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!

The Basics: Family, Friends, and Diapers!

If you’ve been to a baby shower recently, been a parent, or have new parents in your circle, you know that diapers are always a very welcome gift, but especially for these families in need. Baby Basics of Bellevue and its volunteers are pouring out love to parents beyond the baby shower. It is recognizing parents’ most basic needs and helping to provide for them so that they can focus on their children and their goals for the future.

We’d like to share two portraits of families we have been able to serve through Baby Basics of Bellevue:

“When they first started coming to distributions almost a year ago, the family’s new baby daughter, Baby Q, was usually asleep. Now she is an active, happy baby and enjoys any snacks that are available when she attends distributions. Baby Q’s family has struggled with homelessness and underemployment. Her father works nights in Seattle, and her mother works at a human services agency in Bellevue.”

“Baby S has been in the program for just over a year. He is a smiley, bright, and active little boy. Baby S and his mom do not have a car, and they ride the bus to get to Tuesday night distributions. Afterward, they often wait for an hour or more for Baby S’s dad to pick them up after work. Volunteers have offered to give Baby S and his mom a ride, but she wants to be as self-sufficient as possible. She is determined and resourceful. She is learning English so that she can start working once Baby S is in preschool. Recently she asked for help in locating places where she could access free or low-cost English classes, and clothing and toys. We tapped our referral network and gave her information for Jubilee Reach and Bellevue College.” 

Beyond serving the families enrolled in the Baby Basics program we feel compelled to help parents who ask for our help. Often we refer them to other agencies that are equipped to help families in crisis, and sometimes we become more involved. Recently we were asked for help from a homeless mother with a toddler son. We provided diapers, food, and transportation to a night shelter and, the next day, to a day shelter. Other times we have delivered emergency diapers to families in crisis or to volunteers helping those families. We also regift diapers we cannot use to Jubilee Reach and other organizations that serve homeless families and low-income families on the Eastside.

As homelessness on the Eastside grows, Baby Basics is experiencing more requests for diapers for homeless families taking refuge in Eastside shelters. It is heartbreaking to see families shuffled between shelters at night and living out of cars during the day, some with no car or any possessions beyond a suitcase, backpack, and stroller.

Baby Basics: National Development Corporation provides diapers to working families living on the edge of poverty across the United States. Volunteers at the distribution centers offer encouragement and assistance by connecting parents with a network that helps them cope with life’s challenges. Currently, Baby Basics of Bellevue, WA has twenty-six babies in the program. Distribution nights are casual and fun with many little ones either being carried or running about.

Bellevue Presbyterian hosts Baby Basics of Bellevue diaper distribution nights on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month. Contact GetConnected to get involved.

Step By Step Justice: El Camino del Inmigrante

I am a mother and a grandmother. I was raised at BelPres church as my parents were founding (charter) members.  My husband and I were married by Dick Leon in 1989, and are longtime members. I have lived most of my adult life raising our three children and working on and off. Through this time, I have held a heart for those without a voice in the dominant culture but have found it challenging to pursue active advocacy work. I feel as though I have been wandering in a desert for thirty-five years, and the time has come for me to be more present and active in the pursuit of justice.

I was adopted at two-and-a-half years old. I was raised in a Christian home by parents who had a heart for mission. As was common then, my parents opened their home to many of the missionaries they supported who were traveling from around the globe.

In the early 1980s, after I completed college, I was heart-struck and overwhelmed by the struggles of unrest in Central America. I wanted to join the Sojourners internship group but was anxious that I needed to focus on my work life first. I also wanted to go to the Nicaragua-Honduras border as a part of the Witness for Peace group at the time, but was too afraid.

During a short time living in San Francisco, I encountered young El Salvadorian men at the deli where I worked who were looking for someone to marry in order to stay in the US. It was then that I realized how desperate they were to stay in this country and was awakened to the hardships they faced in finding safety and refuge here in the US.

When I returned to the Seattle area, I volunteered with a Friends Church providing sanctuary to refugees from Central America. I sat with them as part of the vigilant companionship required to keep them safe and at ease. During that time, I became overwhelmed with the immensity of the political situation in Latin America and felt ill-equipped to do anything of substance, so I retreated into a safe suburban life.

I believe that my adoption story often has led me to seek personal and emotional safety, sometimes at the expense of stepping out into areas of the heart. But I have always had a yearning to reconnect with the passion I feel toward those who are in the shadows and without any power or voice in their communities. I am getting older and have been a sloimg_2326-k-chesmorew learner, but, gradually, I am becoming less afraid and more willing to step actively into areas of witness, empathy, and heart.

The problems in our world can be paralyzing, but I have decided I will do what I can.

Over the past several months, I have been volunteering with World Relief in Seattle (Kent), visiting detainees at the NW Detention Center. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am doing much, but I have enjoyed getting to know the women, and I believe it has been an encouragement to them as well as to me. I have signed up to be a host family for refugees and look forward to when we will be able to have our first family come stay with us.

Additionally, this past August, I joined a group of over 170 walkers for the El Camino del Inmigrante, a 150 mile pilgrimage from Tijuana to LA. We walked to stand in solidarity with the immigrants in our country and to raise awareness about our broken immigration system.

I believe God is moving His people to action, and I want to follow God’s leading in my life. Step by step, I have gained respect for people in our community regardless of their status and a stronger desire to advocate for those who struggle for a better life. Slowly, I am stepping out of the comfort of fear and into the renewal of hearts.

For more information about the walk and the issues it raised, you can visit http://www.ccda.org/events/el-camino

Transformation Stories–King County Youth Chaplaincy

Editor’s note: Here are two stories recently shared by the King County Youth Chaplaincy folks, who have their annual benefit on Sept 29. Both are really powerful, but I wanted to call your attention to the second: From Gang Member to Peacemaker, because we’ve been sharing prayer requests for Victor in the ENews, and I thought it would be fun for us to have a fuller picture of the young man we’re praying for. May these stories encourage and challenge you today. –Nan

From the Streets to the Path of Righteousness

DeSean was known as “Hot Boy” because of his quick temper and his notorious street activity. When I met him in the detention center a few years ago when he was a 15-year-old boy, he wore an angry look on his face. His reputation and behavior from the block followed him into juvie as he got into fights and other trouble, letting his inner rage get the best of him.

