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

The Final Project

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

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

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

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

TRAGEDY AND CELEBRATION

This story is a reprint from King County Youth Chaplaincy.

I couldn’t believe the text from one of our youth: Eve got killed last night.  I tried to convince myself that this was not true. I was in shock and denial. How could this be?! God wouldn’t allow this to happen!

Eve* was only 19. She was smart, compassionate, and beautiful. She had been through many trials and difficulties in her young life, yet she held on to her faith.
She was shy and hardly spoke when we met, but after a while, Eve opened up and we shared many smiles and laughs. She was close to another youth I knew from the detention center and would join us when we got together. We shared many meals and talks about life issues. We talked about her upbringing and spiritual journey and she began joining us when we presented our ministry at various churches. Soon after, she became bold enough to publicly share her experiences and perspectives. Eve would often express her appreciation for being in positive settings where she could grow in her relationship with God.
It has been a few weeks and I still can’t believe she’s gone and really miss her. We continue to pray for her family and loved ones.
The day after I got the tragic news, I had the privilege of witnessing a graduation ceremony of one of our young men. It was such a joy to see Gerald* receive his certificate for completing his program at a local technical college.
Gerald’s life hadn’t always been so hopeful. When I first met him in the detention center, he described himself as angry and at rock bottom. “My life was all about bad things: fighting, drinking, smoking, crimes…,” Gerald once explained to me. Things began to change as he got to know Jesus. He started to attend church in juvy and talked with the chaplains as much as he could. Gerald would encourage the guys in his hall to pray and get closer to God. He became known as “The Holy Kid,” a label he wore proudly.
I felt very honored to celebrate with his family at his graduation. When Gerald and I got together for lunch the following week, he expressed his gratitude. “Thank you for always being there for me. You’re helping me change my life,” he stated with sincerity.
Mourning and joy. The two are always parts of life, and once in a while, we experience them simultaneously. Yet through it all, we know from Scripture that God’s comfort and peace is available. According to Psalm 116, in our deepest distress and sorrow, even when we feel “the anguish of the grave,” we can call on God and have our souls comforted, and somehow, we can say, “The Lord has been good.”
We are extremely grateful for your dedication to our mission! We praise God for your support and prayers. Thank you!
*Names of youth sometimes altered.  To help Eve’s family, see their gofundme page.

Praying for Muslims during Ramadan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

First Response Radio

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

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

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

 

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

Meal Packing

What does this mean for our family? It used to mean working hard with other BelPres families on Saturday morning packing bulk foods. We enjoyed the energy, the fellowship, the constant smiles among co-workers and the sense of accomplishment when we bagged the raw materials.

This year, it is infinitely more meaningful because we’ve learned where the food goes. We knew the meals were going to people who really needed them. We tried to find the tiny village online. It took three of us confirming the spelling and checking each other’s data to locate Mokpangumba. We learned many villages are similarly named and that there are many waterways on the western side of Sierra Leone. We have pictures of the children in the village and wondered why some wear school uniforms and others don’t. We’ve mispronounced and repronounced and laughed over our English tongues not able to stand up to the Mokpangumba syllables. All of this makes us feel closer to the village we help.

Can you believe the food our gloved hands process makes its way around the world?  Yes, around-the-world to a village of 300 families in Sierra Leone. The journey will not be easy. It will take plenty of logistics with planes, trucks, boats and more human hands distributing it in Mokpangumba.

What the families harvest from the fields and rivers nearby is not enough, so the food we packed will provide additional nutrition. This food means survival for the children. It may mean they can concentrate better at school and learn what will help them change the way their food is grown or how their village works.

We’ve had conversations around this very fact: It is a long way from how we live. As we prepare for this year’s meal packing, we are curious about what the children will think of the food, what they do in school and what they do for fun. It has become personal and so much more important to pack this food for them.

Please come and join our dedicated community of meal-packing marathoners on Saturday, January 27!  To find out more or sign up, click here: belpres.org/events/meal-packing-2018

 

Learn more about Children of the Nation’s work in Mokpangumba or watch this video from COTN.

Behind the Scenes – Man Rescues Presbytery From Drowning

That’s the kind of dramatic headline that gets our attention these days, although we might ask, “What kind of a person has a name like Presbytery?”

The headline is correct, though, except the Presbytery mentioned was drowning in red ink, not water and is not a person but a group of Seattle-area Presbyterian churches, including BelPres. The member churches meet on a regular basis, worship together, enjoy community, encourage outreach and mission, and come alongside one another in various ways.

How did our Presbytery survive red ink? (more…)

Serving Everyone with Respect

Every person walking into Renewal Food Bank has a story. No matter what first brings them to the food bank, what matters most is how they are first received. Making clients feel welcomed and respected goes a long way in easing their sensitivity entering into a food bank. Since 1998, Renewal has been building relationships with hungry families and the dedicated volunteers who donate time and resources to serve them.  Authentic caring relationships make Renewal Food Bank possible.  In the past year, we have continued to build relationships with clients and the dedicated volunteers who give their time to serve them.
Pat is one of Renewal Food Bank’s valued volunteers, working behind the scenes, sorting and bagging bulk food items. Pat says this support work is a great fit for her and uses her strengths. She describes volunteering with Renewal as “the most worthwhile thing” she has done. Pat’s favorite part about volunteering is “watching people come in to receive food assistance with no questions asked.” She says Renewal is set apart by how all people are served and none are turned away. When asked what she would say to someone considering volunteering at Renewal, Pat replied, “it would be very good to experience others getting their needs met without questions asked.” Pat encourages others to become involved.

