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


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.

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.

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

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



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!



Children Pray for Daily Bread

Hunger stalks many families on the Eastside – an alarming statement to be sure, but all too true. In Bellevue alone, more than 200 students are known to be homeless; these children have no pantry or refrigerator to open in search of a snack. In the Bellevue School District, over 4,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals served at school. For some, the breakfast and lunch they get at school will be the only food they eat all day. For these students and their families, having enough to eat is always in question. Their prayers “for daily bread” are quite literal.

The hunger pangs are there, hidden below the surface appearance of many low-income people for whom shelter, safety, and sufficient food can never be taken for granted. Parents struggle to sustain their families and provide the basic necessities of life, often working two or more minimum wage jobs, just to pay rent and keep the lights on. Weekends can be especially difficult because the children lack access to meals provided at school on Saturdays and Sundays.

Since 1998, Renewal Food Bank (RFB) has been filling the gap for many Eastside families. An independent, non-profit agency and a member of Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline hunger relief network, RFB serves 250 families every week. Over the years, RFB has provided food security for over 350,000 people.

With a very modest operating budget (less than $100,000 a year), RFB continues to serve 250 families each week, or 13,000 family visits annually. This is possible because of the generosity of community members and faith-based organizations donating food and household sundries consistently. It literally takes a community of caring volunteers, businesses, churches and service organizations to keep the food bank going. Every donation is welcomed and sincerely appreciated.

RFB Executive Director, Rich Bowen says, “Here at Renewal Food Bank, our desire is to strengthen our community by meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people in East King County. We partner with City of Bellevue and other local social services, businesses, schools, churches, and individuals who have the heart to feed the hungry in our community. We need your help!”

Here are some ways you can partner with Renewal Food Bank:

• Tell those in need about us and help them get the groceries they need!
• Volunteer at Renewal Food Bank — one time, bi-monthly, every week
• Support RFB at work through your company’s United Way campaign (once our IRS filing for 501(c)3 status is approved)
• Organize a neighborhood food drive — they can help you get started
• Set up a food donation bin at your school, church, or place of business
• Bring your family or child’s scout troop to Renewal Food Bank to volunteer
• Head up a food drive at your child’s school
• Bring weekly food collections from local business partners to the food bank
• Deliver food to housebound individuals
• Help pay the monthly bills with a monetary donation to Renewal Food Bank
Together we can build a strong community and care for the most vulnerable members of our Eastside community.

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:


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

Thank You

It has been one year since I started working at BelPres. It was exciting to go back to work after a 14-year hiatus to raise kids. However, I was afraid I would be a failure and not be up to the task since this is my home church. And I was also worried that I would find the guts of the church to be messy and not be as pretty as what I see on Sunday mornings.

Like any other workplace, there is a mix of personalities and working styles. I was happy to find people with incredible talents and genuine hearts to serve our God and community at BelPres. Our Prayer+Care team visit and pray for our congregants in hospitals when their family cannot come. Our Belong+Grow team helps families build community through mealpacking and eating burgers. Our Worship team sings heartwarming songs to fill our souls with hope and peace through the tragedies of this year. Our Facilities team provides jobs for new immigrants and homeless to get them on their feet. Our pastors share stories of our congregants that inspire all of us to love others because we were loved first.  Each department and person doing their part to make BelPres a church community.

And then there is Mission+Serve department, which has become my home this past year. I’m biased, but I feel like Mission+Serve is the heart of BelPres; serving, teaching, sharing, and growing our BelPres family. We provide food to hungry neighbors; we donate diapers for babies, we send people to help after the devastating hurricanes in Texas, we give much-needed supplies and gifts through AGM. We offer tutoring services for kids needing extra help through KidREACH; we come together to let go of racial prejudices and become compassion neighbors, we bring presents for homeless and children with a parent in prison, and so much more.

And “we” is not exclusive of the staff at the Mission+Serve. “We” is not “we” without our dedicated volunteers who support, lead, pray and give of their time, money and gifts. So much of the work in Mission+Serve is done by our tireless volunteers.  I learned that there are many programs that serve our community that were founded right here at BelPres because our volunteers saw a need that needed to be met.