DeSean shared much of his upbringing with me: his move from Chicago to Seattle, his unstable home life, and his undertakings as a gang member. He often expressed thanks to still have breath as he recalled times when death got very close. I remember asking him, “Why do you think God still wants you alive?”

“Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that.” Even at 15, DeSean was a deep thinker.

In subsequent conversations, he expressed a desire to change. “I don’t want to be ‘Hot Boy’ no more,” DeSean stated. He then began to transform. Just before he was sent to a long-term prison, he achieved honor level, the highest tier in juvie that allows for privileges, such as extra snacks and going to bed later.

I eventually lost touch with DeSean, but never forgot about him. I put a daily reminder in my phone to help me remember to pray for him.

A few months ago, I reconnected with DeSean at a group home while I was visiting another young man. I didn’t know if it was DeSean at first–it had been over two years since I last saw him. But we soon recognized each other and got to catch up.

As I visited him over the following months, I saw no signs of “Hot Boy”. Conversely, I saw and still see one of the kindest and most generous people I know. One afternoon, when he brought some pizza back to the group home, he made sure all the other youth got a slice, even though it meant fewer slices for himself.

A few weeks ago, DeSean saw a distraught youth with a broken CD player. DeSean approached him, put his hand on his shoulder, and said with genuine compassion, “Don’t worry, I’ll buy you a new one.”

When I asked DeSean if he would want to perform a rap at our fundraiser, without hesitation, he replied, “Yeah.” Because he had to work that night, we shot a video of him and played it at our event.

It feels good knowing God loves all
cuz all the stuff I done I shouldn’t have love at all.
Thank God that I found you . . .
my life ain’t perfect,
but one thing I know for certain,
is that I’m worth it.
Don’t be a follower,
be a leader . . .
guide yourself into the path of righteousness.

As I watched the video, I was reminded of God’s power to transform. I praise God for transforming DeSean from “Hot Boy” into the man he is destined to be.

 

From Gang Member to Peacemaker

As chaplains, we get to witness God do some significant, transformative work in our youth. One such youth is Victor, an intelligent, friendly, and very humorous 17-year-old. Though he has been incarcerated for over ten months now, he generally maintains a positive disposition. Victor is a completely different person now than the one who was wreaking havoc as a gang member.

In his words: “I used to think I was God. I thought I had it all. I thought I was invincible.”

“But when I came into juvie, I lost it all, I was broken. I had to put my pride aside and ask for help. I turned to God. I read the Bible, specifically the story of Job, and it moved me. I really appreciate talking with the chaplains and really like the church services; I look forward to it every week.”

“Now I have faith and hope. Me and God, we’re rockin’.”

Additionally, Victor now sees himself as a peacemaker and has taken to heart Matthew 5:9, where Jesus states:

 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

He often stands up for youth who get picked on and also prevents guys from getting in trouble by helping them keep their cool. Victor recently recounted how after talking another youth out of fighting, the other youth said, “Because of you, I won’t fight that dude.” Victor recalled, “I was so happy and proud when he said that.”

God has transformed Victor. “I wasn’t even thinking about Jesus before this. Now, I know he is here for me, and I’m putting all my faith in him.annualbenefitdinner

Back to School, Back to Whole

I recently posted an entry to my Facebook page: “Back to school task 1,573,826…hair braided…” Getting your kids, and let’s be honest ourselves, prepared to return to school after summer can be a monumental task. I am a mom of many, and several of my own cherubs have special needs. Already, in the month of August, I have been in perpetual meetings and conversations with talented school professionals, mental health professionals, and support teams. As a result, I have become all the more grateful for the ministry I get to be a part of at Eastside Academy.

Through my own parenting journey, I have recognized that accessing services for a child with special needs can be overwhelming and time consuming. For the courageous and beautiful families we serve at Eastside Academy, we have tried to eliminate some of that struggle. As a wholistic school, our goal is to address as many needs as possible in one place.  While we are a high school, we have recognized that challenges outside of the classroom can frequently interrupt progress IN the classroom. Thus, our students are provided with mental health care, recovery services, and a mentor, all in one location. In addition, we have eliminated what is notably one of the most frustrating tasks for parents/caregivers/guardians everywhere…school supply shopping. (I feel like there should be looming music playing every time those words are uttered. Ugh.) Every one of our students are provided with the school supplies needed to enter their classes; if a child needs one, we also supply backpacks. While this may seem insignificant, as a mom I can tell you, if I could eliminate this task in my own family, I would be singing the hallelujah chorus!

And honestly, that is how we try to approach everything at Eastside Academy: How would we want our own children to be treated? What support would I want or need walking through the situations our students and families face? While we are not perfect, this is definitely the heart to our approach.

I have shared with our team before that no one walks through the doors of Eastside Academy for the first time without having experienced some type of hurt or loss. Students and families come here because something didn’t work out the way they had hoped and dreamed. Our goal is to remind them, or sometimes tell them for the first time, they do not have to carry this heavy burden alone. We have a God who sees every need and has equipped His people to respond. By wrapping our arms around the educational, spiritual, emotional, and sometimes physical needs of our students, we desire to model the love we have each been shown through our Savior. A love that knows no boundaries. A love that makes sacrifices while speaking truth. A love that pursues, forgives, and seeks redemption and reconciliation for all.

I am amazed that even after 10 years of working here, that there are still so many times this ministry just takes my breath away. We are so grateful for the support and investment that this community puts into our students, families, and the work that God is accomplishing at Eastside Academy. Could we ask you to join us in prayer for the precious lives that will walk through our doors this year? Additionally, Eastside Academy’s Dinner and Live Auction is being held on October 22, at the Meydenbauer Center. We invite you to join us as we work to provide everything from backpacks to counseling to housing for our amazing students.

