30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World

Several months ago, an arsonist set fire to the Bellevue Islamic Center.  In response, several churches, agencies, and leaders in Bellevue reached out to express their sympathy and offered help.  BelPres and our leadership were among those.  Since then, a few pastors and a similar number of Eastside Muslim leaders have been meeting regularly for religious conversation and relationship building.    Recently, a fellow pastor asked our Muslim friends about the notion of forgiveness in Islam.  Do Muslims believe God forgives?  How does one know that they are forgiven enough to receive eternal life? And must a Muslim forgive someone who sins against them?  Stereotypical pastor conversation, right?

In Islam, God is transcendent, meaning that God is free to do as God wills and is not bound in any way by physical laws like time and space.  Christians believe the same thing.  So God can be Creator without being created, and God can continually work in and outside of specific situations and events to accomplish God’s ultimate purposes.

For a Muslim, transcendence also means God is free to forgive whatever and whenever God wants.  A Muslim must be sincerely sorry for their sin. When they express their sincere remorse, then God forgives. Muslims must also practice good deeds during their lifetime, which are saved up in a sort of bank account of good deeds.  Good deeds are deposited, and bad deeds result in withdrawals.  For a Muslim to receive Eternal Life, their good deeds must outnumber their bad deeds.  When a Muslim sins against another Muslim, not only should that person ask for forgiveness, but the one who was sinned against gets to take some of that person’s good deeds and deposit them in their own bank account.  It is like a money transfer, transferring good deeds from one bank account to another.  So a Muslim hopes they have done enough good deeds to receive Eternal Life.  But they can never be certain.  Ultimately, God is transcendent and can choose to forgive or not to forgive.  “In Sha Allah,” if God wills.

This is very different than what the Bible tells us as Christians.  The Bible shows us that God is rich in mercy (Psalm 51:1-2; Micah 7:18.)  God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 86:15, Psalm 145:8).    But God is also just (Isaiah 61:8, Psalm 9:7-8).  God holds us all accountable for the way we live our lives.  Justice, the idea that people should not get away with the bad things they do, comes from God.

Justice and mercy appear to put God in conflict with God’s self.  God is just and holds us accountable for the things we do to one another but God is also merciful and desires to treat us better than we deserve.  God’s answer to the apparent dilemma is grace.   Grace means God can be both just and merciful at the same time.  The most powerful demonstration of God’s grace is what Jesus did for us on the cross.  There, Jesus met the full requirements of justice and mercy.  By dying for us, Jesus served the sentence justice requires.  By stepping in our place, Jesus unleashes God’s rich mercy on each of us.  We didn’t earn it.  We didn’t deserve it.  But God did it anyway.  That’s grace.  Grace means, we get what we do not deserve.  We get forgiveness, freedom, new life now, and new life forever.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” Romans 3:23-24. “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Eph 2:4-5.

May 27th to June 25th marks the 30 days of Ramadan.  For a Muslim, Ramadan is a time for getting closer to God.  Muslims will pray daily for God to reveal Himself to them and they will do things like fast from sunrise to sunset and give financially to the poor as spiritual practices to help them get closer to God.  I encourage you to join Christians all across the world in praying for Muslims during Ramadan.  Pray that the transcendent God will become close, personal, and intimate for Muslims.  Pray they will discover Jesus, the one who ensures our forgiveness and secures our salvation.  God is doing amazing things throughout the Middle East and Europe among Muslims, and they are discovering the love and hope found in Jesus.  It is a unique time in history.  You can become part of it through prayer.

Pick up a copy of “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” at BelPres located at the info-walls in sanctuary lobby, walkway, and upper campus lobby.  Or go online to 30daysprayer.com to participate. 

What Breaks God’s Heart? Racial Injustice

God wants to heal His human family, and as long I can remember, I have yearned for that, too.  He places a very high priority on the relationships among those He has created. Jesus said, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First, make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 CEB

Since grade school, I have wondered what I could do about the painful issue of racial injustice. My parents set an excellent example. They actively protested the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and during the Depression, my mother often cooked food for people who knocked on our door.

My father, a family doctor, served many people of color.  Some of his patients did not have the means to pay, so he specified that they not be billed. As a little girl, I remember attending some of his patients’ baby baptisms with him.  Our neighborhood and my school had little diversity. My first African American friend was Peggy Brooks, who came to help my mother once a week. As a young girl, I shadowed Peggy in her work, and she taught me to iron. This is still my best domestic skill, although not in high demand these days!

As college students, Steve and I married. We learned about a program for underprivileged minority children. If they lived with families within that district during the week, they could qualify to be considered eligible residents of a superior school district. We did not know if they would accept us – a young couple – as fill-in parents.  But they did, and we had two middle-school “daughters” for the next couple of years.

When Pastor Dick Leon established a sister church relationship with Mt. Calvary Christian Center in the Central District several years ago, it meant a lot to me to be part of the formation team. As we traveled in the evenings between churches, we all had to work through our fears of going into unfamiliar neighborhoods. We had challenging conversations as we compared notes about being black or white in our country.  As we began worshipping together and meeting in one another’s homes, we celebrated our oneness as Christians. Our shared love of Jesus dissolved the barriers of race, age, economics, gender and culture as nothing else can!

Our country seemed to be moving beyond racism, and as the news reminds us daily, racial tension and hate crimes are still very apparent.

I am thankful that BelPres has created a Justice and Reconciliation Team. Its efforts to engage our congregation in educational programs, service opportunities, and person-to-person ministries can help turn the tide. I am excited for this way God is inviting our church into His work of redemption!

 

BelPres offers several different options to learn more about diversity and racial injustice:

May 13, Saturday, 9:30am – 2pm:   Racial Reconciliation Workshop/Frames & Filters with Tali Hairston

May 24 or June 4: Racial Reconciliation Post Workshop Discussion

May 25-June 29, Thursdays, 7pm: Justice+Reconciliation Workshop/Facing Racism

Miracles Do Happen!

