Christmas and Refugees

Of the 68.5 million refugees in the world 52% (25.4 million)* are under the age of 18. Displaced from home and country, on the run for their lives, many completely on their own; they are in urgent need of protection and provision. How does Christmas intersect with refugee children?
Matthew’s Gospel has a refugee story in Chapter 2. Having arrived in Jerusalem after a lengthy trek, Magi from the east were inquiring about the birth of a new Jewish King. They told of observing a celestial sign and undertaking the search for a child to be worshiped. Jewish priests and scholars identified Bethlehem as the prophesied birthplace of the future messianic king. The paranoid, maniacal Herod ruling Judea at that time was disturbed by this news and solicited the Magi’s help in locating such a child. His pretense was to participate in such worship and he wanted the child’s address.
Upon arriving in Bethlehem and finding the child with his mother Mary “in a house” the entourage from the east bowed down and worshipped him and presented valuable gifts. Then, warned in a dream not to report this location, they detoured Herod and departed toward their home country.
Realizing he’d been duped, homicidal Herod ordered the execution of all the male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem who were two years old and under according to the time the Magi had reported seeing the celestial sign.
An angel appeared to Mary’s husband, Joseph, in a dream. The angel instructed Joseph to take both mother and child and escape into Egypt because death squads had been dispatched by Herod. Joseph immediately obeyed and consequently, Jesus and his parents became refugees.
 *Statistics from UNHCR

The Holy Spirit…at work in a mighty way in India

See the woman standing quietly in the doorway, looking on as the scene before her unfolds?  Her story of devotion is woven into the fabric of God’s faithfulness to His people in India.  This woman, Pavani*- a Christian, was arranged in marriage to a Hindu man.  She met with other Christians and read her Bible in secret, hoping her husband would not find out.  Her husband was not a Hindu in name only, but a radical Hindu intent on India being a purely Hindu nation.

One day, her husband – Manyu*- found her reading the Bible.  He became violent, tearing up the Bible and threatening divorce if he caught her with a Bible again.  Yet, she persisted in her faithfulness to Jesus.

In time, her husband became seriously ill.  After medical consultation, he was told his kidneys were failing and that he would die.  His family offered sacrifices to Hindu gods and consulted Hindu priests to no avail.  Pavani boldly asked Manyu if she could have her pastor pray for him in the name of Jesus.  Manyu agreed, with the condition that if it didn’t work, he would divorce her.  She brought him to the house church she attended where her pastor and fellow believers prayed for Manyu.  God was at work – Manyu was healed!  His pain left and he has not had any kidney problems since.  Manyu became a believer in Jesus.  This was at a high cost – his family kicked him and Pavani from the family home.  In prayer, they heard God asking them to move to Bihar as missionaries.

Several years later, the now-Pastor Manyu was asked to pray for a young Hindu man’s brother, who had been sent home to die.  That brother was healed in the name of Jesus, and the young Hindu man (asking for prayer on behalf of his brother) was MK, now a believer in Jesus and the leader of New Life Mission Church (NLMC).   Pavani and Manyu now work with NLMC establishing house churches, bringing Jesus to communities through literacy groups like the one in the photo.

It was a tremendous blessing to visit NLMC this past month with a team from BelPres.  We met and encouraged the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, worshipped in house churches and prayed with many.  We heard testimony after testimony of healing – physical healing and/or freedom from evil spirits.  The Holy Spirit is at work in a mighty way in northern India.  As people are freed from physical or spiritual sickness, they (and their families) are accepting Jesus as their Savior.  They are bucking their culture to live and follow Jesus, forming house churches to worship and learn together. New leaders are being raised up and becoming church planters and pastors in neighboring villages.  We witnessed Jesus’ power transforming lives in the smiles of formerly untouchable orphans now at home in an NLMC orphanage.  At every turn of our trip, the Bible came to life before my eyes.

God invites us to be part of his rescue mission for humanity.  Jesus clearly asks us to “let your light shine before men” (Matthey 5:16), but how often have I kept Jesus hidden away?  In India, I met person after person who accepted Jesus not only as their Savior, but as their Lord, orienting their life to serve Him.  I met a man whose home was tormented by evil spirits banging all over his house each night.  When he accepted Christ and began reading the Bible in his home, the banging stopped.  A short year later, he now works as a church planter.  I saw this same passion in MK – feeling such thankfulness to Jesus for saving his brother, he could do nothing less than launch a movement and a vision to establish a church in every village across the Ganges plain.  I saw this in Manyu: hearing God in prayer asking him to move across the country and doing it.  And I saw this in the steadfast faithfulness of Pavani, risking all to share Jesus with her unbelieving husband.  So the questions loom: Would the church planter have accepted Jesus if it weren’t for MK leading a group of believers to spread the Good News across northern India?  If it weren’t for Manyu praying for MK’s brother, could MK have come to know Jesus?  Would (Pavani’s unbelieving husband) Manyu have come to know Jesus if Pavani hadn’t sought prayer for him?  Only God knows the answers to these questions. How fulfilled are their lives now knowing they are helping to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth?

What nudge is God asking you to respond with a “yes?”  Our individual action does make a difference.  On a Saturday afternoon in October, I sat in a conference room in Bihar, India hearing MK speak of the incredible vision that God has for India and beyond.  I wondered: Why was I, a mom from Redmond, hearing this vision and feeling so inspired?  And yet, I knew that joining the India Impact Team was saying “yes” to a nudge from God. I’m still not sure of all the consequences of that “yes,” but I know my life is bigger now that it includes all I experienced on the other side of the world.   My heart is chastened and broken and full – all at the same time as it never has been before.  I know it is impossible for me to speak of our experience in India without mentioning Jesus, so my light is shining brighter these days.

The Holy Spirit is working in miraculous ways in northern India. That same Spirit is at work here.  I am so thankful for the shining examples of faithfulness witnessed in the lives of our brothers and sisters in India.  As I pray Colossians 1:3+ “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you since we heard of your faith in Christ and the love which you have for all the saints because . . . the gospel which has come to you . . . is constantly bearing fruit and increasing . . .”. The “you” looks like the beautiful faces of men, women and children gathered tightly together in the room of a house in Bihar.

There is so much more to share, but you can come and hear of it first-hand as MK, director of New Life Mission Church, and his wife Punam will be visiting BelPres – Sunday, November 25, 12:15pm in S-140.  Be prepared to feel inspired as MK shares the vision that God has given him and excited as you learn of God’s faithful work in India.

 *Names have been changed.

 

 

A BROKEN HEART!

 “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Last year, my wife and I traveled to Guatemala’s Mission Campus to share in special outreaches and celebrations. While preparing to leave, we heard on the news about a home in Guatemala where at least 18 children had died in a fire. Needless to say, we were greatly disturbed and prayed for the families. Little did we realize how this was going to impact us; indeed break our hearts!