If you would like more information about enrolling a child, getting involved with this work, or attending our auction, please contact us at 425-452-9920 or visit our website at www.eastsideacademy.org

 

10th Annual Auto Angels Car Show-N-Shine!

Do you ever come up at a red light with some shiny, rumbly, vroom-vroom kind of car next to you? If you’re like me, you might roll the window down a bit to hear the purr of a fine engine. I’ve always been a classic car fan, since I was a kid, vacationing at my aunt & uncle’s place in Boise, where Uncle Ron always kept his Model A & Model T under dust covers, AutoAngels_Acebut was always driving some chromed-out, baby blue, metal-flaked piece of American muscle art. I will never forget tooling around Boise with my cousin Mary in Uncle Ron’s Model T, Hoyt Axton blaring on the Walkman in the seat next to us. How cool would it be to drive a Model T to your high school every day? But I digress.

The reason I’m talking about shiny hunks of metal today is because in just two weeks, the Auto Angels 10th Annual Car Show-N-Shine is on! September 17, 9am-3pm, right out in the BelPres Lower Parking Lot.

Everyone is welcome to attend and it’s free to the public! If you have a set of wheels you would like to shine up and show we invite you to participate. Registration is easy, and being an entrant brings a new level of fun.

Some of the highlights of our show include:

  • Unique & rare collector cars
  • Lunch grilled to perfection by Brief Encounter
  • Make ‘n Take model building fun for the kids
  • PPG coloring books
  • Door prizes and raffle items
  • Awards and dash plaques for entries

In addition there will be seminars on Lubricants and Car Detailing by the professionals from Chevron and Griot’s Garage.

If you have attended one of our car shows in the past, you won’t want to miss this one! Never attended before? Invite a neighbor and friend to come with you and of course bring the whole family for a day filled with fun. You may want to check out the 2015 award winners along with a link to their photo.

There’s even a parade of the winners at 2pm! Our family never misses the Auto Angels Car Show, and it’s going to be a special one this year, for the 10th Anniversary. See you there!

What I Did for Summer Vacation–Dissertation Work!

Over the past three years, I have been part of an eleven-person global cohort from Kenya, Nigeria, Greece, India, France, Korea, China, and the US. Together we are discovering how to further the Kingdom of God around the world through our individual research projects. We meet annually at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA, and are always amazed at what we learn from each other.

This summer I am faced with the daunting task of writing the rough draft of my doctoral dissertation on the results of my research project. After discussing it with Missions Pastor, Rich Leatherberry, and with the support of my amazing Missions+Serve Team, I scheduled an unpaid leave for July 5th– Aug 21st to focus on accomplishing this huge task. Halfway through this leave, I thought it would be a good time to share with everyone my research project.

My research project is the result of my long-term interest and work in walking alongside young Latinas in urban poverty contexts. These Latinas acquire significant strengths in survival and leadership skills; they have powerful hopes and dreams for a better life for themselves and their children. However, many have suffered abuse and abandonment and are on the margins in life experience and behavior. These wounds rob them of the ability to envision themselves as uniquely created by God, and as women of value with gifts and leadership skills that are essential for their personal lives, their communities, the church, and the greater missio Dei. Through many years of working in medical education and ministry with Latinas in urban poverty, I came to see Christian mentoring as a powerful tool in the work of bringing healing and restoration to Latinas struggling to find their way in a majority culture.

In my study, I address how urban poverty has marred Latinas’ identity, their understanding of being created in the image of God, and their value within the Kingdom of God. The study also looks at Christian women who desire to walk alongside Latinas in urban poverty through mentoring relationships. I found that mentors discover their own stories of marred identity and develop in their understanding of being created in the image of God and their own role.

What is “marred identity”? Jayakumar Christian, PhD, is the National Director and CEO of World Vision India. In God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power and the Kingdom of God, Christian writes, “Poverty mars the identity of the poor and hurts the soul of all” (Christian 1999, 139). Marred identity is not simply defined by, or the result of low income, lack of access to resources or inability to succeed in mainstream society. Rather it is a pervasive and all-inclusive robbing of the poor’s identity as created by God, in God’s image, with “intrinsic dignity and worth, a worth which belongs to all human beings” (Christian 1999, 67). Marring of the poor’s identity sets the groundwork for further exploitation through objectifying the poor and legitimizing using the poor to serve the structures of the powerful.

In my research, I have witnessed the formidable influence urban poverty holds in numerous aspects of Latinas’ lives and the results of such influence. Many of the Latinas I worked with did not believe that they were capable of breaking out of the cycle of poverty in which they lived. This belief impacted their present and their future; rather than act with a vision of the future, their decisions were frequently made with the immediacy of the present in mind.

Additionally, fundamental issues of shame and lack of self-confidence, brokenness of families, and broken systems of support appeared to overlay every aspect of their lives. Many Latinas experienced deep-seated prejudice and judgment of their ethnicity and poverty status. They also struggled to navigate generational differences and expectations of their “home” culture with the majority culture in which they now lived. All this interwove to create a profound sense of hopelessness in being able to recover from a marred identity and to break out of the cycle of urban poverty.

What became evident in this research was the importance of listening to Latinas’ stories of their experiences. Sharing with Christian mentors brought dignity to Latinas along with an understanding that, at the heart, marred identity is a spiritual issue. Christian mentoring became the avenue for Latinas to discover their inherent value as created in the image of God. Recovering from a marred identity enabled them to envision a good future for themselves and their children. This vision then led Latinas to begin breaking free from the constraints of urban poverty as they made daily positive choices with the future in mind.

Latinas in urban poverty and their Christian mentors are integral to God’s mission and to furthering the Kingdom of God. As well, the church benefits and grows when it reaches out to those in urban poverty by intentionally learning about their experiences and where God is at work in urban poverty contexts. I am so grateful for all the encouragement I have received from the BelPres staff and congregation to pursue this important work! I am excited to share with you how the stories of Latinas and of Christian mentors interweave to bring healing and restoration, furthering God’s Kingdom on earth.

