Serving Incarnationally

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

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

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

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

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

URBANA in a Nutshell

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

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

Things to know:

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

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

 

Bring Jesus’ Healing, Build Community, Transform Lives

In 2005, a small BelPres team gathered in a vanquished old church building to pray and discern the “needs” of Bellevue; needs that would make Jesus weep and pound His fist on the table.  We were led to the principal of neighboring Lake Hills Elementary: Judy Buckmaster, who spoke from her heart.  We took notes, listened and learned.

Judy led us to five more principals, then to a group of school counselors and finally to a team from Bellevue’s Human Services Department.  Our methodology, Love, Listen, Learn, evolved as we became aware of how unaware we were of our city.  Unaware that we live in a “minority majority” community where 62% of our student population is foreign-born and 89 languages are spoken in a school district representing students from 124 countries.  Unaware that 69% of students at neighboring Lake Hills Elementary qualify for Free & Reduced priced lunch, with an annual household income under $30,000.

Jubilee REACH was born out of BelPres’ 50-year Jubilee to emancipate, restore and revive.  The vision was cast: “Bring Jesus’ healing, build community, transform lives.”   REACH became an acronym for Relationships, Education, Assistance, Community, and Hospitality.  

From the long list of needs, we started with one and served it well.  Children were being dropped off at school as early as 6:00 on cold, dark mornings while hardworking parents got to jobs to sustain their families.  Judy selected 20 children.  Jubilee REACH Center opened September 2006 with 32 volunteers from BelPres to love and nourish children before school; then walk them to school.

Jubilee REACH was an answer to my prayers. ‘Thank you’ will never be enough to express my gratitude,” said Christi, a single mom on the jagged edge, working two waitress jobs, trying to complete her radiology degree at Bellevue College and struggling just to pay rent.  “I prayed for love, support and a nurturing place for my second-grade daughter, Taylor.”  Judy (Taylor’s elementary school principal) walked both of them over to Jubilee REACH.  Because of the loving support of Jubilee REACH volunteers and other volunteers who came alongside Christi for years, Taylor thrived and Christi completed her degree.  She became a professional radiologist, homeowner, and a wonderful mother.

That was in 2006.  Today Christi is a successful professional, a happily married wife and loving mother with a second daughter.  She’s also a “joyful giver” and a Jubilee REACH advocate.  Taylor is a beautiful young lady completing her degree at Central Washington University.

Jubilee REACH expanded rapidly from a mustard seed providing Before School care by simply practicing Romans 12 hospitality.   Pastor Henri Nouwen refers to hospitality as the “love of strangers or those who are estranged from country, culture, family, friends, even from God.”  Now over 1,250 neighbors come to the Jubilee REACH Center monthly to love, be loved, belong and be part of over 30 services and activities that evolved from the original list of needs we discovered.

In 2010, JR was invited to replace an After School program in Bellevue’s highest needs middle school.  After prayer, discernment, “loving, listening and learning” from more principals, two young, culturally diverse “fishermen” were selected as Site Coaches to lead us in faith to our first middle school.

Today, Jubilee REACH Site Coaches serve as “shepherds” before, during and after school in 6 elementary, 7 middle and 1 high school.  We’re reaching almost 10,000 students through a simple belief that “every child desires to be known, loved, affirmed, to belong and become part of something greater than self.”   We “build community and kingdom in and around schools” by loving the lost, the least, the last and the lonely; by building relationships and earning trust so we may hear the deeper needs.

For example, there are currently 262 known homeless students within the Bellevue School District.  An elementary school counselor’s heart ached for a homeless family with two daughters: a kindergartner and a 4th grader.  Our Site Coach stepped in the gap, building a relationship with the girls, earning the trust of the parents, hearing their heart, their story and their deeper need.  Jubilee REACH then mobilized an encouraging, accountable community of care around the family to provide essential resources for employment and safe transitional housing.

