Vacation Bible Adventure Response

Across social media, there have been concerns voiced about the original content of the Vacation Bible Adventure (VBA) curriculum we have selected for this year (that have been directed towards the publisher content, not our church specifically). This was concerning to us as well and we have addressed this and we wanted to communicate with you what steps we have taken.

 

We were aware of concerns prior to the current controversy and have been addressing the issues throughout our preparation. Every year (this is year 21 for Laura), we carefully choose and re-write curriculum, change activities to make them align with the values of BelPres, as well as keep them age appropriate. 

 

We have found that curriculums are best used for bones of programs, primarily for music and graphic packages. We stick to the Bible stories as the basis for lessons, picking and choosing the activities that best share the Gospel and are inclusive to ALL children. For example, last year the curriculum we selected was a sports theme but we had concerns that it was only focused on children with full physical abilities. Realizing this wasn’t honoring to all children we expanded the content to include other activities so that it was inclusive of all children. We also adjusted our language and coaching to volunteers so that children of all kinds of abilities were welcomed and included in our program.

 

This year from our first meeting we chose to go with an animals and ecosystem focus and not push into one country, continent, or culture (Theme: Life is wild – God is good). We will always strive to portray others in an honoring light, both as individuals and as cultures, and have omitted aspects of the curriculum that do not represent our values at BelPres. The VBA leadership team is actively guiding our volunteers and coaching them to use language that does not lead to cultural appropriation or stereotypes.

 

We are happy to talk with anyone who may have concerns or questions regarding this. We are putting the utmost care into VBA to make it an enriching experience for all the children who attend, and we cannot wait to experience the lives that will be changed as a result. Life is wild, God is good!

 

Laura Quaratiello

Elementary Ministries Director

 

Colin Robeson

Family Life Ministries Pastor

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

 

Walk to Salvation

Mahmadu Koroma is a quiet, determined eleventh grader who walks 4 hours round trip every day between the Mokpangumba Riverbank and Ngolala Junction to attend Mallory Jansen Memorial Senior Secondary School. Mahmadu is from a Muslim background, but no longer a Muslim because of the good works of Children of the Nations (COTN) in this primarily Muslim area. Today, he thanks God for COTN and staff, like Mr. Ngoneh, who helped his parents to allow him to attend church. When asked about his present life, this is what he had to say:

“I, Mahmadu Koroma, will always be thankful to God for using COTN to help me when I fell in a hole a few years back while walking home in the dark after working on a farm.

Because we are poor, I didn’t tell my parents for three days for fear of what they might say or do. Then I got to a point that I could no longer hide the pain and suffering anymore. COTN heard about it and had me treated at the Italian Emergency Hospital where they deal with bone accidents. COTN provided accommodations and meals for me for 3 months while I recuperated at COTN housing in Marjay Town. Sadly, it made me see and feel the big difference between Christians and Muslims in need.  Neither of my parents came to give the support I needed – just my brother sometimes, and my COTN brothers and sisters came by while I was there.

As a Muslim, I was taught to look to Allah for everything – I never saw any help and I was disappointed. Had it not been for COTN, I would have lost one leg. I am very thankful to God that I have both legs, although one seems longer than the other when I walk.

Today, I am thankful that I have come to know God through the Christian fellowship conducted in school and church services.  The daily meals at COTN’s feeding program and the shoe distribution have been a blessing to us who cannot afford good, solid shoes.  Those, who are from a Muslim background, wonder why our parents don’t talk much about Jesus.

My prayer for everyone, including children, is that God keeps you and bless you because of your faith.  Thank you for giving us hope for a better tomorrow. Thank you.”

 

BelPres Meal Packing Marathon helps support the COTN feeding program in Mokpangumba, where Mahmadu and many other children like him get their daily nourishment. Your participation and your prayers are the most important ways you support this event.

This year, our goal is to pack 150,000 meals for our brothers and sisters in Mokpangumba.  BelPres Mission+Serve will cover the first $20,000. We still need to raise additional funds since the registration fee does not cover the cost of food, material, and shipping.    If you would like to make a donation, you may give by credit card at Belpres.org – specify “other gift” as Meal Packing. 