What Would Jesus Say to a Muslim?

It seems a bit presumptuous to assume I could know what Jesus would say to a Muslim today.  After all, there are 3.3 million followers of Islam living in the U.S. today. That’s equivalent to 1% of our population. And, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. So how could I know what Jesus would say to a Muslim?

Many of us who read this blog don’t know much abouCross-in-the-foreground-the-Dome-of-the-Rock-shrine-in-the-Old-City-of-Jerusalem-in-the-background_larget who they are and what Muslims believe other than what we see on TV or read in the news. That’s why I am writing this series on Islam. I want to help us become better informed and better equipped for the world we live in as followers of Jesus.

That brings me back to this crucial question of what Jesus would say to a Muslim, because the answer to this question gives us strong guidance for how Jesus invites us to engage this world we live in.

What would Jesus say to a Muslim?

The responses to this question generally fall within one of three different categories. The first is characterized by the main idea that Muslims, Jews and Christians all believe in the same God. When a Muslim says ‘There is no God but Allah’, they are proclaiming loyalty to the same Unique, One and only true God that Jews and Christians proclaim. The term ‘Allah’ is the Aramaic equivalent to the word we use in English for ‘God’. So, people who think of Islam in this way would see Jesus saying the same thing to a Muslim, as He would say to the rest of us who follow him; “I no longer call you servants…instead I call you friends,” Jn 15:15. Thus, Islam is part of the one big family of faith and is fundamentally a religion of peace. It’s just another way of worshipping God. That’s one view.

There is a second category of responses, which swings to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This view is characterized by the main idea that Muslims worship a false god whose ultimate agenda is to force the world into submission using whatever means possible, including war and acts of terror. The only way to safety and security for the rest of us is to either build a wall to keep them out or launch an all out war to wipe them out. So from this perspective, Jesus would tell Muslims they are children of the devil and that He has come to destroy the works of the devil; 1Jn 3:18. Islam is a religion of violence and all Muslims are terrorists. That’s the opposite end of the spectrum of perception regarding followers of Islam among Christians.

While the first group is more progressive and tolerant, the second group is more militant and oppositional. One tells us “we are all the same” and the other tells us to “keep ‘em out or wipe ‘em out.” It is interesting to me that the progressives in Jesus’ day were called Sadducees and the militants were called Zealots. Neither group could get behind the Kingdom of God way of life Jesus announced. Instead, they would ultimately join forces to crucify him. Think about that for a moment.

Jesus is Lord of the third way. When presented with a forced choice between two binary options, Jesus always chose something different. The third way in this Christian conversation is the view that Islam is an incomplete religion. Sadly, Muslims do not have a full understanding of the One true God they worship. There are over 90 names for ‘Allah’ in Islam, but none of them conveys the intimate relationship with Abba Father that is characteristic of God in the Christian faith. Muslims also do not have full assurance of salvation because their faith is based on obedience and good works rather than the ultimate work of Christ who paid the debt for all our sins on the cross. So what would Jesus say to a Muslim? We are called to look to scripture for our answers. “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest… take my yoke on you and you will find rest for your souls,” Mt 10.28,29. “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jn 14.6.

Jesus is the fullness of God incarnate in human form, Col. 1.15,19.  He is the Universal Lord of an uncompromising Gospel and the one and only cure to our sin problem, Col 1.13-14, Col 1.19-22, Mt 26.28, Acts 4.12, Eph 2.8   Those who place their trust in Him are made new and have a secure hope for eternity, Jn 3.16, 2 Cor 5.17; Ro, 6.23.

Understanding Islam as an incomplete religion gives us clear guidance as followers of Jesus. The One, Almighty, Compassionate, Gracious, and Loving God has revealed the fullness of His grace and truth in Jesus Christ. This wonderful good news is for everyone, including Muslims. Yes, some Muslims are extreme terrorists and have a warped, not incomplete, understanding of God. But they are a very small minority and are the reason many Muslims are abandoning Islam in the Middle East and here in the U.S..

Muslims are people: people we are called to love, not fear. People we are called to welcome and seek relationship with, not to exclude.  People who need a Savior and His name is Jesus. So what can you do today?  Begin praying for the salvation of your Muslim neighbors. Ask God to give you a Muslim friend. Pray that God will send followers of Jesus to show and tell the Good News of the Gospel to Muslims in places where they have no access to the Gospel. Find out more about one of the ministries Belpres supports to share Jesus with Muslims.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” Rom 10.13-14.

Christmas in July–A Matt Talbot Center Tradition

Imagine you are ten years old again, and Christmas is a few weeks away. You live with your mom and your little sister in downtown Seattle, sometimes in a rented room and sometimes on the streets. You are familiar with cold, with wet clothes, with hunger in your belly and the cries of your sister at night. She’s afraid of the dark, of the bugs and the vermin idownloadn the room, and of being left alone while your mom is out. You attend 3rd grade and all your friends are excited about Christmas. They talk about presents and Santa and all the food and candy they will get. Some of your friends are like you. They know that there won’t be presents this year, and that Christmas dinner will be at one of the shelters nearby. Your sister talks about a new doll that she’s hoping Santa will bring her. You secretly hope for a new jacket and a toy, but you’re old enough now to know the reality of your mom’s life and that presents are not something she can provide this year.

Now imagine a wonderful Christmas Party at Matt Talbot Center in downtown Seattle. There’s a huge pile of presents, delicious smells and best of all, Santa Claus! Children, like the two described above, line up around the block with their parents as they wait their turn to come inside, sit on Santa’s lap, receive a present, cookies and delicious foods. Someone says “Welcome!” and “Come on in!” Volunteers from all over Seattle are dressed in holiday sweaters helping kids and their parents to feel hope and joy again. Throughout the party, everyone points to the reality that Jesus came to earth as a baby to reconcile humanity to God. Happy laughter, hugs and smiles are everywhere.