For more than a dozen years, we have sent teams to support Nicolás Fund for Education in La Esperanza, Guatemala. In that time, enduring relationships of love and trust have formed between team members and villagers. One such relationship emerged between team member, Tom and a widow in the village named Juana.

Juana is the adopted mother of Bernabé, a boy who’s life seemed destined for trouble. Juana has been doing her best to raise Bernabé as a single mom.   On each of Tom’s trips to the Ixil, he made a point to seek out Juana to give her a word of encouragement.

Bernabé’s negative attitude has been a source of pain for Juana. She has been praying for a solution for the past few years as he was frequently truant from school and eventually dropped out altogether. He fell in with a “bad crowd,” was both disrespectful, and physically and emotionally abusive to Juana.  Bernabé traveled to the fincas (plantation farms) to work, a fertile ground for gang recruitment.  This came at a particularly difficult time for Juana, as she developed a severe eye condition that causes pain when exposed to bright sunlight.  This eye condition made it impossible for Juana to plant or harvest crops.

Nicolás Fund for Education National Director, Ivan España, recognized Juana’s problem and devised a plan.  Nicolás Fund for Education began providing a village tutor for Bernabé to help him catch up in school.  Bernabé began to benefit from the tutoring. The progress was both slow and not without setbacks.  This year, Ivan came up with a new plan:  Tom would pay Bernabé to plant and harvest Juana’s snow peas; Bernabé would not have to travel to the fincas for work.  Bernabé agreed to this plan.

Lo and behold, the harvest came in.  Bernabé felt pride in what he accomplished for his family.  With his proceeds, Bernabé purchased a small transistor radio for Juana.  Juana has a deep faith. When she and Bernabé get up at 5:30 am, they immediately turn on the radio to listen to Christian music.  Bernabé has become respectful of Juana: helping with chores, asking how her day was and telling her about his day.  This was a tremendous change from last year!

Bernabé began attending Nicolás Christian School and has become a good student!  The Christian education he receives at school helps his personal relationship with God.  Bernabé has become part of the Christian community at Nicolás Christian School, where all the students come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds.  Bernabé seems so much happier now.  God is transforming Bernabé’s life through love and male role models such as Ivan España and the teachers at Nicolás Christian School, as well as the generosity of the Tom’s to support tutoring, field work, and school scholarship. God never gave up on Bernabé; neither did Juana, Tom or NFE.  God worked a miracle that is changing Bernabé’s life and answered Juana’s prayers. Thanks be to God!

 

Sunday, May 7th, BelPres is honored to welcome the Director of Nicolás Fund for Education (NFE),  Ivan España and his wife Janet along with NFE student, Ana Cordova, from Guatemala.  12:15pm UC-105 

Click here, if you would like to know more about Nicolás Fund for Education and upcoming Impact Team trips to Guatemala.

 

WHY DIAPERS?

When I first heard the idea for Baby Basics in January 2012, I asked the same question that many ask, “Why diapers?” It’s a fair question since diapers are not exciting or even interesting unless you need them and cannot afford them. One in three moms in America struggles to provide their babies with diapers.  Babies who aren’t changed frequently enough are at a greater risk for diaper rash and other health issues.  The need for diapers is a silent crisis in our community.

As much as diapers seem like a mundane item for families with young children, they are a significant budget item for low-income parents and a necessity for a baby’s hygiene and well-being. And crying and sick babies can cause extra stress in homes where there is already financial stress and potentially other stresses.

Baby Basics Bellevue was “born” out of learning about this diaper need and the toll it takes on babies and their families. Our goal is to help babies thrive and to support families stay above the poverty line.  Food stamps and WIC (Women Infant Children supplemental nutritional program) cannot be used to purchase diapers and that there are no government subsidies for diapers.  By providing the necessity of diapers and connecting families to other services in the community, Baby Basics also helps alleviate the stress of living on the edge for those in our program.

Even with two working parents, one of the families that Baby Basics Bellevue has had the opportunity to get to know and serve has experienced the stress of living on the edge financially. Here is their story:

Baby Basics has been such a blessing to my family. We moved to Bellevue in May 2015. We lost our home in the Spring due to the rising cost of rent in the Seattle area. My husband Robert and I have always had employment, but we could not keep up with the rent increases and the costs to support our family. We were placed in transitional housing in Bellevue through Attain Housing, a program based in Kirkland. While meeting our caseworker weekly, she informed us of Hopelink, our neighborhood resource center, and food bank. She also sent a referral to Baby Basics of Bellevue for us. Robert was working, and I was on maternity leave at the time.

Wow, what a blessing this program has been to us! Relying on diapers from a food bank is a hit or miss. You get a few diapers two times a week with whatever sizes they have available. I quickly switched career paths and started working for Hopelink in June. I am still able to utilize Hopelink’s services, as this is our neighborhood service center.

Even though we are a two-parent household with both of us are working, it is stressful struggling to pay for food and necessities because we make too much to qualify for benefits, yet not enough to be fully self-sufficient. We fall into the gap and that is where the struggle is. A program that provides enough diapers each month for your baby is completely and utterly amazing! This program not only encourages people to get employed and get off government assistance, but they help you beyond just providing diapers.  They are extremely kindhearted and loving individuals, you can tell they love what they are doing.

Thank you, Baby Basics, for all you do for us families that need it. You are such a blessing and inspiration! It has encouraged me to want to start a program like this in the future.”  Meghan P.

As we move forward in 2017, Baby Basics’ challenge and privilege is to continue to respond to the requests for assistance with diapers and with referrals to other agencies able to provide for other needs. Since 2012, Baby Basics Bellevue has distributed over 150,000 diapers to families in the program as well as families in crisis and homeless shelters.