Since 2013, James has been a member of Renewal Food Bank’s Board of Directors. He often takes the lead in Renewal Food Bank’s technical tasks, like managing the client database or changing burned out light bulbs. He began in 2008 to fulfill his community service desire and fell in love with Renewal’s sincerity and simplicity. He appreciates Renewal’s efficiency turning financial, food and time donations into direct support for the needy. James shares that he was honored to join the team when the director asked for his assistance in the work of this organization. As a teen, there were times when James was homeless. He keenly recalls how difficult it was to admit being out of control and needing assistance. He gets so much satisfaction from helping Renewal Food Bank feel welcoming to its clients. When asked why he volunteers he says, “because I’m selfish, and really like feeling I’m helping make the world just a bit better.”

Most often, we do not know the outcome of our work. While we have clients we see on a weekly basis, many families and individuals come and go. Our hope is to be a stepping stone for families who need temporary assistance on their life journey. We are honored to be able to play a part in these families’ lives in their time of need. With each client who walks through our door, we strive to live out our mission to feed the hungry in a caring environment with dignity and respect.

Prayer is Not a Waste of Time

A recent attendee at New Hope Revival Church is Muhizi, a young man with a wife and child, living in Tacoma. He had a job in Kent, but no car and no driver’s license. Alexis learned that Muhizi was taking the bus to work and his commute was about 4 hours each way. His wife is pregnant and this schedule was taking its toll on the family.

On a recent Sunday night, Alexis asked Muhizi to come up for prayer and the community prayed for this situation to be resolved somehow, trusting that God has many ways. Then, Alexis learned that member Olive was planning to sell her older car, which was still in good condition, to buy a newer one. He approached Olive and asked if she would be willing to sell her car to Muhizi, even though Muhizi couldn’t pay her all at once and not even right away. Olive immediately responded that she has found Alexis to be trustworthy and if he thought this would be a good thing to do, she was ready. She gave Alexis her car and keys.

Alexis called Muhizi, not telling him anything about the arrangement and asking if he could see him at his workplace. Muhizi agreed. Member Etienne and Alexis met with Muhizi, and Alexis gave Muhizi the keys to Olive’s car explaining that it was now his. Muhizi was overwhelmed and broke down in tears. When he told his wife, who is expecting their second child in August, she also cried.

You might wonder how having a car could help Muhizi since he didn’t have a driver’s license. Alexis had already been giving Muhizi driving lessons encouraging him to get his license, because “You never know when you are going to need it.”  The day before he received the car, Muhizi had passed his test and obtained his license. The prayers of the people were not a waste of time.

 

In Rwanda, there is a large evangelical church called Mt. Zion Temple. Many Rwandans have experience with that church and its many good works. Recently, it had been in the news because of serious divisions threatening the unity of that congregation. New Hope Revival meets every Sunday evening at BelPres for a two hour prayer service. A few weeks ago, Alexis brought up this serious impending split in Mt. Zion Temple, and shared, “We need to pray about this.”  They did. Within a couple of weeks, Alexis got news that the church was reconciling their differences. The prayers of the people were not a waste of time.

 

Perusi, an older woman in the New Hope Revival Church has four grown children (also members) of which two (Patrick and Etienne) are active worship team members. Perusi has been living with her children in a one-bedroom apartment. On a recent Sunday night, Alexis invited people to pray for Perusi’s housing needs. Within a week, a nonprofit housing organization provided a two-bedroom apartment with all new furnishings at no cost to Perusi and her children for as long as she needs it. Perusi was so overwhelmed when she arrived at her new home that she could only kneel beside the new bed and say, “This can’t be mine!”  In church the following Sunday, she was dancing joyfully before the Lord. The prayers of the people were not a waste of time.

These prayers were not a waste of time. Prayer is an investment of time.

 

To contact Pastor Alexis Ruhumuriza, please email:  aruhumuriza@belpres.org

Cambodia Chronicles

Dear friends and family,

This past year, my sabbatical was a time for listening more deeply to God’s voice. I learned more about trusting God as I let go of ministry roles and my community in Cambodia for 6 months and relied on God’s provision. God was gracious and provided comfortable places to stay in Seattle and a car to borrow through friends at BelPres. I also found someone to sublet my Cambodia apartment! Other sabbatical blessings were spending time in the church community (including singing with the choir), connecting with church partners and visiting Midwest friends and family.

I attended a prayer weekend and retreats facilitated by spiritual mentors in Seattle. The highlight was a week’s retreat on the Isle of Iona, Scotland (through the generosity of BelPres). Initially, finding solitude was difficult. However, God spoke to me of my need for community as well as for solitude and balancing the two. (E.g.: A group member provided a listening ear when a hymn reminded me of the loss I still felt over my father’s death two years ago. Exploring the beauty and history of the island, I finally found solitude.)