In Guatemala, we heard various stories and read reports that included the following statements:

“These are the dumping grounds for people who are not wanted by society, whether they are disabled or gay or happen to get there through the criminal justice system.”

“Guatemalan human rights officials said Thursday that they believe the 35 girls who were killed (when a fire swept through a childrens home dormitory) had been unable to escape because they were locked inside. Legislators also heard that only three of the 64 security cameras were working in the home which housed 750 children in a space meant for 500.”

Driving to the Campus, our Director said “Pastor, one of the 40 girls (the number continues to rise) who died attended our school.” We were stunned as we heard this and our hearts began to break. Tears quietly began to flow. Her name was Milenie and was, in fact, one of our sponsored children. From the age of 6, Milenie displayed behavioral difficulties and her Mother tried everything to help her. The Mission did its best and, of course, we are grateful to her sponsors who stood by her for years. In January, she ran away from home, was picked up by Police who placed her in the City Government Home and tragically lost her life in the fire. Yes, our hearts were broken! We prayed for her family and the families of all who lost their lives.

As the week continued, I shared the story with our entire student body, encouraging them not to be led astray, to realize their potential and the plan God has for them. It reenergized our commitment to help the children and young people of Guatemala. Recognizing the need for kids in trouble or faced with abuse and problems at home (some who are even wards of the court), we opened a special fund to provide help. An example: children in a home close to Campus (run by a wonderful Pastor and his team) are wards of the court who struggle in public school. From this special fund, they will be able to attend the Arms of Jesus (AOJ) School and will be blessed in so many ways by our ministry. (It is difficult to find sponsors for them because the Court can remove them at any time.)

We are so blessed! Please pray for the children who are ‘placed into the dumping grounds of society and pray for us as we seek to be ‘the arms of Jesus to them.’

Feelin’ so Extra

They would normally be on tour. They have turned down multiple gigs to be here. The time is non-negotiable. These children are a priority. They said they want to do it for ten years. This is year six.

To play basketball, you need a court. We didn’t have one. After the earthquake, one of the young Port-au-Prince refugees staying with a pastor showed up with a basketball and was dribbling all over Passe Catabois. All the boys in Passe Catabois followed him for a chance to hold or dribble that ball. Pretty soon, a five-gallon bucket with a hole in it, a two-by-four and some concrete disappeared from one of our construction sites. Using the rim of a plastic bucket, they created a makeshift hoop six feet off the ground.

Being mesmerized by a basketball is better than dwelling on the immediate trauma or the aftershocks still ongoing. The news from Port-au-Prince was horrid. Basketball is much better than thinking about the earthquakes that keep happening.

Not long ago, the church elementary school in Passe Catabois started the outline for a basketball court. Compassion, the child sponsorship agency, decided every school needed a court for an obscure game people vaguely knew about. The construction hadn’t gotten very far and things happen. Sometimes the ground shakes and things are very different afterward.

I tell the boys about the remains of a basketball court foundation buried somewhere in the schoolyard. With the pastor’s blessing, I promise, if they will dig it up and get everything ready, we will pour fifteen feet of the basketball court and put up a goal.

By 10 am the next morning, the work was done. It was now “put up or shut up” time; and the perfect time to divert attention from the earthquake. Shortly, we had a fifteen-foot concrete basketball court and a half court in packed dirt.

Over time, we got the half court done in two pours. And then someone said: “Let’s just pour the other half of this basketball court.”

The Boca Raton youth group came to basketball camp that first year afterward and brought two Haitian Americans who have played a lot of ball.

By the third year, we had a second court and a second program at the Poste Metier church five miles away. The two Haitian Americans increased to four and formed a music/ministry group. Local boys are more familiar with soccer. We had to convince them to quit hitting the ball with their head…use hands only and don’t kick the ball. This is basketball.

A bus pulls up. There are 60 cheering boys inside and 60 cheering boys outside waiting for them; all in reversible “Upward Basketball” jerseys. The home team is blue; the visitors, cream.

This is the big day. For a week, these boys have been learning basketball fundamentals and Bible lessons. The Poste Metier ball players travel to Passe Catabois for a ‘tournament.’ This is a competition involving basketball drills like dribbling and shooting. Then they let the older (11-13 year-olds) play some full-court sessions.

“K4C” (or Knights for Christ) is a ministry and a musical group of first-generation Haitian Americans with a heart for at-risk young people in America. They do concerts in schools and churches wherever they are invited, investing in youth, telling them about Jesus and trying to help them stay out of trouble. The leader of K4C says that Jesus saved him, but basketball kept him out of trouble.

They just put out an album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alaxH0YEXQ0&feature=youtu.be.  Footage from basketball camp is on the video. A friend from Georgia is with them who last played competitive high school basketball and comes out of retirement to coach and organize the camp. I wasn’t sure he was going to make the video. He did, but it was basketball coaching that got him in and not singing. Along with the 120 boys are a dozen volunteer coaches from the two churches, some parents, a sound system and a lot of excitement.

Deb and I don’t know much about children’s ministries. But we receive the teams and provide the venue. Over recent months, we have been shipping everything necessary for a basketball camp:  uniforms, basketballs (many children win their own ball either in the daily competitions or when they graduate at 13), peanut butter for breakfast before camp and other paraphernalia. For the past two weeks, boys in faded uniforms from previous years have stopped me on the road and asked if Sammy, Dee, Lucson, or Hobbs are coming for camp this summer. You can feel the excitement building.

One of the beauties of the Passe Catabois basketball court is that it has trees all around it. I sit in the shade watching the two teams’ race up and down the court. Most of these children are natural athletes and have caught on amazingly fast to this recent addition to Haiti sport. Over the years, many have come to Christ during basketball camp while listening to the story of salvation.

One of the eleven year-olds is blocked by a bigger player in front of him. Without missing a beat, he does a behind-the-back pass to a teammate and they press in toward the goal.  Another amazement is seeing them pass – a lot. Watching local soccer is painful. When one guy gets the ball, too often he tries to take it all the way to the goal himself. It is one against eleven. When someone on the other team takes the ball from him, he runs the other way – one on eleven -without passing.

That doesn’t happen here. This is a profound change and something to take to other parts of their lives: teamwork. They are passing it off, keeping it, moving around and looking for an open man rather than personal glory.

I see all manner of sneakers patched up, sewn up or otherwise improvised. More than several have feet jammed in shoes that are way too narrow and no laces because there isn’t room. Some have street shoes or work boots. Who knows what sacrifices the parents made to find something for their boys to put on so they can attend camp? And someone at home is covering for them collecting firewood, carrying water, or tending to the animals so they can be boys for a week to do basketball and Bible study. And it is all forgotten in the excitement of these boys on the court.

Deb and I just got the new K4C CD. One of the songs is called ‘So Extra.’ For those who, like us, may need a translator to communicate with the younger generation: in rap/jive/hip-hop, it translates to ‘so blessed.’  As I sit in the shade watching these boys play basketball and have fun, I am feelin’ “so extra.”

