The Family Caretaker and Historian: Celebrating Arlene Darby

One of the first people I met when I started working at BelPres over 8 years ago was Arlene Darby. I originally thought she might have been a staff member. She was always around the building working on something: making copies, passing out articles, collecting prayers, dropping off notes, preparing things to mail and checking out everything in the narthex.

At that time we had those rolling cubes in the lobby where the departments put information and brochures for people to pick up or look over. Arlene made sure we had current information and enough available.  She would do her personalArlene Darby inventory and let departments or the front desk know what was needed.  She cared that we had what people may be looking for.

Add to that Arlene’s meticulous and faithful management and leadership of the monthly collection of food and funds for Local Food Relief, it’s easy to understand my confusion about Arlene’s role as part of the church staff.

The longer I was here, however, I realized that Arlene had a much greater role than her opportunities serving as LFR coordinator, prayer warrior, fact checker and copier. Arlene is our BelPres family care taker and historian.

More than those things she does around BelPres, Arlene knows and loves the people who make up and are connected to this church.  She scours the local papers—Bellevue, Seattle, Kirkland—daily to see how her church is part of what is happening outside of the church building. Maybe it’s one of the many articles about the Jubilee REACH Center and the way it is impacting lives of families on the Eastside. Or perhaps it is about how the Jubilee Service Day has changed the way churches and schools come together, or perhaps it is an article about the importance of our food banks and the need for providing food in a place and time where many families find it hard to put enough food on the table each day.

But most often, it is a photo, article or mention of someone—member, grandchild, pastor, child—who is part of BelPres that she cuts out, copies and hands out to various staff members.  Many of us have a very large ARLENE folder in our file drawers filled with these mementos. Like a proud aunt or grandmother, Arlene wants to share the news and brag about her family.

Such a gift for all of us; to have someone who sees the BelPres community as her family and gains joy from finding and sharing those snippets of life.  She knows us, too.  The names of our children, their activities and accomplishments.

She cares for us and about us. She cares about the things we do and she cares about who we are as a church.  Her care for that role as a church has helped her share the word for over 25 years about Local Food Relief, a BelPres partnership with Hopelink and the Emergency Feeding Program which has raised over half a million dollars and delivered many tons of food.  She cares that BelPres is making a difference in lives in her community by helping families put food on the table.

Arlene is beginning to step away from some of these things.  She is starting to hand over some of the Local Food Relief responsibility and she is finding some fellow prayer warriors to share those prayers, but she is still caring for her family—bringing in articles and stories about BelPres—the church and the people she loves.  I wonder who may be next to step in and follow some of the many footprints Arlene has left all over this church. And I hope that we all take a piece of that caring, loving and celebrating that Arlene encourages in our church community.

Wouldn’t that be awesome, awesome, awesome!

KidREACH Celebration

It is a known fact that BelPres seeks to actively serve others – bringing revival to the Eastside and around the world. This past year, I have personally seen God’s love manifested through many of you here at this church. God’s heart for His people is so evident to me at BelPres.  Tutors, students and families involved with KidREACH have shown me this. If you are not familiar with this tutoring ministry, you may ask yourself, “how is helping a struggling student with homework a part of Kingdom work”? The first words that come to mind are those of Jesus Christ instructing His disciples “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). These words spoken by God’s Son are powerful, yet humbling. In order to bring God’s Kingdom we must humble ourselves as Jesus teaches.

Tutors, volunteers, parents and students—the KidREACH family—have taught me that humility and dependence on Christ are absolutely necessary in order to be an effective worker for God in building His Kingdom. As children and youth, ranging between the ages of 5-18, begin tutoring often overwhelmed or lost in their studies, I see tutors exemplifying Christ by giving themselves up for these children. That being said, learning disabilities or lack of motivation do not disappear overnight or even over the course of a year, making the consistent commitment by tutors and families a necessity. The challenges are real and complicated for many of these students, but through relying on God and humbly sacrificing time and energy, volunteers are slowly seeing new confidence, motivation and interest in their student.

I am so grateful to God for His faithfulness to this amazing ministry!  In this ministry, much more than solving tricky math problems or preparing for a vocabulary quiz takes place. God’s Kingdom is alive in so many little things: the energy and joy tutors find by serving at the end of their busy days, the smiles and laughter of the students, and the peace seen in the entire family as a result of this supportive community. God’s Kingdom – a place where God is known, loved, and worshipped – is not only being built in the lives of the students and families that come for help, but in the lives of each volunteer as well. Lives are being transformed through snack time, talking about classes and life, and celebrating the culmination of another school year.  Tutors cement the truth that “it is better to give than receive” and that together, by humbly giving ourselves up for others, God’s Kingdom is brought to Earth.