I also received confirmation that I’m still called on a journey to serve cross-culturally. As I sat in a quiet corner of the Abbey church, I glimpsed a sailboat in the harbor. St. Columba sailed from Ireland with a group of 12 in 563AD. Legend says they let the wind guide the boat. They landed on Iona where they established a Christian community, learned the local language, built relationships with the Picts* and Anglo-Saxons and shared the good news as far as Russia. I’m now certain that my call remains to walk alongside Cambodian young leaders.

Returning to Asia late July to attend our CRM staff Conference, I finalized my return to ministry with a 3-day DOVE retreat (a Cambodian organization). At the DOVE retreat, I was moved by the staff’s passion to develop young leaders to bring healing to Cambodia, and their willingness to make personal sacrifices for this vision. During the fall (2016), I continued to mentor staff and DOVE Onyx Leadership students.

The DOVE Onyx lessons draw young leaders into a deeper relationship with God, remove burdens and bring healing. As part of my call, I want to help develop more contextualized** spiritual formation resources in the Khmer language. The spiritual formation lessons were taught this year primarily by Cambodian staff and volunteers. Davy, a Kampong Cham Onyx student, is a divorced mother and a counselor for young women recovering from human trafficking. She said, “After the lessons, I found my personal spiritual character. We have our own way to come to the Lord, in a way that He created for us. Now I’ve unlocked myself from years of reluctant relationship with God and am feeling so free and joyful to go to Him.”

Pisey, a Phnom Penh Onyx student said, “It has healed my pain, hidden for a long time and gave me hope that God will never give up on me.”

Many young leaders have lived through traumatic experiences in the past. I’ve begun learning more about inner healing prayer. Starting in October, the Phnom Penh Onyx men and women met separately for 4 lessons about healing processes. I enjoyed revising and helping facilitate the Women’s lessons together with “F,” a Thai missionary, fluent in Khmer and gifted at inner healing prayer. One of the 2013 leadership alumni (an amazing, resilient Cambodian woman) volunteered to help with the final Women’s lesson in November. It was powerful as the young women received healing and saw themselves as beautiful and loved by God. I’ve also continued to learn from a former teammate, who moved to the US the summer of 2016.

This month (January), I continue to learn about peace building through an online course using reflection to determine how each person can use their talents advocating for justice and peace. I’m dismayed at the hatred and fear openly displayed in many countries. I’ve mourned at the violence in conflicts around the world. I am appalled that some have raised the unjust WWII internment of Japanese-Americans as a precedent for how to treat neighbors we mistrust.

In November, I went to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum with the Onyx students for a Khmer church history lesson. I felt a swirl of emotions: the weight of suffering by victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge; the hope of these young leaders wanting transformation in their society and a personal strong determination. I came away asking, “What more can I do so hate and fear don’t win?

In December, I was reminded that the birth of Jesus means there is light in the darkness. On Dec. 10th, I joined a few Onyx students for the International Human Rights Day celebration in Phnom Penh. After initial resistance, authorities allowed about 1,000 people to gather publicly in support of freedom of assembly and of speech. Riot shields were laid down. We met several young Cambodian Christian leaders serving as human rights observers and as a light in the darkness of injustice.

For 2017, I pray your burdens of the past are removed and you experience the light that dispels darkness.

With Love,

Lynn Ogata

*Picts-a tribal confederation of peoples, living in eastern and northern Scotland during the Late Iron Age and Early Medieval periods, thought to have been ethnolinguistically Celtic

**Learning takes place when teachers present information in a way that students are able to construct meaning based on their own experiences.

Lynn Ogata will be at BelPres to speak about social issues in Cambodia on Sunday, June 4, 12:15 pm UC-105  .

Jesus and Muhammad

It has been nearly two weeks since an arsonist destroyed the Bellevue Islamic Center. The person who did it has been apprehended. The specific reason behind the arsonist’s actions is not known but appears to be something other than a hate-crime. In many ways, this has been a catalyzing event for our community. It has brought many of us together in a stand of sympathy and support for our Muslim neighbors. It has also opened our eyes to the changing demographics of our neighborhoods.

This is the fifth blog in a series on Islam. I am writing this because more and more Muslims are moving to the Eastside. Some are moving here because of jobs they have received with high-tech businesses like Microsoft. Others have come because they are fleeing traumatic places in the world like Iran, Egypt, Sudan and Somalia. Some Muslims are not immigrants. They are natural born citizens of the United States who have converted to Islam.

The point of this series is to help us understand our Muslim neighbors better. The subject of today’s blog is the main figures of each religion, Muhammad for Muslims and Jesus for Christians.

The Arabic world, prior to the rise of Islam, was primarily tribal, nomadic and polytheistic. Mecca served as a crossroads for the region and featured a shrine, called the “Ka’aba”, which recognized some 360 gods. Muhammad was born into this context in AD 570. He grew up questioning why Arabs worshiped so many idols rather than one God like the Christians and Jews. Muhammad became a successful businessman and married a wealthy widow. Her wealth enabled him to spend much of his time thinking, reflecting and meditating. It was during one of these times, that Muhammad received his first revelation and understood from that moment on that he was the final messenger of God. Muhammad soon felt compelled to warn Arabs of the coming judgment day and to bring them to complete obedience and submission to the one God so they could escape his anger. The religious group that formed around him became known as ‘Islam’, meaning surrender, i.e. those surrendered to Allah.