In the midst of July sunshine, blue skies and lake-side barbeques, it might seem a bit incongruous to be thinking about Christmas. After all, we have five months before the Big Day. And, if you are like me, I put off thinking about anything related to Christmas until the fall. Longtime BelPres mission partner Matt Talbot Center, on the other hand, are long-range planners when it comes to Christmas knowing that the needs of children and families in the urban core are intensified during the holidays. Every year they host a Christmas Party for families in the downtown area. What began as a small gathering 31 years ago has grown into a huge event, with last year seeing 1000 children coming through their doors the second Saturday in December. With homelessness at a crisis level in Seattle, they are expecting another huge celebration this year.

Matt Talbot Center has an amazing presence in downtown Seattle. Founded in 1985 by a small group of businessmen with a vision for solutions for homelessness in Seattle, MTC has evolved into a place for those who are serious about living drug and alcohol free lives. Members are ministered to through counseling, drug and alcohol treatment services, Bible study and prayer, housing and employment assistance, and literacy training. MTC provides individuals and families with the opportunities they need to overcome obstacles and disabilities that hinder self-sufficiency.

On July 24th, BelPres is hosting “Christmas in July” for Matt Talbot Center. During all morning services MTC will be present in the lobby to share about the ministry of MTC. BelPres members are invited to bring a gift card for MTC so that they can shop for Christmas gifts ahead of time for this year’s party on December 17th. With an annual cost of $20,000 to provide gifts for 1000 kids, gift cards to WalMart, Kohl’s, Target, Toys-R-Us, Costco and Sam’s Club are perfect. Visa/MasterCard Gift Cards work well, too. Matt Talbot staff and volunteers will use the cards to purchase gifts for Santa to give out during the party. You will be helping them provide new clothing, toys and other gifts to needy families this Christmas!

Racism is a Global Epidemic

This past March, I had the opportunity to visit one of our BelPres mission partners, Children of the Nations, COTNI, in the city of Baharona, Dominican Republic. The DR (Dominican Republic) is a Caribbean nation which lies on the eastern two-thirds island of Hispaniola. The nation of Haiti occupies the western side of the island. Much of what we know in social media and news about the island comes from Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake which killed over 46,000 people. The world’s nations responded by sending help to Haiti. Today, there is much skepticism about how much help the Haitian people actually received from the world’s governments and aid organizations. Many Haitians have fled to the DR in the hope of a better life.

The history between the countries goes back to colonial days when Spain and France sought control over the island. That political and cultural conflict eventually formed the two countries. In the early 20th century, both countries were relatively equal in economy and government. Today, however, it’s a different story: Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Children of the Nations (COTNI) established itself in the DR specifically to address the spiritual and poverty issues for displaced Haitians that live in the DR. Haitians are not considered of equal status and are denied citizenship, health care and education. Racial (or ethnic) discrimination is an accepted part of the Dominican Republic culture. My visit in March gave me a look at the living conditions of Haitians living in the DR. Each day we had the opportunity to visit different Batays. I made THIS video there.

A Batay is a village that has its history back in the sugar plantation days where Haitians were brought into the DR to work the sugarcane fields. Today, the sugarcane industry has lost its influence while the Batays continue to exist. Because of the extreme poverty in Haiti, illegal immigration continues to occur into the DR. Without citizenship, education, basic social services, and health care, life in the bateys is very difficult. There is generational racial discrimination for the Haitians living in the DR. COTNI has adopted 5 Batays in DR. I had the opportunity to visit each one. While the extreme poverty continues in the bateys, COTNI has come in to establish schools, health care systems, food programs, and spiritual life pathways for the families and children.

In the 20 years of COTNI being in country and building a foundation of hope and love, the lives of Haitian-Dominican Republic children & families have been changed. I got to witness this firsthand when I met a young college student, Carolina. See her story HERE. Carolina grew up in a batay, but through COTNI, was given the opportunity to go to school, get health care, and  she received the hope she has now in Christ. I will never forget the moment she shared when she was a child living off the streets, eating trash and having her stomach bloated because of the parasitic worms that she had living inside her. She is living testimony that each person is a child of God with inherent, infinite worth. COTNI through its Child Sponsorship program has given girls like Carolina hope for the future and a new life that helps defeat the generational racial discrimination that exists in the DR.

On the same trip I also had the opportunity to visit a potential new site where COTNI is scouting for its next area to support. We went to the border of Haiti and DR, where we experienced the worst poverty in the world. Refugee camps made up of trash, cardboard, anything that can be taken. Haitians trying to escape the poverty in their own country but unable to enter into the DR are stuck at the border. It truly was a life changing experience walking around the refugee camps. I made a short video, HERE.

As I reflect on the current news of #AltonSterling  and #PhilandoCastile, I am reminded that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope we have in reconciliation, peace, and love. Whatever you believe or understand about these two most recent cases, it is clear that there is a sense of racial injustice in America that needs addressing, and who better than the church, with our hope in Christ, to bring his love, peace, and reconciliation to this pressing issue? Racism is a global epidemic, not just local. We as followers of Christ need to respond both here in the Eastside, to events in our nation, and–as global Christians–throughout the world. We have the power and presence of God in us and through us, and we can help change the world. Church, let’s do this together! Jesus Christ is the hope of the world!

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.   -Galatians 3.28

How Texting Can Change Lives

In the last year, REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade) helped over 100 women take steps to exit the sex trade and start reaching their goals. Over 70 of those women are now participating in REST’s case management program which assists women in receiving much needed services to move forward with their lives.

REST has begun a new program of text outreach. This program sends a text message to women in the sex trade who have posted ads online with their contact phone number. The text message reaches out to women asking them if they need help. If a woman responds to person-woman-hand-applethe text she is immediately contacted and offered services at REST. In the short time that the text outreach has been in existence, over 50 women have responded asking for help. REST has helped many women get jobs, begin recovery from substance abuse, start college courses, tak
e steps of faith and build a positive sense of community.