The impact of diapers is far-reaching, helping babies and their families toward positive outcomes. Baby Basics literally needs caring, helping hands to carry on the work we are doing. As a 100% volunteer-run non-profit, we can only do what we do because volunteers give the gift of time, expertise, and kindness.

We are grateful for the support of our generous community!

 

To help meet this great need and raise awareness in our community, Baby Basics Bellevue is having their 5th annual Mother’s Day Diaper Drive. The gift of diapers is an ideal way to honor mothers and to show support for low-income working moms (and dads!) on the Eastside. Your gift of diapers this May will help to cover a little bottom and will make a big difference to a family. Diapers in sizes 3, 4, 5, and 6 are especially needed.

On Mother’s Day, May 14, Bellevue Presbyterian Church is collecting diaper donations for Baby Basics. Donation bins will be in the church’s main lobby and the Upper Campus.

 

FIRST Response Radio (FRR)-Far East Broadcasting (FEBC)

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.

Cambodia
Letters and phone calls from listeners to FEB Cambodia are always encouraging. Research done recently by an independent agency confirms that FEB Cambodia broadcasts are having an impact in Cambodia.

Samith is a listener who lives alongside the train tracks. She makes her living selling flowers. She heard about Family FM from others and said, “When I return from selling flowers I turn the radio on, and it encourages me to renew my strength always. If I don’t listen to it, I feel like I’m missing something and I don’t felt satisfied that day. I very much like the different speakers in all the short programs. It helps me to continue living with hope

Doung Meng, married for 16 years with three children, responded that the marriage and family workshop organized by FEB Cambodia has helped him understand the values of family and its importance in God’s sight. He added that, when we call upon God’s mercy, we receive peace and joy.

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

A Position of Grace

 

The scene plays out daily across the landscape of Japan. From the urban metropolis to the rural countryside, it always looks the same. When people meet for the first time on business, they begin with a greeting, and then bow to one another and exchange business cards. Greet, bow, exchange. Greet, bow, exchange.

The exchanging of business cards in Japan is not an afterthought at the end of the meeting, as in “here’s the way to reach me.” It comes at the beginning of every meeting because it presents one’s position in the relationship. Americans value a “we all are equals, flat” worldview, and society is structured horizontally. Japan is stacked vertically, and everything from the depth of a bow to the words used in conversation is based on a person’s rung on the ladder.

The exchange of business cards is less about exchanging contact information and more about determining the hierarchy of position. If the individual works for a prestigious company that commands respect because the best companies only hire the best employees. If they are a manager, then they must be a hard worker and well-connected, and their position will determine where we sit on the ladder in relation to one another.  Not knowing one’s position in relation to others brings communication to a standstill and makes it is virtually impossible to conduct business in Japan.

Living in Japan as a missionary has taught me so much. As Easter approaches, I’ve been thinking about what is on my business card. Not the one that I carry with me every day, but the one I use with God which includes a list of labels which establish my position. You don’t know what card I am talking about? Sure you do! It’s the card we pull out to measure our value and worth. It’s the card we use to present ourselves to God that says things such as, “God, I’m working hard to be more righteous.””God, I’m a failure at obeying you.” “God, I can never live up to the expectations of others.” “I am a loser. I am a winner. I am a missionary. I am a….”

There is usually a long list of titles on our card, labels we set ourselves and those ascribed to us by others. Each one determines our position and shapes our relationship with God. These labels influence how we love God and love others.  But is our position in Christ based on our accomplishments and performance, set in place by our own doing? I believe not.

We fall into a precarious place when we allow human standards to define us. We put our identity in the hands of humanity’s fickle heart and mind. We are stuck with a life of untrue observations of how good (or bad) we are, an endless pursuit of justification and acceptance based on performance, and a self-worth rooted in ourselves. So what should be on our cards?

Recently, our church in Japan has been looking to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for answers. The believers in Ephesus were holding cards that read ‘second class citizen of heaven,’ a label ascribed by some Jewish believers. They were feeling looked down upon as non-Jews.  Paul corrects their thinking by appealing to two crucial points. First, everything flows from who God is. To understand ourselves, we must start with a right understanding of God. Paul tells us that we have a loving Father that blesses us with every blessing (1:3), purposefully chooses us (1:4), lavishes grace on us (1:6), gives us access to himself (1:18), and is our foundation for living (2:20).  Second, what this God says about us is infinitely greater than what we might say about ourselves. The Father says that we are his ‘workmanship’ (2:10), we are his children (2:19), and have his seal of approval in us, in the form of the Holy Spirit (1:13).

Our loving, grace-giving, foundation-giving and accessible God states that we have value beyond comprehension as His children and we are worthy of His Holy Spirit living inside us. Paul urges the Ephesians to use these words when describing themselves and these words give them their position in the world. Remembering that everything flows from God’s grace (2:8), their position is not based on what they did, but solely on who God is and who God says they are, which brings us back to you and me. By grace, we have been given new life in Jesus through his miraculous death and resurrection. It is the full and complete work of a loving God. It is in no way dependent on us. So why are we trying to move from living in the position of grace to that of performance? Why are we trying to add more to our cards? Is there anything we can do to increase the love of God for us? Expand his grace? Alter how he defines us? No! Never!

We are invited to live in a position of grace because it is the only True Place in which to live. This Easter, let’s shred the cards that measure us by performance and instead, introduce ourselves to the world based on our position in grace. This is the Good News that we will be proclaiming here in Japan, to those of us already living as believers and to those still on the journey. As for me, I’m going to stop thinking that if I am a good enough missionary, the Father will love me more. Instead, I will accept that by his grace, my position as his beloved is secure for eternity.  Now that’s a business card I am glad to share with others.

To better understand Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Peter recommends spending two weeks reading the entire letter, start to finish, once a day. It’s short, and doing so will only take about 20 minutes. This is the way the letter was meant to be read; all at once and in one sitting. Take the two-week challenge and watch how Scripture will come to life!

