Behind the Scenes with Heather Hedlund

Where is God calling you? What is your passion and purpose? Many of us are searching for answers to these questions. But even as a child, Heather Hedlund knew the Lord was calling her.

As a young teen, God put issues of justice on her heart and she daydreamed about how she would one day solve some of the world’s problems – perhaps the answer to homelessness or the path out of poverty.

When Heather feels a nudge from the Holy Spirit, she acts on it.  She prays for direction, educates herself, and takes initiative.

For example, after listening to former pastor Dick Leon’s call to the congregation for an assault on poverty, she joined a group to pray about it and study how poverty affected elementary-aged children in our local area. Soon after, KidREACH was established in Bellevue; a program Heather helped lead for 13 years.

“I will never forget the way Heather advocated for children and families as the director of KidREACH,” says Lisa Phelps, director of early childhood. “Heather truly loved each child and family, and advocated for them at school, in immigration matters, and for basic needs. God gave Heather a humble heart and the strength to serve in difficult situations, as Jesus did,”says Phelps.

Heather describes her service with KidREACH as a time of great learning. “My years in KidREACH opened my eyes to the issue of poverty and the pathways out of poverty. My views were challenged and I had to rethink the issue once I was exposed to real people who were suffering. It caused me to open my mind to new ideas,” she says.

After 13 years, and with much prayer and thoughtful decision-making, she stepped away to await God’s next call. “I wanted to be intentional about my next project. I knew God had called me both into and out of KidREACH, and I wanted to take my time to listen for my next calling,” says Heather.

A year later, while listening to guest speaker Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil speak on racial justice, Heather felt another nudge from the Lord – one she had apparently been preparing for and knew she couldn’t ignore.

“I had read several articles on racial justice and reconciliation, heard many news reports, and was aware of the unrest, hurt, and struggle of the country – but I hadn’t found a way to act on my passion,” Heather says. “I didn’t know what my next steps would look like, but I felt the Holy Spirit within me and I knew I had to learn more. I began to feel the same passion for racial justice and reconciliation and the Justice Team as I had for KidREACH.”

“Heather has an enormous caring heart,” says Elizabeth Hayford, director of missions administration. “Through her work leading our KidREACH program and now guiding our Justice and Reconciliation Team, she shows Jesus’ love by building bridges to connect and care for many who are marginalized,” she says. “Supporting Heather in her roles at church is a pleasure and gives me a glimpse into a person after God’s heart who is seeking to build God’s kingdom every day.”

As leader of the Justice and Reconciliation Team, Heather has broadened awareness of social justice issues by helping to bring opportunities to the congregation, like Frames and Filters and Under Our Skin workshops, Anti-Racism Bible studies, book groups, and more.

Tom Brewer, director of community outreach, describes Heather as dedicated to serving others, especially those more vulnerable. “Heather is a supremely capable and conscientious leader who demonstrates empathy, compassion, an indomitable spirit, and a get-it-done attitude,” Tom says. “When something important and challenging needs to be achieved, Heather is a leader you can rely on.”

“Opening myself up to new things and putting myself outside my comfort zone have taught me how to be teachable,” says Heather. “I discover not only what I know, but also what I don’t know. It has taught me humility,” she says, “so that I’m not so set in my notions and more willing to learn.”

Lisa Phelps, who has worked alongside Heather in KidREACH and attended several justice learning opportunities, sees Heather’s gifts firsthand. “The Lord has called Heather to serve the poor, seek justice, and share her God-given gifts. She has a remarkable intellect, curiosity, patience, and love,” says Lisa.

“Heather thinks and prays about what she has learned, and quietly works with others to create opportunities for all of us to learn, act and consider Jesus’ example.”

“I have gained so much,” Heather says. “My faith has been stretched by these opportunities. First, I have learned to depend on God. When the problems look too big to solve on my own, I trust that God will provide.

“We often hear Pastor Dudley pray ‘Break my heart for what breaks yours, Jesus.’ That is my prayer too, and my work in the areas of poverty and justice are places I feel clearly called by the Lord and led by the Holy Spirit.

“My advice to others is to find areas you are passionate about and listen for spiritual direction. There is so much we can do together to make a difference.”

Heather is married to husband Magnus and is the mother of Elise and Erik.

 

Behind the Scenes with Wyatt Cook

Life experience and perspective are gifts we gain with age. We look back and realize the life lessons we’ve learned over the years from the good times and the hardships we faced. Is there a way to share our hard-won experience with those who are struggling with similar life issues?

At Eastside Academy (EA) they’re always looking for adults willing to “share life” with a teen. Many young people are eager to connect with an adult who can help guide them through life’s twists and turns. For the past four years, Wyatt Cook mentored at Eastside Academy. Wyatt is an engineer, a pilot, an Auto Angels participant and long-time BelPres congregant. He has enjoyed his relationship with two EA mentees, with his second one just graduating in June 2018.  “Kids need a consistent adult in their life,” says Wyatt, “someone who will listen, share a relationship, and give them guidance. Ninety percent of being a mentor at EA is just showing up,” he explains, “and when you show up, you build trust and the rest naturally follows.”

Wyatt has attended BelPres for over 20 years and has lived in Bellevue most of his life.  He grew up with a very involved dad who spent considerable time doing activities with the family – from flying to fishing to skiing. He valued their relationship and the time they spent together.  He treasures their times together learning to restore an airplane, fly a plane, re-build a car and boat, as well as taking long, leisurely vacations with the family.

