The Messenger

Advent 2017: Letter From The Editor

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

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Human Anything Helps

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

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Behind the Scenes: Williams Family

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

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

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

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Unexpected Results

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

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

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Expectations

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

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Worship Interrupted

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

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

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Picture of Lily Laursen

Behind The Scenes: Lily Larsen

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

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

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Abbie Weaver Volunteer

Behind the Scenes: Abbie Weaver

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

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

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

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Letter From The Editor

Spending almost every waking moment of my days taking care of two very tiny boys, I have little margin for much else. I barely have time to get my teeth brushed or take care of basic human needs like getting enough sleep or eating more than leftover scraps off a highchair tray.

But I always, always can somehow squeeze enough time out of my day for a good story.

I will, 100% of the time, sacrifice precious sleep to listen to absolutely anything my husband wanted to share with me about his day. I literally delight in hearing his stories about work or friends or the run he went on during his lunch break. (more…)



Fingerprints and Footprints

Some kids played sports growing up; others played video games. My sister and I read. While she leaned toward fantasy and science fiction, I read all the kids’ classics, and we both tore through piles of Regency romances when we were in our early teens. Since my parents weren’t readers themselves, and we weren’t the kind of kids who got into any trouble, no one paid any attention to our pastime. We could read whatever we liked, and we did. (more…)



We Are Not Alone

I may be 33 years old, an older “Millennial,” but I love to read on paper. I subscribe to the paper Seattle Times daily, I tote a heavy paper planner in my purse along with an assortment of pens, and paper books are my most treasured possessions. I lug my leather-bound study Bible to my weekly Bible study, even though the entire text for that day’s lesson could be easily accessed on the phone I keep out in case my son needs me in the Child Care Center. (more…)



The Manner In Which We Journey

I was a voracious reader as a child. Picture an elementary student walking home from school with a copy of Gone with the Wind held open in front of her face, high enough that she could both read and watch for upcoming curbs. Pulling books from decorative tableaus at Marie Calendar’s to keep herself occupied until the food arrived. Sitting in a corner at the family Christmas party with a pile of Time magazines at the age of seven. I was that kid. Reading was my very favorite escape, where I could imagine myself as Pipi Longstocking or Nancy Drew or Anne Shirley – strong and independent, quick to get into trouble and, after some quick thinking, certain to get myself out. I pictured my life as a series of found treasures, solved cases and long walks with Gilbert Blythe – an interesting but predictable life where problems are mere plot twists on the sure path to the storybook ending. (more…)



The Power of Books

When I was a little girl, I had a friend name Ramona. She was much more daring than I was, willing to say things and do things that I was too timid to try. She was so much fun, so I loved being in her presence. I lived vicarious through her mischievous actions which I thought were crazy but I secretly wished I had the nerve to do. Ramona didn’t go to my school or live in my neighborhood or even my state. She lived in Portland, Oregon with her parents and sister Beatrice who outright called her a pest! She was a character in a book but I could so relate to her! She felt like my friend that who was always with me as I started elementary school. (more…)



The Christmas Sweater

My wife and I have several Christmas traditions and one of them is watching the movie, The Holiday. There’s a scene in that movie where Jude Law describes himself, not ashamedly, as “a major weeper.” “A good book, a great film, a birthday card” will bring him to tears. I’m not sure I’m a major weeper, but I’m definitely not ashamed to say I cry, especially when I hear a story or experience a moment where it is apparent to me that the Holy Spirit is truly active. On rare occasion, I have even been moved to such an extent that I do become a “major weeper” and when I reflect on these moments I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to feel the Holy Spirit within me to that extent. (more…)



Don’t Give Up

I started a school in Rwanda when I was 17 years old. What motivated me to start this school was the genocide. So many children lost their parents and were orphans. God spoke to me and told me that I could do something to bring new life.

That’s the way I started the school.

There were many different challenges that wanted to stop me. (more…)



Behind the Scenes – Man Rescues Presbytery From Drowning

That’s the kind of dramatic headline that gets our attention these days, although we might ask, “What kind of a person has a name like Presbytery?”

The headline is correct, though, except the Presbytery mentioned was drowning in red ink, not water and is not a person but a group of Seattle-area Presbyterian churches, including BelPres. The member churches meet on a regular basis, worship together, enjoy community, encourage outreach and mission, and come alongside one another in various ways.

How did our Presbytery survive red ink? (more…)



Behind the Scenes – Kristen Dawson

Judging from work experience and volunteer history, Kristen Dawson has a gift for building relationships. She is not only good at it, she loves doing it.

Kristen volunteers with the BelPres high school girls. Director of High School Steven Johnson is thrilled to have her helping on his team. “Students feel welcomed, cared for, and loved in our church because of what God is doing through Kristen,” he comments. (more…)



Creation’s Echo

I grew up in the woods. It was how I spent time with my father. As a child, my parents involved me in Boy Scouts, and it began a lifelong love of the outdoors and creation. One of my most formative faith moments as a teenager was when I was hiking the in the Grand Canyon. Every year my Boy Scout troop hiked the canyon, we called it Rim3, because we hiked from the south rim to the north rim and back in twenty-four hours. It was a forty-eight-mile loop that we started early in the morning so we could cover as much ground before the sun rose.

The thing I loved about the hike was that when we started, we hiked by moonlight and our headlamps. The stars were out, and they were beautiful. So beautiful that you had to be careful to keep looking down at your next step and not at the sky, so you didn’t take a fall. Then as the light dawned and night drifted away the color of the canyon emerged. The sunrise spayed its rays across the canyon walls, and hues of red, orange and pink began to come forth. (more…)