I am learning from all of you what it means to serve with all your heart.  So thank you for serving along with us in Mission+Serve. Thank you for being God’s hands and feet.  Thank you for giving to God and His children.  May God’s blessings overflow in you in 2018 so that you may share your blessing with others!

Happy New Year!

Bright and Hopeful

“K” came to the U.S. as a strong but defensive Muslim. A stellar university student from a remote part of Central Asia (C.A), he received a scholarship to study in a major university and was also accepted into our leadership program from among 400 applicants. He was further selected for a one-year internship in the United States. “K” excelled in his internship, so he was recently invited to a worldwide young leaders meeting at a major U.S. university. He will be a very important young leader in his country at many levels. He tells his story.
“I spent 12 months in Seattle as part of a facility resource company’s financial teams. Looking back, taking a year off (from university) and doing an internship were the smartest decisions of my student life. My internship allowed me to use my theoretical knowledge in practice and jump into the business world.”
“By participating in leadership meetings at my company and executive meetings with other Seattle-based CEOs, I learned about strategic leadership and becoming an influential business leader. Moreover, I became a student member of CFA-Seattle Society where I met financial professionals who shared expertise with me, improving my communication and networking abilities.”
He and his family are devout Muslims. In one of our first conversations, he told me why the Koran was right and the Bible was wrong. One of the first events he attended in the U.S., was BelPres’ Christmas Eve Service. He was more than a little amazed and culturally disoriented. The warmth, light, and friendliness were not what he expected. After a year of being loved and served, and after several conversations, his attitude toward Christ and the Bible softened. Though not yet a believer in Jesus, he has moved to a more open, middle ground. “K” continues in our alumni group and our conversations about Jesus continue.
Pray for “K”, our other C.A. friends and for us; that we are faithful to love, serve and share the wonder of the Gospel with our C.A. friends.
“My Father is working until now and I am working.” Jesus, in John 5:17
Although we readily identify with Jesus in Central Asia, E2 is not a mission organization.  It’s a charitable, educational organization developing leaders to renew their nations.  


All We Want For Christmas…..

I’d like some metal roofing for Christmas this year, so the children at Raymond Jean Bois don’t have to go to school under a tarp. It was a pretty easy decision as decisions go – either take the roofing off the old school before Hurricane Irma arrived or have it blown away. In the last several years, every storm has taken a few sheets, but none were like Hurricane Irma.

We are building a new building around the old building. The guys have the floors, the walls and the trusses done for the new church and school building – except for the roofing. Roofing Plan A is on a boat in Miami, loaded since April but has not sailed yet. Roofing Plan B is purchased in Port-au-Prince but, with so much rain right now, we can’t even go home in a 4-wheel drive Landcruiser.

For my Christmas beverages, I’d like a couple of glasses of water. Not just any water, mind you. I’d like one glass out of the pipeline we are repairing with the Lacoma church and community. The other glass of water (that will taste really good) is out of one of the seven new fountains to be installed in Moustiques … until the pipe got delayed on that same boat in Miami.

Oh, I guess I am going to need more than two glasses of water. I was over at the Lacoma job site. The church folks were loading sand onto donkeys, mules, and horses to carry down to the men making the concrete conduit to protect the pipe. A lady was smiling when she said I owed her for transporting the sand. I said, “OK, I’ll pay … in water.” She said, “It will cost 10,000 gallons!” “No problem,” I said. That is less than two hours of water flowing through the pipe once it’s fixed. So what I am really looking for is 10,000 gallons plus two glasses of water. Did I mention we have a lot of 4” PVC pipe sitting on the ship in Miami?

