The Holy Spirit…at work in a mighty way in India

See the woman standing quietly in the doorway, looking on as the scene before her unfolds?  Her story of devotion is woven into the fabric of God’s faithfulness to His people in India.  This woman, Pavani*- a Christian, was arranged in marriage to a Hindu man.  She met with other Christians and read her Bible in secret, hoping her husband would not find out.  Her husband was not a Hindu in name only, but a radical Hindu intent on India being a purely Hindu nation.

One day, her husband – Manyu*- found her reading the Bible.  He became violent, tearing up the Bible and threatening divorce if he caught her with a Bible again.  Yet, she persisted in her faithfulness to Jesus.

In time, her husband became seriously ill.  After medical consultation, he was told his kidneys were failing and that he would die.  His family offered sacrifices to Hindu gods and consulted Hindu priests to no avail.  Pavani boldly asked Manyu if she could have her pastor pray for him in the name of Jesus.  Manyu agreed, with the condition that if it didn’t work, he would divorce her.  She brought him to the house church she attended where her pastor and fellow believers prayed for Manyu.  God was at work – Manyu was healed!  His pain left and he has not had any kidney problems since.  Manyu became a believer in Jesus.  This was at a high cost – his family kicked him and Pavani from the family home.  In prayer, they heard God asking them to move to Bihar as missionaries.

Several years later, the now-Pastor Manyu was asked to pray for a young Hindu man’s brother, who had been sent home to die.  That brother was healed in the name of Jesus, and the young Hindu man (asking for prayer on behalf of his brother) was MK, now a believer in Jesus and the leader of New Life Mission Church (NLMC).   Pavani and Manyu now work with NLMC establishing house churches, bringing Jesus to communities through literacy groups like the one in the photo.

It was a tremendous blessing to visit NLMC this past month with a team from BelPres.  We met and encouraged the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, worshipped in house churches and prayed with many.  We heard testimony after testimony of healing – physical healing and/or freedom from evil spirits.  The Holy Spirit is at work in a mighty way in northern India.  As people are freed from physical or spiritual sickness, they (and their families) are accepting Jesus as their Savior.  They are bucking their culture to live and follow Jesus, forming house churches to worship and learn together. New leaders are being raised up and becoming church planters and pastors in neighboring villages.  We witnessed Jesus’ power transforming lives in the smiles of formerly untouchable orphans now at home in an NLMC orphanage.  At every turn of our trip, the Bible came to life before my eyes.

God invites us to be part of his rescue mission for humanity.  Jesus clearly asks us to “let your light shine before men” (Matthey 5:16), but how often have I kept Jesus hidden away?  In India, I met person after person who accepted Jesus not only as their Savior, but as their Lord, orienting their life to serve Him.  I met a man whose home was tormented by evil spirits banging all over his house each night.  When he accepted Christ and began reading the Bible in his home, the banging stopped.  A short year later, he now works as a church planter.  I saw this same passion in MK – feeling such thankfulness to Jesus for saving his brother, he could do nothing less than launch a movement and a vision to establish a church in every village across the Ganges plain.  I saw this in Manyu: hearing God in prayer asking him to move across the country and doing it.  And I saw this in the steadfast faithfulness of Pavani, risking all to share Jesus with her unbelieving husband.  So the questions loom: Would the church planter have accepted Jesus if it weren’t for MK leading a group of believers to spread the Good News across northern India?  If it weren’t for Manyu praying for MK’s brother, could MK have come to know Jesus?  Would (Pavani’s unbelieving husband) Manyu have come to know Jesus if Pavani hadn’t sought prayer for him?  Only God knows the answers to these questions. How fulfilled are their lives now knowing they are helping to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth?

What nudge is God asking you to respond with a “yes?”  Our individual action does make a difference.  On a Saturday afternoon in October, I sat in a conference room in Bihar, India hearing MK speak of the incredible vision that God has for India and beyond.  I wondered: Why was I, a mom from Redmond, hearing this vision and feeling so inspired?  And yet, I knew that joining the India Impact Team was saying “yes” to a nudge from God. I’m still not sure of all the consequences of that “yes,” but I know my life is bigger now that it includes all I experienced on the other side of the world.   My heart is chastened and broken and full – all at the same time as it never has been before.  I know it is impossible for me to speak of our experience in India without mentioning Jesus, so my light is shining brighter these days.

