing ‘Blessed Assurance’ with a voice that could be professional with a few voice lessons. Sitting right in the front row, we are close enough that we could be turning pages for her… if she were using music or a hymnal…which she is not. She is singing from memory. This is my story, this is my song … Or more accurately from her heart. Praising my savior all the day long…. And then, is that a tear?

The entire church is quiet save the young woman in red. No one is daydreaming or talking to their neighbor or looking at their phone or focused on anything other than this woman singing. It doesn’t matter that the roof is full of holes, the building “iffy” or the hot air not moving….there is only one thing going on in the universe. A lady’s heart has taken over her voice.

I am sure now that I see tears because they are the biggest tears I have ever seen. They are wetting the hymnal she is holding (but not looking at) and the floor and everything. She faltered on the second verse but keeps crying and keeps singing. She has the heart of everyone in the room dangling on a little string until she just can’t go on anymore and covers her face with both hands.The congregation (remember this is Haiti) joins in to finish verse two and carries her through verse three. The pastor gets up and escorts her to the back out of the limelight and calls some of the church ladies to comfort her.

I ask the pastor, before the sermon, what is wrong. He said her family used to persecute the church, and often they put her out front to do the persecution. Then she left the countryside, moved to a town where she had a child out of wedlock and then came back home. After realizing that she had been persecuting those who loved, accepted, and cared for her, she gave her life to Jesus. Her life was a tragic mess, and she had so much regret. But now, she has this blessed assurance. The song has been sung millions, if not tens of millions of times, but rarely with the depth of emotion and gratitude for the salvation of this young woman in red.

Shalom: The BelPres Vision for Revival

We all want to feel that we’re doing the best we can in our faith, but what should we be doing in our faith walk with Jesus?

Thankfully, the path is much clearer now that Dr. Scott Dudley has unveiled the BelPres vision of “Revival for the Eastside” for the coming years.

For more than a year, our BelPres elders and ministers have asked the hard questions and prayed for God’s answers to reveal, “what’s next?” for BelPres.

This condensed version of Dr. Dudley’s powerful January 7 sermon explains the importance and magnitude of the challenges and opportunities to come.

You can watch (or listen) to his entire January 7 sermon, “Where Are We Going?” on the BelPres website at:

– Cliff Sevakis

For more than a year, our BelPres elders and pastors have discerned that God is calling us is to partner with Jesus to seek the spiritual, relational, and economic flourishing of the cities to which God has called us and beyond. The old-fashioned word for that is “revival.”

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you,” Jeremiah 29:7. That verse is addressed to Jewish exiles in Babylon, and the word there for “peace and prosperity” in Hebrew is “shalom.”

We don’t have an English equivalent for “shalom.” It means so much more than “peace” or “prosperity.” It means the complete, total healing of all things. It means the complete, total, relational, emotional, spiritual, social flourishing of those around us.

That’s what shalom means. That’s what God was calling the Jews to bring to the city where they were exiled. We feel called from that verse to bring God’s shalom.

The old-fashioned word is “revival,” but revival broadly defined. The revival of marriages that are in trouble; revival of hope in families that are fractured, and putting those families back together again; revival of people coming out of poverty; and revival of people and racism, being healed.

Revival of people coming to know Jesus, because Jesus helps us know that there is a God who loves us so much that he would rather die than lose us. And when you know that you are loved, everything changes. Jesus helps us know that we are loved. Jesus, who cancels our debt of sin.

We want folks to know Jesus, but beyond that, the fullness of revival. That’s where we feel God calling this church to partner with him to bring Shalom to the Eastside and beyond. And it’s happening.

It’s happened before in history, where cultures have been transformed. It’s happening now in Africa and Asia and Latin America; which is one of the reasons that we need to stay connected globally, because they can teach us how to do revival.


How are we going to do that? By bringing Jesus’ healing wherever we live, work, play, or learn. We’ve been doing this corporately as a church for a long time through Jubilee Reach, the Service Day and Eastside Academy, but what if each one of us did this in our regular lives?