When I was a kid, doing major construction projects under the backyard apple tree, I wanted Tonka trucks and construction equipment for Christmas. Amazing things have happened since then. God has blessed us with real construction equipment. This year, I’d like to have the parts to fix the grader and some new grader tires. It has been raining for a week. We are stranded outside of Port-au-Prince at friends because the roads and mud are so bad; like unusually-once-every-ten-or-fifteen-years bad. The roads were barely passable before the rain and now I can’t imagine. The old tires aren’t done yet and the paint that is on the way will make this grader look new, but for now, we could get by with just the parts to fix the drive train. As soon as it dries out, we need to get on the road with the grader and fix it. Did I mention the parts, paint, and tires are all loaded on the same ship that hasn’t left Miami yet?

I know I am asking for a lot. I didn’t ask for much last Christmas, so I feel I have some ground to make up. There are several irrigation pumps on my list too. I know that sounds crazy asking for pumps with all this rain, but I am fascinated with diesel engines and pumps. After it rains too much in Northwest Haiti, there is always a time when it doesn’t rain. These are really special hydraulically powered pumps powered by trailer-mounted, air-cooled diesel engines made especially for us by friends. You guessed it … these two irrigation pumps are on the same ship with everything else waiting until all the problems are figured out so they can sail.

We haven’t sent out an update for a while because we have been waiting for good news. It is always “next week; something is going to happen.” But it hasn’t yet. They are talking about getting the last part, and the manifest straightened out and have just told us “next week,” again! The bottom line is the ship hasn’t sailed yet. And we are talking about Christmas coming up … all I want for Christmas is for our ‘ship to come in.’

Wearing a Helmet

Develop Our Village Economy (DOVE)

I went with a team to visit Tong Neak, my home village in Prey Veng last year. I usually suggest we take a short-cut: a bumpy road that is now much improved. We crossed the longest bridge in Cambodia, the 2.2 km Tsubasa on the Mekong River funded by the Japanese government. No need to take the ferry as in the past!

“Where is my bumpy road?” Ray Durr asked. We all laughed. Cambodia has two problems: there are not enough good roads and now, with some good roads, we face another problem – road accidents.

Nineteen students are in Onyx Phnom Penh program this year, including Ms. Chhun Thida. 24-year-old Thida is a dorm leader and an English teacher with a Cambodian Christian organization that empowers garment workers. One Saturday in May, students were heading home after Onyx class. On Street 271 near the Phnom Penh Sports Club, there was a crowd of people stopped on the street.

Mr. Ren Trea, 25 years old and another Onyx student, spotted a scooter lying in the middle of the street. “What happened?” he asked the bystanders. They replied, “There was an accident. The owner of the scooter is in severe condition and she was taken to a hospital already.” It looked similar to Thida’s scooter he thought, so he called her, but no one answered. He kept calling, and at last, it was answered. It was her sister, who said, “My sister forgot her phone at home.” He told her, “I saw an accident and the scooter looks like Thida’s scooter.”

If Thida had not forgotten her phone at home that day, there would have been no answer. She was unconscious after the accident. Her family confirmed the scooter was hers. Then they checked into the nearby hospital and found her there. The hospital hadn’t started treating her yet because there was no one to authorize treatment. If Thida hadn’t been wearing a helmet, she could have died.

In Ephesians 6:16–17: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

In Thida’s case, the helmet saved her life. If Trea hadn’t seen the scooter and Thida hadn’t left her phone at home, nobody would have known where she was.

Ruth, the Moabite, came to glean in Boaz’s field. Ruth was a newcomer to the land and did not know which field to glean and God brought her to Boaz. God takes care of us: every breath and step we take, he is there with us.

Praise God that Thida rejoined the Onyx class in mid-June after being unconscious for 3 days and spending 3 weeks in the hospital.

The Age-Old Christmas Stocking with a Brand-New Tradition

I have always loved the decorations and gift-giving that comes with Christmas. As a small child, I loved going through my Christmas stocking first thing in the morning. When I became a parent, our children’s Christmas stockings were a highlight of our morning festivities. And then when I became a grandmother, I continued the tradition at my own home for my seven grandchildren – each with their own custom name-embroidered stocking.

But what goes inside those stockings now is different than what went in them when I was a child and young mother. What’s in there now?  A gift card from the BelPres Alternative Gift Market!