The Holy Spirit is working in miraculous ways in northern India. That same Spirit is at work here.  I am so thankful for the shining examples of faithfulness witnessed in the lives of our brothers and sisters in India.  As I pray Colossians 1:3+ “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you since we heard of your faith in Christ and the love which you have for all the saints because . . . the gospel which has come to you . . . is constantly bearing fruit and increasing . . .”. The “you” looks like the beautiful faces of men, women and children gathered tightly together in the room of a house in Bihar.

There is so much more to share, but you can come and hear of it first-hand as MK, director of New Life Mission Church, and his wife Punam will be visiting BelPres – Sunday, November 25, 12:15pm in S-140.  Be prepared to feel inspired as MK shares the vision that God has given him and excited as you learn of God’s faithful work in India.

 *Names have been changed.

 

 

A BROKEN HEART!

 “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Last year, my wife and I traveled to Guatemala’s Mission Campus to share in special outreaches and celebrations. While preparing to leave, we heard on the news about a home in Guatemala where at least 18 children had died in a fire. Needless to say, we were greatly disturbed and prayed for the families. Little did we realize how this was going to impact us; indeed break our hearts!

In Guatemala, we heard various stories and read reports that included the following statements:

“These are the dumping grounds for people who are not wanted by society, whether they are disabled or gay or happen to get there through the criminal justice system.”

“Guatemalan human rights officials said Thursday that they believe the 35 girls who were killed (when a fire swept through a childrens home dormitory) had been unable to escape because they were locked inside. Legislators also heard that only three of the 64 security cameras were working in the home which housed 750 children in a space meant for 500.”

Driving to the Campus, our Director said “Pastor, one of the 40 girls (the number continues to rise) who died attended our school.” We were stunned as we heard this and our hearts began to break. Tears quietly began to flow. Her name was Milenie and was, in fact, one of our sponsored children. From the age of 6, Milenie displayed behavioral difficulties and her Mother tried everything to help her. The Mission did its best and, of course, we are grateful to her sponsors who stood by her for years. In January, she ran away from home, was picked up by Police who placed her in the City Government Home and tragically lost her life in the fire. Yes, our hearts were broken! We prayed for her family and the families of all who lost their lives.

As the week continued, I shared the story with our entire student body, encouraging them not to be led astray, to realize their potential and the plan God has for them. It reenergized our commitment to help the children and young people of Guatemala. Recognizing the need for kids in trouble or faced with abuse and problems at home (some who are even wards of the court), we opened a special fund to provide help. An example: children in a home close to Campus (run by a wonderful Pastor and his team) are wards of the court who struggle in public school. From this special fund, they will be able to attend the Arms of Jesus (AOJ) School and will be blessed in so many ways by our ministry. (It is difficult to find sponsors for them because the Court can remove them at any time.)

We are so blessed! Please pray for the children who are ‘placed into the dumping grounds of society and pray for us as we seek to be ‘the arms of Jesus to them.’

Feelin’ so Extra

They would normally be on tour. They have turned down multiple gigs to be here. The time is non-negotiable. These children are a priority. They said they want to do it for ten years. This is year six.

To play basketball, you need a court. We didn’t have one. After the earthquake, one of the young Port-au-Prince refugees staying with a pastor showed up with a basketball and was dribbling all over Passe Catabois. All the boys in Passe Catabois followed him for a chance to hold or dribble that ball. Pretty soon, a five-gallon bucket with a hole in it, a two-by-four and some concrete disappeared from one of our construction sites. Using the rim of a plastic bucket, they created a makeshift hoop six feet off the ground.

Being mesmerized by a basketball is better than dwelling on the immediate trauma or the aftershocks still ongoing. The news from Port-au-Prince was horrid. Basketball is much better than thinking about the earthquakes that keep happening.

Not long ago, the church elementary school in Passe Catabois started the outline for a basketball court. Compassion, the child sponsorship agency, decided every school needed a court for an obscure game people vaguely knew about. The construction hadn’t gotten very far and things happen. Sometimes the ground shakes and things are very different afterward.