One area that is remains a challenge for REST is in providing women a safe place to stay. This year there were no beds available in King County for nearly 40% of women who called the REST hotline looking for a safe place to stay. These brave women took an incredible risk and reached out for help only to be told, “There’s no place for you to go.” There are still critical moments, when safety counts above all else, when the counselors at REST have to say, “I’m sorry, there are no beds available for you tonight.” It’s devastating to both the staff and the women who are risking it all to reach for help.

The good news is that REST has signed a lease, hired a program supervisor, and started the renovations on the space for their Emergency Receiving Center (ERC) which will provide short-term emergency shelter and crisis intervention services for victims of sexual exploitation. As soon as additional funds come in, REST will hire the additional team members needed and open the doors. This is an exciting opportunity for REST.

Please join us in praying with REST for the needed funds to come in for the ERC and that the text outreach program will continue to be a wonderful avenue for reaching women trapped in the sex trade. Visit REST at www.iwantrest.com to learn more about this BelPres ministry partner and opportunities to volunteer with them in bringing transformation to our community.

Freedom Schools: Reaching Kids Through Love and Education

As you probably know, the summer months are when many children, especially children in low-income communities, experience a significant loss in what they have learned throughout the school year due to inactivity.

However, beyond even the academic challenges, children in the community often lack the social, emotional and spiritual support that they need to deal with various challenges in their lives.

Here is a story that one of our interns shared with me recently about one of his Urban Impact Freedom School scholars:

One day I was told that one of my scholar’s mom had cancer and that it was getting progressively worse. The following day I expected him to stay at home and spend the day supporting his mother. But when I walked into the Harambee room where we all meet every morning, there he was. Although he showed up, his arms were crossed, his hood covered his face, and he would not say a word.

As we started the day, we were high-fiving, making jokes in the group, cheering and chanting, inspiring, and sharing love all around. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him murmuring and clapping his hands lightly to the Harambee rhythms. As the day passed, those murmurs turned to words and his clapping hands were now willingly receiving high-fives from his peers. The more love we showed him as a Freedom School community, the more he started to open up and share with the group.

The supportive community of Freedom School helped him to cope and process some of the hardship that he and his family were facing. By the end of the day, he had turned in the best work he had ever done in my class. His peers continued to be inviting, understanding, and supportive for anything he may have needed. I was inspired not only by the quality of his work, but by his perseverance and the way the Freedom School community supported him in his time of family hardship.
-Khyree Smith, Urban Impact Freedom School Servant Leader Intern 2015

Students shared some of the things they endure and encounter on a regular basis. What we found to be true is their desire to be in school had little to nothing to do with school itself, but everything to do with what was happening in their homes, their neighborhoods, their thoughts, and emotions.”

 As a BelPres mission partner, Urban Impact is doing incredible work for the kingdom of God in the Rainier Valley. Please pray for this year’s Freedom School, for their staff and for all the youth that are attending. If you are interested in learning more about the Freedom School and how you can help out, please visit www.urbanimpactseattle.org

Grieving with Orlando

The following letter was sent via email to the BelPres Family on June 14, 2016.

Dear BelPres family,

Like all of you, I was saddened and sickened when I got home from church on Sunday and saw the news about the shootings in Orlando. So many victims.  Each one made in the image of God. Each one loved by God. So I want to take a moment to say in this email what we would have said on Sunday had we known all the information we do now.

In times like these Jesus instructs us to grieve, pray, trust, and love as Jesus loved. Grieve with those who are grieving. Pray for the victims, their families, and their communities. And trust that he loves each one of the victims and their families, that he is at work in our world to bring healing, that terror cannot ultimately win because he is love and he is still Lord, which means he will triumph over prejudice and hate. In the words of one of my favorite hymns, “though the wrong seems oft so strong, he is ruler yet.”

It is easy to feel helpless and afraid, but one thing we can do for sure is pray.  So here are some of the prayers I’ve been praying:

Jesus, we mourn with those who are mourning.
Help us to experience their grief with them so they do not grieve alone.
Jesus, we pray for the victims, their families and friends, the LGBTQ community that was singled out in this attack, and for Muslims who will be unfairly associated with the actions of one man.
Please bring your comfort to all of them.
Help them know that you are there and grieving with them.
We also pray that you would protect them, and that you would transform the hatred in our world and in our hearts into your love.
We also ask for the healing of our country and of our world.
May your peace and justice be done here on earth as it is in heaven, and show us how we can help that happen.
Where there is hate, help us to sow love. In your name, amen.

Dr. Scott Dudley

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!

Baby Basics Mother’s Day Diaper Drive

Can you imagine having to choose between disposable diapers for your baby or paying your rent on time? This is the kind of choice low-income Eastside families face daily. Baby Basics Bellevue, a non-profit, all volunteer run organization has been distributing diapers since October 2012 to help meet diaper need in our community.

“Diapers may seem like a simple thing but here are no government subsidies or tax breaks for diapers. Diaper Need is a silent crisis and an important issue in our community. Sadly, diaper b2016.04_FLM_Diapers_Web_1.1anks in King County cannot keep up with the on-going need. Clean diapers are a basic necessity for a baby and helps the entire family,” explains Kim Stone, Co-founder and Director of Baby Basics.

The low-income families that Baby Basics serve are hard-working parents who do not receive federal or state cash funds. They may or may not have access to food stamps, which cannot be used for diapers. The parents may be the single mom working at Bellevue Square or the young father working at one of your favorite restaurants. Many of the parents are working jobs that pay minimum wage or just above.

To help meet the need and raise awareness Baby Basics Bellevue is having their fourth annual May Diaper Drive. The gift of diapers is an ideal way to honor mothers and to show support for low-income working moms (and dads!) on the Eastside.

Your gift of diapers this May will not only help cover a little bottom but will make a difference to a mom and her family. Diapers in sizes 4, 5, and 6 are especially needed.