Opening the Door to a New Home

Most Habitat homeowners display a tremendous amount of determination to reach their goals in life, despite the obstacles and curveballs they encounter along the way. Not only does Rosa Mondoa, the recipient of our 2017 Newcastle home, fit into that category, but another homeowner from a previous Habitat community and also a member of the BelPres community does as well. Rosa and Kathy Weatherbee were both raising their families as the head of their households when they applied to Habitat, Rosa in 2015 and Kathy in 1999. These two women have led differing lives and yet both embody the spirit of the Habitat homeowner.

Rosa came to the states in 2001 from Sudan as a refugee. Kathy has lived in the Seattle-King County area for over 30 years after relocating from Idaho. Rosa was encouraged to rebuild her life in the states, with two of her three children, by a local Tukwila church she still attends. Although she first applied in 2001 and did not qualify, she came back in 2015 and was eligible to take the next steps to achieve ownership of a home for her family. Kathy applied to Habitat in 1999 after working for three years to meet the requirements for a Habitat home. In 2002, she moved into a home that she would come to own and then pass on to another family working towards stability.

In 2016, Kathy decided to sell her home back to Habitat and move on to the next phase of her life, which opened up the door for Rosa to close on a home for herself and her three daughters. The Bellevue home locations are a commodity, mostly out of the reach of the population Habitat seeks to serve. For Kathy, an assistant teacher at a pre-school, getting her Habitat home meant she was able to keep her two children in the schools they had grown accustomed too and, in particular, afford her son the unique experience of attending Bellevue’s International School. For Rosa, this home will strengthen her children’s access to neighborhood resources and safety. It will remove the dangers and temptations her family faced in their old neighborhood, particularly the drug activity that drove her eldest son out of her household and into a rehab program.

The Bellevue Habitat home is a manifestation of the independence both women have worked towards for years. Kathy was able to move out of a house that belonged to her former in-laws, a home she continued to live in for three years after she finalized the divorce from her ex-husband. She has been able to keep giving back to her community through her career in education and her work at her church. Rosa will be able to continue solely supporting her children; while her eldest son now supports himself as an electrician in Seattle, her eldest daughter is attending college for engineering, and her youngest daughter is still in elementary school.

Both women have put in a substantial amount of sweat equity hours in partnership with Habitat, to gain something that will help them support their families in attaining their dreams and creating sustainable lives for themselves. While Kathy has never met Rosa, her determination and the work she has put into her life has afforded Rosa the same opportunities to achieve her goals. Habitat is especially proud to help facilitate the cycle of accomplishment that stable, affordable housing can establish.

To get involved, join Women Build Month in May at all Habitat sites. Find out more at Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County. Contact volunteer@Habitatskc.org to get involved!

 

Lost in Translation: Dirty Money

Checking translated Scripture is full of surprises. You can be sailing along, verse after verse, with only short pauses to clarify the meaning. Then all of a sudden you run into a concept that takes the better part of an hour to get right. That happened in Luke 16:9. Jesus’ parable in the preceding verses may be his most difficult to understand, and I will not attempt to discuss it now, but here is what tripped up the translators:

And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:9, NASB)

The Nuasué and Numala translation teams, which are two distinct languages among the 270 languages spoken in Cameroon,  translated most of the verse correctly but not the phrase underlined above. It came out reading something like “your money of deceit of this world.” The problem: their translations sounded like Jesus wanted his followers either to earn money by deceit or to use it in deceitful ways.

“Put your hand in your pocket and pull out a piece of money,” I suggested. We do not know who has handled that money or how it has been used—possibly even to pay for some evil deed. However, we came by the money honestly and use it for good purposes even though, as one French translation puts it, the money is “stained by the unrighteousness of the world.”

The translators understood the intent but still could not come up with a translation that would not be interpreted as an endorsement of deceitful dealings. One person suggested just saying “the money of this world,” since readers of the Bible usually recognize “this world” as referring to a system in rebellion against God. But Jesus deliberately used the word “unrighteous” to describe the money, so we assume that it is important for understanding his meaning. This seems to be one of the “worst case scenarios” Jesus often used to make a point. We recently saw one of these in Luke 11:13: “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father…” Similarly, in Luke 16:9, Jesus shows that the sin-stained money of this world can be used for godly purposes.

Now the translators were convinced that “unrighteous” needed to stay.  But how? After much discussion, they decided in their languages “soiled money,” if associated with “this world,” would communicate the idea.  So they translated it as “your soiled money of this world.” It took awhile to get there, but in the end, we all gained a better understanding of one of Jesus’ harder sayings.

Click here to find out more about Wycliffe Bible Translators

Fostering Love to Change Lives

Olive Crest, a BelPres supported ministry, helps families in crisis providing emergency and long-term shelter and care for abused, vulnerable and neglected children. Here is one of the ways Olive Crest changes lives.

Over the last 18 years, Rozan Haynes has welcomed 43 children into her home. That’s not a misprint. Forty-three boys and girls have called her “Mom” and have been shaped into successful, productive adults through her loving care.  She says, “Some of them came to me when they were 3 or 4 years old, and stayed with me until they finished high school. So really, I raised them.”

Rozan recently “retired” from taking more at-risk kids and was honored by Olive Crest. “I’m just on cloud nine because of the love they showed me,” she says. “What a wonderful way to retire.” From the moment you meet her, it’s easy to see that Rozan is a special person. She exudes joy, enthusiasm, and love for God and children. It was her faith that first led her to Olive Crest. “I’d do it all again if I could,” she says.

“When you love God, you’re just naturally going to love His children.”