Earlier this month KidREACH celebrated its 14th end-of-year party. The following pictures are proof that God’s Kingdom is alive and tangibly felt in this community.

If you would like to learn more about this tutoring ministry or would like to be involved, please contact GetConnected.

Steadfast Senders, Rally the Troops!

“Social consciousness beckons each of us across the board, but the ways we could respond are as varied as our holy passions. We are called to tend to the poor, but adjust your lens and see what specific opportunities make your heart jump…or sink.” – Beth Moore

Seven BelPres Impact Teams of brave Jesus followers head out across the globe this summer to share the good news and serve alongside His brothers and sisters. Some have never been on a short term mission experience in their life and some are seasoned veterans. Some are 7 years old and some are 70 years old. But they all have one thing in common – the faith to step out and be used, however they can, by God to love His people and further His Kingdom.

Oftentimes we think, in order to change the world in a most significant way, we must have a unique or useful skill or be given a position of influence or fame…or travel across the world.

In actuality, mission trips wouldn’t be possible without Steadfast Senders. Those who may never board a plane, but give value to a little girl who received a handmade doll they created or hope to a boy who received a baseball mitt they collected. Steadfast Senders are also the ones who lift up team members by name in prayer each and every day they are on the field, serving as spiritual protectors and mighty encouragers.

So, how ’bout it? Are you ready to step out in faith and be used by God to love His people and further His Kingdom by being a Steadfast Sender?

Here are our seven BelPres teams going out into the world this summer. Be a part of their specific sending in a variety of ways by praying, gathering items to be donated or hosting a work party to raise funds.

Bolivia: Two teams, one from Senior High Ministry and one composed of BelPres Families, will be embarking on an incredible mission experience together in mid-July to Bolivia serving alongside those at Niños con Valor. To learn ways you could send this team off with overflowing suitcases and hearts, contact Laurel Fortin, fortinlh@hotmail.com, or Colin Robeson, crobeson@belpres.org.

Cambodia: An Impact Team will be returning to Cambodia August 17 – 28 to serve alongside the CUSP ministry and lead an English Camp in Kampong Thom for high school students. For specific ways to experience Cambodia without enduring 100+ degree Cambodian temperature, contact Ray Durr, reldurr@msn.com.

Costa Rica: Our Senior High Ministry will be taking a team again July 26 – August 2, as they do every year, to visit the Abraham Project in Costa Rica. They will participate in building projects and cultivate lasting relationships with the children and people served by the Abraham Project. For specific ways to send this highly motivated group of students and leaders, contact Daniel Triller, dtriller@belpres.org.

Guatemala: As they do multiple times a year, an Impact Team will visit our Nicolás Fund for Education scholars July 18 – 26 to build relationships, pray alongside and encourage our friends there. They also work in the village primary schools to provide educational enrichment projects, support village primary school teachers, and to foster relationships with the students. For specific ways to show love and care for this team and their mission, contact Becci Merritt, beccimerritt@comcast.net.

Guatemala: August 1 – 8 the BelPres Singles Ministry will be returning to Guatemala to serve alongside the Arms of Jesus ministry by building homes, installing Eco stoves, and building relationships with the sponsored students at Arms of Jesus. For specific ways to make a difference in a beautiful, Guatemalan community, contact Kat King, kking@belpres.org.

Nicaragua: A group of families will be returning to the community of Cedro Galan in Nicaragua July 16 – 28 to serve with Alongside Ministries. To ask about specific ways you could partner with this team without getting on a plane, contact Laurie Los, llos@crgevents.com.

BelPres Congregations for the Homeless Hosting: A Gift Received

Mary McCracken, Community Outreach Director 

 

This past December, BelPres hosted the men from Congregations for the Homeless. This is an annual event for BelPres, one we look forward to and find great joy in doing. Our BelPres congregation went above and beyond in providing meals, gifts, and relationally connecting with the men. Last week, BelPres Missions department received the following email from one mom whose family had participated in providing dinner one wintry evening.

“My family just had a wonderful time doing this. My 16 year old daughter sat and talked to one of the men for the longest time. Then William and I joined them. The gentleman was very outgoing and just plain fun to talk to. He gave my daughter advice about boys and life and from what I heard, it was very good advice!