There is always more to the story: always a catalyst, a past that contributed to the present. God uses these to build positive pathways to productive futures and transformed lives.  The path is often messy, fraught with frustration.  We have found that when we stay long enough and love deeply, we find hope and transformation.  The father is now productively employed, stable housing is in place and the daughters are beginning to thrive in school.  Sure, there is work to do and we know that His love never fails.

We love One at a time…one child, in one school, saving one family from homelessness.  Then God multiplies it to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.  Because His love is a game-changer!

Thank you

BelPres for planting and nurturing the mustard seed that is now Jubilee REACH!

Meeting Kids at their Turf

Teenagers need support.  They need an adult in their life pointing them to the only thing that will satisfy them….a relationship with Jesus.  For most teenagers, no one in their life fills that role.  As they face daily pressures from peers, parents, and culture, often nothing encourages them to grow in their faith.  Some simply feel unsatisfied with what the world has to offer.  Many feel hopeless which leads to depression.

Here in Bellevue, there is a group of young adults (and some who act and feel young!) that build friendships with students to point them to Jesus.  They are groups of Young Life leaders at Interlake HS, Bellevue HS, Newport HS, as well as at many of our middle schools.  They go where kids are…to their turf…and build the friendship and trust of teenagers with the hope of introducing them to Jesus.  Whether a kid wants to follow Jesus or isn’t interested, they keep caring for them.

One of those kids recently graduated from Bellevue HS.  Outwardly, you would think Alicia had it all:  a nice home, nice clothes, good grades and even a boyfriend.  On the inside, Alicia was lost.  Her parents were fighting and eventually divorced.  Her boyfriend made her feel pressured and judged.  Her friends were all getting straight A’s.  It seemed impossible to keep up.  She felt like a failure while watching her family fall apart.

Alicia came to Young Life camp after her 8th-grade year.  It was the first time she had heard the gospel shared that made sense to her.  She says now that it was the “bridge” she needed from hearing about Jesus as a small kid in bible stories to making Jesus matter in her life now.  Along the way, she met a Young Life leader who befriended her at camp.  That leader wasn’t just in Alicia’s life for a week in the summer.  They both came home from camp and the leader started to text Alicia, call her and invite Alicia out for coffee or to just hang out.  As their friendship grew, so did Alicia’s understanding of who Jesus really is.  That happened because her leader modeled the love, caring, compassion and pursuit that Jesus offers all of us.

As Alicia went through the challenges of high school, she had a Young Life leader by her side.  Wrestling with anxiety in school and the heartbreak of divorce, there was someone pointing her back to God’s Word and her relationship with Christ.  That long-term friendship of a Young Life leader was the difference between Alicia having a great week at camp, versus having a meaningful relationship with Jesus that sustained her life.

Young Life is a Christian organization that introduces teenagers to Jesus Christ and helps them to develop a Christian way of life through activities that contribute to their academic, physical, social, and spiritual growth. Young Life offers summer camps which are often a teenager’s first experiences hearing the word of God.  Young Life is in need of more volunteer camp leaders due to the popularity of their camps. 

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. 

Jesus through the Airwaves

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

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

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

Our Asylee Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear people of God,

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

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

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

Walter 

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

Stars in Her Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Building Homes in Baja

Dear Friends and Family,

Wow! The weekend in Mexico was phenomenal. It’s amazing what 12 people can do in just 72 hours. God taught so much on our journey to Rosarito and Tijuana through our mission, our team and those we ministered.

One thing God taught us: love has no language—you can see love simply through emotions. We were in an all Spanish-speaking part of Mexico. Our team and the translators were the only ones who spoke English. It was difficult communicating with the family and the others while sharing the gospel. When we handed over the keys of their home to Nina, the mom, we didn’t need words or a translator. The tears of happiness that flowed spoke more than anyone could’ve said.

On Friday, we built a house in Rosarito for the Barreto Family (Fabian-29, Nina-26, Eduin-12, and Elias-7). The house was built quickly by our fantastic team with no injuries on the building site. (God was definitely watching over us.) On Saturday, we went to Tijuana where we invited families to come hear the word and team members’ testimonies. It was unbelievable seeing people, invited by complete strangers who don’t even speak Spanish, come to a park to hear the word of God!