An accomplished writer with many Gospel songs and short stories to her credit, Rozan says, “When you’re caring for children, you’re writing their story. You’re taking away pain and writing in joy. Taking away anger and writing in happiness.” She explains the children who spent time in her care had been abused, abandoned, and neglected. “They had seen so many things children ought not to see. I told them, ‘I know you won’t forget your past, but you can set it aside, turn the page, and start writing a new story for your life.’”

“These Kids Needed Compassion”

Yes, there were some difficult times along the way. “There were some children I didn’t think I could handle at first.” One banged his head against the wall. Another cut himself. One 4-year-old threatened a little girl with a plastic knife, modeling his father’s anger and aggression. “These kids needed compassion . . . Someone who cared enough to listen, so that’s what I did. I always let them know, ‘no matter what you do, I’m not going anywhere, and neither are you. We’re going to see this thing through.’ And that’s what we did.”

She adds, “I have to tell you, Olive Crest gave me the best support I could have asked for. They were always just a phone call away.” Even though Rozan’s kids have grown up, she stays in touch with them. One young man is fulfilling his dream of serving in the Air Force. Another is a successful insurance broker. One just became a home owner. “I’m so proud of them,” she says.

“Who Could Ask for More?”

Her eyes light up when she thinks about a young man named Shad, who came to see her after hearing that she had undergone knee surgery. “I was trying to sit up and talk to him,” she recalls, “but he said, ‘Mom, I know you’re hurting. You need to be in bed.’ ” So he took me into my bedroom and tucked me into bed. Then he sat in a chair and talked to me for a long time.” She was deeply touched by this act of tenderness from a young man who was once troubled, angry, and lost.

“I’ve had people tell me that they don’t know why I did what I did, that they couldn’t do it,” she says. “But being a foster mom has given me so many wonderful things. Just to see a child who felt that nobody wanted him to begin to blossom and grow and to find his place in the world; who could ask for more?”

 

Joy in the midst of grief

By Jean McAllister

Alexis Ruhumuriza, the dynamic young pastor of Belpres’  “new worshiping community” called New Hope Revival Church, lost his mother last week. After suffering a stroke, she was being transported in a litter carried on the shoulders of four men for an anticipated two-day journey to an airplane. She was to be flown out of the Congo to Rwanda for medical help. But she never reached the plane; her suffering was mercifully brief.

It is the cultural norm in Africa that when a death occurs, all family members, friends, and the entire community, come to the home of the bereaved person to bring comfort and practical help. When I arrived at Alexis’ home, several people were there, and many more came during my brief stay. Alexis himself greeted me with his customary cheerfulness, though a bit quieter than usual. But it was evident he was not overwhelmed by his grief. I asked him to help me understand how the culture of visiting contributed to his wellbeing and peace.

Alexis told me that from the moment his mom (called Sifa) died, the steady flow of visitors had not ceased, day and night. People came that first night simply to be by his side in vigil, to pray and be present with him. Visitors came with food and drink, as well as with the practical help of childcare and household chores, such as cooking meals for the family.  As the constant stream of friends continues, Alexis is helped by being able to share details about his mom—how she died, what he most remembered and loved about her—and in turn, they share their own stories of loss and grief. In doing so, they find their own pain easing. Sharing in this way is a mutual comfort, which builds up the community in faith and hope.

Following his mom’s passing, Alexis did not plan to preach on this Sunday—I was scheduled to do that—but he decided the Holy Spirit was telling him he had a powerful message to bring, springing from this true and joyful awareness of God’s presence and power in the midst of his grief. He told me he must be a role model for the congregation. They know him and what he is suffering, so they can be helped substantially in their own ongoing pain and grief still unresolved from their losses during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as they witness this servant of God proclaiming the power of faith in every trial.

I hope we can all be encouraged by this testimony of faith and hope from our new Belpres member.

If you would like to hear Alexis preach, you are welcome to worship with the New Hope Revival Church during their Sunday Service at 11am, UC-106.

Winter Blessings at Congregations for the Homeless (CFH)

As the winter season comes to an end, I have reflected on the work we have done to address homelessness in our community and see that so much good has been accomplished this past year.  In 2016, we saw hundreds of individuals leave homelessness and enter a permanent stable housing.  Many men found meaningful jobs helping them connect to a new sense of purpose and meaning for their lives.  We witnessed broken relationships find healing, life, and love.  Men have reconnected to estranged family members, to children they have not had contact with for years, to old friends, and to themselves in new and healthy ways.

As I ponder all the successes of helping men move from life on the streets to independence over the last year, you come to mind.  The great success that Congregations for the Homeless has had would not be possible without all you do.  The partnership with your congregation enables profound transformation in the lives of the men we serve.  It is the acceptance, compassion, and love that your congregation’s volunteers bring by building authentic relationships with the men that is key in the life-changing work we do.

I am so thankful for all you do to make our community a place where everyone is welcome and valued.  I am deeply thankful for the passion and love you bring to those who are marginalized and hurting.  Thank you for being you and for your continued partnership with CFH in the life-giving work we do on the Eastside.  You are deeply valued by CFH and the men who you have profoundly impacted.  I hope you are deeply blessed in 2017.

Are We Inherently Good? Not So Much.

I have been writing a series about Islam to help us understand our Muslim neighbors better.  The topic of this blog comes from an email I received from a BelPres member.

A few weeks ago, he was walking through his neighborhood when he met someone from the local Mosque.  They had a nice conversation together and the gentleman from the local Mosque invited the BelPres member to join him for prayers on Fridays. Afterwards, the church member was curious about the way this new acquaintance spoke about the inherent goodness that is in everyone.  This idea came up a few times while they were talking.  He went along with it at first but when his new acquaintance brought it up a second time, the church member realized he might be on to something.  That is when he emailed me.  Do Muslims and Christians believe people are inherently good?