Although Muhammad was just a man; Muslims believe his love for all humankind and revelations from God, which are recorded in the Quran word for word, make him unique and unlike any other man who ever lived. Muslims believe in the same prophets as Christians, most notably, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. They believe each prophet was sent by God to speak to a specific people at a specific time but Muhammad is the last and greatest prophet. He has spoken to all humankind for all time.

By contrast, the Bible tells us Jesus is much more than the Quran or Islam recognizes. John starts his gospel with these words; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1. The beginning John is speaking about here is the antecedent to all time and space. It is the beginning of all beginnings. The point in time where there was nothing else and no one else but God. Then John says something so scandalous and unthinkable that its blasphemy to a Muslim. “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” John 1:14.

God became one of us and assumed all the frailty that comes with being human. Jesus got hurt, stubbed his toe, bled, laughed, cried, went hungry, and became thirsty. Jesus experienced everything we will experience in this life. Since he has experienced it all, he knows what we need when we go through those times too. Hebrews 5:15 says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…”

Jesus perfectly identifies with us. That means so much more than that he can relate with us. The Bible tells us he took all the sin and brokenness of every human being and placed it on Himself. He became our substitute. By his death on the cross, Jesus paid the price and served the sentence justice requires.

The claim of the Old Testament is that God is One. Muslims can agree with that. The claim of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior over heaven and earth. “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11. That is the great dividing line between Jesus and Muhammad, Christianity and Islam.

Jesus shows us the radical, unrelenting, fierce love of God for you and for me. His love is like no other. His love pursues us, never gives up on us, seeks us until we are found, changes us and makes us radical lovers ourselves. It is not the mountains, or the oceans or the stars or all of creation that so spectacularly reveals our Heavenly Father. It is the incarnation. God became one of us and lived among us.

Without Jesus, it is possible to know who God is but it is impossible to know God personally.

Families Reunited with D.A.D.S.

William was raised from an early age to survive “on the street” though criminal activity. This resulted in him living with 17 aliases, multiple children, multiple women, multiple incarcerations and the accumulation of over $100,000 in unpaid child support. William found Divine Alternatives for Dads Services (D.A.D.S.) based on his mistaken belief, from “word on the street,” that D.A.D.S. would help him avoid the obligation to pay child support. Marvin and Jeanett Charles welcomed him with open arms as they do every new D.A.D.S. client.

As time went on, William found that instead of avoiding his child support responsibility, the D.A.D.S. experience helped him learn the importance of living in community and assuming responsibility, not just for child support, but also for his entire life. William received assistance to establish a parenting plan that allowed him to make regular child support payments and establish regular visitation with his three children. William discovered hope for a new future. Like so many others, the love William had for his children became a profound motivation to break the generational cycle of incarceration and destructive behavior.

During this period, William demonstrated an aptitude for fixing computer hardware and software applications. He applied those skills in a small business as a computer service handyman. He began attending community college and studied Information Technology(IT). At the same time, William was helping other D.A.D.S. clients go through the same process he did. He became a driving force behind a group of D.A.D.S. former clients who run a mentor program called Connie’s Urban Brothers (C.U.B.S.) at a city alternative school for youth who are at high risk of drug abuse, street violence, teen pregnancy, dropping out of school and incarceration.

Almost all of the men involved in C.U.B.S. have been incarcerated for extended periods of time and all of them have children. These men speak with authority, they know the dangers involved in taking the at-risk path – they have lived it. The school principal says that these men are the best thing that’s ever happened for the kids. She reports that school attendance has risen and attributes the rise in attendance to the regular presence of the C.U.B.S.mentors. William went on to graduate from community college with a degree in IT. Upon graduation, he applied for a job with a corporate executive he met through his work at D.A.D.S. He is now a highly respected IT professional at one of Seattle’s most recognized companies. He is married, in relationship with his children, is a homeowner and pays taxes.

William’s story is typical for many D.A.D.S. clients walking through the doors for the first time. Without D.A.D.S., William would have continued to search for ways to avoid his unpaid child support, continuing to live his life on the perimeter of society and ultimately returning to incarceration, self-destructive behavior and separation from his children. Now instead of being supported by society, he supports others. In January of 2015, William Hughes was elected the President of the Board of Directors of D.A.D.S.

Click here to go to D.A.D.S. website

The Basics: Family, Friends, and Diapers!

If you’ve been to a baby shower recently, been a parent, or have new parents in your circle, you know that diapers are always a very welcome gift, but especially for these families in need. Baby Basics of Bellevue and its volunteers are pouring out love to parents beyond the baby shower. It is recognizing parents’ most basic needs and helping to provide for them so that they can focus on their children and their goals for the future.

We’d like to share two portraits of families we have been able to serve through Baby Basics of Bellevue:

“When they first started coming to distributions almost a year ago, the family’s new baby daughter, Baby Q, was usually asleep. Now she is an active, happy baby and enjoys any snacks that are available when she attends distributions. Baby Q’s family has struggled with homelessness and underemployment. Her father works nights in Seattle, and her mother works at a human services agency in Bellevue.”