As you’re going to work, as you’re going to school. As you’re about your business, look for ways to partner with Jesus to bring his healing. That’s where we feel God calling us to go. We’re going to individually and corporately bring his healing wherever we are.

So, what if we weren’t the only church that had this as our vision? We’ve discovered that, independent of each other, there are a couple of churches in King County, where this is their vision, too. We didn’t talk to each other about this. We just arrived at this same vision, and now we’re finding each other. It’s as if God has been inspiring a movement here in King County.


First, we need to belong to a warm, multi-ethnic, all-generations community that supports us, gets beyond the usual news, weather, and sports, and serves together.

Why multi-ethnic and all generational? Because we want to represent the entire family of God and reflect the Eastside that we’re a part of. But we’re not all here yet.

More than that, we want to be part of a community that supports us when something goes wrong, when we lose our job, when our marriage is in trouble. We need a support group when we try to bring Jesus’ healing.

We all need support and to be healed ourselves in order to do that. If we’re going to partner with Jesus to bring relational, economic, spiritual flourishing, then we need to experience and be healed here first.


The second thing we need is to become like Jesus – willing to sacrifice our time and comfort and reputation to see his healing flourish in our lives and beyond. Do you know the Great Commission? “Go forth into all the world and make churchgoers of all nations.” Or was that “disciples?”

A disciple is different than a churchgoer. A disciple is someone so transformed by the will of Jesus that they are willing to endure a little bit of sacrifice to see his flourishing come to themselves and others.

This church has to help us all be disciples and not just consumer Christians. We’ve got to become disciples, not just churchgoers and we need that community to help bring Jesus’ healing that leads to flourishing.


We need to build toward a third way to create racial justice and healing in pursuit of God’s heart. Why racial justice and healing? Some may think that this is the church getting political. Not if we do it right.

If we do this right, it will look like neither Democrats nor Republicans, liberal nor conservative. It will just look like Jesus. If we’re talking about bringing healing, and the complete flourishing of the culture around us on the Eastside, one of the biggest areas where our culture is hurting and needs healing is in racial relations, as it has been for the last 400 years.

Jesus’ people are called to do something about this. It’s everywhere in the Bible. It’s all over the Old Testament. Almost every book of the New Testament, with one or two possible exceptions, features racial healing as a theme.

The church didn’t start the day Jesus rose from the dead. It started 50 days later on what was known as the Feast of Pentecost, a Jewish holiday. Why? Because it was during that holiday that Jews from Africa (black people); Middle-Easterners (brown people); Europeans (white people) – were all assembled when the Holy Spirit came and they all began to understand each other’s languages.

If racial healing is so important to God that he delayed the start of his church 50 days so that the first church could be multi-ethnic, what does that say about the heart of our God?

This is powerfully biblical, and something Christians historically have always taken the lead on. For 2,000 years we opposed slavery. Every Pope opposed slavery. Abolition: that was Christians. Civil rights: it was Christians that got the ball rolling.

This is an area where we have historically been strong. It’s everywhere in Scripture and our country desperately needs it. What if people who don’t know Jesus can look at us and say, “You Christians, you’re figuring it out and it transcends politics. It just looks different, so why is that?” And we can say, “It’s Jesus.” And then Jesus gets a hearing in the marketplace of ideas.


Lastly, we need to be a community that equips and empowers and releases all of us to do this. So we’ve got to figure out how we equip and empower each of us to do this, with an emphasis on youth and young adults.

Why young people? Let me tell you what that does not mean. It does not mean that if you’re over 35, we don’t care about you. But there a couple of reasons to focus on youth and young adults. If you look at the numbers, the greatest percentage of people with no relationship with Jesus are 35 and under.

In fact, virtually nobody 35 and under knows Jesus. So if we’re talking revival, in mission terms that’s called an “unreached group,” and we want them to know Jesus – because Jesus makes life better.

