Observing the Sabbath at Matthew House

At the beginning of March, Matthew House had the honor of having a young woman from Israel come in and stay with us for a day. V.R. had never been to Matthew House before, but she decided to give us a call because her brother is incarcerated at Monroe Correctional Complex, and she wanted to look into all of her options as to where she could stay for the duration of her visit. V.R. let us know how important this visit was for her because she hadn’t seen her brother in two years.

We of course told her that we would love to have her stay with us, to which she expressed her thankfulness and gratitude towards our ministry and what we do. But there was just one thing – she would be staying with us during her Sabbath. For Christians, we tend to think of Sunday as being our Sabbath, but for Jews their Sabbath extends from Friday evening into Saturday evening. We thought that meant that V.R. would only be visiting her brother and then resting. We soon found out that it would be a lot more than that.

During their Sabbath, many Jews, especially within Orthodox Judaism, are restricted from using electricity (Exodus 35:3 talks about not kindling a spark). Now, I know what you’re thinking: how does anybody get by for two days without using any electricity? And what does that specifically mean? Just as it sounds…they’re unable to use anything that requires electricity. No driving cars because when you start the engine there is an electric spark. No cell phone use or watching television. Kitchen appliances that have to be plugged in can’t be used either. However, what surprised us the most was that V.R. couldn’t use any of the lights; she couldn’t turn them on or off, she wasn’t even allowed to touch them herself. What if she needed to get up and do something in the middle of the night? How would she be able to see?

After taking some time to research, our executive director Linda learned that as long as a light in the room was already on by the time her Sabbath started, she could leave that light on. Linda then went out and bought a small plug-in night light and turned it on the day before V.R. was scheduled to come in.

We thought we had figured everything out, she would surely run into no other problems during her stay. But then, something else was quickly brought to our attention. In order to get into the apartments where she would be staying, V.R. would need to go through a set of doors, and each were only accessible by electric key pads. How would she be able to get inside after her visit? Her visiting time was due to last past when we closed at 5pm. We would be home for the night. A.C. had come up to visit from Wenatchee and was staying upstairs (in a separate apartment) as well, but how would she know when V.R. was back and needing to get in? Would she for sure be able to hear her knocking on the front door from her apartment?

Linda couldn’t simply rely on that in case something were to go wrong. So, she agreed to come back to Matthew House at 8:30PM to let V.R. into the building and into her apartment. When the time came, Linda did just that, and V.R. was safe and turned in for the night in her room, where her small night-light beamed.

After visitation was over that following Saturday, V.R. came back to Matthew House to see Linda before she was set to head out. They sat in the kitchen for an hour, where V.R. revealed that this visit was necessary because she didn’t know if she would be able to visit her brother again while he’s in prison, as it is too costly to come from Israel to Monroe. Linda told her that she was sorry for such an unfortunate circumstance, but V.R. noted that it was OK because she was able to see him when she did. With that, she was on her way.

It’s interesting when you think about all of the women and children who stay at Matthew House. We’ve had women and children stay with us from all over the United States, and even had visitors from each of the seven continents stay with us. We are so thankful that we are able to meet such a diverse group of people and appreciate all of the new experiences that we are able to share with them through our organization.

 

Matthew House is an organization dedicated to assisting children and the families of people incarcerated in Washington’s prisons. When a man is convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, society often breathes a sigh of relief and says “good riddance.” Left behind, though, are the wives and children. They are left to face increased responsibilities on reduced incomes. They are often abandoned by family for being married to a prisoner. These are the lonely, forgotten lives in the criminal justice system.

Matthew House exists to support these families with a clothing closet, a food pantry, shelter in our three apartments, transportation to various prisons throughout the State, childcare and adult counseling. Studies prove that inmates who are locked up and forgotten are likely to reoffend when they are released. But those who receive visits and are released to supportive families have a much better chance of living a crime free life.

 

Vacation Bible Adventure Response

Across social media, there have been concerns voiced about the original content of the Vacation Bible Adventure (VBA) curriculum we have selected for this year (that have been directed towards the publisher content, not our church specifically). This was concerning to us as well and we have addressed this and we wanted to communicate with you what steps we have taken.