I tell the boys about the remains of a basketball court foundation buried somewhere in the schoolyard. With the pastor’s blessing, I promise, if they will dig it up and get everything ready, we will pour fifteen feet of the basketball court and put up a goal.

By 10 am the next morning, the work was done. It was now “put up or shut up” time; and the perfect time to divert attention from the earthquake. Shortly, we had a fifteen-foot concrete basketball court and a half court in packed dirt.

Over time, we got the half court done in two pours. And then someone said: “Let’s just pour the other half of this basketball court.”

The Boca Raton youth group came to basketball camp that first year afterward and brought two Haitian Americans who have played a lot of ball.

By the third year, we had a second court and a second program at the Poste Metier church five miles away. The two Haitian Americans increased to four and formed a music/ministry group. Local boys are more familiar with soccer. We had to convince them to quit hitting the ball with their head…use hands only and don’t kick the ball. This is basketball.

A bus pulls up. There are 60 cheering boys inside and 60 cheering boys outside waiting for them; all in reversible “Upward Basketball” jerseys. The home team is blue; the visitors, cream.

This is the big day. For a week, these boys have been learning basketball fundamentals and Bible lessons. The Poste Metier ball players travel to Passe Catabois for a ‘tournament.’ This is a competition involving basketball drills like dribbling and shooting. Then they let the older (11-13 year-olds) play some full-court sessions.

“K4C” (or Knights for Christ) is a ministry and a musical group of first-generation Haitian Americans with a heart for at-risk young people in America. They do concerts in schools and churches wherever they are invited, investing in youth, telling them about Jesus and trying to help them stay out of trouble. The leader of K4C says that Jesus saved him, but basketball kept him out of trouble.

They just put out an album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alaxH0YEXQ0&feature=youtu.be.  Footage from basketball camp is on the video. A friend from Georgia is with them who last played competitive high school basketball and comes out of retirement to coach and organize the camp. I wasn’t sure he was going to make the video. He did, but it was basketball coaching that got him in and not singing. Along with the 120 boys are a dozen volunteer coaches from the two churches, some parents, a sound system and a lot of excitement.

Deb and I don’t know much about children’s ministries. But we receive the teams and provide the venue. Over recent months, we have been shipping everything necessary for a basketball camp:  uniforms, basketballs (many children win their own ball either in the daily competitions or when they graduate at 13), peanut butter for breakfast before camp and other paraphernalia. For the past two weeks, boys in faded uniforms from previous years have stopped me on the road and asked if Sammy, Dee, Lucson, or Hobbs are coming for camp this summer. You can feel the excitement building.

One of the beauties of the Passe Catabois basketball court is that it has trees all around it. I sit in the shade watching the two teams’ race up and down the court. Most of these children are natural athletes and have caught on amazingly fast to this recent addition to Haiti sport. Over the years, many have come to Christ during basketball camp while listening to the story of salvation.

One of the eleven year-olds is blocked by a bigger player in front of him. Without missing a beat, he does a behind-the-back pass to a teammate and they press in toward the goal.  Another amazement is seeing them pass – a lot. Watching local soccer is painful. When one guy gets the ball, too often he tries to take it all the way to the goal himself. It is one against eleven. When someone on the other team takes the ball from him, he runs the other way – one on eleven -without passing.

That doesn’t happen here. This is a profound change and something to take to other parts of their lives: teamwork. They are passing it off, keeping it, moving around and looking for an open man rather than personal glory.

I see all manner of sneakers patched up, sewn up or otherwise improvised. More than several have feet jammed in shoes that are way too narrow and no laces because there isn’t room. Some have street shoes or work boots. Who knows what sacrifices the parents made to find something for their boys to put on so they can attend camp? And someone at home is covering for them collecting firewood, carrying water, or tending to the animals so they can be boys for a week to do basketball and Bible study. And it is all forgotten in the excitement of these boys on the court.