The other reason is, young people want you. If you are an older person, say 40 and older, they want to know you. They want to be with you. They’re different from my generation, the baby boomers.

We said, “Oh, I’ll never trust anyone over 30,” and we thought that was really awesome, until we turned 29, and then realized just how trustworthy we were.

But these days, the number one request I get from young people in this church is, “Please connect me with someone older. I don’t know how to find someone to marry. I’m starting my career and I don’t know how to do that. We just had our first kid and I don’t know how to handle that.

The great thing is, this church is to older people what Saudi Arabia is to oil. We have tons of them. So we should absolutely be the church of destination for young people.

You’ve got a wealth of experience to share. You’ve had a wealth of successes, and they can learn from them. You’ve experienced failure, and they need to hear that too, because they’re going to fail and they need to know how Jesus works in that.


Why do we do this? We act because we believe that Jesus is Lord, because we believe that Jesus has conquered death, and that means he can conquer anything.

We act because we believe Jesus can heal marriages, families, people in poverty, because we believe Jesus makes all things new. And we love because we’ve experienced God’s love. This is the foundation for it all, because without this, all we are doing is a bunch of good deeds, and that will wear out.

But that foundation means we’ve got to experience God’s love as our first order of businesses. Because when you know you’re loved, everything changes. So this church has to help us experience God’s love, and then out of that overflow, we begin to give that love away.

That’s where we’re going, the complete flourishing, economic, spiritual, relational revival, broadly defined. This is what we do to bring Jesus’ healing wherever we are. And the community, discipleship and racial healing, those are the pillars.

Now there are some things we’ll need to do to accomplish those pillars, and we’re calling them experiments. We expect, in fact we intend to fail at some of these experiments and if we don’t fail, it’s because we played it too safe. For instance, the “Brunch and Burgers” thing we do once a month after church to help us build community.

Maybe we launch six-to-eight week groups that really focus on helping us become disciples. For racial healing, there’s the Frames and Filters Workshop we’ve been doing. Those are some things that will support the roof and help us get to the big vision.

And then there’s a floor. We all need to be equipped. That’s what we’re going to stand on – with an emphasis on youth and young adults. And the foundation for it all is that we’ve got to experience God’s love. That’s where we are headed as a church.

In summary, our BelPres vision is: the spiritual, economic and relational flourishing of the cities we’re called to, and beyond. Remember these B-words. We’re going to:

  • Bring Jesus’ healing
  • Belong to a community
  • Become like Jesus
  • Build toward racial healing
  • Be an equipped community

This new vision embraces a bunch of areas that all work together, and we’ve prayed over this a long time. I thoroughly believe this is where God is calling us to go as a church, and I believe it is possible. Christians have changed the culture before and we can do it again.

Over the course of the next several years, we’ll invite you in to various parts of this vision, and encourage you to listen prayerfully for God’s nudge toward where he might want you to step in and get involved.

There are only two places in the United States that have never experienced revival: the Bay Area and the Seattle area. This church aims to remove the Seattle area from the list. I believe it can happen. This isn’t just pastor talk. What else are we here for if not this?

You are part of a church that’s going to want a piece of this action. Why can’t we be one of the churches that starts this movement? As house-by-house, school-by-school, office-by-office, God’s will gets done, his kingdom comes, here on the Eastside as it is in heaven.

Jesus meant that literally. Until that day, when the kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our God and of our Christ, and the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.


What’s In a Name?

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 16:13-16

As an immigrant kid growing up in the US, my family routinely visited INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services). We had to overcome the labyrinth of legal bureaucracy to eventually gain legal residency in the United States.

One unintended result of my INS experience was that I actually learned my name. As strange as it may sound I was not aware of my full name during my early childhood. Everyone in my family called me “Sergito.” In Spanish, the suffix “ito” means the small version of something. Well, I was the small version of my father, Sergio.