Muhammad taught, so most Muslims believe, that human beings are created good. Muhammad said people are born innocent and pure but we need some help so we can stay that way.  The Quran, Bible, and Torah (Muslims believe the Quran is the only true word of God) are all intended to provide divine guidance so that human beings can stay pure. In Islam, there is no such thing as a sin nature so people (like Adam and Eve) sin because they forget God’s guidance or they have a weak moment.   Therefore, people are inherently good.

Most Christians believe the exact opposite.  In Romans 5, Paul tells us sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and death came because of sin.  Grace and forgiveness come through Jesus.  The Bible tells us sin has altered our human nature so we cannot not sin – I realize that is a double negative, but it is true.  The point is, we cannot help ourselves.  There are many examples; some even involve you and me. In Romans 7, just two chapters later, Paul himself admits to being a slave to sin because he ends up doing the bad things he knows he should not do instead of doing the good things he knows he should do.  He is a mess.  At that point, Paul cries out “Who will save me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ!”

Recognizing we have a sin nature helps us understand our need for someone who can rescue us.  Someone who will pay the price for our sin.  Someone who has the authority to really forgive us.  Someone who can change, transform and make us whole and new people.  His name is Jesus!  The Christian faith is built on the foundation of God’s marvelous love and grace, specifically shown to us in Jesus.

Islam is built on the practice of submission to God (Muslim = one who submits). Practicing Muslims are deeply devoted people. The five pillars of Islam: professing there is no other God but God and Muhammad is His messenger, prayer, giving, fasting and making a once in a lifetime trip to Mecca, are the ways a Muslim demonstrates their submission. It is a religion focused on works .  A Muslim practices these pillars so they can live as the inherently pure and innocent people they believe God created them to be.  Then God will reward them with heaven.  The problem with any works based religion is that you cannot ever really know if God forgives you when you mess up and you are never certain you have been good enough or done enough to get to heaven.

This brings me back to the email from our church member and the issue of what Christians can say to Muslims if this subject comes up.   My suggestion is to listen, ask questions and when asked, share what you believe. I find that exercising the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control) is the best approach.  You might even invite them to read some passages from the Bible with you and compare the verse from the Bible with passages from the Quran.  Many Christians want to debate theology with a Muslim but that approach really does not work. The fruits of the spirit are what are winning Muslims to Christ these days, particularly the sacrificial love and grace shown through Jesus’ followers.

What Bible verses speak to you about your need for a Savior and the forgiveness you have in Jesus?  What has Jesus done for you? Build some friendships.  Engage some conversations.  Enjoy the Adventure!

 

Joseph Nyamutera brings reconciliation and healing in Rwanda

Joseph Nyamutera is a large man with an equally large heart for the Lord who has used his gifts to bring fellow Rwandans out of an unthinkably dark time, leading them to reconciliation into healing and forgiveness; his greatest challenge! What has made this mission and ministry uniquely insurmountable is the fact of who Joseph is: a Hutu among an evangelical team of Tutsis in the Kigali offices of African Evangelical Enterprises (AEE) that was re-established after the Genocide of 1994 when over a million Rwandans were killed.

The genocide began when the then Rwandan President, a moderate Hutu, and the Burundi President’s plane was shot down over Kigali with no survivors. The Rwandan President was returning after signing an agreement for the creation of a transitional government. This angered the Hutu extremists so within hours of downing the airplane, they set up roadblocks and went out on foot to begin killing Tutsis. The killings lasted 100 days and over one million Rwandans were killed. In April 1994, the AEE team leader, Israel Havugimana, was killed along with most of his team. In July 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) liberated the country. The AEE was inactive until August 1994 when the new team Leader Antione Rutayisire (a Tutsis survivor) and a new team were installed.  Following God’s nudge, Antione courageously chose Joseph to head up the reconciliation and healing, a bold and risky move considering the deep wounds at that time.

The required ethnic identity cards of the genocide are now abolished and it is important to understand and appreciate the depth of the work involved. Joseph led the AEE Healing and Reconciliation team to help a country and its people heal from the untold carnage. Often, the perpetrators killed people that they knew.  Joseph brought the perpetrators in front of the families of the victims they killed to walk through three days of reconciliation, healing and ultimately to forgiveness. My husband Frank and I had the honor of witnessing his work while in Rwanda in 2006 and 2008.

After leaving AEE in 2010, Joseph along with his wife Esther founded Mercy Ministries, continuing the work of healing and reconciliation. They work in the Great Lakes region of Rwanda and in the greater Kigali area serving the entire community, both young and old.   They have added education and vocational training to the ministry helping Rwandans to find forgiveness and a hope for the future. Mercy Ministries has been and continues to be supported by BelPres.

In January of this year, Joseph and Esther’s attentions turned fully to Education. Rabagirana Bible College has now opened and registered its first class of students. With this school, they are raising up Rwandans, providing degree programs in Reconciliation, Applied Technology, Bible Courses, General Composition, English, and Computers.

Imana Inguhe Umugieshu! (May God Bless You!)

Life in the Dominican Republic

The first time that my husband Kyle and I went to the Dominican Republic, the country captured our hearts. After that Impact Trip, we spent a summer at the Children of the Nations (COTN) base working with their I Love Baseball (ILB) ministry and producing media for their marketing team. Children of the Nations is an organization that believes in taking care of people with food and education while sharing the joy of Christ. I Love Baseball is a branch of COTN that provides baseball training for kids and an opportunity to stay in school in their communities. This helps end the cycle of poverty in the Dominican Republic because the boys have something to fall back on if they don’t make it in the big leagues. At the end of that summer, we left with rich friendships and everyone’s last question was “when are you coming back?” That question was answered when we returned this past fall.

It was such a joy to see the COTN staff members again and catch up. On our previous trip, we built some strong mentoring relationships with the boys in the ILB program. When we pulled up to the practice field, I had butterflies of excitement in my stomach.  It was incredible to experience picking up right where we left off.   However, we immediately saw how much they had grown in character as well as in height.