Deb and I just got the new K4C CD. One of the songs is called ‘So Extra.’ For those who, like us, may need a translator to communicate with the younger generation: in rap/jive/hip-hop, it translates to ‘so blessed.’  As I sit in the shade watching these boys play basketball and have fun, I am feelin’ “so extra.”

We are so thankful for you, your friendship, prayers, and support.

 

Pchum Ben-Festival of the Dead

Phnom Penh is a ghost town.  For 3 days, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic while people fled as if a tsunami was coming up the Mekong from the Gulf of Thailand.  Every year at this time, Cambodian families leave to pay homage to their ancestors in their home village. Almost everything is closed, except maybe a gas station and a few shopping markets.  It’s like the only time I can get over 30 mph on my bike – once a year!

Alana visited for a week, and loved it; teaching English at DOVE(Develop Our Village Economy), visiting schoolmates, spending time with her step-siblings, Johnnathan and Yorean. She ate all her favorite Khmer dishes. Then she missed her flight booked through some fly-by-night Chinese Airline; so we got an extra day with her.  Good bye, Kids!  🙁

Three kids and one teen from HOP were integrated back to their home villages yesterday and today. In some cases, this is a good thing. In other cases, it’s a tragedy.  I have lived with and been a part of these kids’ lives for 5 years now. They call me “daddy.” Every time I have been called “daddy,” it startles me and makes me think: am I being a good example of a father? Am I loving them, and encouraging them? My time with them has allowed me to love these children in a way that has eluded me most of my life. Miss Chanta, 12 years old, a tough cookie and a HOP scrapper, knew her time was down to the wire; soon to be shipped out to a distant aunt. For the last week – every day – she escorts me out to where I park my motorcycle, slips her arm into mine and off we go.  Upon firing up the Baja, she hops on the back and I drop her back at HOP. The next day, she waits for me to come home from work and goes through the same ritual. My soul has been shaped (living in a community of children nobody really wanted) in ways that would never happen in a conventional world.

 I am now teaching the “Missional Church” block in ONYX. We are discovering that God is a ‘sending God’ and we, as his people, are a ‘sent people’ – pushed out of our safe and comfortable nests into uncertainty to bring hope to the marginalized and rejected. Local pastors don’t like this block as they are interested in keeping the actions within the church building where they believe: they are in control, there is no risk, discomfort, nor leveling of power. The students are into this concept though and are surprised to find this principle everywhere in the Bible.

It worked out well when most ONYX students joined in an interfaith tree-planting event in the vanishing jungles of Cambodia for four days.  It was truly a holistic mission at its best. I had planned to go but Bophal’s assistant smashed her knee and I got to mind ‘Fort Banchee.’
It has been fun and this 5th-year cohort has been the most responsive to all we do. I love this group as they choose to be vulnerable, curious, fun and open to new paradigms.  We have two from HOP this year. ONYX Phnom is also a very close Christian Community and missional. We’ve got all the right DNA. 

Bophal and I would do well to savor such times as tremendous gifts. The more organic we become and the deeper we go (personally, HOP and DOVE), the more elusive funding becomes. The correlation escapes me.  Maybe recovering our souls is part of the cost issue.  The structures and systems that served so well in the past don’t seem to fit the revived soul.

 

Peace to you,

Brian and Bophal

 

A Man Who Walked on Water

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus gave us His Great Commission:

“Therefore, go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Currently, we are living in one of the greatest times of harvest in the history of the church. More and more people are coming to a relationship with Christ now than ever before. Recently, I visited Lebanon and Greece. I firsthand heard eyewitness reports of Muslim refugees having visions and dreams of Jesus.

One story in particular made me shiver in awe:  A refugee relief worker shared a story of a family just off a refugee boat in Lesbos, Greece, adamantly looking for someone who knew about a ‘man who walks on water.’ A local Christian missionary serving these refugees met this family. They continued to ask, “Who is this man that walks on water?” The missionary asked, “Why are you asking about a man who walks on water?” The father told the missionary, as they were on the boat one evening, there was a storm. The ship almost capsized. Their young daughter, in the blink of an eye, got separated from them and they lost her. She was thrown into the water. Frantically, the parents looked for her, but couldn’t find her. They were in complete despair. When the parents awoke the next morning, their daughter was back on the boat. They couldn’t believe their eyes! They asked her: “How is it that you are here? We lost you in the storm.” The daughter replied that, in the storm when the waves hit the boat, she was separated from her family and fell into the water. She said ‘a man who walks on water’ caught her and put her back on the boat. The missionary shared: “The man who walks on water is Jesus Christ.” That day, this family became followers of Jesus! Incredible!

