The Messenger: April/May

Letter from the Editor

Five years ago my sister and I took a gap year and went to New Zealand to live life as the Kiwis do. Our first day in our new home, a small farming town called Putaruru (pop. 3,777), we joined our host family and their home church as they erected a new worship center (much like a barn raising). Our hosts, worried about our sensitive American skin and the hole in the ozone above New Zealand, took us to the farm supply store before the event so we could get coveralls, gumboots, and giant straw hats that were essentially cowboy hats.

After, my sister and I decided to walk home from the church, so we trudged along the road in our new cowboy hats. (more…)

Memorial Day 2016

Memorial Day is an important time and opportunity for Americans to remember our veterans and those who have served our country. It is also an opportunity to honor those loved ones who have gone before us and the sacrifice made. Join us in honoring the countless heroes who have given their lives for our hopes and dreams.  

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Philippians 2:3-4

Available, Able

Showing up – it’s important. As cheesy as it sounds, being present really can be a gift. A gift that gives in more than one direction.

In a sermon earlier this year, Dr. Scott Dudley shared that when it comes to impacting another person’s life, what matters most is “not your ability, but your availability.” He shared that often the most significant gift we can offer another person is our time, and the most valuable tool at our disposal is our willingness to be present. Despite our flaws and lack of “credentials,” we witness amazing things when we allow Jesus to work through us in his power. (more…)

Content & Grateful Stewardship



Do these words come to your mind when you think about Easter? And why am I writing about Easter anyway? Wasn’t that was last month. But as I reflect on this most recent Easter season and the my focus during this time on the resurrection of our Lord, these two words are strongly connected with both Easter and stewardship in my mind. 

Contentment. Are you content with your belief in the resurrection? Are you content with your time of prayer or in Bible reading or study? Contentment is a key focus for all of us in the church. Flowing from contentment is thankfulness to God for the things we have, not those things that we do not have. This deeply felt contentment grows into gratitude. (more…)

Across Borders and Languages

Have you ever wished your children could experience another culture?  Have you ever wondered if your children understand how truly blessed they are to live in the United States, where they have food, clothing, a roof over their heads, good schools, great opportunities? Have you ever prayed that your children would develop a heart for mission? A family mission trip is one great way to help your children see the world from a different perspective.

Imagine what your children would think if they visited a culture where, when driving down the road, lane lines are optional, and in fact, speed limits are optional. Speed bumps, however, are the real deal, and everyone slows down for them, so much so that local people set up tables to sell food items and trinkets at every single speed bump. The majority of the vehicles are actually mopeds, not cars. Imagine that your hot water heater is a black tank on your roof, heated by the sun—that is, if you are lucky enough to have plumbing and a hot water tank. Imagine that your home is a 20×20 square foot home with wood siding, a metal roof, a cement floor, and curtains to divide the rooms instead of walls. Imagine doing your laundry in a series of three tubs with a bar of soap, and hang drying your clothes on your barbed wire fence. Imagine having only two outfits and one pair of shoes. (more…)

A Dealer in Hope

One morning I woke up and realized what my job description is – it all boils down to this: it’s to love people and to be a dealer in hope. I figure that’s pretty counter-culture, don’t you? I’m not hearing too much talk about hope or love right now. I am hearing people dealing in fear, and distrust, and discord.

Everywhere I go throughout my day I encounter people looking for something or someone to give them hope. Wherever I show up I seek to bring hope, whether it’s at the gym, the grocery store, a hospital room, the ER, a rehab center, your home, my office, pre-surgery, a coffee shop – wherever I meet with people. We all need a daily infusion of hope especially in our current culture. I tell people they can borrow hope from me when they need to. Sometimes we simply can’t do it for ourselves. That’s why we need other people walking with us.  (more…)

Bread Pudding

It was Sunday morning, but my neighbor invited me to the casino in the mountains with the legendary buffet, so I went.  As a valet whisked away our car, I whispered to myself, “This is gonna be good.”  Inside the handsome oversized door, I imagined a Chihuly chandelier and beautiful, happy people like in casino commercials.

Instead, suffocating noise and stale air slapped me in the face.  A hideous orange and purple carpet, an undulating stain of cheap red wine and pepperoni pizza, rolled out in every direction. No Chihuly, just rows of machines with expressionless people, zombies staring at screens. And it was packed! Out the side of my mouth, I spat, “Wish this many people went to church on Sunday,” ironic since I wasn’t at church either. (more…)

Being Christian in a Post-Christian Culture

“Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

The Good News of the Gospel is God loves us the way we are. The even Better News of the Gospel is God loves us too much to leave us that way. When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior over our lives, he begins to change us; or in the words of the passage above, he transforms us. 

The Christian faith is about release, recreation and renewal. Jesus releases us from sin, shame and the things that bind us. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He recreates us to move with his courage, live in his joy, experience his power and love as he loves. One thing that made Christianity so attractive in the first few Centuries were followers of Jesus who genuinely became recreated. Those early Christians caused an epidemic of holy jealousy. People wanted what they had. (more…)

Man Enough

The relationships I’ve built through the BelPres Men’s Retreat are what I value most. God and Jesus are all about relationships: with them first, through the Holy Spirit, and then with other people.  The retreat has enabled me to meet new guys and develop relationships that might not otherwise have occurred. Over the past five years in particular I’ve gotten to know at least twenty guys at a different level connecting with them in church and outside of church.

In particular, I’ve been able to build open and transparent relationships with two men- each younger and each with a different story. To be honest, initially I misjudged one guy’s personality and his emotional and spiritual depth…another head smack for me about judging others. I decided to reach out to him to get to know him better. The other guy and I connected in a discussion group at the retreat and in that group we openly shared about personal issues.  We decided to stay in touch and meet occasionally. Over the past three years with many coffees, lunches and other events with each guy we’ve been able to discover more what is in our hearts and minds and to counsel one another on day to day practical issues and personal challenges.  I feel comfortable in laying out my weaknesses and in being a mentor or advisor when appropriate.  And since I’m older, I’m able to offer up comments from the perspective of someone who’s been through similar experiences. (more…)

Volunteer Appreciation

Dear Volunteers,

Every year thousands of people’s lives are made better in our church, community, and in many places around the world because of the ministries of BelPres. None of those life-changing and soul-shaping things could happen without you. People are being set free from poverty, having their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs met. Youth are finding community and experiencing the transforming power of Jesus. Friendships are being formed. Marriages are being healed, and Jesus is getting good press because of all that happens in and through us as a church. (more…)

Behind the Scenes with Christie Kauffman

When I was in grade school, I had a mustard seed necklace. The seed found home inside a small round plastic bobble hanging on a gold chain. I wish I still had it; it seems at least one other person in the congregation had one too, Christie Kauffman. Let me tell you her faith story.

Christie was born into an agnostic family, but her grandparents were believers. Every year their family traveled to see them for a visit. Her grandparents were clever enough to request the family visit at the same time each year so Christie and her siblings could attend Vacation Bible School. Through this ministry, Christie came to Christ and upon her return home, wanted more. Though her parents weren’t churchgoers, she was allowed to attend the nearby Episcopal parish where she was dropped off each Sunday. It was there that she grew in her faith. (more…)