The Messenger

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…)



Consuming Injustice

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:26-27

As a kid, my family would take road trips to my hometown in Mexico every year. These trips helped educate me about my heritage, the poverty much of the world is facing, and sharing the blessings God has granted us. I loved these road trips. We would see the country, meet new people, and, most importantly, eat amazing food. (more…)



This Is Why

Born and raised in the suburbs while navigating health concerns as a child ensured that I never thought of myself as the outdoors type. Outside had sunburn, bugs, rain, and hard work (gardening, hiking, anything requiring exertion, really). I’m the girl that was on a soccer team when I was young who marched right up to the coach at half time of my first game and told him I was quitting after this game because he wouldn’t let me wear my jacket or use an umbrella as the goalie in the rain. I couldn’t keep up with the other kids in games that required running so I always lost. This drove me to spend my recess in the library playing card games with my two best friends, Brittney and Erika, throughout all of Elementary school—I was great at Speed with cards. If I’m honest with you, a small part of me was glad that my right leg started swelling up (the beginning of Lymphedema) in fourth grade because it got me out of the running part of PE class. (more…)



You Ain’t No Gardener, Kid

When the school behind me removed 30 trees, cutting the roots of my big Douglas Fir, I asked the graying logger who smelled of alcohol to fell my tree too. He did, and patches of sunlight dotted my dark backyard. Envisioning a riotous tangle of squash and big-boned Early Girls heavy with tomatoes, I thought, I’ll garden! My international students and I built a raised garden bed, the Chinese dentist expertly handling the power drill.

I went all out. Dumping bags of Black Gold dirt, digging in compost and organic fertilizer, I sang This is the Day that the Lord has Made, to my newly fertile earth. The first year, baby bunnies ate the tender green bean shoots, and to my greater horror, Lulu, my cat, got the baby bunnies. My plans to make fragrant pesto died as the basil shriveled up. Hopes of carrying boxes of giant zucchini to the food bank shrank, as I look at stunted, rotting squash. (more…)



Resilience

After the wettest rainy season on record, spring has finally arrived, and the garden is resplendent with the beauty of new growth. The flowering plums and cherry trees are laden with blooms, and the earliest rhododendrons and hellebores are enlivening our hillsides with their colorful flowers.

The brightest color pop in our landscape belongs to the flowers in the daffodil family. Although yellow is my least favorite color, I would have to say that each spring, these flowers capture my heart anew. The excitement begins in the bleak days of mid January. The holiday decorations in the house are all put away, and the winter landscape is drab except for the red berries on some of the shrubs. How thrilling it is when I spot the first green shoots emerging from the soil in the pots on our deck! Although I know it will be at least a month before I see any flowers, these first signs are great encouragement to me. (more…)



Letter From the Editor

My legs were about to give out, and, oddly, my right shoulder. My head ached and I hadn’t eaten since 11,000 feet thanks to a combination of nausea and the lack of appetite that comes from altitude.

What made me want to do this?

I was more than three-quarters of the way up Mount Rainier and seriously regretting my decision to make a summit attempt. (more…)



Letter from the Editor

When I think about diversity making an appearance in my life, the first place I think of is my very own Kirkland Costco. When I walk through the aisles, I am always amazed by the vast selection of food that was not available there ten years ago. Better yet, go out to the Southcenter Costco, where the selection puts Kirkland’s to shame. Growing up and walking through these same aisles, I do not recall having a variety of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, etc. foods available to me.

Okay, this is a pretty shallow example of seeing diversity in my life, but it points to the makeup of the greater Seattle area. Thanks to companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, our region brings in the brightest minds from around the world. (more…)



Go & Make Disciples

VBA – Vacation Bible “Adventure” – because isn’t all of life an adventure, especially when you are walking with the Lord? For just one short week out of the summer, July 10-14, my three children, Sophia (13), Owen (9) and Della (7) will be exploring and experiencing that we all are created by God and built for a purpose.