We are so thankful for you, your friendship, prayers, and support.

 

Pchum Ben-Festival of the Dead

Phnom Penh is a ghost town.  For 3 days, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic while people fled as if a tsunami was coming up the Mekong from the Gulf of Thailand.  Every year at this time, Cambodian families leave to pay homage to their ancestors in their home village. Almost everything is closed, except maybe a gas station and a few shopping markets.  It’s like the only time I can get over 30 mph on my bike – once a year!

Alana visited for a week, and loved it; teaching English at DOVE(Develop Our Village Economy), visiting schoolmates, spending time with her step-siblings, Johnnathan and Yorean. She ate all her favorite Khmer dishes. Then she missed her flight booked through some fly-by-night Chinese Airline; so we got an extra day with her.  Good bye, Kids!  🙁

Three kids and one teen from HOP were integrated back to their home villages yesterday and today. In some cases, this is a good thing. In other cases, it’s a tragedy.  I have lived with and been a part of these kids’ lives for 5 years now. They call me “daddy.” Every time I have been called “daddy,” it startles me and makes me think: am I being a good example of a father? Am I loving them, and encouraging them? My time with them has allowed me to love these children in a way that has eluded me most of my life. Miss Chanta, 12 years old, a tough cookie and a HOP scrapper, knew her time was down to the wire; soon to be shipped out to a distant aunt. For the last week – every day – she escorts me out to where I park my motorcycle, slips her arm into mine and off we go.  Upon firing up the Baja, she hops on the back and I drop her back at HOP. The next day, she waits for me to come home from work and goes through the same ritual. My soul has been shaped (living in a community of children nobody really wanted) in ways that would never happen in a conventional world.

 I am now teaching the “Missional Church” block in ONYX. We are discovering that God is a ‘sending God’ and we, as his people, are a ‘sent people’ – pushed out of our safe and comfortable nests into uncertainty to bring hope to the marginalized and rejected. Local pastors don’t like this block as they are interested in keeping the actions within the church building where they believe: they are in control, there is no risk, discomfort, nor leveling of power. The students are into this concept though and are surprised to find this principle everywhere in the Bible.

It worked out well when most ONYX students joined in an interfaith tree-planting event in the vanishing jungles of Cambodia for four days.  It was truly a holistic mission at its best. I had planned to go but Bophal’s assistant smashed her knee and I got to mind ‘Fort Banchee.’
It has been fun and this 5th-year cohort has been the most responsive to all we do. I love this group as they choose to be vulnerable, curious, fun and open to new paradigms.  We have two from HOP this year. ONYX Phnom is also a very close Christian Community and missional. We’ve got all the right DNA. 

Bophal and I would do well to savor such times as tremendous gifts. The more organic we become and the deeper we go (personally, HOP and DOVE), the more elusive funding becomes. The correlation escapes me.  Maybe recovering our souls is part of the cost issue.  The structures and systems that served so well in the past don’t seem to fit the revived soul.

 

Peace to you,

Brian and Bophal

 

A Man Who Walked on Water

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus gave us His Great Commission:

“Therefore, go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Currently, we are living in one of the greatest times of harvest in the history of the church. More and more people are coming to a relationship with Christ now than ever before. Recently, I visited Lebanon and Greece. I firsthand heard eyewitness reports of Muslim refugees having visions and dreams of Jesus.

One story in particular made me shiver in awe:  A refugee relief worker shared a story of a family just off a refugee boat in Lesbos, Greece, adamantly looking for someone who knew about a ‘man who walks on water.’ A local Christian missionary serving these refugees met this family. They continued to ask, “Who is this man that walks on water?” The missionary asked, “Why are you asking about a man who walks on water?” The father told the missionary, as they were on the boat one evening, there was a storm. The ship almost capsized. Their young daughter, in the blink of an eye, got separated from them and they lost her. She was thrown into the water. Frantically, the parents looked for her, but couldn’t find her. They were in complete despair. When the parents awoke the next morning, their daughter was back on the boat. They couldn’t believe their eyes! They asked her: “How is it that you are here? We lost you in the storm.” The daughter replied that, in the storm when the waves hit the boat, she was separated from her family and fell into the water. She said ‘a man who walks on water’ caught her and put her back on the boat. The missionary shared: “The man who walks on water is Jesus Christ.” That day, this family became followers of Jesus! Incredible!

Millions of refugees are being displaced from their homes and their families. For most, they leave behind a closed society where freedom of religion is not practiced. Now they have the freedom to learn new ideas. Many missiologists call this time a ‘Kairos’ moment (an opportune and decisive moment). Per Finishing the Task Network (https://www.finishingthetask.com), there are currently 1,347 ethnolinguistic, unengaged, unreached people groups in the world. This is where a church-planting movement does not exist because there is no indigenous church capable of reaching the group without cross-cultural missionary assistance. Generally, an unreached people group is less than 2% evangelical. ‘Unengaged’ means there are no full-time Christian workers attempting to do evangelism and church planting.

Historically, BelPres has always responded to major crises in the world. I believe God is revealing Himself, through visions and dreams, for the church to rise up and finish the task Christ set before us. Is God calling you to go and disciple these unreached peoples? We need to respond to this moment. BelPres, God is calling you to go and make disciples of all nations and to bring God’s healing.  It begins with you.

 

Leatherberry Letter from Greece

I am in Athens, Greece following up with BelPres’ pastors and ministry leader partners working among Muslim refugees. Many refugees are experiencing Jesus’ love, grace, and truth through the tireless efforts of these pastors and ministry leaders.  Consequently, large, unprecedented numbers are coming to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Never before has this happened in Islam.  The task in front of us is to disciple these new believers to become conversant with the life and character of Christ.  This is a unique time that we have to respond to what God is doing in the Middle East.  Isaiah 19 looks ahead to the day when God takes charge to do a new thing in the Middle East.  Isaiah writes:  “In that day, there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians (modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria) will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria.  The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day, Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth.  The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork and Israel my inheritance.’”  This is a remarkable vision and we believe we are living in a time when God is fulfilling it.

After Athens, I begin an Extended Study Leave and will be away from the office until Dec 1. I am very grateful to our Personnel Committee who makes this possible and the Mission and Serve staff for the extra workload they carry while I am away.  During this time, I will look closely at discipleship, studying Jesus’ signature discipleship sermon (Sermon on the Mount), reading and interviewing leaders who are doing good things with discipleship.

One more update I want you to know about is our Roadmap Initiative around racial justice.  Mission and Serve was selected to receive a new pastoral resident to provide focused leadership around racial justice.  I am excited to welcome Anthony Ballard to our team!