Our lives will never be the same because of this trip and we thank you for your prayer, encouragement and financial support. Without your partnership, our mission trip might not have been possible. Thank you for investing in us for the Kingdom’s sake! God wants us to be bolder about sharing our faith – not just in Mexico, but right here in Kirkland.

May the Lord bless you and your family for being a part of God’s transformation, not only of the many of families we served but also in our life.  Please don’t stop praying for them: that they accept the gospel and for protection of those who recently accepted Christ.

Love in Christ,

Molly, Mark, and Leslie  Behrends

 

Please pray for BelPres’ next Impact team to Baja on April 5-8.  If you are interested in going on the Baja trip scheduled for Oct 11-14, please contact Chuck Pilcher at chuck@bourlandweb.com

 

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.

The Young Woman in Red

I had not been to this church just 12 miles from my house in more than ten years. When we finished work on the school, the pastor’s house and cistern, I no longer had a reason to suffer roads that defy description to go to this church.

The reason we worshipped with folks this particular Sunday had to do with construction. We have half the money to build a cistern for drinkable rainwater at the church-sponsored school and are hoping to use the cistern water for new construction. We were to have budgeted for the new church building so they could apply for funding. We should have had the budget done a long time ago, but there is the eternal shoving match between WOW! and functional. We were looking for a solution: something buildable in ‘wow’ with little letters and no exclamation point. And there was a hurricane almost a year ago that disrupted our schedule and rhythm so that some things haven’t happened yet; like this budget and church plan. Any construction means building a cistern first for water to make concrete.

The existing church building is masonry with attractive laid-up stone on the outside. Inside is low and primitive and hot. Upon entering, we take seats on the ‘benches’ with doors on both sides for a little breeze. However, as honored guests, we often get upgraded to the better chairs on the front row where there is “no breeze.”

Ever the engineer, I assess the structure overhead. Even if this building were big enough, there is nothing we can do here. Unreinforced masonry walls in an earthquake are not safe, let alone permitted by any known building code. The roof framing is squared off saplings. The roofing tin has enough pinholes of light to be a planetarium; however, I don’t recognize any constellations. It is obvious from the hole-patterns in the tin, it has roofed a building in another life or weathered a major storm.

It is a Haitian church, and despite no sound system save a set of drums, we love to sing. Following a hymn, comes a group of ladies from the church. Next up is a young woman.

There are women in this world that make whatever they wear look great. This young lady is one of these women, and she had taken extra effort with her hair and the perfect red dress to knock it out of the park.

She starts singing ‘Blessed Assurance’ with a voice that could be professional with a few voice lessons. Sitting right in the front row, we are close enough that we could be turning pages for her… if she were using music or a hymnal…which she is not. She is singing from memory. This is my story, this is my song … Or more accurately from her heart. Praising my savior all the day long…. And then, is that a tear?

The entire church is quiet save the young woman in red. No one is daydreaming or talking to their neighbor or looking at their phone or focused on anything other than this woman singing. It doesn’t matter that the roof is full of holes, the building “iffy” or the hot air not moving….there is only one thing going on in the universe. A lady’s heart has taken over her voice.

I am sure now that I see tears because they are the biggest tears I have ever seen. They are wetting the hymnal she is holding (but not looking at) and the floor and everything. She faltered on the second verse but keeps crying and keeps singing. She has the heart of everyone in the room dangling on a little string until she just can’t go on anymore and covers her face with both hands.The congregation (remember this is Haiti) joins in to finish verse two and carries her through verse three. The pastor gets up and escorts her to the back out of the limelight and calls some of the church ladies to comfort her.

I ask the pastor, before the sermon, what is wrong. He said her family used to persecute the church, and often they put her out front to do the persecution. Then she left the countryside, moved to a town where she had a child out of wedlock and then came back home. After realizing that she had been persecuting those who loved, accepted, and cared for her, she gave her life to Jesus. Her life was a tragic mess, and she had so much regret. But now, she has this blessed assurance. The song has been sung millions, if not tens of millions of times, but rarely with the depth of emotion and gratitude for the salvation of this young woman in red.