VBA week is one that we look forward to because we get to participate in it together, whether volunteering or in a class with friends. I’ve had several different responsibilities over the years, but two of them have had the most impact on me. (more…)



Diversity and Identity

A Small Texas Diner

In college, my closest friend and I were heading back to school from a church retreat. Driving through rural Texas, we got hungry and stopped in a small diner in a city of about 800 people. We were famished and looking forward to a great home-cooked meal. We walked in and found a table. As we were seating ourselves, we were so wrapped up in our conversation we almost didn’t realize that the nearly full diner had gone completely quiet and that everyone in the place had stopped what they were doing and were staring unabashedly in our direction. I looked around, thinking there was an accident outside that everyone was looking at, but quickly realized they were looking at us. I instinctively wondered, “Is it me everyone is looking at, or my black friend?” I smiled at everyone, looked to my friend and whispered, “I think we might be the only black and Asian people that have eaten here before.” (more…)



Carefully Taught

The other day I went to the park with two of my daughters and their neighborhood friends. It’s such a fun and rowdy crew. Despite varying in gender, age, and ethnicity, they care little of each other’s differences. Typically, the biggest concern is whose house or yard they are going to play in. One has a trampoline, but the other has video games…and yet another has great trees to climb! Usually, a small meeting is held, and an average of 3.7 seconds later they’re off!

On this particular day, they decided to take a bike ride to the nearby park to play. After some time on the play structure, it was time for a game of tag. The rules: one person is “it,” the play structure is base, and you could only be on base for 30 seconds. And, oh yeah, the two dads had to play. I’ll tell you, running around with a bunch of elementary age kids is some serious calorie burning, and, of course, everyone wants the dads to be it all the time.

After we had played this game of tag for 15 minutes or so, another family showed up with their two boys. The two boys approached respectfully and asked if they could join the game. This motley crew of kids answered with a resounding yes! (more…)



Choose Love

Today, the Prince of Peace surprised me at the front door, dressed as three lovely teachers from the school next door who brought a gift and big card made by their preschoolers.

I live in a “little Jerusalem” in the Crossroads area of Bellevue. On one block are a Jewish synagogue, Muslim school, Mormon church, and Presbyterian church. It’s an opportunity for understanding and friendship. Fear and hatred live here, too.

Many months ago, hearing horrific world news and my neighbor’s comments about “the little terrorists” at the Muslim school nearby, I resolved to be friendly. I walked over to the school, introduced myself, and told teachers how happy I was the school was here. They looked at me quizzically, quickly apologizing for how noisy the children were. I told them, “No, no, I was a teacher, and love the happy sounds of children playing.” Their faces lit up. The preschool teacher invited me to please read a story to her children sometime, which surprised and delighted me.

At the end of the school year, I left a note for the teachers, wishing them a restful summer. I signed the note, “From your neighbor in the corner house.” I didn’t hear anything back, so I wondered if they’d gotten the note, or if I’d overstepped. (more…)



New World

It was the longest trip of my life. I was five years old, and we were flying from Seoul, Korea to the United States, the Land of Opportunity. In America, I was told there is more food than you can imagine and everyone gets a good education. I thought I was going to heaven on earth!

The best part was that I would see my dad again. He moved to the United States a couple of years before us so he could find the right place for our family to live. He first landed in Los Angeles where there was a growing Korean community, and found Seattle unintentionally when his friend asked him to help on the long drive up. Once my dad arrived in Seattle, he knew this was where he wanted to live. The majestic mountains all around and bodies of water everywhere enamored him.

Coming off the plane at SeaTac, I ran to my dad’s arms. He looked just as I remembered, but his voice sounded funny. He picked out “American” names for us: Elizabeth, Abraham, Mary and John. He chose biblical names, hoping that we would follow the legacy of each name. He wanted to change our last name to “Usa” to show his devotion to his new country and told us to only speak English to each other so that we would pick up the language quickly and lose our accents. (more…)



The Land Between

The Global Leadership Summit has changed my life, and the lives of 78 inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex were changed this year as well. Reading the inmates’ reflections, I was reminded of my first Summit experience.

I was in the Land Between, a transition folks often define as having an “empty nest.” Pouring my time and heart into the lives of my three children and the activities they were involved with had come to an end. The end of significant leadership roles with these organizations and the end of meetings, planning, events and personal connections amplified the emptiness. My life as it had been for 20 years was drastically changed. It felt less like a few birds had flown away and more like the wasteland Jeff Manion described in his Summit talk seven years ago. Although it was seven summits ago, I especially remember Jeff Manion and his session highlighting key insights from his book, The Land Between. The premise of his talk and book were that faith transformation and growth happen in times of great transition, the Land Between. He reminded us of those led by Moses to the Promised Land and the years spent in barren wasteland on their way. Difficult transitions can be due to a death of a family member, financial lows, marriage erosion, teenagers drifting, aging and certainly those experiencing time in prison.

(more…)