Observing the Sabbath at Matthew House

At the beginning of March, Matthew House had the honor of having a young woman from Israel come in and stay with us for a day. V.R. had never been to Matthew House before, but she decided to give us a call because her brother is incarcerated at Monroe Correctional Complex, and she wanted to look into all of her options as to where she could stay for the duration of her visit. V.R. let us know how important this visit was for her because she hadn’t seen her brother in two years.

We of course told her that we would love to have her stay with us, to which she expressed her thankfulness and gratitude towards our ministry and what we do. But there was just one thing – she would be staying with us during her Sabbath. For Christians, we tend to think of Sunday as being our Sabbath, but for Jews their Sabbath extends from Friday evening into Saturday evening. We thought that meant that V.R. would only be visiting her brother and then resting. We soon found out that it would be a lot more than that.

During their Sabbath, many Jews, especially within Orthodox Judaism, are restricted from using electricity (Exodus 35:3 talks about not kindling a spark). Now, I know what you’re thinking: how does anybody get by for two days without using any electricity? And what does that specifically mean? Just as it sounds…they’re unable to use anything that requires electricity. No driving cars because when you start the engine there is an electric spark. No cell phone use or watching television. Kitchen appliances that have to be plugged in can’t be used either. However, what surprised us the most was that V.R. couldn’t use any of the lights; she couldn’t turn them on or off, she wasn’t even allowed to touch them herself. What if she needed to get up and do something in the middle of the night? How would she be able to see?

After taking some time to research, our executive director Linda learned that as long as a light in the room was already on by the time her Sabbath started, she could leave that light on. Linda then went out and bought a small plug-in night light and turned it on the day before V.R. was scheduled to come in.

We thought we had figured everything out, she would surely run into no other problems during her stay. But then, something else was quickly brought to our attention. In order to get into the apartments where she would be staying, V.R. would need to go through a set of doors, and each were only accessible by electric key pads. How would she be able to get inside after her visit? Her visiting time was due to last past when we closed at 5pm. We would be home for the night. A.C. had come up to visit from Wenatchee and was staying upstairs (in a separate apartment) as well, but how would she know when V.R. was back and needing to get in? Would she for sure be able to hear her knocking on the front door from her apartment?

Linda couldn’t simply rely on that in case something were to go wrong. So, she agreed to come back to Matthew House at 8:30PM to let V.R. into the building and into her apartment. When the time came, Linda did just that, and V.R. was safe and turned in for the night in her room, where her small night-light beamed.

After visitation was over that following Saturday, V.R. came back to Matthew House to see Linda before she was set to head out. They sat in the kitchen for an hour, where V.R. revealed that this visit was necessary because she didn’t know if she would be able to visit her brother again while he’s in prison, as it is too costly to come from Israel to Monroe. Linda told her that she was sorry for such an unfortunate circumstance, but V.R. noted that it was OK because she was able to see him when she did. With that, she was on her way.

It’s interesting when you think about all of the women and children who stay at Matthew House. We’ve had women and children stay with us from all over the United States, and even had visitors from each of the seven continents stay with us. We are so thankful that we are able to meet such a diverse group of people and appreciate all of the new experiences that we are able to share with them through our organization.

 

Matthew House is an organization dedicated to assisting children and the families of people incarcerated in Washington’s prisons. When a man is convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, society often breathes a sigh of relief and says “good riddance.” Left behind, though, are the wives and children. They are left to face increased responsibilities on reduced incomes. They are often abandoned by family for being married to a prisoner. These are the lonely, forgotten lives in the criminal justice system.

Matthew House exists to support these families with a clothing closet, a food pantry, shelter in our three apartments, transportation to various prisons throughout the State, childcare and adult counseling. Studies prove that inmates who are locked up and forgotten are likely to reoffend when they are released. But those who receive visits and are released to supportive families have a much better chance of living a crime free life.

 

KidREACH Connections

Meet Miabella, Fifolu, Margaret, and Beth!

Fifolu and Beth are tutors who make a profound difference in the lives of their students. Neither has an educational background, but both have a heart for children and find tutoring to be very rewarding.