 

We were aware of concerns prior to the current controversy and have been addressing the issues throughout our preparation. Every year (this is year 21 for Laura), we carefully choose and re-write curriculum, change activities to make them align with the values of BelPres, as well as keep them age appropriate. 

 

We have found that curriculums are best used for bones of programs, primarily for music and graphic packages. We stick to the Bible stories as the basis for lessons, picking and choosing the activities that best share the Gospel and are inclusive to ALL children. For example, last year the curriculum we selected was a sports theme but we had concerns that it was only focused on children with full physical abilities. Realizing this wasn’t honoring to all children we expanded the content to include other activities so that it was inclusive of all children. We also adjusted our language and coaching to volunteers so that children of all kinds of abilities were welcomed and included in our program.

 

This year from our first meeting we chose to go with an animals and ecosystem focus and not push into one country, continent, or culture (Theme: Life is wild – God is good). We will always strive to portray others in an honoring light, both as individuals and as cultures, and have omitted aspects of the curriculum that do not represent our values at BelPres. The VBA leadership team is actively guiding our volunteers and coaching them to use language that does not lead to cultural appropriation or stereotypes.

 

We are happy to talk with anyone who may have concerns or questions regarding this. We are putting the utmost care into VBA to make it an enriching experience for all the children who attend, and we cannot wait to experience the lives that will be changed as a result. Life is wild, God is good!

 

Laura Quaratiello

Elementary Ministries Director

 

Colin Robeson

Family Life Ministries Pastor

A Call To Prayer

A Call to Prayer for the Congo

A recent resurgence of violence against Tutsis living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is directly affecting our church family—in particular, the many New Hope Revival members who have family and friends living in danger there. For example, Pastor Alexis’ sister had to flee her home as it was set ablaze, with her five children, into the surrounding forest. Along the way, she lost track of one of her children, but by God’s grace, all made it safely to refuge in a city called Minembwe.

The background of this current conflict is a grim story. The affected tribe lives in the South Kivu region of DRC, and has lived there for centuries. They are called Banyamulenge and are Kinyarwanda-speaking Tutsis. After the Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, Hutu perpetrators fled to DRC, and into South Kivu. They exported their vicious hatred against Tutsis to that region, inflaming the local surrounding tribes to go after the Banyamulenge and exterminate them, like “cockroaches.” There have already been two major Congo wars in that region, with this conflict at the center, and now another one has begun.

One spot of hope is in the city of Minembwe, where Alexis’ sister fled, the UN force called MONUSCO is stationed there to help during the conflict. They have managed to halt the attacks for now, but a great number of people have come for refuge, and are overflowing the city’s capacity to attend to their most basic needs.

What can be done? In discussion with Pastors Rich Leatherberry, John Kim, Alexis Ruhumuriza and Scott Dudley, we have identified three main areas of response: Healing/Reconciliation, Advocacy and Aid.

Healing/Reconciliation

Will you join BelPres in prayer for healing and reconciliation? We believe God is raising us up to facilitate a movement that can bring lasting peace between the tribes. We have seen how members of different tribes can live in harmony together here, and also in the city of Minembwe. We want to expand that vision and encourage all involved to be reconciled to God, and then to each other (please see 2 Cor. 5:14-21).

Prayer Suggestions :

  • That God will open more channels of the news, to raise awareness of the situation to the general public and key agencies.
  • That the Banyamulenge will find comfort, as they seek solutions.
  • That God will prevent further attacks and protect the families affected.
  • That we will be able to send a small group to learn what we can on the ground and mobilize a support effort back here at Belpres.
  • That God will be glorified as he carries out the ministry of reconciliation among all tribes.

Advocacy

We are still gathering information, which is notably lacking across media, and welcome help to establish contact with reliable journalists or news outlets. With more information, we can plan advocacy and determine where our voice is best represented.

Aid

We plan to send a small team into Congo to bring practical help, learn more about what’s happening, and begin to lay the foundation for a peace-building solution. As for aid, as soon as we identify reliable agencies on the ground, we stand ready, with members of New Hope, to provide help such as basic needs of food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.

Photo: Refugees in Minembwe receiving food sent from a community of Banyamulenge in Arizona