KidREACH spells Success

Jasey said, “I finished my first year pursuing a Masters in Social Work at the USC graduate school. Though USC has extremely high standards, through blood, sweat, and tears I was somehow able to meet their expectations.” There was a time when this level of success did not seem obtainable for Jasey.  When she came to KidREACH during high school she was struggling academically. “There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it or was cut out for this. It has taken a lot of patience and hard work. I don’t think I would have gotten this far without the help of KidREACH.”

KidREACH offers free one-on-one tutoring for students in grades K-12 who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Tutors not only support a student academically but have the opportunity to walk alongside and share God’s love with them. Tutors positively impact student’s lives by encouraging and appreciating them, celebrating their progress, supporting them in their struggles, and loving them as Jesus does.  In 2001, a group of BelPres members saw the need to actively serve the community by establishing KidREACH.  In the words of a former director, “In this ministry much more than solving tricky math problems or preparing for a vocabulary quiz takes place. God’s Kingdom comes alive in the energy and joy tutors find by serving the students. The smiles and laughter of the students and the peace experienced by the entire family are rewarding for tutors at the end of their busy days.  Now, after 17 years KidREACH is a thriving supportive community.”

Brandon, a current student, says, “My KidREACH tutor Drew helped me a lot. I started the year with all F’s and C’s, and by the time I hit summer vacation, I already had 4 A’s and three B’s thanks to my tutor.”   Brandon’s mom, Neta adds, “We feel blessed to be a part of the KidREACH family. The day we come for tutoring is our family’s favorite day of the week. We always feel welcomed and cared for. My sons love meeting with their tutors not only for academic support but also for emotional support. They enjoy talking and sharing with their tutors about how their day went and how they feel. The tutors and KidREACH Director, Lisa, are always there for us and continually offer help and support to our family. We are very grateful to them! KidREACH changed our life!”

KidREACH is currently looking for tutors for this school year.  There are students enrolled in most grade levels. KidREACH meets in the Upper Campus of BelPres on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. No experience is needed to become a tutor.  A weekly commitment of one evening and a heart for youth are all that is required.  For more information, please contact belpresserve@belpres.org

A Miracle in Rwanda

God is always moving in Rwanda – so sit down, strap in and hold on!

The 2018 Impact Team kept on the move to learn and share all God wanted to be known. It’s been 6 years since our last visit to Kigali, the capital, it was a visual festival to see Rwanda moving forward in tangible ways; a Convention center, new hotels, tall modern buildings, re-routed traffic for more public spaces. And for the first time, we met tourists: a couple from New York City who had read the NY Times listing the 10 places that were a must to visit in 2018. Rwanda was number 8. This was very telling, as previously, running into humanitarian missionaries or NGO workers was common; running into tourists was not.

Where we saw God most clearly was a ministry started by Gilbert Kubwimana. This faithful young man is following God’s call to help families of disabled children by starting “Love with Actions” ministry. We first met Gilbert in 2006 at his one-man business craft stand (outside of the AEE guest house) earning money for his dowry to marry Esther. He collected craft requests from team members and scoured the markets for these items.  He brought Esther to meet us and celebrate the money realized for their wedding! His Love of God and for Esther along with his intense work ethic has only grown. Over the last two years, Gilbert has used his God-given gifts and skills to build a ministry to come alongside extremely marginalized families, for empowerment, treatment and educational/vocational skills. Here’s the story of Pacifique and her son Aime.

Deep in a grove of Bumbogo – in the hills above Kigali, Gilbert, with the help of the local Anglican Pastor Didas, found Pacifique and her three children living in a dirt hut with a banana leaf roof. Their living conditions were indescribable, bringing two grown men to their knees in tears. Pacifique was caring for three sons: Aime, Eric, and Jado. Eric and Jado greeted both men and then came Aime, dirt and scar-covered boy, pulling himself out of the hut by his only means: his arms. Aime, born with spina bifida (a birth defect that leaves the end of the spine in a sack-like defect outside the body just above the buttocks) had no control of bodily functions nor the use of lower limbs.  In Rwanda, disability is believed to come from the devil, ostracizing and marginalizing the mother and her child. Gilbert raised funds on his visit to the USA, returned to Rwanda and moved Pacifique and her boys to a home in the village. He then took Pacifique and Aime to seek treatment at an orthopedic hospital. After meeting with Dr. Albert, head surgeon, a treatment plan began for Aime’s condition:   corrective surgery for his feet, leg braces, physical therapy needed for his first steps.