Millions of refugees are being displaced from their homes and their families. For most, they leave behind a closed society where freedom of religion is not practiced. Now they have the freedom to learn new ideas. Many missiologists call this time a ‘Kairos’ moment (an opportune and decisive moment). Per Finishing the Task Network (https://www.finishingthetask.com), there are currently 1,347 ethnolinguistic, unengaged, unreached people groups in the world. This is where a church-planting movement does not exist because there is no indigenous church capable of reaching the group without cross-cultural missionary assistance. Generally, an unreached people group is less than 2% evangelical. ‘Unengaged’ means there are no full-time Christian workers attempting to do evangelism and church planting.

Historically, BelPres has always responded to major crises in the world. I believe God is revealing Himself, through visions and dreams, for the church to rise up and finish the task Christ set before us. Is God calling you to go and disciple these unreached peoples? We need to respond to this moment. BelPres, God is calling you to go and make disciples of all nations and to bring God’s healing.  It begins with you.

 

Behind the Scenes with Heather Hedlund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Behind the Scenes with Wyatt Cook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#belpresserve

 

 

KidREACH spells Success

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

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

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

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

A Miracle in Rwanda

God is always moving in Rwanda – so sit down, strap in and hold on!

The 2018 Impact Team kept on the move to learn and share all God wanted to be known. It’s been 6 years since our last visit to Kigali, the capital, it was a visual festival to see Rwanda moving forward in tangible ways; a Convention center, new hotels, tall modern buildings, re-routed traffic for more public spaces. And for the first time, we met tourists: a couple from New York City who had read the NY Times listing the 10 places that were a must to visit in 2018. Rwanda was number 8. This was very telling, as previously, running into humanitarian missionaries or NGO workers was common; running into tourists was not.

Where we saw God most clearly was a ministry started by Gilbert Kubwimana. This faithful young man is following God’s call to help families of disabled children by starting “Love with Actions” ministry. We first met Gilbert in 2006 at his one-man business craft stand (outside of the AEE guest house) earning money for his dowry to marry Esther. He collected craft requests from team members and scoured the markets for these items.  He brought Esther to meet us and celebrate the money realized for their wedding! His Love of God and for Esther along with his intense work ethic has only grown. Over the last two years, Gilbert has used his God-given gifts and skills to build a ministry to come alongside extremely marginalized families, for empowerment, treatment and educational/vocational skills. Here’s the story of Pacifique and her son Aime.

Deep in a grove of Bumbogo – in the hills above Kigali, Gilbert, with the help of the local Anglican Pastor Didas, found Pacifique and her three children living in a dirt hut with a banana leaf roof. Their living conditions were indescribable, bringing two grown men to their knees in tears. Pacifique was caring for three sons: Aime, Eric, and Jado. Eric and Jado greeted both men and then came Aime, dirt and scar-covered boy, pulling himself out of the hut by his only means: his arms. Aime, born with spina bifida (a birth defect that leaves the end of the spine in a sack-like defect outside the body just above the buttocks) had no control of bodily functions nor the use of lower limbs.  In Rwanda, disability is believed to come from the devil, ostracizing and marginalizing the mother and her child. Gilbert raised funds on his visit to the USA, returned to Rwanda and moved Pacifique and her boys to a home in the village. He then took Pacifique and Aime to seek treatment at an orthopedic hospital. After meeting with Dr. Albert, head surgeon, a treatment plan began for Aime’s condition:   corrective surgery for his feet, leg braces, physical therapy needed for his first steps.