Anthony grew up in a very diverse area of Compton, CA.  Before BelPres, Anthony’s ministry included work at the Boys and Girls Club, helping found a young adult ministry in Los Angeles and working with “Reality Check,”   http://www.realitycheckla.org.   He facilitated “Reality Check” events in churches and public schools in Los Angeles.  Anthony will be working closely with our Justice and Racial Reconciliation Team and with Pastor Harvey Drake.  You will often find him in the lobby on Sunday mornings.

 

That’s my update for now.  See you in December.

 

Grace and Peace in Jesus,

Rich

A Miracle in Rwanda

God is always moving in Rwanda – so sit down, strap in and hold on!

The 2018 Impact Team kept on the move to learn and share all God wanted to be known. It’s been 6 years since our last visit to Kigali, the capital, it was a visual festival to see Rwanda moving forward in tangible ways; a Convention center, new hotels, tall modern buildings, re-routed traffic for more public spaces. And for the first time, we met tourists: a couple from New York City who had read the NY Times listing the 10 places that were a must to visit in 2018. Rwanda was number 8. This was very telling, as previously, running into humanitarian missionaries or NGO workers was common; running into tourists was not.

Where we saw God most clearly was a ministry started by Gilbert Kubwimana. This faithful young man is following God’s call to help families of disabled children by starting “Love with Actions” ministry. We first met Gilbert in 2006 at his one-man business craft stand (outside of the AEE guest house) earning money for his dowry to marry Esther. He collected craft requests from team members and scoured the markets for these items.  He brought Esther to meet us and celebrate the money realized for their wedding! His Love of God and for Esther along with his intense work ethic has only grown. Over the last two years, Gilbert has used his God-given gifts and skills to build a ministry to come alongside extremely marginalized families, for empowerment, treatment and educational/vocational skills. Here’s the story of Pacifique and her son Aime.

Deep in a grove of Bumbogo – in the hills above Kigali, Gilbert, with the help of the local Anglican Pastor Didas, found Pacifique and her three children living in a dirt hut with a banana leaf roof. Their living conditions were indescribable, bringing two grown men to their knees in tears. Pacifique was caring for three sons: Aime, Eric, and Jado. Eric and Jado greeted both men and then came Aime, dirt and scar-covered boy, pulling himself out of the hut by his only means: his arms. Aime, born with spina bifida (a birth defect that leaves the end of the spine in a sack-like defect outside the body just above the buttocks) had no control of bodily functions nor the use of lower limbs.  In Rwanda, disability is believed to come from the devil, ostracizing and marginalizing the mother and her child. Gilbert raised funds on his visit to the USA, returned to Rwanda and moved Pacifique and her boys to a home in the village. He then took Pacifique and Aime to seek treatment at an orthopedic hospital. After meeting with Dr. Albert, head surgeon, a treatment plan began for Aime’s condition:   corrective surgery for his feet, leg braces, physical therapy needed for his first steps.

Four months into Aime’s treatment, Gilbert asked us to join the first hospital visit with Pacifique since her son was admitted and we eagerly said “Yes!” We all shared the excitement of seeing Aime. Entering the hospital grounds, we heard shouting from the long outdoor hallway. We turned to see Aime joyfully taking his first steps to join us! There were many precious moments in Rwanda – this was different: it was sacredly filled with the joy of a young boy, after long months of treatment, viewing his world at eye level for the first time. God was clearly seen in the face and empowerment of this young boy. Tears of joy flowed from all of us with many hugs as Aime stood before his cheering team. The rest of the young patients gathered around us, some were “Love with Actions” kiddos in treatment and a spontaneous worship began as we sang and praised God for the blessings abundantly given. The kiddos clapped with joy; Julie led songs in Kinyarwanda to their great delight. We learned from Dr. Albert that very few muzungus (“whites”) to visit the hospital, let alone speak the native Kinyarwanda language. Gilbert is a man of great faith with unquestioning obedience to God, and a heart that has an inspiring capacity to love many and the least. This ministry – “Love with Actions” – is flourishing as God promises in scripture through Gilbert’s obedience. The word obedience has a meaning worth understanding: flourishing, joy, and empowerment.

It was tough to leave the hospital after giving hugs, smiles, encouragement, and prayers; loving on too many young faces with complicated medical conditions, each craving love and attention. Travel back to Kigali was a mixture of gratefulness for His blessings and crying out for children needing His tender hand.

Gilbert invited us to accompany Home visits the next day in Bumbogo. And we gladly did. But first, we shopped for sugar, flour, rice and cooking oil for the visit. We were like little kids joyfully filling each bag with much-needed supplies. To our great delight, the first stop was Pacifique’s house. She ran up the path and joyfully embraced us. She had spent much time alone with her two boys Eric and Jado while Aime was away for treatment. The village still shunned her as being possessed by demons as announced by her husband. As we descended the path to her house, we saw many villagers coming to the road curious about the visiting muzungus. She tearfully accepted the bag of supplies and left to put them away. The room filled with happy children from the village touching our skin and our hair; Eric and Jado among them. Julie spoke first, her voice and eyes near tears, thanking Pacifique for the privilege of being part of a tender and sacred moment shared the day before in Rilima. She admired Pacifique’s courage as nothing in this world is fiercer than a mother’s love for her child. Her sacrifices and avocation for Aime are inspiring. We reassured Pacifique that not all fathers are like her former husband. Her faith and Gilbert’s assistance would see her through Aime’s treatment and beyond.

We laid on hands and prayed for Pacifique and her two boys. As we walked out, more villagers gathered on the road above her house. Pacifique’s closest neighbors greeted us and watched the video of Aime walking.  Villagers continued to grow in number. We said our goodbyes to continue our day of home visits. Gilbert shared that our small gesture of a home visit will have a profound impact for Pacifique in the village. White people visiting inside the home of a child with disabilities was big news. It would also help diminish the misguided thought that disability comes from the Mother being possessed by demons. As we entered homes of children with disabilities, villagers gathered outside and watched with great curiosity; emphasizing to us that the ministry of presence in Rwanda is essential and cannot be overstated or diminished.
       

 Visiting mothers of disabled children outside Love with

            Action’s Family Empowerment Center, Bumbog

 

Iman’ishimwe! Ndakunda Love with Actions!

Julie Munezero St. Peter & Frank St. Peter

My Long Journey- From the Streets to New Life

On August 20th 1994, NSHIMIYIMANA BOSCO was born in Kigali city. He’s an orphan of one parent; his other parent died when he was twelve years old. Having lost his parent who provided support and care including education, Nshimiyimana left home and became a street boy for many years. While wiping tears away during his testimony, Bosco couldn’t believe he survived such an unpleasant situation.

Seeking God, Bosco said “I met Mr. Alexis RUHUMURIZA, the unbelievable man in my life who took me to his home and provided all I was lacking from my family.  For sure, Alexis is the forgotten parent in my life and my future.  May God bless him.  I now have hope for my future and am working hard to bring this same hope for those who need it.  I will always remember all the support I received from Alexis.“

“After leaving my family, I didn’t expect to return to school. Despite the fact that I felt hopeless, Alexis took me to school and provided everything needed including fees to catch me up to high school.  I completed my high school diploma, so I am now hoping to attend the university.”