Four months into Aime’s treatment, Gilbert asked us to join the first hospital visit with Pacifique since her son was admitted and we eagerly said “Yes!” We all shared the excitement of seeing Aime. Entering the hospital grounds, we heard shouting from the long outdoor hallway. We turned to see Aime joyfully taking his first steps to join us! There were many precious moments in Rwanda – this was different: it was sacredly filled with the joy of a young boy, after long months of treatment, viewing his world at eye level for the first time. God was clearly seen in the face and empowerment of this young boy. Tears of joy flowed from all of us with many hugs as Aime stood before his cheering team. The rest of the young patients gathered around us, some were “Love with Actions” kiddos in treatment and a spontaneous worship began as we sang and praised God for the blessings abundantly given. The kiddos clapped with joy; Julie led songs in Kinyarwanda to their great delight. We learned from Dr. Albert that very few muzungus (“whites”) to visit the hospital, let alone speak the native Kinyarwanda language. Gilbert is a man of great faith with unquestioning obedience to God, and a heart that has an inspiring capacity to love many and the least. This ministry – “Love with Actions” – is flourishing as God promises in scripture through Gilbert’s obedience. The word obedience has a meaning worth understanding: flourishing, joy, and empowerment.

It was tough to leave the hospital after giving hugs, smiles, encouragement, and prayers; loving on too many young faces with complicated medical conditions, each craving love and attention. Travel back to Kigali was a mixture of gratefulness for His blessings and crying out for children needing His tender hand.

Gilbert invited us to accompany Home visits the next day in Bumbogo. And we gladly did. But first, we shopped for sugar, flour, rice and cooking oil for the visit. We were like little kids joyfully filling each bag with much-needed supplies. To our great delight, the first stop was Pacifique’s house. She ran up the path and joyfully embraced us. She had spent much time alone with her two boys Eric and Jado while Aime was away for treatment. The village still shunned her as being possessed by demons as announced by her husband. As we descended the path to her house, we saw many villagers coming to the road curious about the visiting muzungus. She tearfully accepted the bag of supplies and left to put them away. The room filled with happy children from the village touching our skin and our hair; Eric and Jado among them. Julie spoke first, her voice and eyes near tears, thanking Pacifique for the privilege of being part of a tender and sacred moment shared the day before in Rilima. She admired Pacifique’s courage as nothing in this world is fiercer than a mother’s love for her child. Her sacrifices and avocation for Aime are inspiring. We reassured Pacifique that not all fathers are like her former husband. Her faith and Gilbert’s assistance would see her through Aime’s treatment and beyond.

We laid on hands and prayed for Pacifique and her two boys. As we walked out, more villagers gathered on the road above her house. Pacifique’s closest neighbors greeted us and watched the video of Aime walking.  Villagers continued to grow in number. We said our goodbyes to continue our day of home visits. Gilbert shared that our small gesture of a home visit will have a profound impact for Pacifique in the village. White people visiting inside the home of a child with disabilities was big news. It would also help diminish the misguided thought that disability comes from the Mother being possessed by demons. As we entered homes of children with disabilities, villagers gathered outside and watched with great curiosity; emphasizing to us that the ministry of presence in Rwanda is essential and cannot be overstated or diminished.
       

 Visiting mothers of disabled children outside Love with

            Action’s Family Empowerment Center, Bumbog

 

Iman’ishimwe! Ndakunda Love with Actions!

Julie Munezero St. Peter & Frank St. Peter

Jubilee Service Day- Behind Every Door is a Story

Hello Friends,

On August 25, the 14th annual Jubilee Service Day was held with a partnership of 50 churches and various organizations & companies.  Collectively, 3200 volunteers served the Bellevue community, including at 22 public schools assisting more than 450 teachers to prepare the buildings & classrooms for the new year.  Additionally, talented sewing volunteers created 800 chair pockets for elementary classroom chairs.

A quieter and sometimes hidden portion of the service day involves helping homeowners clean their yards, paint their houses or building fences.  This partnership with the city of Bellevue reaches into the community to bring help to those in need, right where they live and has grown to now begin in March and end in September.  This year, 36 homes were served prior to Jubilee Service Day, 8 homes were served on the Jubilee Service Day and 1 very large project will be done in early September.  BelPres volunteers and took this opportunity shared God’s love righter where they live, work and play. Here are some of our neighbors who were supported and encouraged by the volunteers at Jubilee Service Day!

 

Cynthia is a 40 year old widow with a 2 year old son.  Her husband, John, was tragically killed last fall in a bus accident in downtown Seattle.  They had been married 12 years and moved into this home soon after their wedding.  Cynthia is still heavily grieving and trying to make sense of her new normal.  She has returned to work but cannot care for the outside of her house and yard.  She has no family in the area but desperately wants to remain in her home for the stability of her son, as well as to remain close to his grave at Sunset Hills Memorial Park. John applied for the Jubilee Service Day last year, but we were not able to get to them then. this summer, we had teams begin to clean the yard and tear down an old fence.  On Jubilee Service day a team of 25 completed cleaning the yard, rebuilt the fence and painted the house.