Four months into Aime’s treatment, Gilbert asked us to join the first hospital visit with Pacifique since her son was admitted and we eagerly said “Yes!” We all shared the excitement of seeing Aime. Entering the hospital grounds, we heard shouting from the long outdoor hallway. We turned to see Aime joyfully taking his first steps to join us! There were many precious moments in Rwanda – this was different: it was sacredly filled with the joy of a young boy, after long months of treatment, viewing his world at eye level for the first time. God was clearly seen in the face and empowerment of this young boy. Tears of joy flowed from all of us with many hugs as Aime stood before his cheering team. The rest of the young patients gathered around us, some were “Love with Actions” kiddos in treatment and a spontaneous worship began as we sang and praised God for the blessings abundantly given. The kiddos clapped with joy; Julie led songs in Kinyarwanda to their great delight. We learned from Dr. Albert that very few muzungus (“whites”) to visit the hospital, let alone speak the native Kinyarwanda language. Gilbert is a man of great faith with unquestioning obedience to God, and a heart that has an inspiring capacity to love many and the least. This ministry – “Love with Actions” – is flourishing as God promises in scripture through Gilbert’s obedience. The word obedience has a meaning worth understanding: flourishing, joy, and empowerment.

It was tough to leave the hospital after giving hugs, smiles, encouragement, and prayers; loving on too many young faces with complicated medical conditions, each craving love and attention. Travel back to Kigali was a mixture of gratefulness for His blessings and crying out for children needing His tender hand.

Gilbert invited us to accompany Home visits the next day in Bumbogo. And we gladly did. But first, we shopped for sugar, flour, rice and cooking oil for the visit. We were like little kids joyfully filling each bag with much-needed supplies. To our great delight, the first stop was Pacifique’s house. She ran up the path and joyfully embraced us. She had spent much time alone with her two boys Eric and Jado while Aime was away for treatment. The village still shunned her as being possessed by demons as announced by her husband. As we descended the path to her house, we saw many villagers coming to the road curious about the visiting muzungus. She tearfully accepted the bag of supplies and left to put them away. The room filled with happy children from the village touching our skin and our hair; Eric and Jado among them. Julie spoke first, her voice and eyes near tears, thanking Pacifique for the privilege of being part of a tender and sacred moment shared the day before in Rilima. She admired Pacifique’s courage as nothing in this world is fiercer than a mother’s love for her child. Her sacrifices and avocation for Aime are inspiring. We reassured Pacifique that not all fathers are like her former husband. Her faith and Gilbert’s assistance would see her through Aime’s treatment and beyond.

We laid on hands and prayed for Pacifique and her two boys. As we walked out, more villagers gathered on the road above her house. Pacifique’s closest neighbors greeted us and watched the video of Aime walking.  Villagers continued to grow in number. We said our goodbyes to continue our day of home visits. Gilbert shared that our small gesture of a home visit will have a profound impact for Pacifique in the village. White people visiting inside the home of a child with disabilities was big news. It would also help diminish the misguided thought that disability comes from the Mother being possessed by demons. As we entered homes of children with disabilities, villagers gathered outside and watched with great curiosity; emphasizing to us that the ministry of presence in Rwanda is essential and cannot be overstated or diminished.
       

 Visiting mothers of disabled children outside Love with

            Action’s Family Empowerment Center, Bumbog

 

Iman’ishimwe! Ndakunda Love with Actions!

Julie Munezero St. Peter & Frank St. Peter

Jubilee Service Day- Behind Every Door is a Story

Hello Friends,

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

Ken Carpenter

Jubilee Services Coordinator

Crisis Adverted- Hope Restored

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Long Journey- From the Streets to New Life

On August 20th 1994, NSHIMIYIMANA BOSCO was born in Kigali city. He’s an orphan of one parent; his other parent died when he was twelve years old. Having lost his parent who provided support and care including education, Nshimiyimana left home and became a street boy for many years. While wiping tears away during his testimony, Bosco couldn’t believe he survived such an unpleasant situation.

Seeking God, Bosco said “I met Mr. Alexis RUHUMURIZA, the unbelievable man in my life who took me to his home and provided all I was lacking from my family.  For sure, Alexis is the forgotten parent in my life and my future.  May God bless him.  I now have hope for my future and am working hard to bring this same hope for those who need it.  I will always remember all the support I received from Alexis.“

“After leaving my family, I didn’t expect to return to school. Despite the fact that I felt hopeless, Alexis took me to school and provided everything needed including fees to catch me up to high school.  I completed my high school diploma, so I am now hoping to attend the university.”