Around Thanksgiving, I provide the opportunity to each of my grandchildren to purchase a $50 gift from the catalog for someone in need. They each select their own, based on their preferences, and tell me what to buy. On Christmas morning, we take turns opening their stockings. When it is their turn, they each pull out the card and tell their cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and me what they purchased, and more importantly, why they selected it.

Sometimes it is a chicken or a goat to produce food or a living for a family in a foreign land. Other times it is a soccer ball so other kids can have a ball to play with (something they can’t imagine living without). Sometimes it is equipment for wells to get clean drinking water, and other times it has gone toward an education so girls in Africa can create better futures (this one from a grandson). The youngest, enamored with starting school a couple years ago, wanted to purchase school supplies and books for children who couldn’t afford their own. Another time it was a wheelchair to help another person get around more easily (perhaps from observing his own grandfather use one.)

I love that they can review the catalog with all the needs, that they make informed decisions based on their interests and opinions, and that they can share their reasons for their choice with the rest of the family. In the midst of the “getting,” we are reminded of the importance of “giving” too.

For me, the BelPres Alternative Gift Catalog is more than a donation during the holidays, and it is more than a personal contribution to the less fortunate. For me, it is one of my favorite ways to pass on a lesson of love to my grandchildren about Christian giving and sharing, along with the age-old Christmas stocking tradition.




There but for grace . . .

Life is not always fair.  Many people bear more than their share of misfortune.  Life events such as the death of a loved one, loss of employment, divorce, abuse, addiction and physical or mental illness can result in loss of self-worth, depression and sometimes homelessness. Christmas can be a lonely time for those who are homeless, struggling with a self-destructive lifestyle or even transitioning to a stable living environment.

In the mid-1970s, two BelPres volunteers made Christmas just a little brighter at Seattle’s First Avenue Service Center for homeless men.  They shopped the sales, filled and wrapped 50 gift boxes with warm winter clothes and toiletries.  In the early 1980s, the need became greater than this generous and compassionate mother and daughter could provide alone.  BelPres’ Community Outreach Committee turned to the congregation and 200 boxes were packed for the Service Center. Seattle women’s shelters were added to the list of recipients and the project continued for twenty years.

In 2000, Seattle churches took over and BelPres focused on increasing needs of the homeless on the Eastside by preparing 50 gift boxes.   Chuck and Marie Olmstead have chaired this growing labor of love and generosity since 2001.  Last year, Karen Clark and Chuck Zuber began sharing the responsibility with them.

This year, the goal is to prepare 245 Christmas boxes:  180 boxes for men served by Congregations for the Homeless (CFH) in the Winter Shelter, the Rotating Shelter at churches – including BelPres and Transitional Housing for those approaching stability and independence; 25 boxes for Real Escape from the Sex Trade (REST) – a residential program for women; 40 boxes for Homeless Youth (New Horizons) for males and females, ages 13-24.

Boxes and gift lists are available in the Lobby after all services on November 12, 19 and 26.  Filled and wrapped boxes should be returned to the church on December 3 or 10.

If you have questions or need more information, call:

Chuck or Marie Olmstead                 425-223-9373 (cell)       425-947-7917 (home)

Chuck Zuber or Karen Clark             425-765-4763 (cell)        425-823-9057 (home)

My First Encounter with Afghan Refugees

It was a Sunday morning and I was invited to speak at a gathering of Afghan refugees in Athens, Greece. As I entered the room on the third floor of a commercial building in Omonia Square, I was surprised to see over 100 Muslim refugees – standing room only – waiting to hear a message that would bring comfort and hope to their troubled hearts. Most of these strangers had risked their lives to navigate cold, volatile waters from Turkey to reach the Greek Island of Lesvos – the first port of entry into Europe. Now, safely in Athens, they were at the mercy of the Greek people, who are enduring hardship from their own financial crisis.