The Gift of Milk

Since returning to Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide, First Lady Jeannette Kagame has become devoted to uplifting the lives of the vulnerable population in Rwanda, particularly those of widows, orphans and impoverished families. Because of this work, she helped to establish the Imbuto Foundation, which means “seed” in Kinyarwanda. Among the many areas of need in Rwanda, the foundation has focused on motivating girls to excel in school, providing scholarships to disadvantaged youth, promoting a reading culture, and mentoring and equipping youth with entrepreneurial and leadership skills.

First Lady Jeanette Kagame has also received many awards and appointments for this vital work. In 2009, Mrs. Kagame received the prestigious UNICEF Children’s Champions Award in recognition of her efforts to improve the lives of children in Rwanda. This hardworking and well-loved First Lady of Rwanda also appreciates and recognizes those in Rwanda who are partnering in this effort to uplift impoverished children and families.

In November of 2018, Rwanda Faith Academy received a letter from the office of Jeanette Kagame thanking them for all they are doing to support the next generation of Rwandans. RFA has been diligent in their reporting to the Ministry of Education the number of students enrolled, the consistency of the high scores on the National Exams received by RFA students, and their developing curriculum on practical life skills and good home practices to strengthen the families of RFA students. The teaching staff received recognition this year for excellence in teaching on World Teacher Day. All of these remarkable efforts came to the First Lady’s attention, and she awarded a monthly gift of milk to 444 of the most vulnerable RFA students.

On November 11, 2018, the first gift of milk arrived. The day was festive with much celebration and thanksgiving as the gifted students received and drank the milk. For many of them, it was the first time to drink milk. And the children cheered with glee when told this gift of milk from the First Lady would continue to come each month for the next year. For First Lady Jeanette Kagame, milk has a very special place in her heart; you see, she met her husband, President Paul Kagame, over a glass of milk.

The students, Teachers, staff, and advisory board praise our God for his provision and blessings over Rwanda Faith Academy. We look forward to the start of the 2019 school year and know God will meet all of us on that first day.

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.

 

Behind the Scenes with Heather Hedlund

Where is God calling you? What is your passion and purpose? Many of us are searching for answers to these questions. But even as a child, Heather Hedlund knew the Lord was calling her.

As a young teen, God put issues of justice on her heart and she daydreamed about how she would one day solve some of the world’s problems – perhaps the answer to homelessness or the path out of poverty.

When Heather feels a nudge from the Holy Spirit, she acts on it.  She prays for direction, educates herself, and takes initiative.

For example, after listening to former pastor Dick Leon’s call to the congregation for an assault on poverty, she joined a group to pray about it and study how poverty affected elementary-aged children in our local area. Soon after, KidREACH was established in Bellevue; a program Heather helped lead for 13 years.

“I will never forget the way Heather advocated for children and families as the director of KidREACH,” says Lisa Phelps, director of early childhood. “Heather truly loved each child and family, and advocated for them at school, in immigration matters, and for basic needs. God gave Heather a humble heart and the strength to serve in difficult situations, as Jesus did,”says Phelps.

Heather describes her service with KidREACH as a time of great learning. “My years in KidREACH opened my eyes to the issue of poverty and the pathways out of poverty. My views were challenged and I had to rethink the issue once I was exposed to real people who were suffering. It caused me to open my mind to new ideas,” she says.

After 13 years, and with much prayer and thoughtful decision-making, she stepped away to await God’s next call. “I wanted to be intentional about my next project. I knew God had called me both into and out of KidREACH, and I wanted to take my time to listen for my next calling,” says Heather.

A year later, while listening to guest speaker Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil speak on racial justice, Heather felt another nudge from the Lord – one she had apparently been preparing for and knew she couldn’t ignore.

“I had read several articles on racial justice and reconciliation, heard many news reports, and was aware of the unrest, hurt, and struggle of the country – but I hadn’t found a way to act on my passion,” Heather says. “I didn’t know what my next steps would look like, but I felt the Holy Spirit within me and I knew I had to learn more. I began to feel the same passion for racial justice and reconciliation and the Justice Team as I had for KidREACH.”