In the Bible, names have deep meanings. For example: Elisha means, “my God is salvation,” while Ishmael means, “God will hear.” So when Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say I am?” I think it’s possible that his question was multi-faceted. Jesus’ name alone had a powerful meaning. I like what biblical scholar J.C. Ryle has to say about Jesus’ name.

“The name Jesus means ‘Savior.’ It is the same name as Joshua in the Old Testament. It is given to our Lord because “He saves His people from their sins.” This is His special role. He saves them from the guilt of sin by cleansing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day” –C. Ryle

As a young child, I never paid attention to discover why my family would call my father Sergio, especially since friends and acquaintances called him Jorge (or George in English). Learning how to address people was a confusing endeavor.

After all, half of my community spoke Spanish and the other half spoke English. The Spanish language is quite proper, and culturally, minors show respect for their elders by addressing them appropriately.

English, on the other hand, was the anarchist guide to personal preferences. Some people appreciated being addressed as “Mr. or Mrs.” Others prefer first name rather than last name, and vice versa. Then there are those who would just say, “call me Skipper.”

Figuring out proper name etiquette at times seemed more confusing then interpreting the book of Revelation in the Bible. I often found myself in hot water when I got it wrong, not just in one language but two. All this to say that names are important to people. A person’s name describes the beauty of their character and defines their identity. No one knew this more than Jesus.

When I was seven years old, my family and I neared the conclusion of our immigration process. That’s when the Immigration agent asked me to sign my name. It was the first time I had seen my entire name spelled out: “Jorge Sergio Chavez Rodriguez Junior.” Suddenly everything made sense to me. My father’s first name Jorge was changed to George, (easier for US Americans to pronounce).

Within our family, it was more personal to call him Sergio, which is why I was called Sergito, as a term of endearment. In Mexico, legal documents include surname and maiden names, which from my Mother’s side is “Rodriguez.” And lo and behold, I never knew I was a junior.

When I read the question that Jesus presents to Peter, I have the sense that He is asking, “do you believe what my name implies?” Peter confirms that the disciples indeed believe Jesus is the Son of God. That’s when Jesus addresses Peter as “Simon Bar-Jonah.”

Hearing Jesus’ response, I can’t help but think that Jesus is using a parallel to Peter’s response. In my mind, it makes Jesus more human – as if He’s saying, “just as you say I have a Father, so do you.” A combined translation of, Simon Bar-Jonah translates to – “listening son of dove.” “Simon,” meaning “listening.” “Bar” meaning “son,” and “Jonah,” meaning “dove.”

My love of scripture translates this as, “Simon you have been listening. You carry the name of a prophet: Jonah. It was Jonah who was troubled, but ultimately listened to God and saved an entire nation. Just as the Dove represents the Holy Spirit, soon you too will prophesize to the world at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit (in the form of a tongue of fire) descends upon you.” (Acts 2:14-41).

In that moment, Peter proclaims Jesus as Christ. This is what happens when we connect with the Holy Spirit; our deepest beliefs are revealed and become an unstoppable force that we carry with us throughout our lives.

Learning my full name was a revelation. Sure, not as profound as Simon Peter claiming Jesus is Christ, but it changed the course of my life. I now could claim who I was, who I am to become and hopefully who Jesus is calling me.

Behind the Scenes: Lindsay Metz

Lindsay Metz can’t remember a time when Bellevue Presbyterian Church was not part of her life.  Baptized there as an infant, she has been a part of the BelPres community from her earliest days.

Since kindergarten, Lindsay was not only a regular Sunday School attendee, she also sang in all the Children’s Choirs of each age group.  Today she sings in the Bel Canto choir, and extends her love of music to Band Jam and Modern Worship.

Lindsay’s BelPres involvement stems from a family that is active at BelPres.  Her parents – elders Julie and David Metz – encouraged her to participate on family mission trips to Nicaragua, as well as to join her father on the weekly BelPres Sermon Review team.