“I want to thank Mr. Alexis very much for all his support, prayer and encouragement that has changed my entire life   God bless him and his family.”

“I remember the day I met Alexis.  He was preaching that night at SODOMA. It was around 2 am. I was doing my job serving prostitutes condoms to use for sex.  The next day, Alexis came to ‘ Sodom;’ he took us (6 children) from this very bad life to live with him.  I respect him for working so hard to change my behavior and my life.  Imagine the behavior of people who are separated from parents (drugs, alcoholism, prostitution and so many other dangerous behaviors) that threatened my whole life. Thank you so much, Alexis, for now, I know that the future is better. The good news is that I am a good man.  My dream is to bring hope to others by sharing my story, equipping the younger generation and encouraging them through the story of my life.  God bless all who have contributed to Alexis’ boys’ home:  Jean McAllister and Ali Bloom.”

 

If you haven’t had the joy of meeting Pastor Alexis Ruhumuriza, come worship with the New Hope Revival.  Services are  Sundays at 10:00am in UC-105

Fighting Human Slavery

Last week in Ghana, International Justice Mission (IJM) supported the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) and local police to rescue four children – two boys and two girls – enslaved in the fishing industry. The children ranged from 7-15 years old, and three of them are siblings. The 13-year-old boy was terrified and stressed through the rescue operation. The girls rescued are his younger sisters. But after receiving food, a shower, and fresh clothes, he approached the team with a huge smile to say, “God bless you.”

The aftercare team provides crayons and coloring books to the children as an outlet for their feelings, and to help them to feel calm and relaxed in the midst of a very confusing situation. The photo shows the children spellbound while watching Tom and Jerry cartoons. All four children are now safe and being cared for at a shelter home, where they will receive immediate medical care and counseling services.
As we celebrate the good work of police and the AHTU in the second

IJM rescue this year, we are also encouraged by the growing support for ending slavery on Lake Volta that is coming from communities around the lake. This month, Ghana’s Church and Community Relations team led a Justice Conference for pastors, church members, and school teachers to learn about God’s heart for justice in a town not far from some of the villages where children are being enslaved on Lake Volta.

Join us in celebrating the progress made in Ghana, that communities and law enforcement are ready to fight for the end of child slavery in the country.
On Sunday, August 19 at 12:15pm in S-140, Jocelyn White of International Justice Mission will be our featured speaker for the Global Outreach Talk at BelPres.  Join us for light lunch and to hear about the work International Justice Mission is doing to rescue people from slavery and helping local authorities capture suspected slave owners.

Hu Ran’s Story

My name is David and I’m a case manager at World Relief. We, at World Relief, wanted to share the story of one of our participants, Hu Ran.

In September 2017, I met Ran and was immediately puzzled by him. Born in China in 1975, Ran looked and seemed completely ordinary. Nothing besides his Christian affiliation suggested that he was someone who could be targeted for persecution. He worked in IT in Beijing translating Mandarin documents into English. His hobbies included table tennis and photography.

Over time, like many refugees, Ran opened up about his story. He told me that he had been a street photographer and began showing me his photos. I was amazed at the compassion his photos rendered towards their subjects and how boldly his photos challenged the status quo. Ran’s love for the poor drew him into Beijing’s hutongs, narrow lanes in a traditional residential area in China. While he sought to capture how people really lived, his love called him into the opulent city plazas where he composed photographs revealing ironic and bold truths. Because of Ran’s humility, I only learned much later that his photos received an award from Magnum Photos and were published by National Geographic. I also learned the degree of admiration was not shared by the authorities in China – who monitored him at work, stalked, harassed him and threatened his family.

Ran fled China and arrived in the U.S. in October 2016. He spent 11 months in the Northwest Detention Center, fighting for political asylum. After receiving asylum on September 18th, 2017, Ran came to World Relief. Through Bel-Pres’ generous donations, World Relief moved Ran into a fully-furnished apartment with roommates. Our on-site ESL teachers helped his English and our job specialists helped Ran create resumes, apply for jobs and shop for work attire. Ran now works part-time at Sea-Tac and attends a Chinese-American church in Federal Way. He’s searching for another part-time job so he can prepare a place for his family and resume his work as a photographer.

“What do you miss about China?” I asked him in an interview.

Ran told me about his four-year-old son, Hu Huaipu, and his wife, Wang Lei. Her name means “flower bud.” Ran misses the hutongs, the narrow streets, and alleyways that line metropolitan Beijing. He misses his idiosyncratic neighbors and the closeness of life in Beijing. “20 million people packed into one city,” he says, fondly.  Nostalgically, Ran talks about how he misses his DSLR camera, which he sold for fear of losing it on the journey to America.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I ask him.

Ran tells of his dream to bring his family to America. He talks about the refugees still in the Northwest Detention Center who left a deep impression on him. “I want to do a documentary on refugees and immigrants,” he says. He explains to me that refugees are good people looking for a fresh start and how some people are fearful of refugees. “They need someone in the middle,” Ran tells me, “to help them understand each other. I can do it! Just like the project I did with the peasant workers in the hutongs.”

“What does Huaipu’s name mean?” I ask Ran, curious about his son’s name. Ran pauses for a moment to translate it. “Honest heart,” he says.

We, at World Relief, are honored to know refugees like Ran. They remind us that refugees are made in God’s image; that they brim with creativity and offer a fresh voice from which we have much to learn. Thank you for your generous donations to help refugees like Ran find a new home in America.

 

Please click here for the National Geographic gallery of Hu Ran’s photography.

Please click here for World Relief Seattle to learn out more about their work with immigrants and refugees.

Perspective on “Perspectives”

Returning from a short-term mission trip to Rwanda in 2004, I felt a burden for the country and its people. As I prayed, I heard God speak into my heart’s ears, “You could go and live there.” When God speaks, I am utterly changed the moment I respond. By his grace, and if he was the one to send and equip me, I told God “yes.”
One of the first things I did preparing for this new adventure was to talk to Pastor Rich Leatherberry. The first thing he suggested was to take the course “Perspectives.” I knew nothing about it, and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. At age 68, I had had very little to do with “missions.” I was somewhat interested in people’s stories as they returned from various far-flung places but didn’t see what part I might have in such work until I went to Rwanda.
What I want you to know is that Perspectives will blow your ideas about “missions” out of the water. Early 2005, I took the course (offered at Belpres) for preparation to go to live in a third world country. And when I came out the other end—yes, it’s a long course (15 weeks) and a lot of reading—I was radically different. I might say: I was born again.
The thing is, I KNEW my Bible. I was and am a Bible student and teacher. The first thing that happened in the beginning weeks was God did an “unraveling” of all my notions about his plans and activities shown in the Bible. The readings and lectures took everything I knew and pulled it all apart, and – praise God – put it back together for me to see it anew. Suddenly it was apparent: From Genesis to Revelation, the scriptures show that God has a plan – a heart – and a mission to reach and to restore all the nations to a relationship with him. I had not seen this before.
Well, that hooked me. Now I wanted to learn how God has been moving over the centuries to accomplish his plan and what cultural awareness I needed to be a part of this. And finally, what strategies God has (and will show us) to use in this ongoing work to reach all nations for his glory.
This “course” is really a powerful instrument from God’s hands for all believers. It is essential for us to know how we fit into his overall plan to be a part of his mission—whether going, sending, equipping, mobilizing, or praying. Praise God for the vision Perspectives unfolds and inspires. It was an essential part of my preparation for Rwanda, and now that I’m back, I’m a strong advocate for Perspectives. I see it becoming an area-wide movement, supported and hosted by many churches in the greater Seattle area, for God’s glory.