More Than M&M’s

I love M&M’s:  red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown, chocolate goodness…Anyone else?  And I’ve discovered a conspiracy with every mouthful.  Each one tastes the same. You would think some M&M developer would have captured the energy of color, pressed it into the flavor of chocolate and there would be more variety.  But that’s not what happened, is it?  Every bite is always the same.  In fact, the original corporate name was “M&M Limited.”  But they dropped the ‘Limited’ and the conspiracy began.  I guess a chocolate called “More and More of the Same” doesn’t sell like “M&M’s.”  That doesn’t stop me.  I keep stuffing my mouth with those little sugar-coated chocolates:  sweet, milk-chocolaty and familiar.

What if there was a way of making a multi-color chocolate that burst through our limited M&M world and delivered something richer, better, more flavors with each mouthful?  If I ever find that chocolate, then it’s “See ya later M&M’s” and “Hello Multi-flavored Chocolate Better Thing.”

Maybe you see where I’m going with this.  I grew up in white suburbia, sweet and familiar.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know:  that there was something richer, better, more than the kind of community I was living in.  “More and More of the Same” filled me up and I wasn’t hungry for anything different. I thought I was full.  Then I took a group of high school students on a mission trip to an orphanage in Mexico.  We ate our meals together, held morning devotions together, worked together, worshipped together and prayed together for the staff and orphans who lived in the buildings next to us.

As the “M&M’s” pastor, I was having the experience of the year.  It was sweet, comfortable, familiar and…More and More of the Same.  Same people, same community, same rhythms in our day. Then the week was over and it was our last night there.

Some of our students invited kids who lived there to join us for dinner and worship.  Within a couple of hours, our little community transformed into something better, something richer…something more.  We quickly experienced a deep love for each other and a spirit of unity that comes with followers of Jesus.  Our new friends prayed with more faith and worshipped with greater joy. That inspired us to pray with more faith and worship with greater joy.  Afterwards, we hung out with each other and by night’s end, we realized we were more than friends.  We were sisters and brothers, separated by a couple thousand miles, who were citizens of a global Kingdom reviving our world.

That’s when I finally saw it.  We have been created for more than M&M’s.  It’s so easy to isolate ourselves and create more and more of the same wherever we go, whatever we do.  But life together with those who are ethnically different is richer, better, fuller.  And it’s so much more FUN!

The Book of Acts starts with a multi-ethnic Kingdom vision, (Acts 1:8); then comes Pentecost.  Jews and converts to Judaism from surrounding nations come to celebrate the Jewish festival.  Suddenly, the Holy Spirit fills the disciples and they begin speaking in the different languages of the people who were there; Persians, Arabs, Greeks and more (Acts 2:1-11).   Many of them believe Jesus is Lord and Savior and are baptized.  The chapter concludes with a beautiful picture of what it looks like when followers of Jesus are in community with one another (Acts 2:42-47).  My point:  the church began as a multi-ethnic community.  God waited to fill the apostles with the Holy Spirit when all those ethnically different people were in Jerusalem.  Interestingly, the first church dispute happened when the church ignored its multi-ethnicity and began favoring one ethnic group over another (Acts 6:1).

Stanley Hauerwas, author of Resident Aliens, writes “The most creative social strategy we have to offer is the church… We serve the world by showing it something that it is not; namely, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers.”  Colossians 3:11 says it this way: “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.”

So where are the M&M’s in your life?  Who can you invite to coffee, to an event or a meal that is ethnically different from you?  Jesus, please encourage us to seek more than M&M’s.

Journey to the Holy Land

Last year, I traveled to Israel/Palestine with BelPres members, Overlake Christian Church members and a Muslim couple. Our primary purpose was to learn about multiple perspectives on the current conflict there.  Our good fortune was to have Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon (Churches for Middle East Peace, Washington D.C.) as our sponsor and guide.  She arranged for us to meet with people from Israel and Palestine to hear what life is like and to learn how things became so very complicated ‘first-hand.’