“Heather has an enormous caring heart,” says Elizabeth Hayford, director of missions administration. “Through her work leading our KidREACH program and now guiding our Justice and Reconciliation Team, she shows Jesus’ love by building bridges to connect and care for many who are marginalized,” she says. “Supporting Heather in her roles at church is a pleasure and gives me a glimpse into a person after God’s heart who is seeking to build God’s kingdom every day.”

As leader of the Justice and Reconciliation Team, Heather has broadened awareness of social justice issues by helping to bring opportunities to the congregation, like Frames and Filters and Under Our Skin workshops, Anti-Racism Bible studies, book groups, and more.

Tom Brewer, director of community outreach, describes Heather as dedicated to serving others, especially those more vulnerable. “Heather is a supremely capable and conscientious leader who demonstrates empathy, compassion, an indomitable spirit, and a get-it-done attitude,” Tom says. “When something important and challenging needs to be achieved, Heather is a leader you can rely on.”

“Opening myself up to new things and putting myself outside my comfort zone have taught me how to be teachable,” says Heather. “I discover not only what I know, but also what I don’t know. It has taught me humility,” she says, “so that I’m not so set in my notions and more willing to learn.”

Lisa Phelps, who has worked alongside Heather in KidREACH and attended several justice learning opportunities, sees Heather’s gifts firsthand. “The Lord has called Heather to serve the poor, seek justice, and share her God-given gifts. She has a remarkable intellect, curiosity, patience, and love,” says Lisa.

“Heather thinks and prays about what she has learned, and quietly works with others to create opportunities for all of us to learn, act and consider Jesus’ example.”

“I have gained so much,” Heather says. “My faith has been stretched by these opportunities. First, I have learned to depend on God. When the problems look too big to solve on my own, I trust that God will provide.

“We often hear Pastor Dudley pray ‘Break my heart for what breaks yours, Jesus.’ That is my prayer too, and my work in the areas of poverty and justice are places I feel clearly called by the Lord and led by the Holy Spirit.

“My advice to others is to find areas you are passionate about and listen for spiritual direction. There is so much we can do together to make a difference.”

Heather is married to husband Magnus and is the mother of Elise and Erik.

 

Behind the Scenes with Wyatt Cook

Life experience and perspective are gifts we gain with age. We look back and realize the life lessons we’ve learned over the years from the good times and the hardships we faced. Is there a way to share our hard-won experience with those who are struggling with similar life issues?

At Eastside Academy (EA) they’re always looking for adults willing to “share life” with a teen. Many young people are eager to connect with an adult who can help guide them through life’s twists and turns. For the past four years, Wyatt Cook mentored at Eastside Academy. Wyatt is an engineer, a pilot, an Auto Angels participant and long-time BelPres congregant. He has enjoyed his relationship with two EA mentees, with his second one just graduating in June 2018.  “Kids need a consistent adult in their life,” says Wyatt, “someone who will listen, share a relationship, and give them guidance. Ninety percent of being a mentor at EA is just showing up,” he explains, “and when you show up, you build trust and the rest naturally follows.”

Wyatt has attended BelPres for over 20 years and has lived in Bellevue most of his life.  He grew up with a very involved dad who spent considerable time doing activities with the family – from flying to fishing to skiing. He valued their relationship and the time they spent together.  He treasures their times together learning to restore an airplane, fly a plane, re-build a car and boat, as well as taking long, leisurely vacations with the family.

As his children moved into adulthood, Wyatt has spent some of his newfound free time volunteering at BelPres – “paying it forward” through his work with Eastside Academy. He sees less parental engagement in our society today, with families torn between increasing commitments and longer working hours. He feels strongly that kids need an adult in their life to help them through the confusing time of growing up.

As a mentor, he meets for lunch once a week with his mentee, and may take him on an outing 2-3 times a year. Wyatt has taken his mentees to the Museum of Flight and Mariners games.  He sometimes gives advice on education, career, or life choices and at other times just simply listens.  “I try to model a Christian life and be empathetic. But my consistent time with my student is what is most important – just knowing I am going to show up each time,” he explains.