 

PERSPECTIVES course is coming to BelPres on Thursday nights, August 30 – December 13!

For more information or to register, go to:  belpres.org/events/perspectives/

Serving Incarnationally

Incarnational ministry” is a challenging term. I have to ask myself regularly whether I’m serving the Lord with “the same attitude as…Christ Jesus” described in Philippians 2:5-11, or just doing my job, following the Perspectives course.

The day before the Nugunu New Testament dedication in Ombessa, Cameroon on December 3, a young Gunu man, Vitus, was asking the same question about us, outsiders, when we showed up in his world for the dedication. He was just a boy during the time my family and I lived in Ombessa to launch the Bible translation program in their language. He didn’t know my history, so it was understandable that he looked skeptical and wondered what right we had to celebrate now that all the hard work was over. He approached Jaci, asked what brought us and didn’t seem satisfied with her answers.

The next day, all that changed. Vitus sought out Jaci at the reception after the dedication ceremonies were over. The skeptical sneer disappeared from his face and was replaced by a look of respect. He told her he now understood why we were there. What made the difference? Serving incarnationally. During the ceremonies, I had the opportunity to express my appreciation to the crowd for how they welcomed me and my family when we lived among them decades before. The young man heard me speaking his language, sharing what motivated me to be part of their community, to share their vision and to work alongside them to make God’s Word available. He saw evidence of the lasting relationships that were built and what a happy reunion it was for me and my Gunu friends. Despite great cultural differences, he saw I had made the effort to identify with his community, not just to get a job done.

Today, I don’t live among the language communities’ translation teams that I consult. Frequently, when I go to Africa, I work with the translators outside of areas where their language is spoken. Can I still serve incarnationally? And what about the months when I’m here in the U.S. helping African translators from the comfort of my desk? May God give all of us the wisdom and the humility as he sends us into our neighborhoods or more distant places, to go as learners and listeners, to recognize how God is at work in the people around us and to experience the power of his Spirit to connect with what he is doing.

Please join us to hear Keith and Jaci Patman speak at the Global Outreach Talk on Sunday, July 8 to celebrate a Bible translation milestone in the country of Cameroon bringing God’s Word to life in an African context.

URBANA in a Nutshell

When I was a sophomore at Whitworth University (2009), I went to Urbana missions’ conference for the first time. I kept hearing about Urbana: “It will change your life!” I was skeptical, of course, but it definitely intrigued me. I was excited about the thousands of college students from around the world gathering in one place to learn more about missions. And so, I went…and, indeed, it did change my life.  (That’s where I first heard about InnerCHANGE. Immediately, I connected with the Guatemalan team, maintained a friendship over the past 8 years and now, have worked as a missionary with InnerCHANGE for over a year in Los Angeles).  When I got there, I realized that I really didn’t have a paradigm for HOW BIG it would be. It was amazing and also a bit overwhelming but in a good way.

There are SO many connections: so many mission organizations, break-out sessions and specialized tracks for people to focus on, as well as Bible studies, awesome speakers and amazing multi-cultural worship.

Things to know:

  • The focus is definitely on the college-age crowd, but anyone can come – so don’t feel dissuaded if you don’t fit in that group, especially if someone is excited about missions. It’s an AMAZING experience and I highly recommend it.
  • It’s HUGE. Thousands of people gather together; lots of energy and lots of information! It’s really exciting, so take advantage of it…but also take care of yourself.  You actually will be more engaged if you take some time to rest, process and pray, instead of feeling pressured to squeeze everything in (that was helpful for me, at least, as an introvert).
  • Be prayerful as you engage in Urbana, and be open to how God might move or work while you’re there. You never know what will open, or how God will speak to you:  through a speaker, worship, a conversation or a time of prayer.
  • Take notes, journal, have conversations, pray. It could be helpful to take something home to look over again later (notebooks with schedules and speakers are provided, but if you have your own that you prefer, bring it!).
  • Get ready…because, whether in a big or a small way, it WILL change your life if you let it!
  • Also, St. Louis is a fun city with lots of free things to do. There may not be a ton of free time, but you can take advantage of things that the city has to offer. It does get COLD in the winter, so bring winter clothes. My sister has lived in St. Louis for the last 5+ years. If it’s helpful to get a list of fun things to do or places to go, I’m happy to ask her! Urbana also does a good job of letting people know which restaurants to go to and helps direct the traffic so that no place is too flooded during lunch time.
  • Since Urbana is so big, it’s nice to go with a group of people you know. Groups can help people process, engage in conversation, explore, etc. and you can also split up and go to different sessions and share what you learned later!

To sum up Urbana in one sentence:  Thousands of people fired up for missions. Come to experience the joy, energy, and inspiration of Urbana. See how God is inviting YOU to participate in missions in your own backyard or across the world.

 

The Final Project

From various churches and denominations, 17-35 year-old Christian leaders study together weekly for the yearlong DOVE’s Onyx leadership program. In December, the Phnom Penh Onyx students presented what they learned in their final graduation requirement from the program using skits and games.
To celebrate their accomplishment, the students from Phnom Penh and Kampong Chhang campuses went on year-end retreat. The retreat was an opportunity for students to reflect on their spiritual and emotional growth, and apply what they learned. The Onyx students faced a real-life “final project” challenge during the retreat.
Ms. Khantey was one of a Phnom Penh student who shared her testimony. Her difficult relationship with her mom made her believe she didn’t love her. The Onyx Five Love Languages program helped her see her mom’s love and care for her. Khantey also learned much from the leadership lessons. Khantey’s teacher who had originally told her she had no ability to lead, later praised her for the great job leading worship music and saw God work through her.

Khantey didn’t get enough sleep so she was tired the next day when we visited a scenic campground 12 miles from the city. We continued to On Long Khiav and hiked the ¾ mile uphill to a waterfall. The others told Khantey that she should rest but she wanted to go with the group. With the help of another Phnom Penh student, she was able to reach the waterfall but felt too weak to swim. Khantey headed back down the trail first with some of the Kampong Chhnang students. She fainted halfway down but they couldn’t revive her. A student and two DOVE staff carried her down as there is no ambulance service in rural Cambodia. They took a motorcycle taxi while a student held her to the nearest doctor 2 miles away. That doctor wasn’t equipped to help her, so we took her to a private hospital 10 miles further where an Onyx student, Mrs. Houng had a relative.