These community friendly organizations and businesses are springing into action with Baby Basics and collecting diapers:

  • Bellevue Presbyterian Church, 1717 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, Mother’s Day, May 8
  • Chace’s Pancake Corral, 1606 Bellevue Way SE, Bellevue, Collecting change for diaper change
  • Café Cesura, 1015 108th NE, Bellevue, Collecting change for diaper change
  • Kirkland Way Storage, 11200 Kirkland Way, Kirkland
  • QFC – Bellevue Village, Saturday, May 7, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
  • Sacred Heart Church, 9460 NE 14th Bellevue, Mother’s Day, May 8

Learn more about Baby Basics HERE!

Finding Hope Amidst Grief: Marvin Charles and the story of D.A.D.S.

For the past two months I have been walking a grieving road. Psalm 116:15 reads, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” When my mom died suddenly in early February, the Lord reminded me of his care for, and love of, my mom. In the heartbreak of losing her, the Lord’s presence with me has been a comfort and a consolation.

Death is not the only time we grieve. As I have discovered on the grieving road, one loss taps into other losses that I have experienced. If I am not careful I can topple over from the strong winds of sorrow. I have had to purposefully slow down and be mindful of what God is speaking to me. I have had to plan extra time for quiet, for rest, for being with myself and others who have been affected by my mom’s death. Things seem to take longer to get done, and my energy is drained. Grieving well takes intentionality and hard work.

BelPres Community Outreach ministry partners care for people who have experienced multiple losses in their lives. The cascading effect of loss can bring people to paralysis, to feeling hopeless, to being without any anchor in their life. People make choices out of their heartache that are not always healthy, leading to a cascading effect on their stability and an altering of their future paths.

BelPres prison ministry partners provide safe spaces for about speaking about personal loss, for discovering the truths in what has happened in people’s stories, and for healing from devastating grief and loss.  One ministry partner, D.A.D.S (Divine Alternative for Dads), has a powerful ministry for fathers who have lost relationship with their children through addiction, incarceration, or broken rela74a6f9_db5678bd058646c3bd7ea7eaa97efbbftionships. D.A.D.S. website gives this picture:

“Marvin and Jeanett Charles started D.A.D.S. in their living room in 1998. They wanted to apply the lessons they had learned during their own recovery and the rough period when they put their family back together. They had been homeless, unemployed addicts with a ‘sketchy’ life of those who operated beyond the boundaries of the formal economy.

Marvin and Jeanett had lost several of their children to the foster care system, under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Child Protective Services (CPS). They were facing termination of parental rights when a CPS worker gave them a 90-day deadline to become sober, find housing and find employment. They took strength from their renewed religious beliefs in the saving power of Jesus and their commitment to each other.

Today, they live in their own home with three daughters and a son. One former CPS caseworker worked part-time in the office as administrative assistant to Jeanett. Many community leaders and volunteers support D.A.D.S. and the important work that D.A.D.S. does.

Much has changed since 1998, while so much has remained the same for fathers who are down and struggling.  Whether they are recovering from addiction, coming out of prison or just dealing with the difficulties of life, D.A.D.S. works with fathers, one dad at a time, to strengthen and support them and to help them build a better world for their children”.

Marvin and Jeanett are familiar with grief and loss, with the hard work of recovery, and the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ. They have walked the grieving road, and have turned dark times into pathways of light for themselves, their family and the community they serve. Psalm 34:18 says, “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath” (the Message). Marvin and Jeanett chose the Lord and chose to recover from the grief and loss in their personal lives, and in turn, the Lord has used them to bring light and healing to countless fathers who are walking their own grieving road.

On the D.A.D.S. website there is a video of Marvin Charles’ personal story, which powerfully relates how God answered the prayers of his birth mother to find him after 44 years of separation. Again, while there was much grief and loss, God redeemed the lost years and has restored Marvin and his mother to each other. Watch the video HERE.

In the midst of walking the grieving road, I have been privileged to meet Marvin and Jeanett, to see the joy on their faces and their obvious love for each other. Their delight in bringing hope and healing to fathers and their children is evident in all they do. While they have known great struggle, their even greater joy in the Lord is a blessing to all around them. They have encouraged me by their redemptive story, and I look forward to getting to know them better in the months to come.

Are you walking your own grieving road? I pray for comfort, peace and patience for you in the season ahead. You are not alone. If you need someone to talk with, please call me or someone in the BelPres Prayer and Care department.

Have you walked a grieving road and have space now to offer encouragement to others? Consider contacting D.A.D.S. and finding out more about how you can volunteer with them to impact children and fathers for eternity. Or reach out to BelPres GetConnected for other ideas of where you can serve out of your healing and hope in the Lord.

Eastside Academy Student of the Month: Marcus’ Story

(Nan’s note: I just got this Student of the month update, and I thought it was worth sharing. Marcus (name changed) is a neat guy. Enjoy his story!)

Before EA I went to Juanita High School. I was doing ok, but most of my grades were C’s and D’s. I didn’t like the school. I was really quiet and no one talked to me because it was a gigantic school. Because of my lack of friends and lack of people to relate with, I became depressed.

I heard about EA through an older student who used to go here. I was planning on doing online school after my sophomore year but my friend told me about Eastside Academy. So, I came to the open house and right away decided to come. It felt different here.

The schedules at EA work much better for me. I like how the classes are led and broken down so that I can learn well. My favorite class right now is English. I love the book we are reading and what we are learning. I also like the field trips we take because I learn a lot.

Because of EA I have higher and better grades. I know when my grades drop because we have to go to Study Tables if they get lower than 85%. Having that extra help is great because you just can’t get an F. I have been here for almost two years and EA has helped me make friends and be social with people.

If it wasn’t for EA I don’t think I would have a job because EA friends have helped me find one. I think I would still be struggling and in more isolation and not doing well in school. After Eastside Academy I plan on graduating and going to an art school to study Fine Art.

Marcus asks for prayer that he make it through the end of senior year.

Testimony from a Helper: Kathy Claudon

One of our extraordinary BelPres volunteers, Kathy Claudon, helps with a variety of ministries through Mission + Serve. Mary McCracken, Community Outreach Director, asked Kathy to share her testimony with us on the blog. God has done amazing things through Kathy. Enjoy her testimony!