Wyatt and his mentee Josh share an interest in engineering.   “My mentor, Wyatt, is my favorite thing about Eastside Academy,” says Josh. “He’s a pilot and knows a lot about what I want to do in my life. He helps me make plans for my future. We hang out at least once or twice a week, and I’m helping him construct an airplane at his house,” he says.

“As a mentor, your role is not as a friend or a parent, but more of a guiding adult in someone’s life. A rock for a younger person to lean on – an oasis to rest in.  Confidentiality is key. Eastside Academy has an excellent manual that helps you understand your role, and mentors meet quarterly at information meetings,” Wyatt explains.

With just a few years left until retirement from his job as a pilot for American Airlines, Wyatt enjoys the opportunity to mentor at EA and plans to start with a new student next year since Josh has graduated. He encourages others to not let the extreme issues kids are dealing with stop them from mentoring. He reminds us that after all, teens are still kids at heart.

“Wyatt is a fantastic part of the Eastside Academy Mentorship program,” says Anny IIlisoi, EA mentor and alumni coordinator. “He is very committed to his role as a mentor and it shows in his dedication to Josh and the school. Mentors are an incredibly important part of a student’s life at EA. Wyatt is a great example of how mentoring can make a positive impact on students in different areas of their lives,” she says.

Wyatt expects to stay in touch with his mentees in the years ahead. “My highest honor would be for one of them to call me someday in the future to talk – not to solve a problem but just to catch up, see how they are doing, and help them if I can,” says Wyatt.

Wyatt also volunteers for Auto Angels most Saturday mornings, where he can put his engineering expertise to work and where a handful of EA students also volunteer.

#belpresserve

 

 

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

KidREACH spells Success

Jasey said, “I finished my first year pursuing a Masters in Social Work at the USC graduate school. Though USC has extremely high standards, through blood, sweat, and tears I was somehow able to meet their expectations.” There was a time when this level of success did not seem obtainable for Jasey.  When she came to KidREACH during high school she was struggling academically. “There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it or was cut out for this. It has taken a lot of patience and hard work. I don’t think I would have gotten this far without the help of KidREACH.”

KidREACH offers free one-on-one tutoring for students in grades K-12 who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Tutors not only support a student academically but have the opportunity to walk alongside and share God’s love with them. Tutors positively impact student’s lives by encouraging and appreciating them, celebrating their progress, supporting them in their struggles, and loving them as Jesus does.  In 2001, a group of BelPres members saw the need to actively serve the community by establishing KidREACH.  In the words of a former director, “In this ministry much more than solving tricky math problems or preparing for a vocabulary quiz takes place. God’s Kingdom comes alive in the energy and joy tutors find by serving the students. The smiles and laughter of the students and the peace experienced by the entire family are rewarding for tutors at the end of their busy days.  Now, after 17 years KidREACH is a thriving supportive community.”

Brandon, a current student, says, “My KidREACH tutor Drew helped me a lot. I started the year with all F’s and C’s, and by the time I hit summer vacation, I already had 4 A’s and three B’s thanks to my tutor.”   Brandon’s mom, Neta adds, “We feel blessed to be a part of the KidREACH family. The day we come for tutoring is our family’s favorite day of the week. We always feel welcomed and cared for. My sons love meeting with their tutors not only for academic support but also for emotional support. They enjoy talking and sharing with their tutors about how their day went and how they feel. The tutors and KidREACH Director, Lisa, are always there for us and continually offer help and support to our family. We are very grateful to them! KidREACH changed our life!”

KidREACH is currently looking for tutors for this school year.  There are students enrolled in most grade levels. KidREACH meets in the Upper Campus of BelPres on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. No experience is needed to become a tutor.  A weekly commitment of one evening and a heart for youth are all that is required.  For more information, please contact belpresserve@belpres.org

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

Jubilee Service Day- Behind Every Door is a Story

Hello Friends,

On August 25, the 14th annual Jubilee Service Day was held with a partnership of 50 churches and various organizations & companies.  Collectively, 3200 volunteers served the Bellevue community, including at 22 public schools assisting more than 450 teachers to prepare the buildings & classrooms for the new year.  Additionally, talented sewing volunteers created 800 chair pockets for elementary classroom chairs.