“I want to thank Mr. Alexis very much for all his support, prayer and encouragement that has changed my entire life   God bless him and his family.”

“I remember the day I met Alexis.  He was preaching that night at SODOMA. It was around 2 am. I was doing my job serving prostitutes condoms to use for sex.  The next day, Alexis came to ‘ Sodom;’ he took us (6 children) from this very bad life to live with him.  I respect him for working so hard to change my behavior and my life.  Imagine the behavior of people who are separated from parents (drugs, alcoholism, prostitution and so many other dangerous behaviors) that threatened my whole life. Thank you so much, Alexis, for now, I know that the future is better. The good news is that I am a good man.  My dream is to bring hope to others by sharing my story, equipping the younger generation and encouraging them through the story of my life.  God bless all who have contributed to Alexis’ boys’ home:  Jean McAllister and Ali Bloom.”

 

If you haven’t had the joy of meeting Pastor Alexis Ruhumuriza, come worship with the New Hope Revival.  Services are  Sundays at 10:00am in UC-105

Fighting Human Slavery

Last week in Ghana, International Justice Mission (IJM) supported the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) and local police to rescue four children – two boys and two girls – enslaved in the fishing industry. The children ranged from 7-15 years old, and three of them are siblings. The 13-year-old boy was terrified and stressed through the rescue operation. The girls rescued are his younger sisters. But after receiving food, a shower, and fresh clothes, he approached the team with a huge smile to say, “God bless you.”

The aftercare team provides crayons and coloring books to the children as an outlet for their feelings, and to help them to feel calm and relaxed in the midst of a very confusing situation. The photo shows the children spellbound while watching Tom and Jerry cartoons. All four children are now safe and being cared for at a shelter home, where they will receive immediate medical care and counseling services.
As we celebrate the good work of police and the AHTU in the second

IJM rescue this year, we are also encouraged by the growing support for ending slavery on Lake Volta that is coming from communities around the lake. This month, Ghana’s Church and Community Relations team led a Justice Conference for pastors, church members, and school teachers to learn about God’s heart for justice in a town not far from some of the villages where children are being enslaved on Lake Volta.

Join us in celebrating the progress made in Ghana, that communities and law enforcement are ready to fight for the end of child slavery in the country.
On Sunday, August 19 at 12:15pm in S-140, Jocelyn White of International Justice Mission will be our featured speaker for the Global Outreach Talk at BelPres.  Join us for light lunch and to hear about the work International Justice Mission is doing to rescue people from slavery and helping local authorities capture suspected slave owners.

Hu Ran’s Story

My name is David and I’m a case manager at World Relief. We, at World Relief, wanted to share the story of one of our participants, Hu Ran.

In September 2017, I met Ran and was immediately puzzled by him. Born in China in 1975, Ran looked and seemed completely ordinary. Nothing besides his Christian affiliation suggested that he was someone who could be targeted for persecution. He worked in IT in Beijing translating Mandarin documents into English. His hobbies included table tennis and photography.

Over time, like many refugees, Ran opened up about his story. He told me that he had been a street photographer and began showing me his photos. I was amazed at the compassion his photos rendered towards their subjects and how boldly his photos challenged the status quo. Ran’s love for the poor drew him into Beijing’s hutongs, narrow lanes in a traditional residential area in China. While he sought to capture how people really lived, his love called him into the opulent city plazas where he composed photographs revealing ironic and bold truths. Because of Ran’s humility, I only learned much later that his photos received an award from Magnum Photos and were published by National Geographic. I also learned the degree of admiration was not shared by the authorities in China – who monitored him at work, stalked, harassed him and threatened his family.

Ran fled China and arrived in the U.S. in October 2016. He spent 11 months in the Northwest Detention Center, fighting for political asylum. After receiving asylum on September 18th, 2017, Ran came to World Relief. Through Bel-Pres’ generous donations, World Relief moved Ran into a fully-furnished apartment with roommates. Our on-site ESL teachers helped his English and our job specialists helped Ran create resumes, apply for jobs and shop for work attire. Ran now works part-time at Sea-Tac and attends a Chinese-American church in Federal Way. He’s searching for another part-time job so he can prepare a place for his family and resume his work as a photographer.

