The Messenger: June

Letter from the Editor

When my aunt was pregnant with her first child, she was placed on bed rest for several months. One day, my uncle came home with a bag of yarn and knitting needles for her and she taught herself to knit.

Ever since her pregnancy 18 years ago, many of the women in my family have taken up knitting. During summer breaks, which can be quite rainy here in Washington, we would gather in the sunroom in my grandparent’s house and knit for hours.

My first knitting project was a scarf. Scarves are, generally, long and narrow – anyone could cut one out of a piece of fabric. My scarf took on epic proportions. My initial design was 6” across. Somehow, through no fault of my own, stitches kept being added and the scarf grew to two feet wide. It looked like a turtleneck tank top. (more…)

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June 6-July 5

The holy month of Ramadan is a time for fasting, introspection, and prayer. For Muslims, this month of fasting is undertaken with the same reason that we as Christians may choose to fast: the desire to know God in a deeper and more intimate relationship. Participating in Ramadan is one of the highest forms of worship in Islam.

Ramadan is also a month of relationship for Muslims. Rising early to pray and eat as a family, connecting as a community at the daily prayers, and gathering after sunset to break the fast. This month we have an amazing opportunity to be in relationship with our Muslim neighbors and the Muslim world through prayer. To love them as Jesus loved us and to pray for them to encounter Jesus as they seek to encounter God.

Each year, Mission + Serve partners with 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World. We encourage you to pick up a copy of this prayer booklet at BelPres or click here to learn more as we fervently pray for God to reveal himself in this time of seeking. (more…)

Cheered Across the River

A Guatemalan  Impact Team Testimony

“Josiah, bring the soccer balls!”

“Zack and Katie, please lead the learning game, “Correr”!”

“Mrs. Lisa, don’t fall in the river!”

“Erin, thank you for talking with the little girls shyly peeking over the school wall!”

Do you notice a pattern in these quotes from my recent Impact Team trip to Guatemala with Nicolás Fund for Education (NFE)? Josiah, Zack, Katie, and Erin were student members of our team. They traveled with their parents and had important, vital roles in our work. One day, they helped me complete a hike and NOT fall in the river!

Nicolás Fund for Education is a partner ministry of BelPres, and grew out of our long commitment through Agros and Journey with a Village. For two decades, members of our church and Evergreen Covenant on Mercer Island have walked alongside the people of two Mayan villages in the highlands of Guatemala. Homes have been built, friendships forged, churches founded, and Jesus glorified. Now many of the families of La Bendicion and La Esperanza own their land and homes but continue to suffer from poverty, lack of opportunity, and discrimination. (more…)

Family of God

We all long to belong
To someone or something
We long to be known
To be accepted and loved

Some people are born into wonderful families
Full of love and laughter and joy
But others experience something quite different
Where fear, neglect, and abuse threaten to destroy

There is a place where we all can belong
A place we can find the love that we seek
God is waiting to welcome us into his family
Everyone’s invited, the strong and the weak

God is the Father of the whole human family
Everyone is included, he deeply loves each one
God invites us to be adopted into his own family
Simply accept his love shown through Jesus, his Son

God doesn’t want anyone to feel like an outsider
He made us, and loves us, and we can belong
But we have to choose to join God’s family
And accept God’s invitation, we have to want to belong

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and
that is what we are.
(1 John 3:1)

A Volunteer Family

I said, “No way,” to God four times before I agreed to volunteer.

I remember being asked and each time refusing. I had this whole list of reasons why I said no, but I learned God had another story he wanted to write through me. Volunteering as a youth leader at BelPres for six years has been, hands down, the biggest privilege of my life. I didn’t serve students; they served me with their contagious enthusiasm, the ability to have fun in the midst of any circumstance, and through their radical love that comes from Jesus.