A quieter and sometimes hidden portion of the service day involves helping homeowners clean their yards, paint their houses or building fences.  This partnership with the city of Bellevue reaches into the community to bring help to those in need, right where they live and has grown to now begin in March and end in September.  This year, 36 homes were served prior to Jubilee Service Day, 8 homes were served on the Jubilee Service Day and 1 very large project will be done in early September.  BelPres volunteers and took this opportunity shared God’s love righter where they live, work and play. Here are some of our neighbors who were supported and encouraged by the volunteers at Jubilee Service Day!

 

Cynthia is a 40 year old widow with a 2 year old son.  Her husband, John, was tragically killed last fall in a bus accident in downtown Seattle.  They had been married 12 years and moved into this home soon after their wedding.  Cynthia is still heavily grieving and trying to make sense of her new normal.  She has returned to work but cannot care for the outside of her house and yard.  She has no family in the area but desperately wants to remain in her home for the stability of her son, as well as to remain close to his grave at Sunset Hills Memorial Park. John applied for the Jubilee Service Day last year, but we were not able to get to them then. this summer, we had teams begin to clean the yard and tear down an old fence.  On Jubilee Service day a team of 25 completed cleaning the yard, rebuilt the fence and painted the house.

 

 

Shapoor and his family escaped from Iran 35 years ago by fleeing across the border on foot with their young son.  They made their way to the US and eventually landed in Bellevue.  They bought their house 25 years ago and live there now with their youngest son.  Shapoor is in his 60’s and was laid off a few years ago.  He returned to school for new training but has been unable to find meaningful employment.  They are low income, trying to make ends meet.  A team of 20 cleaned their yard, split a large pile of wood rounds with a rented splitter and painted the garage.

 

 

Louis and Katharine are both in their upper 70’s and have lived in this house 35 years.  Lou has dementia, so Katharine is his caregiver.  They have two grown children who are struggling through life, with Lou and Katharine supporting them as they can, although they are low-income.  Katharine is sort of caught in the middle.  Their yard has gotten away from them and needed to be trimmed back to a place where they can care for it again, and they can have pride in their yard.  There were many wood-rounds in the backyard which we split with a rented wood-splitter.  We had already hauled away three trailers-full of junk & garbage from the carport and yard to the landfill with another group in June.  A group of 30 worked here on Jubilee Service Day.

Behind every front door is a story.  Through relationships, we meet people right where they are and pour love into their lives, all in the name of Christ.

 

Ken Carpenter

Jubilee Services Coordinator

Fruit of a Welcoming Week Brunch

 “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:1-2

 

I don’t know if a 12-year-old girl and her Persian father are truly angels, but it felt like that to me when they came to our rescue a few weeks after meeting them! It began with Welcoming Week last year.

My husband, Steve and I were excited by the thought of setting aside some days to honor our community’s immigrants and their contributions to our culture and commerce. We knew that many of our neighbors came here from other countries, but we hadn’t had a chance to meet them. Welcoming Week seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We live on West Lake Sammamish Parkway, a hilly street with fast-moving traffic and steep driveways. There are no sidewalks or gathering places where neighbors might get acquainted, so often people only know whoever lives next door.

We decided to walk to six or seven houses in each direction and invite the people we met to brunch on Sunday of our set-aside week.  We printed an invitation to hand out and included the following note along with our names and email address:

Dear Neighbors

Because of the long driveways on our busy street, this isn’t an easy place to meet the people who live nearby. Please join us for Sunday brunch on the 24th, so we can get to know each other. Families welcome. Please let us know if you can come. We look forward to seeing you!

It was fun meeting neighbors and discovering homes we’d never seen before tucked into the hillside. Everyone seemed surprised and pleased to be invited. Some people said they would arrive a little late because of their worship service and we learned about their faith.

On the appointed day, about 24 people came and there was great fellowship. There were neighbors from Taiwan, France, and Iran, as well as many parts of this country. We had learned that one girl would be coming on her birthday, so we had cake and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and “Hip, Hip, Hooray!”

We hadn’t asked anyone to bring food, but several people did. One man brought fresh eggs from the hens he proudly showed us when we met on our invitations walk! People exchanged email addresses and business cards and when we asked if they’d like to gather again to map the neighborhood for emergency preparedness, they all said, “Yes!” The day turned out better than we could have imagined!