“What do you miss about China?” I asked him in an interview.

Ran told me about his four-year-old son, Hu Huaipu, and his wife, Wang Lei. Her name means “flower bud.” Ran misses the hutongs, the narrow streets, and alleyways that line metropolitan Beijing. He misses his idiosyncratic neighbors and the closeness of life in Beijing. “20 million people packed into one city,” he says, fondly.  Nostalgically, Ran talks about how he misses his DSLR camera, which he sold for fear of losing it on the journey to America.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I ask him.

Ran tells of his dream to bring his family to America. He talks about the refugees still in the Northwest Detention Center who left a deep impression on him. “I want to do a documentary on refugees and immigrants,” he says. He explains to me that refugees are good people looking for a fresh start and how some people are fearful of refugees. “They need someone in the middle,” Ran tells me, “to help them understand each other. I can do it! Just like the project I did with the peasant workers in the hutongs.”

“What does Huaipu’s name mean?” I ask Ran, curious about his son’s name. Ran pauses for a moment to translate it. “Honest heart,” he says.

We, at World Relief, are honored to know refugees like Ran. They remind us that refugees are made in God’s image; that they brim with creativity and offer a fresh voice from which we have much to learn. Thank you for your generous donations to help refugees like Ran find a new home in America.

 

Please click here for the National Geographic gallery of Hu Ran’s photography.

Please click here for World Relief Seattle to learn out more about their work with immigrants and refugees.

Perspective on “Perspectives”

Returning from a short-term mission trip to Rwanda in 2004, I felt a burden for the country and its people. As I prayed, I heard God speak into my heart’s ears, “You could go and live there.” When God speaks, I am utterly changed the moment I respond. By his grace, and if he was the one to send and equip me, I told God “yes.”
One of the first things I did preparing for this new adventure was to talk to Pastor Rich Leatherberry. The first thing he suggested was to take the course “Perspectives.” I knew nothing about it, and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. At age 68, I had had very little to do with “missions.” I was somewhat interested in people’s stories as they returned from various far-flung places but didn’t see what part I might have in such work until I went to Rwanda.
What I want you to know is that Perspectives will blow your ideas about “missions” out of the water. Early 2005, I took the course (offered at Belpres) for preparation to go to live in a third world country. And when I came out the other end—yes, it’s a long course (15 weeks) and a lot of reading—I was radically different. I might say: I was born again.
The thing is, I KNEW my Bible. I was and am a Bible student and teacher. The first thing that happened in the beginning weeks was God did an “unraveling” of all my notions about his plans and activities shown in the Bible. The readings and lectures took everything I knew and pulled it all apart, and – praise God – put it back together for me to see it anew. Suddenly it was apparent: From Genesis to Revelation, the scriptures show that God has a plan – a heart – and a mission to reach and to restore all the nations to a relationship with him. I had not seen this before.
Well, that hooked me. Now I wanted to learn how God has been moving over the centuries to accomplish his plan and what cultural awareness I needed to be a part of this. And finally, what strategies God has (and will show us) to use in this ongoing work to reach all nations for his glory.
This “course” is really a powerful instrument from God’s hands for all believers. It is essential for us to know how we fit into his overall plan to be a part of his mission—whether going, sending, equipping, mobilizing, or praying. Praise God for the vision Perspectives unfolds and inspires. It was an essential part of my preparation for Rwanda, and now that I’m back, I’m a strong advocate for Perspectives. I see it becoming an area-wide movement, supported and hosted by many churches in the greater Seattle area, for God’s glory.

 

PERSPECTIVES course is coming to BelPres on Thursday nights, August 30 – December 13!

For more information or to register, go to:  belpres.org/events/perspectives/

Serving Incarnationally

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

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

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

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

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

URBANA in a Nutshell

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

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

Things to know:

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

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

 

Bring Jesus’ Healing, Build Community, Transform Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you

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

Meeting Kids at their Turf

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Final Project

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

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

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

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