In the prior summer spent in the Dominican Republic, we gave the ILB kids opportunities to teach the younger kids how to play baseball. Many acted like they were too cool for school at first, but eventually more and more joined us to teach. When we returned in fall, they had created an afternoon practice that was fully run by the older boys. They invited the younger boys to join and the older ILB boys to be volunteer coaches. This was a rare moment where we got to plant something and watch it grow at the same time.

One of the things that Kyle and I are drawn to in the Dominican Republic is how they do community. America can be a very individualistic culture and the Dominican Republic is all about taking care of the group. For instance, when Dominicans make dinner, they make an extra plate of food because they know someone will stop by and join them. One of the most eye-opening conversations Kyle and I had with the ILB boys was when we realized that they didn’t know what a homeless person was. Their response was, “so Americans just let people live on the streets rather than invite them into their homes?” After a pause, we sadly answered “yes.” The Dominican Republic is a very different culture than we live in, but it made us ask the question, “What can we take back with us to the States?”

The community we have in the Dominican Republic is special and we are very grateful for those friendships.  Maybe we can’t bring everything back, but we can bring how much they value community. Until the next time we go back, we’ll continue to work on making that kind of community a reality here.

Find out more about Children of the Nation’s I Love Baseball program.

Eastside Academy Student of the Month- Jason’s Story

Imagine the helplessness of teens who have found themselves in situations they cannot fix alone: abuse, neglect, addiction, homelessness, spiraling grades, and truancy. We have heard the youth describe their teenage years as a “dark pit of despair.” These youth, who God holds so dear, are in crisis, and we believe that we are called to help.

Eastside Academy is the Christian alternative high school with campuses located at BelPres Church and Overlake Christian Church. We offer teens a chance to turn their lives around through education, treatment, counseling, housing, mentors, and the love of Christ.

We realize – and deeply appreciate – that the blessing of providing for these youth is a partnership. This past Sunday, you heard from a brave student who is only able to attend Eastside Academy because he is offered a scholarship and safe housing at our Re:New Housing Program. Eastside Academy is able to bear this cost for all of our students because of the investment you make in these young lives.

Below is the story of another student, Jason (name changed), whose learning needs were not a fit with public school. We were able to provide him with an academic plan and small classes, which has made all the difference. Please take a moment to read about Jason:

“When I was in kindergarten, I came home crying because my teacher told me that I was stupid. I never wanted to go to school again. At a very young age, I started skipping school. I felt like I did not fit in and because of my attendance, I was expelled.

In middle school, I switched to another school and that was the worst experience of my life. I did not know anyone. No one was very nice. I just could not make any friends because I thought they would think I was weird. No one talked to me in all the years that I spent in that school. Of course, I started skipping again and got horrible grades. There were times when I would feel so bad about myself, that if I could, I would have ended my life.

At the end of middle school, the principal recommended that I attend Eastside Academy. After a few tours of the campus, I could not believe that this was a real thing! I knew instantly that this is where I would be for all four years of high school.

I had skipped school my whole life, so I got back into the bad habit even at EA. The teachers helped me get out of that habit. I cannot think of one thing that has not improved in my life because of this school. My attendance is now the best it has ever been. My teachers help me finish things in class and I get to stay after school to finish my homework with my teachers.

I just want to say that, if it were not for this school, my life would be a mess. Every penny that goes to this school makes my life better. I really appreciate this place from the bottom of my heart.”

We just completed our second quarter and Jason received the award for Perfect Attendance. THANK YOU for walking alongside Jason and other students like him. Our doors are always open, so please stop by and visit any time.

If you feel called to mentor an Eastside Academy student, please contact Get Connected.
For more information on Eastside Academy events or programs you can go to EA’s website or you may contact Elyse Nicholson, director of Development for Eastside Academy.

 

Jesus and Muhammad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olive Branch After the Flood

BY Uon Seila, Director of Develop Our Village Economy(DOVE), BelPres Mission Partner in Cambodia

This time of year in Cambodia is harvest time for the rice crop. In the past, Cambodians took turns helping one another to the harvest crop. My family had only three people to harvest our crop so it took two months before we could finish. If we joined with another family of three, then it would take only one month. If we joined with three families with three people each, it would take just 15 days. This practice is called “provas dai,” which means lending hands to help harvest. I like this practice and I miss it. While working in the fields, each family shared food and ate together. The time under the Khmer Rouge spoiled this sharing practice. Now people hate to work together.

We had friends and supporters from overseas come and celebrate harvest time with us at the Onyx year-end retreat. At the beginning of 2016, some satellite sites suffered from insufficient funding, which was stressful. However, staff remained committed to developing our young leaders and we were reminded of Psalm 126:5-6, which says,” those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Praise God! We now feel joy because friends joined us to harvest our crop. Please report back to people at home how we enjoyed the fruit of this year’s harvest and to please join us to see more fruit and sharing in the years to come.

The church growth rate in Cambodia reached a plateau in 2015. If we do not do anything, it will decline soon. Cambodia is not alone, because churches in Europe and North America face declining congregations as well. This is a global issue that we need to work together to solve. After the flood Noah and his family wanted to get out of the ark but he want to make sure the water really subsided from the earth.

He sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. The dove found no place to set her foot. She returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. He put out his hand, took her, and brought her into the ark with him. He waited another seven days and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. The dove came back to him in the evening. Behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf, so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore. (Gen 8:8-12)

We have updated the organization’s vision, mission and core values. We believe that discipleship of emerging leaders is strategic ways to strengthen and grow the Church in Cambodia and bring transformation to the nation. We are excited that this vision encompasses all of DOVE’s programs. Our staff continues to seek ways that our programs can synergize more with each other.

Watch Seila’s Story

All We Need is Love…Jesus’ Love

Lord, I am not ready to serve. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. I don’t have the time. I can’t afford it. What if I fail? Just like Jeremiah, I have given God excuse after excuse as to why I am not cut out to be a missionary and why I can’t serve him. There are so many better people out there to do his job.