 

 

Shapoor and his family escaped from Iran 35 years ago by fleeing across the border on foot with their young son.  They made their way to the US and eventually landed in Bellevue.  They bought their house 25 years ago and live there now with their youngest son.  Shapoor is in his 60’s and was laid off a few years ago.  He returned to school for new training but has been unable to find meaningful employment.  They are low income, trying to make ends meet.  A team of 20 cleaned their yard, split a large pile of wood rounds with a rented splitter and painted the garage.

 

 

Louis and Katharine are both in their upper 70’s and have lived in this house 35 years.  Lou has dementia, so Katharine is his caregiver.  They have two grown children who are struggling through life, with Lou and Katharine supporting them as they can, although they are low-income.  Katharine is sort of caught in the middle.  Their yard has gotten away from them and needed to be trimmed back to a place where they can care for it again, and they can have pride in their yard.  There were many wood-rounds in the backyard which we split with a rented wood-splitter.  We had already hauled away three trailers-full of junk & garbage from the carport and yard to the landfill with another group in June.  A group of 30 worked here on Jubilee Service Day.

Behind every front door is a story.  Through relationships, we meet people right where they are and pour love into their lives, all in the name of Christ.

 

Ken Carpenter

Jubilee Services Coordinator

Fruit of a Welcoming Week Brunch

 “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:1-2

 

I don’t know if a 12-year-old girl and her Persian father are truly angels, but it felt like that to me when they came to our rescue a few weeks after meeting them! It began with Welcoming Week last year.

My husband, Steve and I were excited by the thought of setting aside some days to honor our community’s immigrants and their contributions to our culture and commerce. We knew that many of our neighbors came here from other countries, but we hadn’t had a chance to meet them. Welcoming Week seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We live on West Lake Sammamish Parkway, a hilly street with fast-moving traffic and steep driveways. There are no sidewalks or gathering places where neighbors might get acquainted, so often people only know whoever lives next door.

We decided to walk to six or seven houses in each direction and invite the people we met to brunch on Sunday of our set-aside week.  We printed an invitation to hand out and included the following note along with our names and email address:

Dear Neighbors

Because of the long driveways on our busy street, this isn’t an easy place to meet the people who live nearby. Please join us for Sunday brunch on the 24th, so we can get to know each other. Families welcome. Please let us know if you can come. We look forward to seeing you!

It was fun meeting neighbors and discovering homes we’d never seen before tucked into the hillside. Everyone seemed surprised and pleased to be invited. Some people said they would arrive a little late because of their worship service and we learned about their faith.

On the appointed day, about 24 people came and there was great fellowship. There were neighbors from Taiwan, France, and Iran, as well as many parts of this country. We had learned that one girl would be coming on her birthday, so we had cake and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and “Hip, Hip, Hooray!”

We hadn’t asked anyone to bring food, but several people did. One man brought fresh eggs from the hens he proudly showed us when we met on our invitations walk! People exchanged email addresses and business cards and when we asked if they’d like to gather again to map the neighborhood for emergency preparedness, they all said, “Yes!” The day turned out better than we could have imagined!

The people we met told us how much they appreciated the personal invitation and the chance to connect with the families around them. They wanted a more personal sense of community and many commented that it’s a rare pleasure to be invited into someone’s home for a meal.

Because we live on a lake, in the weeks that followed, a family collected donations for their school fund-raiser, traveling from house-to-house by paddleboard and canoe to canvas their now-familiar neighbors.

Steve and I were invited to dinner with three families: our Muslim hosts, a Jewish couple, and the two of us. We had a wonderful sharing experience. And it was the host father and his daughter, our brunch birthday girl, who came to our aid a few weeks later when we needed an emergency babysitter for our granddaughters!

It’s been almost a year since we followed the impulse to reach out to our neighbors. We’re looking forward to doing it again soon. Welcoming Week is a great way to further the BelPres mission to be a warm and welcoming multi-ethnic community and bring peace and healing to the places we live, work and play.

 

Welcoming Week

September 14-23, 2018

Ways You Can Participate:

  • Read and discuss: Welcoming the Stranger
  • Watch the documentary screening of 8 Borders 8 Days
  • Join the Facing Racism Bible Study
  • Volunteer at Talk Time to converse with new English speakers.
  • Look online for community events in your local cities.
  • Invite your neighbors to a neighborhood potluck or barbecue.
  • Plan a meal with friends, each inviting someone who’s new to our community.
  • Worship with New Hope Revival Church at 11 a.m. in the BelPres Upper Campus Building.
  • Reach out to people you don’t know after church services.
  • Pray about ways you can bring healing and peace in the places you live, work and play.
  • Share your ideas with others; then, act on one of them.