Summers are particularly hard for students who struggle academically. As early as Grade 1, summer learning loss can be recognized. By the end of grade 6; students who have experienced summer learning loss over the years, are an average of two years behind their peers.

This is especially true for the children of parents whose first language is other than English. Learning a new language (ELL) impacts more than a person’s language skills and vocabulary – if they can’t read the directions, how can they succeed in math?  Fifolu and Beth help level the playing field for Miabella and Margaret.

Thanks to Fifolu, Miabella, a delightful second grader is catching up. Children often come to BelPres KidREACH feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, but by the time they are in High School, many students qualify for Advanced Placement courses. Giving hope to Miabella inspires her whole family. Her mother just completed her High School Diploma and is now in college taking bookkeeping courses. Miabella’s sister is also a KidREACH alumnus. She is currently a successful college graduate, working as a bookkeeper.

Fifolu is not only a tutor; she is a role model. She takes her own grades seriously and has helped inspire Miabella to love learning, especially reading. Miabella also feels loved and supported. She looks forward to tutoring each week and works hard.

Margaret and Beth have also built a secure connection this year. Margaret, also a second grader, is a delight. Her parents say tutoring is the highlight of her week. She loves Beth and can hardly wait to see her.

Both families are immigrants, and neither family could afford to pay for a tutor. They speak highly of this ministry’s effectiveness. This is true for all the families we minister to by KidREACH. Most families at BelPres KidREACH are immigrants from countries such as Rwanda, Congo, Guatemala, Mexico, Ukraine, and more. They enroll their children in the KidREACH Summer Tutoring because they know it helps level the playing field. It is also a powerful way of bringing about social justice and racial reconciliation.

Make a profound difference in the life of a child – be a Summer Tutor.

Interested in being a Summer Tutor? Teaching background is not necessary; all you need is a heart for children and a desire to give a child hope for a better life. Curriculum and support are provided. Summer Tutoring is for 4 weeks on Thursdays from 6pm-8pm. The dates are July 18, July 25, August 1 and August 8. Get additional information, contact: belpresserve@belpres.org

Baby Basics – Family Snapshot Stories

Jacob began receiving diapers when he was nine months old. He lives with his young father and grandparents. His father works at a restaurant during the day while his grandmother babysits Jacob and his little cousin. (His grandmother is usually the one who picks up diapers at our once-a-month distributions.)  His grandmother works a swing shift so Jacob spends evenings with his father and grandfather. His father hopes to attend college or a trade school part-time. The family heard about Baby Basics through Hopelink.

Kyle was a newborn when he entered the Baby Basics program. We’ve had fun watching him grow from a tiny baby to a healthy toddler. His single mother works full-time at a local retail business to support Kyle and two school-aged children. Friends, relatives and part-time daycare provide childcare for Kyle. His family heard about the program through the School District’s Family Connection Counselors.

Edwin’s mom was referred to Baby Basics through a School District’s Family Connection Counselor where his sister attends. They were on the wait list for almost six months in 2016. They received one-time emergency diapers during that time and were given contact info for other community resources. When Edwin was eight months old, there was an open spot in the program. Edwin’s father works two jobs: one for a large local athletic club and the other for a cleaning company. When Edwin is a little older, his mother plans to work again. He is a sweet, shy little guy and loves his mom and sister.

Gwen entered the Baby Basics program when she was a year old. Her mom is still in high school and they live with Gwen’s grandparents who are hardworking and low-income. Gwen is a happy, healthy toddler.  Her mom is struggling to finish high school and will not graduate with her class. She works part-time at a fast food restaurant while attending school and parenting her little girl. She dropped out of high school at one point and may not now be attending. They were referred by a family member who knew about the program from Jubilee Reach.

One of the newest babies in our program, Anna, is four months old. Her parents learned about Baby Basics from the Family Connections Counselor at her brother’s school. Her father works full time for a local landscaping service. Anna’s mom does not work outside the home now and plans to work again as a housecleaner when her children are a little older.