The people we met told us how much they appreciated the personal invitation and the chance to connect with the families around them. They wanted a more personal sense of community and many commented that it’s a rare pleasure to be invited into someone’s home for a meal.

Because we live on a lake, in the weeks that followed, a family collected donations for their school fund-raiser, traveling from house-to-house by paddleboard and canoe to canvas their now-familiar neighbors.

Steve and I were invited to dinner with three families: our Muslim hosts, a Jewish couple, and the two of us. We had a wonderful sharing experience. And it was the host father and his daughter, our brunch birthday girl, who came to our aid a few weeks later when we needed an emergency babysitter for our granddaughters!

It’s been almost a year since we followed the impulse to reach out to our neighbors. We’re looking forward to doing it again soon. Welcoming Week is a great way to further the BelPres mission to be a warm and welcoming multi-ethnic community and bring peace and healing to the places we live, work and play.

 

Welcoming Week

September 14-23, 2018

Ways You Can Participate:

  • Read and discuss: Welcoming the Stranger
  • Watch the documentary screening of 8 Borders 8 Days
  • Join the Facing Racism Bible Study
  • Volunteer at Talk Time to converse with new English speakers.
  • Look online for community events in your local cities.
  • Invite your neighbors to a neighborhood potluck or barbecue.
  • Plan a meal with friends, each inviting someone who’s new to our community.
  • Worship with New Hope Revival Church at 11 a.m. in the BelPres Upper Campus Building.
  • Reach out to people you don’t know after church services.
  • Pray about ways you can bring healing and peace in the places you live, work and play.
  • Share your ideas with others; then, act on one of them.

Crisis Adverted- Hope Restored

Not long ago, a young single woman faced a seemingly insurmountable life crisis. Freshly unemployed, homeless, on the losing end of alcohol consumption and in a toxic relationship, she discovered she was pregnant.

The next steps seemed obvious. This was not a woman ready to become a parent. The only reasonable course of action, they assured her, was to abort. Instead, she scheduled an appointment at a Care Net of Puget Sound pregnancy center. Nine years later, her “crisis pregnancy” became her greatest blessing. He’s a curly-headed third grader with a passion for orphans and a keen interest in presidential trivia.

His mother is the ever-grateful narrator of this story, now gainfully employed by the very organization that ministered life to her nine years ago. It is an unspeakable joy to now help women and families in Puget Sound with life-affirming hope and encouragement that Care Net has so faithfully provided for over 30 years.

Care Net offers hope by providing compassionate practical care, accurate information and life-affirming resources on pregnancy, sexual health, and abortion recovery. We are fiercely committed to the value and dignity of every life and our work starts long before a woman shows up for a pregnancy test. Our Smart Programs faithfully engage young people on sexual health and safety. This past year, Care Net engaged 9,000+ students in 200 schools. Teachers and educators in the region regularly request our presence in their classrooms.

One recent Smart Programs participant, after hearing our staff presenter, reached out and let her know she was pregnant. The staff member meets with this young woman weekly to help her make important life choices preparing her to navigate the road ahead successfully. Her eyes welled up with tears when staff gifted a basket full of clothes and necessary supplies for her baby boy last month. She has now signed up for parenting classes so we can continue pouring love and support into her as she continues her journey.

And while we are overjoyed that 97% of our pregnant clients who have an ultrasound in our centers choose life for their babies, we know that 3% do not. We offer continued support to these women. We make sure they know they are welcomed back in our centers for additional services and resources as they need them.

At Care Net, we realize, for many, the mention of the “a-word” can feel like pushing on a painful bruise. The emotional and spiritual wounds of past abortions are very real. Often, women believe they must shoulder the burden of these wounds alone. Our Healing Tide program provides a safe, confidential and non-judgmental place for women to process and release painful post-abortion emotions so they can begin healing and restoration. A recent participant remarked, “For the first time in decades, I feel restored and healed.”

That’s exactly what we are about at Care Net – extending hearts and services to those needing hope and transformation by the saving love of Jesus Christ so they can freely live out the abundant lives He designed them to enjoy.

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.