“Baby S has been in the program for just over a year. He is a smiley, bright, and active little boy. Baby S and his mom do not have a car, and they ride the bus to get to Tuesday night distributions. Afterward, they often wait for an hour or more for Baby S’s dad to pick them up after work. Volunteers have offered to give Baby S and his mom a ride, but she wants to be as self-sufficient as possible. She is determined and resourceful. She is learning English so that she can start working once Baby S is in preschool. Recently she asked for help in locating places where she could access free or low-cost English classes, and clothing and toys. We tapped our referral network and gave her information for Jubilee Reach and Bellevue College.” 

Beyond serving the families enrolled in the Baby Basics program we feel compelled to help parents who ask for our help. Often we refer them to other agencies that are equipped to help families in crisis, and sometimes we become more involved. Recently we were asked for help from a homeless mother with a toddler son. We provided diapers, food, and transportation to a night shelter and, the next day, to a day shelter. Other times we have delivered emergency diapers to families in crisis or to volunteers helping those families. We also regift diapers we cannot use to Jubilee Reach and other organizations that serve homeless families and low-income families on the Eastside.

As homelessness on the Eastside grows, Baby Basics is experiencing more requests for diapers for homeless families taking refuge in Eastside shelters. It is heartbreaking to see families shuffled between shelters at night and living out of cars during the day, some with no car or any possessions beyond a suitcase, backpack, and stroller.

Baby Basics: National Development Corporation provides diapers to working families living on the edge of poverty across the United States. Volunteers at the distribution centers offer encouragement and assistance by connecting parents with a network that helps them cope with life’s challenges. Currently, Baby Basics of Bellevue, WA has twenty-six babies in the program. Distribution nights are casual and fun with many little ones either being carried or running about.

Bellevue Presbyterian hosts Baby Basics of Bellevue diaper distribution nights on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month. Contact GetConnected to get involved.

Step By Step Justice: El Camino del Inmigrante

I am a mother and a grandmother. I was raised at BelPres church as my parents were founding (charter) members.  My husband and I were married by Dick Leon in 1989, and are longtime members. I have lived most of my adult life raising our three children and working on and off. Through this time, I have held a heart for those without a voice in the dominant culture but have found it challenging to pursue active advocacy work. I feel as though I have been wandering in a desert for thirty-five years, and the time has come for me to be more present and active in the pursuit of justice.

I was adopted at two-and-a-half years old. I was raised in a Christian home by parents who had a heart for mission. As was common then, my parents opened their home to many of the missionaries they supported who were traveling from around the globe.

In the early 1980s, after I completed college, I was heart-struck and overwhelmed by the struggles of unrest in Central America. I wanted to join the Sojourners internship group but was anxious that I needed to focus on my work life first. I also wanted to go to the Nicaragua-Honduras border as a part of the Witness for Peace group at the time, but was too afraid.

During a short time living in San Francisco, I encountered young El Salvadorian men at the deli where I worked who were looking for someone to marry in order to stay in the US. It was then that I realized how desperate they were to stay in this country and was awakened to the hardships they faced in finding safety and refuge here in the US.

When I returned to the Seattle area, I volunteered with a Friends Church providing sanctuary to refugees from Central America. I sat with them as part of the vigilant companionship required to keep them safe and at ease. During that time, I became overwhelmed with the immensity of the political situation in Latin America and felt ill-equipped to do anything of substance, so I retreated into a safe suburban life.

I believe that my adoption story often has led me to seek personal and emotional safety, sometimes at the expense of stepping out into areas of the heart. But I have always had a yearning to reconnect with the passion I feel toward those who are in the shadows and without any power or voice in their communities. I am getting older and have been a sloimg_2326-k-chesmorew learner, but, gradually, I am becoming less afraid and more willing to step actively into areas of witness, empathy, and heart.

The problems in our world can be paralyzing, but I have decided I will do what I can.

Over the past several months, I have been volunteering with World Relief in Seattle (Kent), visiting detainees at the NW Detention Center. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am doing much, but I have enjoyed getting to know the women, and I believe it has been an encouragement to them as well as to me. I have signed up to be a host family for refugees and look forward to when we will be able to have our first family come stay with us.

Additionally, this past August, I joined a group of over 170 walkers for the El Camino del Inmigrante, a 150 mile pilgrimage from Tijuana to LA. We walked to stand in solidarity with the immigrants in our country and to raise awareness about our broken immigration system.

I believe God is moving His people to action, and I want to follow God’s leading in my life. Step by step, I have gained respect for people in our community regardless of their status and a stronger desire to advocate for those who struggle for a better life. Slowly, I am stepping out of the comfort of fear and into the renewal of hearts.

For more information about the walk and the issues it raised, you can visit http://www.ccda.org/events/el-camino

Broadcasting Hope: First Response Radio

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Following the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami in Indonesia, people were desperate for information to rebuild their lives: “Just tell us what is happening!” they urged.

We felt it was important to get a radio station on the air, but had never done this before in disaster conditions. First Response Radio (FRR) got its start in the aftermath of the tsunami. It took a month to get the radio station up and running in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. While that was a great achievement in difficult conditions, we didn’t think it was fast enough as we missed the whole Emergency Phase of the disaster. We subsequently made it our goal to set up a radio station within 72 hours of a disaster striking and start broadcasting critical information to the affected community.

FRR is not a company or an organization. It is a network of networks made up of radio broadcasters, NGOs, and government partners. In each country, it is also a network of responders.