I volunteer for Open Door Legal Services and I had met a couple of the men there as clients, so it was fun to recognize them and be able to chat with them in a more informal setting. All of the men are so truly grateful and appreciative. One gentleman told me about how the dinner we made reminded him so much of what his grandmother, who raised him and is now deceased, used to make. You could tell what fond memories it brought back. There were tears in his eyes.

This last week I met with one of the men who had been staying at our Church in December. He went on and on about how wonderful the meals were and how well they were treated. He felt appreciated. I am so glad our Church does this!”

We are deeply thankful for our BelPres community and your heart for service. Thank you to all who provided meals and supplies, shopped for gifts or made them yourselves, and spent time in a busy season to sit and visit with the men. Even though other churches are now hosting the men, there continue to be opportunities to provide meals and grow relationships. For more information on how you can stay involved year-round with the Congregations for the Homeless, please contact Elizabeth Hayford at ehayford@belpres.org or GetConnected. You can also find out more about CFH HERE.

It’s OK. Just eat.

I had been a part of the Bellevue Police Prayer Partners for several years when I started to wonder what else we could do to show our support to the department. We talked about hosting a Thanksgiving breakfast or lunch for the department staff and police officers at the church, but then we realized it would be tough for those working different shifts to attend. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it sooner, but we finally figured out we should go to them.

The Monday morning before Thanksgiving 2011 we showed up at the department with coffee, baked goods, fruit, breakfast casseroles . . . you name it, we brought it! As the night shift made their way home to their beds and the day shift made their way to briefings and patrol, Detective Jim Lindquist, one of the founders of the organization, reminded them of our invitation. The officers we met that day were grim, focused. Because at that time of giving thanks and spending time with family, the officers were investigating the disappearance of little Sky Metalwala.

“Who are you guys again?,” “Why are you doing this?,” “Do we have to come to your church?” These were just some of the questions we were asked. “We’re part of a group called ‘Bellevue Police Prayer Partners’ and we’re from Bellevue Presbyterian Church,” “To show our appreciation for the officers and staff of the Bellevue Police Department,” “No, you don’t have to come to our church.”

As more staff and officers showed up and asked the same questions, those that had come before them said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s ok. Just eat!” We didn’t talk to the officers and staff about their work; they needed a break from that. We discussed the things we had in common, our interests. These people are our neighbors, friends, fellow human beings. Once they realized we didn’t have an agenda, they relaxed.

When we showed up the next day to provide lunch (we wanted to make sure we served as many as possible, covering all 3 shifts), we got a lot of the same questions. Those who had attended the breakfast the day before again reassured their co-workers: “Don’t worry about it. It’s OK. Just eat!”

After a couple years of doing this, there are less questions and more reconnecting during the meals. As I talked with one of the officers a couple years ago, she told me that she was not just an officer in the department; she was, and is, a Bellevue Police Prayer Partner! She went on to tell me how she came to be in conversation with a woman on a bus while on a mission trip with our church. As they spoke, she shared with the woman that she was an officer in the Bellevue Police Department. The woman asked her what her last name was, then said, “I am the person who has been praying for you!” God brought each of these women thousands of miles away from home to meet each other.

Some may ask, “What do you do for the officers and staff, other than pray for them?” Prayer is the most powerful gift you can give to anyone. The Bible tells us, in Philippians 4: 6,7 “ . . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We give the staff and officers of the Bellevue Police Department the gift of the power of prayer. But for those who may not know Jesus, or think they know Him and want nothing to do with Him, we want to live out Bellevue Presbyterian’s mission statement:

If you have a heart for our community and for those who serve and protect it, consider becoming part of the Bellevue Police Prayer Partners, whether by praying or providing a celebratory meal once a year or both!

6 Things Your Church Should be Doing, but Probably Isn’t

By Becky Gonzalez, Director of Global Outreach

 

This article from Relevant Magazine is a challenge for churches to be better at reaching our community and world for the sake of the Good News. BelPres! We are proud that you are a church community seeking to do these things. We are not perfect, but we are making good strides and love that we are a church committed to programs that lead to deeper and stronger relationships with each other and with God. Nonetheless it is a good challenge for us all to keep on track as ambassadors of the Gospel.

1. Working Face to Face with the Poor
2. Building Relationships with Other Churches
3. Putting Effort Toward Diversity
4. Chasing a Vision, not a Quota
5. Building a Missions Department that Goes Beyond the Offering Plate
6. Equipping Their Members, not Just Entertaining Them

In what areas are you proud of BelPres? Where do you think we can grow?