Our two guides, an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim from the West Bank, were wonderfully qualified to provide rare, multidimensional views of two ongoing, diverse perspectives.  They were with us throughout the trip explaining their respective histories.  Together, Israel and Palestine are about the size of New Jersey, so we covered a lot in 11 days.  There are two stories to share.

The first involves two fathers who lost daughters in the conflict and whose stories are heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. One is Jewish whose teenage daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber and the other is Palestinian whose young daughter was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier.  The pain these two men have experienced is unimaginable. The temptation to react violently must have been overwhelming.  However, neither chose to respond with violence.  Instead, they chose peace.

They met after their respective tragedies and became very good friends.  Now, telling their stories together, they’re advocating for reconciliation.  The two men, like many we met, are weary of war and in sharing their heartbreak, their strength and determination, they are making a difference.

The Palestinian father said he believes people hate each other because they fear each other and they fear each other because they don’t know each other. For example, he didn’t know about the Holocaust until he was an adult.

The Israeli father said, after his daughter was killed, he asked what had happened to Palestinians to make them so angry they would destroy their own lives and the lives of children. As he uncovered answers to this, his heart was softened to the history and pain of Palestinians. The Israeli man closed by saying that occupation is not a Jewish value and standing against it is not anti-Semitic. Both men agreed the best place for Americans to begin understanding is to become informed.

My second story involves a man who served in the Israeli Army. During a quiet time in our travels, I asked him what he thought about U.S. presidential administrations’ actions related to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  He responded with regret and sadness that it doesn’t matter who the U.S. President is; none of them has had the courage to stand up to the Israeli government.

My heart breaks for the horrors Jewish people have suffered, especially the Holocaust.  I have been to Dachau, Germany (a Nazi death camp) where many Jewish people were murdered.  I‘ve been to The Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and to the Holocaust museum near Jerusalem – Yad Vashem.  While both memorials show the stark detail of unspeakable crimes committed against the Jews, anti-Semitism still exists in much of the world today.  I believe Israel has the right to have a State and to live in peace within the pre-1967 borders.  So, I am pro-Israel.

I am also pro-Palestinian.  On our trip, we spent a great deal of time on the Palestinian side of the “separation wall.”  The contrast between the Israeli side and the West Bank side is startling: limited access for Palestinians for basics such as water, health care, jobs and roads, is all controlled by Israel.  From what I saw, both sides continue to suffer and Palestinians seem to bear a greater share of suffering.  My heart also breaks for them.  I believe for Israel to prosper, Palestine must also prosper.

Our group continues to meet and act with a pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-Jesus narrative at the heart of our work.  We pray for peace and we act for peace.  We invite you to join us.

The “Tia” the Lord wants me to be

Buenos Noches from Cochabamba, Bolivia! For those who don’t know me, my name is Lizzy Blake. Last year, I worked in Cochabamba as a volunteer with Niños Con Valor (Children with Value). NCV is a wonderful organization with 40 kids in 3 homes. We have Pedacito de Cielo which is full of boys 13 and under. We also have our girls’ home, Corazón del Pastor. Once our kids turn 18 years old, they move into our 3rd home, the Transition home or Sendero de Esperanza. NCV is a home for those who don’t have a family, suffered abuse and/or have been abandoned. NCV turns something so negative into a wonderful future for each of our kids.

Working with 40 kids, I get to experience everything. One of my favorite moments is the excitement of the kids when they see me as though it’s been ages instead of just a day. As someone volunteering full time, I see the frustration when they don’t get what they want or when homework doesn’t make sense no matter how many different ways it’s explained. I also see arguing over the smallest things – like having to share toys or crayons. Sometimes the boys just can’t stand peace.  They act like siblings who slowly push the buttons of their brothers until fists are flying! However, there are reminders that it is worth it – like when a kid is so sweet or leaves a note in your bag saying they love you.