One of this 17-year-old’s greatest joys is serving on the Sammamish High School Student Leadership Team to help plan the group’s direction and activities. Lindsay gives priority to church activities and feels most passionate about her relationships in the Youth Group. But it’s important to her to be involved in “the whole life of the church, not just Youth Group,” she explains.

Lindsay finds herself most comfortable at church, where it just “feels right,” she says.  “Even when I’m exhausted, youth group fills the needs of my heart.”

“Lindsay has a vision for the future of God’s church and is helping it get there,” says Steven Johnson, high school director. “She helps others become their best selves by facilitating community, speaking into people’s lives and personal one-on-one care. She is a developer of people.”

Lindsay thinks about her future after high school, and is considering ministry. “The lie I tell myself is one of confidence,” she says. “I struggle with convincing myself that I can lead.”

But lead she does: assisting at middle school camp, singing at church, advising on sermon reviews, helping create a peer mentor group for high school girls, speaking at church gatherings, and most recently becoming an elder.

Senior Pastor Scott Dudley explains, “Lindsay has faithfully attended my Sermon Review Group on Thursday mornings at 6:30 am, (Quite a commitment for anyone to make), and has been very helpful in critiquing and improving them ─ especially from a youth point of view. Lindsay has a clear connection to Jesus, loves our church, and has an enormous amount of wisdom to offer,” he adds.

Lindsay looks forward to her new role as an elder. “It has been really cool watching how our church is striving to become more intergenerational and seeing how much youth are valued in our congregation,” she says.

“Lindsay has a huge heart,” says Alischia Bestemann, high school small group leader. “She is a natural gatherer and nurturer.  She cares deeply about her relationships, invests in them and gives selflessly to them.”

“When Lindsay says she is praying for you, you can rest assured she’s got you covered.”

Behind the Scenes: Garret Van Zwol

Gerrit Van Zwol says, although he has been a part of BelPres since birth, his true involvement started in 2008, after spending four memorable years with his family as missionaries in Indonesia. “I loved our time in Indonesia,” Gerrit recalls, and he hopes to return some day for a visit. The eldest of three boys, Gerrit is the son of BelPres members Nan and Ted Van Zwol.

As an 18-year-old Running Start high school student at Cascadia College in Bothell, Gerrit keeps very active. His BelPres involvement extends from the High School Student Leadership Team (SLT) to his audio-visual work with elementary, modern, and traditional worship. Most recently, Gerrit was elected a church elder, expanding the intergenerational perspective on the leadership team.

He treasures his time with SLT and considers it the “best experience you can have in high school.” He refers to the group as a tight-knit community, calling them his brothers and sisters and explaining the love they share. He includes not only his fellow teens in the circle of camaraderie and care but also the high school leaders. “No matter what time of day or night, I know I can call on my peers in the group for support,” he says. “We are all there for each other!”

Gerrit’s work with the communications department in the audio-visual arena also keeps him involved, learning new skills, juggling responsibilities, and fueling his passion. He is interested in a future career in video production and believes “God may grant a way” for him to follow his interest. He points to Whitworth College in Spokane as his dream school and hopes to attend after graduation.

A mentor to Gerrit, Senior Pastor Scott Dudley says: “I have known Gerrit most of his life and have watched him grow up. From the time he was young he had a passion to follow Jesus and a clear sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. He has always been very mature. His love for both Jesus and BelPres is contagious.

“I am thrilled that both Gerrit and Lindsay Metz have joined the elder team this fall. They will help us to follow Jesus and make him known in our continually shifting cultural context,” he adds.

Gerrit also served on the Baja, Mexico Mission Trip in 2016. “We built two houses in one day and because of that, two families now have homes,” he says.

Like many teens, his biggest challenges are balancing the demands on his time with the stress that sometimes goes hand-in-hand.

Gerrit explains his BelPres volunteer work like this: “I volunteer not because I need to or because it’s what a good disciple of God should do. I do not do it out of duty. I volunteer because it is how I have found and grow my faith, and how I help others find theirs.”