As I stepped to the front of the room, I was warmly greeted by Farshid, a new Afghan believer, who speaks excellent English and was ready to translate my message into the Dari language (official Persian language of Afghanistan). Looking at the sea of faces, l felt an overwhelming sense of God’s compassion for these strangers who were like sheep without a shepherd.  They were eagerly awaiting some good news from this woman from the U.S.  My first words were to reassure them that they are not forgotten and that the American people deeply care and are praying for the plight of all the refugees.

It was now story-telling time and time to say something of substance. From experience, I’ve learned that revenge is a strong cultural value of the Afghan people. My story began about an Afghan man named Masoud who accidentally stumbled onto a Christian Conference of Iranians in Turkey. Surprised by their warm reception, he quickly felt at home among these Iranians. As Masoud sat listening to their strange message, a deep peace comforted his troubled heart. During training, he learned about the power of forgiveness, and that before Jesus’ death, He cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing!” Deeply touched by Jesus’ life and sacrifice, Masoud surrendered his life to Jesus.

To my surprise, at this point in the story, the audience broke out into loud applause. Their eager faces spoke volumes. They too were open to know the reality of Jesus. It was all I could do to continue speaking.

The story had an interesting twist. Masoud entered into a dispute with another man that turned into a bitter feud. Taking pride in revenge, they vowed that one or both of them would die if they ever met again. Now it was time for Masoud to make peace with his enemy. When the doorbell rang, the enemy’s wife saw who was standing at the door.  She quickly notified her husband. Walking into their home, Masoud was confronted by his enemy who was armed with a knife ready to strike. Masoud gently approached him and said, “You have every reason to kill me but before you do I have something very important I need to tell you.”  In trembling speech, Masoud shared about Jesus and knelt asking for forgiveness. At that moment, God’s loving presence flooded the room and both men were reconciled.  Soon the man and his wife also became Jesus’ followers.

As my story came to an end, the applause grew louder and people began to stand.  God’s presence filled the room. Jesus was there to save and to heal and He did!  To Him, be all glory.


My Eyes Were Opened

I attended the “Frames & Filters Workshop” – an excellent presentation and time well spent!  In the past few months, I’ve also read several of the Justice resources we ordered for the BelPres Library, such as “Tears We Cannot Stop” by M. Dyson and “Between the World and Me” by T. Coates. Even though I spent many of my teenage years being a minority white among black American students and having some black friends, as well as my father participating in the Selma, Alabama march with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the late ‘60s, I only recently became more fully aware of the privileges my “whiteness” affords in our society, and also a deeper understanding of the realities faced by people of color.

This particularly became more personal as I reflected on a recent phone call from our “son”, George.  My husband and I “sponsored” George 20 years ago through an organization called Metro Ministries in Brooklyn, NY.  George was a darling little 6 year old black kid with a big smile who stole my heart when I saw his photo at a Children’s pastor conference.  George’s father, a drug dealer, was murdered when George was 2 and he grew up in the dangerous inner city of NY.  He says without Metro Ministries and the power of Jesus, he would either be in jail or dead.

George is now married with two children and lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, and is a man filled with the love of Jesus.    We usually call or text about once a month, but this time the call came on a weekday evening – a rather unusual time.  He told me he was returning home from work and was on the side of the highway with a flat tire. He was getting it fixed but his wife was worried and there was concern in his voice.  We talked for a few minutes, he said he was about ready to be on his way, and we said our goodbyes and I didn’t think much more about it.  Only later as I was reading Coates book, did this conversation with George come to mind.  My “eyes were opened”, so to speak.   It was what George DIDN’T say that I finally understood – that he was a black man, along the side of the road, and vulnerable to potential harassment by a passing motorist, or a policeman just because of his color.  It saddens my heart to know that George, and now his bi-racial son, and people of color face such concerns each and every day they step outside their homes.

I’m so grateful for the work of the Justice Team to bring the “Frames & Filters” workshop to BelPres, as well as keeping us informed of other opportunities in our community to increase our understanding of each other’s realities and how to live together the 3rd WAY – the JESUS WAY, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and looking for opportunities to bring justice and healing in our own walk in life.

May God richly bless and guide you and your team,

Kandis Losh

BelPres Libraries Ministry Coordinator