The best part of my job today is working with our volunteer leaders and watching them with our students. They are the true heroes who give up weeknights, sleep in bunk beds, and respond to late night texts from worried students or those who just to talk. I asked two of our leaders to share a bit of their experience. Mike Standard has been serving for three years now, and does not let his age stop him from doing anything:

“Two years ago I was asked to consider being part of the high school ministry. I was 73 years old, and they wanted me to be involved with high school students. I said I would pray about it. I began coming to Wednesday night youth group, and I fell in love with these students. Other adult volunteers encouraged me. During the summer, activities were held outside in parks. I decided to stay on for my second year.  (more…)

The ABCs of VBA

VBA is a lifelong experience, full of opportunities to grow in relationship with Jesus and our church family for kids and adults alike. I grew up in a church much like BelPres and have many significant memories of summer day camp experiences. VBS has always been a family activity for me – from attending with my mom and sisters decades ago, to volunteering while my kids were young, to serving alongside them most recently, I’ve probably experienced more than 25 VBS adventures…and I look forward to many more! As a camper, teen leader, and adult volunteer, I’ve found VBA to be a place to meet Jesus in a new way every year, and to be reminded in tangible ways of the importance of having a childlike faith.


VBA is an Adventure – for one week a year, BelPres transforms into a snow-covered mountain top, an exotic jungle, a faraway castle, or –this year – a gem-filled cave just waiting to be explored. Adventures are meant to be shared, both in the moment of the experience and in the retelling of the adventure. At the end of a full day, it’s great to have the kids greet dad at the door with an enthusiastic, “Guess what we did at VBA today!?!” A week of summer adventure can inspire significant discussions year-round! (more…)

Growing a Community

Our first two years at BelPres, my husband and I crossed paths with people often, but there was little time to connect with anyone. Week after week, we saw the same parents waiting to pick up kids, but we didn’t know their names. In the midst of our busy lives, Sunday mornings seemed like another commitment to complete before we rushed home for baby’s nap, preparation for the week, or the next event.

For us, this was not how we wanted to engage with our church. We have a vision for our family to be in a close community of other families at BelPres. We want to share our lives with a circle of friends who share our values. Friends to confide in, laugh with, discuss life – good and bad. We want friends who will speak into our kids’ lives, and trust us to be a part of their kids’ lives. Who will help us to create the kind of community found in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 where we share our lives together. As we look to the future, we hope that this community will be where our kids build relationships, ask questions, and grow into healthy adults. Developing these kinds of relationships takes time and intentionality. (more…)

The Voices of Our Kids

I came into my office the other day to find a quote on my desk that someone had left for me. The quote read: “Children are not just the church of tomorrow. They are very much a part of the church of today.” As I sat down at my desk it occurred to me that we don’t see children in the Bible “growing up” before they served God; in fact, many of them served God with great effectiveness before they would have been recognized as adults.

Josiah became a king when he was eight years old. Not long after he assumed the throne, he began to go throughout Israel and led a revival towards God and away from idolatry. That’s right: the entire nation of Israel followed an eight year-old towards repentance and righteousness. What’s more, Josiah didn’t buy into the idea that he needed to “grow up” before he could serve God. He served God in his youth and the Bible calls him the best king that Israel ever had. (2 Kings 22) (more…)

Lessons from a Tree

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd…” Luke 19:1-10

I didn’t go to church much as a kid, but when I did, I was all about the flannelgraphs. Some kids liked the stories of  “Jonah and the Whale,” or were the “Loaves and Fishes” types, but I was a Zacchaeus man. Maybe it’s the tree climbing, but I have always loved the story of this diminutive rich guy climbing a tree to see Jesus:

“[B]ut because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.”

Although I can still picture the silly flannel man pressed over a tree, my appreciation for this story has evolved. Zacchaeus was less silly old flannel man and much more local crime boss with a crew that helped him collect taxes for the occupying Roman army. To win the job of tax collector you had to demonstrate you could collect the most money (and to be successful it had to be enough to pay the taxes and make yourself wealthy). It’s not a stretch to imagine Zacchaeus would be despised by most of those in the crowd following Jesus. (more…)

When Daniel Met Callie

Next month I’m marrying a girl I met one year ago.

I had a sense pretty early on in our relationship that this was where things were headed. I mean, I didn’t know within the first 15 minutes. It’s not like it was that dramatic. Still, it didn’t take me long to figure out that this time I was playing for keeps.

I had the privilege of officiating a couple of weddings last year. The first wedding I did, Callie and I had been dating for about two weeks or so. Throughout that whole night, during the dinner, the toasts, and all the dancing, I remember thinking to myself, “I need to see Callie.” It honestly wasn’t any deeper than that. I really wasn’t trying to be overly romantic or even prophetic. I simply remember thinking, “I need to see Callie.” And later that night, about one in the morning, I did.  (more…)