As his children moved into adulthood, Wyatt has spent some of his newfound free time volunteering at BelPres – “paying it forward” through his work with Eastside Academy. He sees less parental engagement in our society today, with families torn between increasing commitments and longer working hours. He feels strongly that kids need an adult in their life to help them through the confusing time of growing up.

As a mentor, he meets for lunch once a week with his mentee, and may take him on an outing 2-3 times a year. Wyatt has taken his mentees to the Museum of Flight and Mariners games.  He sometimes gives advice on education, career, or life choices and at other times just simply listens.  “I try to model a Christian life and be empathetic. But my consistent time with my student is what is most important – just knowing I am going to show up each time,” he explains.

Wyatt and his mentee Josh share an interest in engineering.   “My mentor, Wyatt, is my favorite thing about Eastside Academy,” says Josh. “He’s a pilot and knows a lot about what I want to do in my life. He helps me make plans for my future. We hang out at least once or twice a week, and I’m helping him construct an airplane at his house,” he says.

“As a mentor, your role is not as a friend or a parent, but more of a guiding adult in someone’s life. A rock for a younger person to lean on – an oasis to rest in.  Confidentiality is key. Eastside Academy has an excellent manual that helps you understand your role, and mentors meet quarterly at information meetings,” Wyatt explains.

With just a few years left until retirement from his job as a pilot for American Airlines, Wyatt enjoys the opportunity to mentor at EA and plans to start with a new student next year since Josh has graduated. He encourages others to not let the extreme issues kids are dealing with stop them from mentoring. He reminds us that after all, teens are still kids at heart.

“Wyatt is a fantastic part of the Eastside Academy Mentorship program,” says Anny IIlisoi, EA mentor and alumni coordinator. “He is very committed to his role as a mentor and it shows in his dedication to Josh and the school. Mentors are an incredibly important part of a student’s life at EA. Wyatt is a great example of how mentoring can make a positive impact on students in different areas of their lives,” she says.

Wyatt expects to stay in touch with his mentees in the years ahead. “My highest honor would be for one of them to call me someday in the future to talk – not to solve a problem but just to catch up, see how they are doing, and help them if I can,” says Wyatt.

Wyatt also volunteers for Auto Angels most Saturday mornings, where he can put his engineering expertise to work and where a handful of EA students also volunteer.

#belpresserve

 

 

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.

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.”

(more…)

Behind the Scenes with Lynne and Hank Geib

It’s no secret there’s a mature demographic at BelPres. Do you know how fortunate we are to have these people among us? Many are retired from their careers, but by no means are they retired from life. They spend much of their time serving our congregation. It is through the faithful and consistent efforts of people like Hank and Lynne Geib that our church runs like a Holy Machine for God’s glory.

I’d like to enlighten you a bit about them. When I asked Hank and Lynne if they were possibly approaching their eighties, Lynne in her witty humor replied, “Eighty’s in the rearview mirror!” After meeting on a blind date, they’ve now been married for 61 years. Maybe that’s why they have a deep admiration for one another, something you can sense right off the bat. Lynne met Jesus as a young girl. Someone knocked on her family’s front door and invited her to church. Hank, on the other hand, met Jesus through Vacation Bible School. Both are originally from California. Hank worked in Computer Operations for the Telephone Company while Lynne worked as a CPA and a school teacher. They have three children, one who works here on staff at BelPres, and five grown grandchildren. For fun, they enjoy a good game of bridge, staying active on the computer, and working out together. They have been attending BelPres since 2003 and participate in a myriad of volunteer positions here at the church. (more…)

The Lifer Volunteer

My husband and I are one lucky couple. We are expecting our eleventh grandchild in April, and the oldest is just six. You can imagine how our calendar is filling up. We had the pleasure this past Christmas of attending one of our grandson’s pre-school events, and it did not disappoint. There were the wavers, the sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs little ladies, and my personal favorite, the “I forgot my line” guy.

But surprisingly, the star of the show was not on the stage, but three rows up from my vantage point. He wasn’t hard to miss. I’m guessing that he was about 30, but he may as well have been three. He was wearing oversized bold yellow headphones. I’m not sure why. Maybe he had troubling outbursts, and the noise was a bother. Maybe there was soothing music playing in his ears. A graying, older mother was on his right, along with a man who was certainly his father, a man leaning in with his arm lovingly draped around him. You could make up whatever story you wanted. Mine went something like this: (more…)

Behind the Scenes with Patricia Moorhead and the Pastoral Support Team

There are between 75 and 120 pastors and staff at any given time here at BelPres. They tirelessly prepare sermons, give counsel, pray, plan—and sometimes put up with us! Have you ever wondered who takes care of those who take care of us?

Well, I’m here to let the secret out. It’s quite a wonderful bunch of women, led by Patricia Moorhead. There’s Nancy Burritt, Sun O’Donnell, Joanne Burwell, Sherry Christiansen, Elizabeth Bell, Kim Dreiblatt, and Judy Sumner. These ladies serve on the Pastor and Staff Support Team. Together, this group loves on those who love on us! They remember their birthdays, host a soup and bread event, and wow them with cheese and chocolate buffets. They’ve even been caught washing their cars and crafting handmade gifts. (more…)