God has really opened my eyes here and removed the blinders which keep me focused on a narrow path. We get used to seeing the same things in our life that we sometimes can’t see anything else. Kids here have seen me as the “easy and fun Tia (Spanish for Aunt),” which is both good and hard.  I adore them and love spending time with them.  However, sometimes I can’t see what problems are really happening and limit my ability to help.  With the help of those around me, I have been trying to find a middle zone where I can be both the “Tia the kids want me to be” and ”Tia the staff members want me to be.” I have had blinders on; I see the beauty of Bolivia while not seeing all the pain too.  There are societal problems causing challenging environments for children to grow up in.

One day, I was out celebrating a birthday with some other Tias when one told us that she also works part-time with kids who use drugs. The drug problem is different here than it is in the States: there is not much help for those suffering from addictions. In the States, there are recovery centers, shelters, places like Eastside Academy and others that strive to bring hope and healing. In Cochabamba, we lack that certain hope. The place where Tia Lilian works is mostly a shelter for teens with very few resources. I met a few of the guys (ages 16-17) at the shelter later that night. They were hanging out on the side of the street listening to music and sniffing glue (the easiest access to getting high).  As soon as one of the guys greeted me with a hug, I felt this need to do something. God’s ways are mysterious, and he has placed this need in my heart.  I have been thinking, praying and looking more for his directions. I don’t know where God will take my time serving NCV, but I do know my heart is big enough to sustain heartbreak and add more love to those around me. Jesus longs to bring hope to all his children.

I feel so blessed living out my dreams with people I’ve come to love and learn so much from. All that I am and will be is in the Lord, and I can’t wait to see how my story with Niños Con Valor continues!

 

Lizzy has finished her one year mission with Niños Con Valor.  She feels called to return to Bolivia, so she will be leaving in March for two year mission.  If you would like to support and pray for Lizzie Blake, please contact her at dblake1812@earthlink.net

Bangladesh Hospital of Faith

Last year, a huge wave of violence spread through eastern Myanmar bordering the hill tracks of southern Bangladesh.  About 3 hours south of the major Bengali port city Chittagong Deep in the remote region of Cox’s Bazar district, is the village of Malumghat and Memorial Christian Hospital (MCH).  As survivors trickle into the hospital, Laura and I receive Facebook posts from our resident medical friends serving with Samaritan’s Purse and the Association of Baptists (AOB) at the hospital.  Burn, gunshot and traumatic amputation prayer requests come in for the victims, many of whom have also witnessed the killing of their family and village community.   The trickle becomes a stream until the hospital’s resources are overwhelmed.

I have served with my wife Laura on BelPres’ DivorceCare leadership team over the past four years.  We are grateful for the many opportunities at BelPres as we’ve found that we receive exceedingly abundantly above all we could ever ask or think.  We want to share our experience and solicit prayers for the nationals and expats serving there now.

For the past few years, Laura and I have prayed to use our vacation time for medical missions.  I do diagnostic x-rays and Laura is a Doula (birth coach).  Through Samaritan’s Purse, we found the answer through a call for short-term x-ray training at MCH-Bangladesh as they move from film to digital-based imaging.

Samaritan’s Purse staff were terrific and connected us with medical volunteers that recently visited MCH-Bangladesh.   We got our vaccinations and flights to the capital city of Dhaka, Bangladesh by way of Tokyo and then Bangkok.    After an overnight stay in an AOB guesthouse, we caught our final two-hour flight south to Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladesh is the size of Iowa with 164 million people, 50% of which are 15 years old and younger.   Our first experience was the amazing press of people everywhere!  We were met by our wonderful jovial hospital staff driver who loaded us and our bags in the hospital van for a two-hour trip to MCH.   The two-lane road was filled:  pedestrians, bikes, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, cars, motorcycles, vans and several full-size tour buses.  And no traffic lights … at all.  What seemed like insane traffic mayhem eventually revealed itself as a complex, cooperative system of amazing efficiency.   It is wise to hire a driver in Bangladesh.

As a doula, Laura helps moms and their Songee through the birthing process.  On her first full day (entering the woman’s ward small labor room), she encountered a very young weeping woman who immediately clung to her in terror.  This is her story.