When everyone else got back to the bus, they were worried so they prayed for her. On the way, we stopped at a government health center, where the doctor gave her oxygen, reviving her somewhat and confirmed the need to take her to the hospital. DOVE Kampong Chhnang Coordinator borrowed a truck from the campground owner to take Khantey from the health center to the hospital. Several students also wanted to accompany her. Since it was 5pm on a Saturday, staff had already left the hospital. Fortunately, Mrs. Houng’s relative and two other doctors were still there. We thought Khantey might have to stay overnight. But after we prayed and she received IV electrolytes, she was alert and talking. She rejoined the students at the campground for the evening BBQ.

Through this experience, the students applied the Onyx lessons of love and sacrificial leadership. We were touched by the Kampong Chhnang students’ willingness to serve since they had only met Khantey once before. We praised God for Khantey’s recovery and for the people who helped along the way. In our leadership journey, regardless of good or bad things, we thank God in all circumstances and have learned this is part of God’s reshaping process.

Praying for Muslims during Ramadan

The evening of May 15 marks the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month for all Muslims.  Every year, Muslims look forward to Ramadan with great excitement.  It’s a time characterized by religious zeal and deeper community with other Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst”.  It is expressive of the hunger and thirst Muslims feel while they fast from all food, drink and other physical desires from dawn to sunset for 30 days.  Muslims consider fasting as an act of faith and worship towards Allah and as atonement for sins.

A typical day starts with getting up early and sharing a meal together before the fast begins at dawn. Prayers are offered throughout the day until the fast is finally broken at sunset.  Then, participants will eat together and go to the Mosque, where a part of the Qur’an will be read and a final prayer offered.

The last ten days of Ramadan are particularly significant, especially the 27th night called the ‘Night of Power’ or the ‘Night of Destiny.’ This is when Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an.

Ramadan is a time for Muslims to purify the soul, refocus attention on God and practice self-discipline and sacrifice. Through fasting, a Muslim sympathizes with those who are hungry and have very little to eat every day. Through increased devotion, Muslims seek to draw closer to their Creator.  Through increased charity, Muslims foster generosity toward others.

For 12 years, Belpres has joined with Christians around the world in praying for Muslims during Ramadan using the “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” guide.  Each day, the guide introduces you to specific Muslim people and places where they live, like Cairo, Egypt.  You’ll read the stories of Muslims who have encountered Jesus during this holy month and learn specific things to pray.

“We are in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in 14 centuries of Muslim-Christian interaction.  More than 80% of all the Muslim movements to Christ in history have occurred in the past two to three decades, a time period that coincides with the modern prayer movement for Muslims.  At the heart of this modern prayer movement is 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World.” David Garrison, author of ‘A Wind in the House of Islam.’

 

Feel free to pick up a copy of the “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” on the info-walls around BelPres today or download a PDF version at www.30daysprayer.com.   Join the great movement of Christians who are praying throughout Ramadan. 

Jesus through the Airwaves

Even through trials, great things are happening in Cambodia. Director Sopheary of Family FM Radio flew to the USA a year ago to be diagnosed with serious kidney disease and started on dialysis. After nine months of health and visa issues, she was able to have a transplant. Miraculously, her husband was able to be the donor. Under the leadership of an interim director, Family FM was able to continue their ministry and grow in confidence. The programming team, who make and host daily programs covering family and community issues, as well as Christian content, are incredibly talented and dedicated.  Here are a couple of excerpts below are listeners’ testimonies:

Mr. Thouern, a pastor, lives in a rural village of Pursat province.  He says, “Before I believed in Jesus, I was a monk leader in a Pagoda. I was a very devoted and strong Buddhist, and so was my family. I tried everything to make myself perfect and hated Christians. One of my aunts is a Christian. Every time I gave gifts to family members, I never gave her anything because she believed in Jesus.  Suddenly, I became so sick. During my illness, I was able to see who my true friends were. No one cared for me except my family and my aunt whom I had always hated. During this time, a man came and told me to go to the Christian hospital.  He said the treatment would be free, and “God would heal me.” I only had 10,000 Riel ($2.50), which was only enough for transportation to the hospital and back. However, I spent $1 to buy food as I was starving.  My health check-up went well and the doctor prescribed medicines too. This was a big problem for I had no money to get back home. I asked for some money, and he gave it to me. God used this simple act of kindness to open my eyes and heart to realize that Christians do love people. Later, I gave my life to Jesus. A pastor came and shared about Family FM with me, so I started listening to it often. It has been such a blessing in my life.”

“Although I believed in Jesus for many years, I had trouble remembering the lyrics of the songs and couldn’t sing. After listening to Family FM, I felt a deep love of the hymns and used to sing along. I can now proudly say that God’s goodness, through Family FM, enabled me to memorize over 100 hymns which would have been impossible for me before. God has changed me, and Family FM has been a big part of that. I have learned to be patient and to control my temper too. God has used me to lead all of my family and even my cousins to Jesus Christ. I want to thank Family FM for being such an important part of our life.”

Our Asylee Friends

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Twenty-two members of the BelPres community have partnered as a “Good Neighbor Team” (GNT) with World Relief Seattle, a non-profit organization working with local churches to provide refugee resettlement services.  The GNT’s purpose is to come alongside immigrants granted asylum or refugee status to help with their start in the United States. (Asylee: a person who is seeking or has been granted political asylum)

A little over a month ago, we met Walter from Cameroon (a country in Central Africa), Abdulmanan and Teddy, both from Ethiopia (a country in the horn of Africa). All three men were recently granted asylum in our country.  We have come to know each of them as very friendly, compassionate individuals simply looking for a new beginning. The GNT has committed to assist our new friends for up to 6 months, at which time, we are hopeful each man will be on his way to self-sufficiency.  We can already tell that these will be life-long friendships.

Our commitment is to assist “our guys” with the day-to-day activities like finding housing and employment, establishing a bank account, managing a budget, learning bus routes, transportation to and from medical appointments and helping them enroll in ESL classes.

God has already answered our prayers in so many ways: at first, we were able to assist each to secure a job. Walter and Abdulmanan work at the Northwest University campus in food service. Teddy began learning new skills for a local general contractor.  Each man works very hard and is extremely happy to be living in our country. We often tell people that there is no one that wants to be in our country more than our three guys.

We were blessed to find a reasonably priced apartment in Kirkland. The apartment is next to a major bus line and a few blocks from a local supermarket. Through the generous support and donations from many BelPres people, the GNT was able to completely furnish the apartment in one Saturday afternoon. As Walter told us later that day, “this place really feels like home.”

