Jesus For All

She sat across the table from me, her young sons flanking her, one on her left and one on her right. Seven days earlier they had given everything they had left to a man in Turkey to take them to Athens. The journey took them through the forest, along a muddy path by the river, evading fences, wild animals and border guards. They traveled at night and hid during the day. On the fourth day, they ran out of food. On the seventh day, they arrived in Athens, cold, wet, dirty, hungry and with no possessions. She had no one to turn to for help and no place to go. But then someone told her about a church, which was helping refugees, so she went there. They welcomed her and found her a place to stay in an old unheated building. Now she was sitting across from me to receive a free meal. I, along with a small team from

Seattle, had come to serve her and the nearly one hundred other refugees who were there that day. As she told me her story, her hands shook uncontrollably. She didn’t know if it was the cold weather or the trauma she had been through which caused the shaking.

Her story was that after a few years of marriage, her husband began to beat her regularly. Several times he made arrangements to loan her to his friends for a price. Finally, she had enough. She got brave and divorced him. At first, he didn’t want anything to do with her or the boys. So he gave them to her. But then he changed his mind and asked his friends to help him kill her. So she fled and left her country out of fear for her life. First, she went to Turkey. But when they told her they were going to send her back, she found the man who took her to Athens. “Today,” she said, “I am going to apply for my papers from the government.” These papers would allow her boys to go to school in Athens and permit her to work. But documents like this, she lamented, could take several months and sometimes up to a year to receive. After we ate, I gathered our group around her and prayed for her and her boys. Then she left.

The next day, we came again to serve meals. There she was, sitting at a different table, a big beautiful smile foretelling the announcement she was about to make. She had received her papers! But Jesus goodness and love was not unnoticed. Her oldest son explained that the reason why this happened was that we had prayed to our God! And like so many Muslims before them, who have fled their countries in the Middle East, this mother and her two boys eventually committed their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Two months later, the pastor of the church we served in baptized them.

We are living in unprecedented times. We see the most significant turning of Muslims to faith in Christ since the birth of Islam. Coincidentally, Christians have been praying for Muslims to encounter the Risen Christ for over 30 years. Today’s movements are fueled by three decades of faithful prayers.

I am telling you this because May 6 marks the beginning of Ramadan for our Muslim neighbors and continues through June 4. Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims. I want to invite you to join with Christians all over the world in praying for them and using something called the “Muslim World Prayer Guide” to help you. The Prayer Guide will introduce you to specific Muslim people and places where they live, like Egypt, Malaysia, Turkey, and Sudan. You will read the stories of Muslims who have encountered Jesus and learn specific things to pray for during this holy month. You can pick up a copy of the “Muslim World Prayer Guide” in the lobby today or download a PDF version at www.30daysprayer.com. Join the movement.

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.

Audience of One

Blogging for me is more therapeutic than anything else. Lately, people are asking me why I don’t blog more and when am I going to write again. Honestly, writing is hard. I’m not particularly good at it, and yet, it helps me process what is going on inside; especially, in my heart. I appreciate my friends’ encouragement though, so I’ll try to write more.

Looking back at my Lenten journey in college, it was a negative experience of my faith in Christ. After gathering on campus, we would all head out to different restaurants to just hang and connect. The only reason I knew it was Lent was all the water bottles everyone had, and no one was ordering food, even though we were at a restaurant. I remember asking: “Why is everyone carrying a water bottle? Why is no one eating at that whole table?” Oh yeah, it’s Lent! And they’re fasting. I thought why in the world meet in a restaurant if they weren’t going to eat. It was evident to everyone around them that they were fasting. Some were happy to talk about it. From that experience, I realized I couldn’t stand the public persona of spiritual discipline. It all looked and smelled of hypocrisy.

Jesus said, Matt. 6:16-18 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to people that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Jesus had it right: if you engage in spiritual disciplines, do it in private. God wants an audience of one; just you and Him. Even if you have to stop and break a spiritual discipline (because not doing so would make it public), then I would do it. You can reengage in a spiritual discipline afterward. Once it becomes public, there goes the ‘audience of one.’ More important than the discipline is our relationship with God. Since then, I rarely tell anyone of my spiritual discipline practice. I am far from where I want to be with spiritual disciplines, and I hope to continue becoming more and more like Jesus. He did things right.

Survivor Cambodia

The DOVE Phnom Penh Onyx students, staff and volunteers headed to a retreat on an island off the coast of Cambodia, Koh Rong. It was the location for two seasons of the “reality” show, Survivor. As we approached the coast, it started raining. Tropical Storm Pabuk was in the Gulf of Thailand and authorities warned boats to expect high waves. On the bus ride, I wondered if we were going to make a new episode of Survivor. The staff monitored and prayed about the storm.
An Onyx lesson asks students to imagine that they are a boat, first undergoing repairs in dry dock and then setting sail to test seaworthiness. Lay, the DOVE Phnom Penh Coordinator, thought it fitting to end the year departing from a real port to sail on the ocean. When I heard they were going to Koh Rong, I was afraid I would get seasick crossing in a fishing boat. When Lay said they would take the 50-seat express ferry which is smoother and only takes 45 minutes, I decided to go. Despite Pabuk, the ferry was still running so we took off. I recalled that Jesus is Lord over the wind and waves.

Overall, the only significant effect of Pabuk was that we got seasick. When unloading another group of passengers at an island, waves near shore were so strong they couldn’t step onto the dock. Being tossed up and down, everyone started to look green.  I took off my life jacket and stood near the front deck where there was a breeze. We waited while a smaller boat was sent to transport the others ashore. We continued to Koh Rong and were able to step out on the dock. Friday night, the high surf washed up lots of trash and flotsam onto the beach, but it cleaned up quickly.

Making a scrapbook for the ensuing year, students spent Saturday morning reflecting on what they learned about God, themselves and relationships with others. They also made 2-3 year plans to fulfill or discern God’s vision for their life. That night, they took turns sharing and then prayed blessings for each other to fulfill those visions.

Because of the waves on Saturday, the ferry wasn’t running. The ferry ran again on but arrived late with oversold seats. After some discussion, they let everyone board. Lay and some other passengers wound up standing or sitting on luggage. I noticed two staff members, Serey and Virak, put on life jackets. I followed their lead! The ride back was a lot rougher, so I was grateful to dock back on the mainland. The one thing that approached a Survivor episode was Serey killing a 2-inch centipede crawling next to me on my bed. I carefully shook out all my clothes before and after packing at home.

The real survivors at Koh Rong were the Onyx students persevering the past year to finish the program. Instead of forming alliances against each other to become the sole survivor, they became a family where people share honestly.  Moreover, they’ve shown they have the heart to serve others.  Two students, Ngechsor and Pheakday, travel back to their province on Saturdays after class to share the Onyx lessons with the local church youth. Also, another small group planned and carried out a children’s outreach at a resettlement village near Phnom Penh, where one of them lives. As these students set sail after Onyx, we look forward to hearing further adventures of how God works through them to bless their communities.