The recent popularity of smartphones, with nearly country-wide connectivity, has caused havoc in the traditional separation of the genders in this huge agrarian, predominantly Muslim country.   In her village, a nineteen-year-old boy took an interest in her a year ago, and after texting, they met alone and were caught.  Her father is one of many thousands of men working as laborers in the Middle East, so it fell upon the village elders to handle the crisis.  The decision was quickly made that the young man must marry the girl or go to jail.  While child marriage is illegal, it occurs with sad frequency as a result of social crises like this.  Moreover, if the young man decided to make a run for it, the custom in Bangladesh is to simply go to the family and incarcerate any other male they find from that family.  They were shortly married.  Now, about a year later, she is a tiny 14-year-old girl at full term and terrified.  Simply too small for the size of her baby, the C-section quite possibly saved the young woman and her baby’s lives. 

The largest Christian congregation meets a quarter of a mile away from the hospital.  As a new country, Bangladesh gained her independence in 1971 after a brutal conflict involving Pakistani military killing of Bengali Hindus.  During this terrifying time, a core of Christian doctors, nurses, and nationals elected to trust the Lord by serving at the 8-year old hospital while the war raged through.  The government and people of Bangladesh did not forget, and MCH continues to serve today.

Please commit to praying daily for the long-term doctors, nurses and support personnel serving in MCH alongside their national partners.  Please pray for healing and peace in the present refugee crisis as well as provisions of funds, equipment, and personnel to complete the new hospital building targeted to open sometime next year.

Finally, thank you so much for your prayers and support that allowed us to serve.  There is no fear in love as perfect love casts out all fear.  Our prayer is that you find new courage in love serving among our brothers and sisters at BelPres.

 

Becoming Multi-Ethnic

I grew up in a sleepy suburban town, nestled along the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California.  The city of Arcadia began as a community of chicken ranches and fruit orchards.  But as Los Angeles grew, people began moving away from the urban center to places like Arcadia.  Increased property values incentivized local ranchers and farmers to sell to housing developers.  Arcadia transformed into a city of small shops and suburban neighborhoods.   Socio-economically and ethnically monogamous, the schools I attended, city leadership, police force and business sectors all served a largely middle class, religious and 95% white population.  My family fit that demographic.  We were “Creasters” -Christmas and Easter churchgoers.  The church we attended was similar to the way BelPres is now; multiple staff, multiple programs, 2,500+ member church.

That was the Arcadia I grew up in.  But by my Senior Year in High School, my city began to transform again.   Families, who had the financial means to do so, were buying homes, tearing them down and building larger, 6000 square foot homes.  These families fit the financial profile of the average Arcadian but were ethnically different.  The new Arcadians spoke a different language, raised their children differently, and were not interested in giving up their culture or ethnic heritage in order to become like the majority demographic who already lived there.   Businesses, restaurants, financial institutions and schools adapted and made changes in order to serve the new non-white demographic.  But my Creaster church didn’t.  It remained focused on the 95%.  That was 40 years ago.

Today, Arcadia is a different city than the one I grew up in.  It is bigger, multi-ethnic, and vibrant.  The church of my childhood is different too; down to 200 members and a few staff.  The church never figured out how to engage its community and be a church for all people, all nations, all ethnic groups.

We, at BelPres, are partnering with Jesus to revive the Eastside and beyond.  We believe that revival will look like lots of things; i.e. not old-time tent meetings and altar calls, but healed relationships, breaking down the forces which create and sustain poverty, schools thriving, people experiencing Jesus love and making decisions to love Him back, etc.  We all have a part in that wherever we live, work, learn and play.  But our context is changing.  The number of languages spoken on the Eastside is approaching 100!

There are lots of reasons why we want to become a multi-ethnic church; 3 reasons specifically.  First, Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations, all people, all ethnic groups; (Matthew 28:18-21, Mark 15:15-16; Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8).    Second, the first church at Antioch was multi-ethnic and reflected the fact that God’s Kingdom is multi-ethnic too.  Third, our worship and the quality of our life together is fuller, richer, better as a multi-ethnic community than it is when we are not.  It is just more fun, more meaningful, more vibrant and life-giving.  We don’t know what we are missing until we are with people who are ethnically different than us.  We need them.  We can’t experience the fullness of community and worship without them.