These families all live, work and go to school in Bellevue while some other families we serve only work in Bellevue or go to school in Bellevue. Most live near Crossroads Mall. We have had a student from Eastside Academy and currently, we have several teen moms. Their stories show their lives to be challenging with minimum wage jobs, low education and living with extended family in small apartments. Generally, the families in the Baby Basics program are hopeful and want their children to have an education, more job opportunities than is available for them and a better future for their families. It is a privilege to get to know them and to watch their babies grow. They are all very grateful and sometimes embarrassed that they need help. Homelessness is very real to most of the families in the program.  Some have experienced homelessness and some have avoided it by living with extended family in crowded conditions.

“Love Where You Are” by donating diapers to build healthy families. Diapers 4, 5, and 6 are especially needed. Drop off diapers at playpens in lobbies on Mother’s Day or BelPres office.

Gifts Continue to Give with the Alternative Gift Market

Thank you to everyone who purchased gifts from the BelPres Alternative Gift Market (AGM) last Christmas Season. The total raised by the 2018 AGM was $62,266. Every penny of the AGM funds goes directly toward your purchased gift. The funds are used by global and local ministries to support special projects and programs that fall out of their budget scope. It is exciting to send the money out and see the fruit from our support.
The cover of the 2018 AGM catalogue featured a refugee worker in one of the gardens. One of the global gift items was garden supplies for the refugees starting a new life and settling in Washington. This gift covered materials like seeds and tools to equip refugees to work in their garden preparing, planting, growing and harvesting their crops. Your donations raised over 1000 dollars for this gift.
World Relief shared new photos of recipients using tools bought with the most recent donations, and we want to share those with all of you who give so generously to support AGM each year. Chandra is from Bhutan, and he is holding some new tools that he will use to prepare his garden. Laylay is from Burma and is working in the garden with her daughter and her new hoe to turn over her garden bed winter cover crop.
Many thanks, again, for your support for the Alternative Gift Market. Your gifts make a difference in lives in our community and communities around the world.

Diversity in Unity

Imagining our Faith Community Differently

God loves all people and desires that all be saved. That love is clear and evident in the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the hope that we have! Yet there are scores of individuals and groups of people, particularly those who are hurting and left out, who have yet to experience that love. We all can relate to pain and loss. There are those that, due to their disabilities, have experienced pain so deep that maybe few can understand outside of our Lord. They’ve experienced loss not only of personal aspirations, but also the loss of a community that loves and supports its members.

 What if it were different for our friends with disabilities? What if the Church responded differently to people that God longs to include into His family?

 We see in Scripture that this truly is the heart of God. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17). No matter our abilities we know that Jesus came because we all were unable to do this on our own. So, it is our responsibility as the body of Christ to reach out and invite, to share with others the hope that we have in God, and to love our neighbors unconditionally as God loves us.

 I was in India not long ago, visiting an impoverished slum in Mumbai. It was at a prayer service that I shared with everyone that we are no different and that in God’s eyes we are all equal. Just because I may have more money, I live in America, or my skin color is different does not mean I am better, even though in people’s eyes that may be the case. In His eyes, we are all on the same level. We all are made in His image and likeness. What is on the outside does not define us. This equality is summarized beautifully when Christ told us to show no partiality when we gather corporately (James 2:1-4). Truly we are all equal. That is the beauty of our faith!

 If we believe in the saving grace of our God and follow His steps as a community of believers, then it’s clear — it’s not our place to choose who is welcome and who is not welcome in His church. God invites all, and it is our responsibility to actively and intentionally pour out the love that Christ has placed in our hearts to our neighbors. This is not something that we do. It is who we are.

 Bridge Disability Ministries imagines Church as a place where all mankind can gather at the feet of Jesus, where we experience the gift of fellowship, the blessing of being in the family of God. If we intentionally reach out to our neighbors of all abilities, our faith community will be a lot closer to the way God had in mind all along.

 

Bridge Ministries is a partner ministry supported by BelPres Community Outreach and the Legacy Foundation.

On May 15, 2019, Bridge Ministries will host “Diversity in Unity: Imagining our Faith Communities Differently”. It will be held at the Westminster Chapel from 9 -4 PM. Join us as we strive—together—to bring about that which Christ desires. Register by March 31 with code: EARLYBIRD for 20% off