Our strategy has improved dramatically since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the approach of FRR now is to buy equipment, train teams, and practice in disaster prone countries such as the Philippines, India, and Indonesia before disaster strikes. The equipment is then left in the country, and the local team responds to the next disaster.

We refer to the equipment we leave as the “Suitcase Radio,” which is really three suitcases or bags that include: a complete studio, FM transmitter, and an antenna. Each case is less than 45 lbs and can be checked as luggage on any airline. If set up properly, this station can reach a radius of 12 mi or more. However, the real secret to our success is not the equipment, but rather the training we provide.

We combine radio, NGOs, and government staff into a team and lead a five-day training workshop where they learn to run a radio station in a disaster zone. The NGOs learn from the radio announcers and vice versa. While the training we have given to people has been important, the “magic” really happens in the three-day field trials that we conduct. This enables us to put things into practice in a disaster-prone area under realistic field conditions. Sometimes the next disaster even strikes during the training event! FRR spends more time and resources on capacity building as that is the key to a good response.

An independent research paper (1) showed how FRR broadcasts in 2013 helped members of the community to recover following Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines. In summary, the disaster radio (FRR) provided reliable information that decreased fears. Through an understanding of what was happening, community members developed a sense of control and the ability to adapt:

“If you know what is going on . . . it is much easier to do right.”

“You could get information on what was going on, how I could rebuild my house.”

“They told us . . . to get food . . . and they told us about roads . . . and so on.”

Hearing voices and music played over the radio reminded the survivors of normality and offered moments of rest from the fight for survival and recovery. Some participants expressed that the joyful music played influenced them so much that they could feel happiness, and endure:

“I think that the music also . . . it made me feel . . . like normal . . . for a while. To rest my brain.”

 “It was a kind of silence that is deafening. And the radio broke through it, someway. The music and to hear another voice, in the middle of the night, that made me able to hang in there for one night more.”

Also following Typhoon Haiyan, Alexandra Sicotte-Lévesque, at the time the Advocacy and Communications Specialist for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said:

“Well done to First Response Radio! We have been going around radio (stations) in Tacloban talking about our (mobile) medical missions for pregnant & breastfeeding women . . . every day in a new barangay – we identify these women in advance in each community, but it’s not possible to identify everyone of course . . . so radio really helps. When our nurses went on First Response Radio the turnout was incredible – 250+ women showed up in one morning (compared to only 40 the previous day).”

Since 2004, our FRR teams have responded to 20 disasters with the most recent being the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Typhoon Koppu (Lando) in the Philippines, the South India floods, and the Afghan-Pakistan earthquake.

Out of catastrophe in Indonesia, we developed this network to empower victims of natural disasters. We hope to continue our field trainings and provision of equipment, which allow these countries to not only protect the safety of their citizens through the dispersal of critical information but also to provide comfort and hope in the midst of disaster.

(1) Karin Hugelius, Mervyn Gifford, Per Ortenwall, Annsofie Adolfsson, “To silence the deafening silence”: Survivor’s needs and experiences of the impact of disaster radio for their recovery after a natural disaster, International Emergency Nursing (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.ienj.2015.11.009

 

Back to School, Back to Whole

I recently posted an entry to my Facebook page: “Back to school task 1,573,826…hair braided…” Getting your kids, and let’s be honest ourselves, prepared to return to school after summer can be a monumental task. I am a mom of many, and several of my own cherubs have special needs. Already, in the month of August, I have been in perpetual meetings and conversations with talented school professionals, mental health professionals, and support teams. As a result, I have become all the more grateful for the ministry I get to be a part of at Eastside Academy.

Through my own parenting journey, I have recognized that accessing services for a child with special needs can be overwhelming and time consuming. For the courageous and beautiful families we serve at Eastside Academy, we have tried to eliminate some of that struggle. As a wholistic school, our goal is to address as many needs as possible in one place.  While we are a high school, we have recognized that challenges outside of the classroom can frequently interrupt progress IN the classroom. Thus, our students are provided with mental health care, recovery services, and a mentor, all in one location. In addition, we have eliminated what is notably one of the most frustrating tasks for parents/caregivers/guardians everywhere…school supply shopping. (I feel like there should be looming music playing every time those words are uttered. Ugh.) Every one of our students are provided with the school supplies needed to enter their classes; if a child needs one, we also supply backpacks. While this may seem insignificant, as a mom I can tell you, if I could eliminate this task in my own family, I would be singing the hallelujah chorus!

And honestly, that is how we try to approach everything at Eastside Academy: How would we want our own children to be treated? What support would I want or need walking through the situations our students and families face? While we are not perfect, this is definitely the heart to our approach.

I have shared with our team before that no one walks through the doors of Eastside Academy for the first time without having experienced some type of hurt or loss. Students and families come here because something didn’t work out the way they had hoped and dreamed. Our goal is to remind them, or sometimes tell them for the first time, they do not have to carry this heavy burden alone. We have a God who sees every need and has equipped His people to respond. By wrapping our arms around the educational, spiritual, emotional, and sometimes physical needs of our students, we desire to model the love we have each been shown through our Savior. A love that knows no boundaries. A love that makes sacrifices while speaking truth. A love that pursues, forgives, and seeks redemption and reconciliation for all.