Our guys enjoy living in our beautiful Seattle area and the GNT has enjoyed taking them on several weekend outings to show them more about our culture and why we love this place we call home.  Some members of the GNT first took Walter up to the mountains to experience snow for the first time.  It was his first time throwing snowballs, snowshoeing and making snow angels. A few weeks later, we toured the Theo Chocolate factory in Seattle and discovered that cocoa beans from Africa are the main ingredient in their chocolate.  We witnessed how the beans are processed to make tasty treats. Another outing was a day trip to Pike Place Market to see the city’s historical center for fresh local produce, specialty foods and the diverse small independent businesses. Most recently, we walked Seattle’s Gas Works Park showing the guys beautiful Lake Union and unobstructed views of the city skyline.  We saw many families enjoying the park and flying colorful kites in the gentle breeze.

The main refrain we hear from all three men, now that they have settled into our neighborhood, is that they are trying to find a better life for themselves and their families. Their courage and determination are evident to all of us, as they have risked everything to get into this country. At one of our recent GNT gatherings, we watched a CBS documentary on the “Darien Gap;” a remote, roadless, 60-mile swath of jungle between Panama and Colombia. We learned that tens of thousands of migrants each year risk their lives to cross the gap by foot from South to Central America including our own Walter and Teddy. The dangers include torrential rains, crossing chest-high swift rivers, steep terrain, poisonous snakes, jaguars, malaria, and confrontations with violent paramilitary groups, controlling the drug smuggling corridor in the jungle. When the film concluded, Walter, with tears in his eyes, told us all how much we have helped each man and how grateful they are. We are all deeply moved by their stories.

We continue to pray for Abdulmanan, Teddy, and Walter as we know that God has a purpose for their life here in America. Walter’s hope is bringing his wife and four children from Cameroon to live with him here in his new country. We continue to ask the BelPres community if they have knowledge of affordable long-term housing as this is our biggest challenge.

Please read Walter’s letter to the Bellevue Presbyterian Church:

Dear people of God,

My name is Walter and I am writing to say thank you for what you, through the “Good Neighbors” has done to my life. 

I came to this country; mid last year and spend four months nine days in the detention center in Tacoma seeking political asylum. God being on my side, my request was granted on the 9th of January 2018. DHLS open the doors of the detention center and I was released.

When I came out, I was desperate and confused not knowing how I could survive but because of you THE BELLEVUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, through your wonderful people of the ‘GOOD NEIGHBOR TEAM’ I now have an apartment which I share with my two Ethiopian friends (Adulmanan and Teddy) who are also refugees. Because of you, I am now working and able to send money to my trapped family back home. What else can I say than to say thank you!       

Walter 

If you know of housing opportunities, or if you have questions related to BelPres GNT, please contact Kristen Chesmore at 425-761-8583.

Stars in Her Eyes

Estrella means “star” in Spanish and her eyes reflect that as they sparkle with joy. But this wasn’t always the case for the young Dominican girl. I would get teased a lot, says Estrella of her life before Children of the Nations (COTN). “People would tell my mom not to let me look at them because they didn’t like the way I looked.” Estrella’s esotropia (condition of which one or both eyes turns inward) made it difficult for her to see. Her poor eyesight caused her to struggle in school and she was teased for her appearance. Her family struggled to afford food and clothing so paying expensive medical bills was out of the question.

Fortunately, visiting medical Venture teams from COTN treated Estrella and subsequently, she was able to have eye surgery.  “It has changed my life forever!” Estrella declares. “My total disposition changed after my surgeries. I have self-confidence and I am happy.”

Today, through COTN, Estrella attends school and enjoys nutritious meals. She receives important follow-up care through their medical clinic including prescription glasses that continue to correct her vision. Her surgery and continued care have helped her grow up a happy and confident young woman. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of medical Venture teams, the clinic staff, and partners who supported the clinic and children like Estrella.

The COTN clinic plays a crucial role in keeping children healthy and by offering lower cost medical care to the community of Barahona in pediatrics, gynecology, surgical procedures, and dentistry. Last year, thanks to the generosity and tireless work of COTN partners and volunteers, the clinic doubled in size.

Barb Kjose, a nurse and Venture team member, recalls the early days of the clinic: “We would come in the morning and there would be a line out way past the clinic. And we’d feel bad because we could not see all those who came.”  And now a second story has been added to the building, creating more space for surgery, dental care, and processing patients. The expansion has also moved the clinic’s laundry room and kitchen from an old shack to a more hygienic space within the building.

Estrella wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up. To everyone who supported the clinic, she says, “Thank you. . . Without the clinic, we would not have medical help. More people would suffer and have bad health, and I would still be suffering physically and emotionally with my crossed eyes.”

Thank you for helping children like Estrella ‘see’ their way to a healthier future.

 

If you would like to find out how you can go on a Medical Mission with COTN or other organizations, please come to the Global Outreach Talk on Medical Missions, Sunday, April 8, 12:15pm in S-140.

First Response Radio

In December 2016, a small First Response Radio(FRR) team responded to an earthquake in SE Asia which displaced 90,000 people, by setting up a radio station in a local government office building. They broadcast information about tent distribution, what to do in case of aftershocks, stories from the affected community, trauma counseling, and they distributed radios. Listeners thanked them for being the only radio station to address their need for information. Save The Children also appreciated the radio programs allowing children to tell their stories, noting the vulnerability of children in trauma situations.

Pakistan
Mike has been waiting many years for doors to open allowing FIRST Response Radio (FRR) to train people to support Hazeen, the one-man FRR ‘team’ in Pakistan. It could be said that a good day in Pakistan is like a disaster anywhere else in the world, and Hazeen has single-handedly responded to earthquakes and floods there for many years. Last year Hazeen was given 5 minutes to talk to the Director General of Pakistan’s Radio Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), and as he prayed for wisdom how to use his 5 minutes, he decided to show the FRR promotional video ’72 Hours in 72 Seconds’ which had been translated into Urdu. One hour later they were still talking, and FRR was given permission to bring a radio-in-a-suitcase into Pakistan. In April, Mike and Hazeen demonstrated it to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and their head of Communications offered to work with FRR. 35 people from 10 agencies attended the one-day ‘taster’ event which explained the role of radio communications in disasters. FRR has been invited to hold a full training event in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the visas were not granted for this year, and FRR will continue to push for this training. Suffice it to say; God opened doors for FRR beyond what we asked or imagined.

Philippines
On October 17th, FRR Philippines did Early Warning messaging anticipating Typhoon Lawin passing through Northern Luzon, Philippines. This was the first time FRR served a role in Early Warning. They coordinated with the Humanitarian community and the Philippines Government Office. Broadcasting on the station DZMR in Santiago Isabela, they shared information from UNOCHA to the impacted community and FRR Philippines officially deployed their Alpha team to respond in the aftermath of Typhoon Lawin.

 

To find out more about First Response Radio, go to their Facebook page here.