But God doesn’t see it that way. We are his plan to share his love. He uses everyday people every day. He wants us to serve him just the way we are, in the place that we are, with the people that we are with because that is why we are there. He chose to share his love and good news through us, knowing that we could not even follow one simple direction in the Garden of Eden. He already knows we are not perfect, we are horrible at following directions, and we will make mistakes.

As crazy as it sounds, he still believes in us, has faith in us, and tells us to share his love. He is the creator of heaven and earth, so if he wanted perfect people who knew of his presence from the moment we came into this world, he could have made that happen, but that was not his plan. I think word “mission” or “missionary” can scare people. It sounds like it comes with big expectations. That is why I feel like I cannot do it. I like the word “plan.” It’s simple and something I can be a part of and do.

We are his plan to share his love. We get caught up worrying that we don’t know enough theology to share the gospel, what if someone asks me a question and I don’t have the answer? You are not God so you won’t have all the answers. And the reality is, most people do not become Christians because someone shared a Bible verse with them. Most people come to know Christ because someone showed Jesus’s love. The first step is to not do all the talking but listen to their story and love them for who they are right at that moment. Your act of kindness is what they need. Jesus’s acts of love throughout his time on earth was what brought the throngs of followers to him. When you consider how many pages there are in the Bible, we can see that even Jesus was a man of a few words.

We are his plan to share his love. In 2 John 1:6, the Message says, “Love means living the way God commanded us to live. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is this: Live a life of love.” Look around you, everywhere you look, you will see people who are dying to be listened to and loved. Here is our mission field: in the cars driving by you, in the malls walking past you, in the office buildings working near you, on the streets begging by you; there are people feeling alone, helpless, broken, and lost. It can be anyone: the CEO, the teacher, the mother, the homeless, the barista, the brother, the technician, and the children.

As we begin this New Year thinking about new resolutions, stop your excuses and challenge yourself to a new mindset, to see the world through God’s eyes. His mission for you may be big or small, global or local, but ultimately the plan is the same, to share God’s love. John 13:34-35 say, “A new commandment I give you: Love another. As I have loved you, so you must love another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We act because we believe, we love because we are loved. Can you do at least one act of love every day? Can you share Jesus’s love because he shared with you first? All we need is love…Jesus’ love.

Watch Dr Scott Dudley’s Jan 8 Sermon about Jeremiah’s excuses to God.

Families Reunited with D.A.D.S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Hope at New Hope Revival Church

God is doing many things in my life. He is keeping me strong and teaching me to trust him every day. My family has great hope every day. We have many blessings and have made many friends. We already have a big family in the US. People have come from Texas, Maine, and Utah—for various reasons like climate or the need to connect with other East Africans. And then, they connect with me and have started coming to New Hope Revival Church. Others have come because they know the earlier arrivals. Often when such people come, they stay in my home until we can connect them with others in same situations, or find them places to stay. I am problem solving, helping new people find jobs, places to live—this is an everyday ministry, to do whatever people need. So my East Africa “family” is becoming connected in the Seattle area through New Hope Revival Church.

At New Hope Revival Church, God is doing many things. People are more regular in their attendance. People used to come at 11:30 for an 11am start, but now they have learned that it is important to be on time. The church is the connection point for people as far apart as Tukwila, Shoreline, Auburn, Kent, and Everett. We have been blessed with a van from Auto Angels. One of our members keeps the car for her use unless it is needed for transport for the New Hope Revival Church. On Sundays, our new driver Guillaume picks up members to bring them to church. We are so thankful to BelPres and Auto Angels for this gift!

When we started the church, we were in one small room. While the worship team practiced, I kept the children in our new space and we had problems with children behaving poorly.  Our children had discipline issues because they were not used to the Sunday School schedule. With the help of BelPres Family Life Ministry team, this problem is solved. Now we have been given a beautiful new space for our services, UC 106, and we got really good advice and help from teachers Lisa and Laura, so the children now go to Sunday school happy every week.

New Hope Revival Church is a “baby church” within BelPres church. So we are blessed to have encouragement and participation our “parents”. They have welcomed us from the beginning, and they are watching over us to see what God is doing to grow our ministry. We have our own executive committee which helps plan and guide the church’s activities, we have a strong worship team, and we have involved many members with special responsibilities, so they feel they are a part of the church.

Since our beginning, every week we see new changes. We have a gifted team leader, Edgard, who came from Texas to help us with our music program. We were blessed by Seattle Presbytery to buy instruments. And, most importantly, the team has moved from a performance attitude to a worship attitude. They are taking time to practice, before and after services, even with many family commitments.

The people who attend NHRC include not only Rwandese, but some from Kenya, Congo, and Burundi. Also, we often welcome people from BelPres. Our Executive Pastor, Annie Duncan, blessed us last month with a good retelling of the story of the two births from the Gospel of Luke. Several people came to ask me afterward to invite her to come again.

In November, our preaching focused on the importance of giving, and not on money as a goal in itself. People are beginning to look around to see how they can help meet each other’s needs. Also, people are bringing their used items to donate to Jubilee Reach.

I am still involved with Hope for Children Ministries in Rwanda, and have developed a US-based advisory team which can accept donations now through Joy to the World Foundation (http//:joytotheworldfoundation.org) We changed the name for this project in the US to Rwanda Faith Academy(RFA). All funds we collect through RFA will be wired directly to Hope for Children in Rwanda, to help build necessary classrooms and pay teachers’ salaries. I have put in place a strong board to oversee the work there.  They are in regular contact with me and report on everything the ministry is doing.

I am so blessed to have Mom Jean in my life. She helps in different ways, for many things:  in ministry, church, and my life each and every day. She explains, gives me clarity, and I am glad to be with her.