I am amazed that even after 10 years of working here, that there are still so many times this ministry just takes my breath away. We are so grateful for the support and investment that this community puts into our students, families, and the work that God is accomplishing at Eastside Academy. Could we ask you to join us in prayer for the precious lives that will walk through our doors this year? Additionally, Eastside Academy’s Dinner and Live Auction is being held on October 22, at the Meydenbauer Center. We invite you to join us as we work to provide everything from backpacks to counseling to housing for our amazing students.

If you would like more information about enrolling a child, getting involved with this work, or attending our auction, please contact us at 425-452-9920 or visit our website at www.eastsideacademy.org

 

10th Annual Auto Angels Car Show-N-Shine!

Do you ever come up at a red light with some shiny, rumbly, vroom-vroom kind of car next to you? If you’re like me, you might roll the window down a bit to hear the purr of a fine engine. I’ve always been a classic car fan, since I was a kid, vacationing at my aunt & uncle’s place in Boise, where Uncle Ron always kept his Model A & Model T under dust covers, AutoAngels_Acebut was always driving some chromed-out, baby blue, metal-flaked piece of American muscle art. I will never forget tooling around Boise with my cousin Mary in Uncle Ron’s Model T, Hoyt Axton blaring on the Walkman in the seat next to us. How cool would it be to drive a Model T to your high school every day? But I digress.

The reason I’m talking about shiny hunks of metal today is because in just two weeks, the Auto Angels 10th Annual Car Show-N-Shine is on! September 17, 9am-3pm, right out in the BelPres Lower Parking Lot.

Everyone is welcome to attend and it’s free to the public! If you have a set of wheels you would like to shine up and show we invite you to participate. Registration is easy, and being an entrant brings a new level of fun.

Some of the highlights of our show include:

  • Unique & rare collector cars
  • Lunch grilled to perfection by Brief Encounter
  • Make ‘n Take model building fun for the kids
  • PPG coloring books
  • Door prizes and raffle items
  • Awards and dash plaques for entries

In addition there will be seminars on Lubricants and Car Detailing by the professionals from Chevron and Griot’s Garage.

If you have attended one of our car shows in the past, you won’t want to miss this one! Never attended before? Invite a neighbor and friend to come with you and of course bring the whole family for a day filled with fun. You may want to check out the 2015 award winners along with a link to their photo.

There’s even a parade of the winners at 2pm! Our family never misses the Auto Angels Car Show, and it’s going to be a special one this year, for the 10th Anniversary. See you there!

A Missionary’s Perspective: Family, Dating, and Courtship in Cambodia

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The following is a post written by long-term Cambodian missionary, Brian Maher. Read as he gently reminds us that family is a gift, and a family founded on love is a building block for a healthy society.

One evening while I was going to pick up my daughter from the University of Economics and Finance, I glanced at my watch and saw there was still a bit of time before she got out. So to kill time, I went to a nearby barber shop to have my hair shampooed. In the shop, there was a man in his mid-sixties getting his hair dyed, “Do you have a family?” he asked the female stylist. In Khmer culture sometimes people ask staff about their husbands or wives. “Family,” she said, “Yes, I used to have a family, but I divorced my husband.” The conversation went on and on, and I found out that young lady was twenty-four years old. I knew that this young lady had built her family on the foundation of arranged marriages.

Arranged marriages are still popular in the Khmer culture, especially in the provinces or in the countryside. However, in the city, most people are exposed to western cultural values and customs through globalization via various forms of media, so it seems that the younger generation prefers the practice of choosing their own partner for marriage.

Family is the cell of the society. If the cells have some problems, the whole society will also suffer. Before we talk about the happiness in a family, we should trace the Khmer word ‘family’ to the root word which means, “Father and Mother, I Love You.” Before starting a family, one has to decide to get married first. Before marriage one has to choose a partner. Before choosing a partner, one has to be in some kind of community. What criterion does one use in choosing someone to be their lifelong partner?  Based on what? Love, lust, social status (Hindu cast system), or economics? If we have wrong expectations or criteria, we will never be able to build a good and happy family at all. But rather, I tell you that love is a very important component for building a solid family unit.

During the civil war, which lasted from 1967-1975, Cambodia went through so many challenges and frustrations. The present society is the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge era. During this era, Cambodian couples were forced to get married in a common thatch cafeteria. They got married because of fear, not because of love. Most of the parents of young adults in today’s present society have gone through forced marriages.

“If I lived separately from my mother-in-law, I would not have divorced him at all,” the stylist continued. She let out a long sigh of despair before she continued to share her personal story. It is unusual to hear a young female stylist share her personal story to a customer in her shop like that. She must have really needed to share her grief with someone.

In Khmer culture, the groom has to come live at the bride’s house, and he has to put down a dowry for the bride’s parents. It implies that the groom must buy a wife. But in the Bible, God brought Eve to Adam as a gift. Adam did not pay anything, and his wife was a free gift from God.

The best gift that each parent can give to their children when they get married is independence from the cultural obligations of children to the parents. The best gift to them would be not interfering too much in their personal family business. Older Khmer people still want to live in an extended family situation, not so much in a nuclear family. When a son or daughter gets married, their priority is to their own family – parents have no business interfering in their decisions and choices. “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Gen 2:24)  The husband has to cut any links of unhealthy parental influences from both sets of parents and give full attention to the needs and health of the newlywed couple.