So what can you do?  If you heard the sermon by Sergio Chavez earlier this year, you can PUFYTB- Put your feet under the table.   Share a meal.  Invite someone to coffee, or lunch or to your home who is ethnically different than you.  Pray for them.  Begin reading about or learning about the culture of one of the 100 language groups on the Eastside.  What can they teach you?  Do you have other ideas or a story to tell?  Share it.

 

If you have a story you would like to share with us, please email it to missionstories@belpres.org

 

REVIEW OF JOSEPH CASTLEBERRY’S “THE NEW PILGRIMS”

Immigration is at the center of our national debate.  While almost all would agree that the current system isn’t working, people of faith have varying opinions on what our country’s immigration laws should be.  Debates on immigration often focus on economics, national security, or our responsibility to the vulnerable.  Castleberry has a very different perspective – evangelism.  He quotes a friend’s saying of immigrants, “They either came here to evangelize or to be evangelized.”  This book challenged me to consider how God is at work in the movement of people around the world, especially to the United States.

In the first half of the book, Castleberry lays out the decline of faith and moral values in the US and argues the decline has been held at bay and is reversing due to immigrants.  Unlike the US, Christianity is expanding rapidly around the world, especially in Africa, South America, and China.  Our missionary efforts in the past are bearing fruit. Those who have found Jesus around the world are looking at the US as a fertile mission field.  Christian immigrants are coming to the US, revitalizing existing congregations and planting new churches.  On the flipside, Castleberry argues that non-Christian immigrants (whose family and close friends are far away) feel a great need for a relationship that “leaves them [seeking] renewal or conversion.”  This is an opportunity for Christians to “good-news” those God has brought to our communities.

In the second half of the book, Castleberry addresses our legal and political system.  He sets out an evangelical case for comprehensive immigration reform that includes compromise from both political parties.  He urges the reader to seek “the Lamb’s Agenda” rather than the Elephant’s or the Donkey’s.  I found much to agree with in this book, but also much to challenge me.  I think readers from all parts of the political spectrum will agree.  Mostly, Castleberry made me think and inspired me with new ideas.

The Justice & Reconciliation Team invites you to read this book and join us for a lively discussion at our next Justice & Reconciliation Book club on Monday, 2/5, at 7pm in S-223.

Power in the Name of Jesus

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Matthew 1:21

‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, There is something about that name.

As I write, my heart is somewhat sad because it is difficult to understand why so many people hate the name, Jesus. This came out of a letter I received from a friend.  A letter in which he stated that he was preparing to speak at a very large convention sharing his testimony and in that context, the impact made on his life after a visit to our Campus in Guatemala.

As I read his letter, he mentioned my name and the school but did not mention the Mission, ‘The Arms of Jesus Children’s Mission.’ I sent him a note saying I would be praying for him and his witness.  Then I received a response that saddened my heart. He said, “Thanks…it is very frustrating. They censored it to the point where I couldn’t even mention ‘The Arms of Jesus Children’s Mission’ because it has ‘Jesus’ in the name. I was (hot) under the collar.”

Can you understand that? In today’s political correctness, you cannot mention the name ‘Jesus.’ My mind went back a few years when a dear friend and member of the Government of Canada helped us get funding for a project in Haiti. He came up against this same issue and heard Government Officials say, “Get them to change their name.” In simple terms, “Have them remove the name ‘Jesus.’”

We are not ashamed of the name of Jesus and will never ever change our name just to get funding. God Himself and His people will provide the resources we need to fulfill His mandate! Let me share a few scriptures with you:

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philip 2:9-11

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesusname and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” Acts 3:16

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”  John 16:23-24

Yes, there is something about that name and the song writer put it so well:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name.

Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim

Kings and kingdoms will pass away

But there’s something about that Name!