“Gerrit has a passion and the heart to love and serve others,” says Steven Johnson, high school director. “He is willing to do whatever it takes to help care for those in his community. This love for others is driven by his continually growing relationship with God.”

“Volunteering is one of the best feelings I have ever had. It’s awesome to see others praising the Lord and know that I was able to help with that,” Gerrit says.

Clearly, Gerrit loves serving at church and following Jesus. “BelPres just feels like my second home,” he says.

More Than M&M’s

I love M&M’s:  red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown, chocolate goodness…Anyone else?  And I’ve discovered a conspiracy with every mouthful.  Each one tastes the same. You would think some M&M developer would have captured the energy of color, pressed it into the flavor of chocolate and there would be more variety.  But that’s not what happened, is it?  Every bite is always the same.  In fact, the original corporate name was “M&M Limited.”  But they dropped the ‘Limited’ and the conspiracy began.  I guess a chocolate called “More and More of the Same” doesn’t sell like “M&M’s.”  That doesn’t stop me.  I keep stuffing my mouth with those little sugar-coated chocolates:  sweet, milk-chocolaty and familiar.

What if there was a way of making a multi-color chocolate that burst through our limited M&M world and delivered something richer, better, more flavors with each mouthful?  If I ever find that chocolate, then it’s “See ya later M&M’s” and “Hello Multi-flavored Chocolate Better Thing.”

Maybe you see where I’m going with this.  I grew up in white suburbia, sweet and familiar.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know:  that there was something richer, better, more than the kind of community I was living in.  “More and More of the Same” filled me up and I wasn’t hungry for anything different. I thought I was full.  Then I took a group of high school students on a mission trip to an orphanage in Mexico.  We ate our meals together, held morning devotions together, worked together, worshipped together and prayed together for the staff and orphans who lived in the buildings next to us.

As the “M&M’s” pastor, I was having the experience of the year.  It was sweet, comfortable, familiar and…More and More of the Same.  Same people, same community, same rhythms in our day. Then the week was over and it was our last night there.

Some of our students invited kids who lived there to join us for dinner and worship.  Within a couple of hours, our little community transformed into something better, something richer…something more.  We quickly experienced a deep love for each other and a spirit of unity that comes with followers of Jesus.  Our new friends prayed with more faith and worshipped with greater joy. That inspired us to pray with more faith and worship with greater joy.  Afterwards, we hung out with each other and by night’s end, we realized we were more than friends.  We were sisters and brothers, separated by a couple thousand miles, who were citizens of a global Kingdom reviving our world.

That’s when I finally saw it.  We have been created for more than M&M’s.  It’s so easy to isolate ourselves and create more and more of the same wherever we go, whatever we do.  But life together with those who are ethnically different is richer, better, fuller.  And it’s so much more FUN!

The Book of Acts starts with a multi-ethnic Kingdom vision, (Acts 1:8); then comes Pentecost.  Jews and converts to Judaism from surrounding nations come to celebrate the Jewish festival.  Suddenly, the Holy Spirit fills the disciples and they begin speaking in the different languages of the people who were there; Persians, Arabs, Greeks and more (Acts 2:1-11).   Many of them believe Jesus is Lord and Savior and are baptized.  The chapter concludes with a beautiful picture of what it looks like when followers of Jesus are in community with one another (Acts 2:42-47).  My point:  the church began as a multi-ethnic community.  God waited to fill the apostles with the Holy Spirit when all those ethnically different people were in Jerusalem.  Interestingly, the first church dispute happened when the church ignored its multi-ethnicity and began favoring one ethnic group over another (Acts 6:1).

Stanley Hauerwas, author of Resident Aliens, writes “The most creative social strategy we have to offer is the church… We serve the world by showing it something that it is not; namely, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers.”  Colossians 3:11 says it this way: “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.”

So where are the M&M’s in your life?  Who can you invite to coffee, to an event or a meal that is ethnically different from you?  Jesus, please encourage us to seek more than M&M’s.