As you know, the family is the cell of the society. In Khmer Rouge time, they tried to destroy the family component. I remembered a saying from Confucius.

 

If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.

If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home.

If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.

If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

— Confucius

 

After Creation, God built the human race through a family. What is a family?  Family started with Adam and Eve. God brought Eve to Adam. That means Adam did not hunt down or choose a wife. He received a wife as a gift from God. But in the Khmer culture, the phrase ‘take a wife’ or ‘look for a wife’ can determine what happens in the future for the couple. Adam did not look for a wife. God knew he lived alone, and it was not easy, so He gave him a woman as his wife. If Adam looked for a wife on his own according to some faulty criteria, and she did not work out the way he liked, he might toss her out and look for another one. Believe it or not, in Khmer culture, because the man has to pay for his wife, he has the right to throw her away if she does not perform or do the job he paid for. A man will look for another one at a price he can afford.  When one buys a phone they like, it isn’t long before a better model comes out, and they toss the old one away and buy a new one. But a wife is not like buying a useful item – a wife is someone you are given as a gift.

In what ways have you placed a criteria on your family? How can you see the ways in which God placed your family in your life as a gift?

As you continue this week, please pray for the missionaries in Cambodia and the strengthening and healing needed within Cambodian families.

What I Did for Summer Vacation–Dissertation Work!

Over the past three years, I have been part of an eleven-person global cohort from Kenya, Nigeria, Greece, India, France, Korea, China, and the US. Together we are discovering how to further the Kingdom of God around the world through our individual research projects. We meet annually at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA, and are always amazed at what we learn from each other.

This summer I am faced with the daunting task of writing the rough draft of my doctoral dissertation on the results of my research project. After discussing it with Missions Pastor, Rich Leatherberry, and with the support of my amazing Missions+Serve Team, I scheduled an unpaid leave for July 5th– Aug 21st to focus on accomplishing this huge task. Halfway through this leave, I thought it would be a good time to share with everyone my research project.

My research project is the result of my long-term interest and work in walking alongside young Latinas in urban poverty contexts. These Latinas acquire significant strengths in survival and leadership skills; they have powerful hopes and dreams for a better life for themselves and their children. However, many have suffered abuse and abandonment and are on the margins in life experience and behavior. These wounds rob them of the ability to envision themselves as uniquely created by God, and as women of value with gifts and leadership skills that are essential for their personal lives, their communities, the church, and the greater missio Dei. Through many years of working in medical education and ministry with Latinas in urban poverty, I came to see Christian mentoring as a powerful tool in the work of bringing healing and restoration to Latinas struggling to find their way in a majority culture.

In my study, I address how urban poverty has marred Latinas’ identity, their understanding of being created in the image of God, and their value within the Kingdom of God. The study also looks at Christian women who desire to walk alongside Latinas in urban poverty through mentoring relationships. I found that mentors discover their own stories of marred identity and develop in their understanding of being created in the image of God and their own role.

What is “marred identity”? Jayakumar Christian, PhD, is the National Director and CEO of World Vision India. In God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power and the Kingdom of God, Christian writes, “Poverty mars the identity of the poor and hurts the soul of all” (Christian 1999, 139). Marred identity is not simply defined by, or the result of low income, lack of access to resources or inability to succeed in mainstream society. Rather it is a pervasive and all-inclusive robbing of the poor’s identity as created by God, in God’s image, with “intrinsic dignity and worth, a worth which belongs to all human beings” (Christian 1999, 67). Marring of the poor’s identity sets the groundwork for further exploitation through objectifying the poor and legitimizing using the poor to serve the structures of the powerful.

In my research, I have witnessed the formidable influence urban poverty holds in numerous aspects of Latinas’ lives and the results of such influence. Many of the Latinas I worked with did not believe that they were capable of breaking out of the cycle of poverty in which they lived. This belief impacted their present and their future; rather than act with a vision of the future, their decisions were frequently made with the immediacy of the present in mind.

Additionally, fundamental issues of shame and lack of self-confidence, brokenness of families, and broken systems of support appeared to overlay every aspect of their lives. Many Latinas experienced deep-seated prejudice and judgment of their ethnicity and poverty status. They also struggled to navigate generational differences and expectations of their “home” culture with the majority culture in which they now lived. All this interwove to create a profound sense of hopelessness in being able to recover from a marred identity and to break out of the cycle of urban poverty.

What became evident in this research was the importance of listening to Latinas’ stories of their experiences. Sharing with Christian mentors brought dignity to Latinas along with an understanding that, at the heart, marred identity is a spiritual issue. Christian mentoring became the avenue for Latinas to discover their inherent value as created in the image of God. Recovering from a marred identity enabled them to envision a good future for themselves and their children. This vision then led Latinas to begin breaking free from the constraints of urban poverty as they made daily positive choices with the future in mind.

Latinas in urban poverty and their Christian mentors are integral to God’s mission and to furthering the Kingdom of God. As well, the church benefits and grows when it reaches out to those in urban poverty by intentionally learning about their experiences and where God is at work in urban poverty contexts. I am so grateful for all the encouragement I have received from the BelPres staff and congregation to pursue this important work! I am excited to share with you how the stories of Latinas and of Christian mentors interweave to bring healing and restoration, furthering God’s Kingdom on earth.