An amazing thing happened to me when I was about 31 years old. I had the unexpected experience of God answering my fervent prayer. It was the Vietnam era, and the mantra was “God is Dead.” I was afraid it was true. I don’t know if I can convey how extraordinary this was in writing, but I’ll try.

Our baby son, who is now a big, strong, father of three blessed sons, was born with an underdeveloped immune system, which, back then they didn’t know how to treat. Our son was so ill the doctors told us, many times, he may not live through the night. Severe asthma, ongoing pneumonia, horrible ear infections–his eardrums burst 90 times. They tried tubes but they wouldn’t stay in. He was in so much pain all the time. He finally developed permanent holes in his ears which relieved some of the awful pain.

He often had so much puss running out of his ears, nose, lungs that no day care or preschool felt safe with him there. Our whole lives were taken over by the “keep our son alive” project. We had him sleep with us so we could hear if he stopped breathing. His life was hospitals, doctors up to three times a day with emergencies, and painful frightening treatments. He would wake up in the hospital after he had become unconscious at home. He didn’t actually get to regular school until 3rd grade. This was before I knew God was real, and hope was hard to come by.

Then one day I was in such despair, I started crying and asking God if he was real and if Jesus was really his son. I cried and moved thru the house praying like a zombie for 3 days and nights. Couldn’t stop. I had to know if life had any meaning. The third day, while I was crying and sweeping our 6 year old daughter’s room and fervently praying, I heard an actual deep voice around me say “YES Kathy, I AM REAL AND JESUS IS MY SON AND UNTIL YOU COME TO ME, PEOPLE MUST HELP EACH OTHER.” An amazing happening!

It still took me a number of years to mature in my faith, but I knew God had blessed me with the most amazing gift he could have given me: relief that he lives.

This is why I am so happy to follow his mandate from that day, that “people must help each other.” This has led me gradually into a joyful life of helping. I assist with the Congregations for the Homeless (CFH) homeless shelter BelPres provides for 40 men for the month of December. I also am blessed to be a tutor in our KidREACH program. (We always need more tutors). And I am assisting in setting up a new BelPres project of feeding breakfast to homeless young people at the New Horizons shelter in Seattle. We would love to have your help to provide a breakfast for about 20 people to help these kids.

I have told this story to Christians, non-Christians, and atheists alike. A few ask me if I was asleep and dreamt this. No, absolutely not! I see some people start doing some deep thinking, and some who know how blessed I was to have this divine experience. So far, no one has called me “crazy” or accused me of making it up.

Believe me, this was a clear answer to my fervent prayer. Again, I thank God for this gift. This is why I am so thankful to be able to pitch in and do as he told me. I’m so glad that our church has so many ways to help people in our community.

Want to help with CFH, KidREACH, or with breakfasts at New Horizons? Contact Get Connected today!

Medical Teams International–Volunteers Bring Hope and Healing

Roxanne was late for her appointment at the Mobile Dental Clinic stationed at a low-income housing facility on the Eastside. She was fatigued, stressed and concerned that she had missed her chance to be seen that day. For her, this was her only option and to lose it could mean months more of debilitating pain she had been dealing with for over a year now. She was late because she had been at the hospital that morning with her brother who had just been diagnosed with cancer. For most of us that would be a call to the dentist office to reschedule but when this is your only option you fit it in around a family emergency.

These stories are uncomfortably commonplace at our Mobile Dental clinics but here is the good news…

Dr. Karr, who volunteers his time locally with MTI aMTIPicture1nd leads dental missions overseas, was able to fit her in. About thirty minutes and a couple of extracted teeth later, Roxanne finally felt relief and had the highlight of an otherwise difficult day.

The reality is children and adults from low-income families suffer from more dental decay and are less likely to receive treatment than those in higher income brackets. The situation is precipitated by high levels of poverty, coverage limitations of low-income insurance options, lack of insurance altogether and a shortage of accessible locations. Left untreated, dental problems lead to chronic pain, difficulty eating, speech problems and severe and debilitating health conditions. Healthy, pain free teeth and mouths increase confidence and can prepare patients for jobs and job searches.

Volunteers like Dr. Karr and many others bring hope and healing to people such as Roxanne by partnering with Medical Teams International and their Mobile Dental Program. MTI has eleven fully equipped mobile dental clinics that travel throughout Oregon and Washington caring for patients. The clinics are in high demand and are regularly booked out several months. In order to care for these patients, we rely on dental professionals with hearts for those in need to come along side and make a lasting impact.

If you are a dental professional there is a place for you. Dentists, hygienists and assistants regularly volunteer their talents around times that fit their schedules. We have people that volunteer from once a year to once a week and it all goes a long ways. We’ll have all the supplies and equipment you’ll need to be successful. Retired dentist? Washington has some incredible benefits for retired dentists who volunteer their time up to and including insurance coverage, license renewals and more at no cost.

Roxanne could have easily moved on to the next thing in this demanding day but she wanted to express her thanks for Dr. Karr and the other dental professional volunteers who were there that day. With gauze in her mouth and a smile on her face she insisted that we shoot a video on our phone. “I’ve never experienced care this good. I am thankful. This makes my day better and I am very thankful for the dentists. I want them to know – thank you, thank you, thank you”.

Never experienced care this good? How could that be?

My guess is because it came as a gift wrapped in compassion and generosity on a really hard day.

To volunteer contact GetConnected.

Young Life Bellevue–Helping Teens Connect with Jesus

Since 1941 Young Life has introduced millions of teenagers to Jesus Christ and helped them grow in their faith.   With an emphasis on showing kids that faith in God can be fun, exhilarating, and life-changing, Young Life has almost 80,000 volunteers reaching almost 2 million kids a year around the world.

Here in Bellevue, Young Life is on the move.  Our mission is to be wide and deep in the world of Bellevue teenagers.  We want to be wide….introducing kids to Jesus at every middle school and high school in the city….and deep….challenging and encouraging kids to becoming disciples.

We currently take over 250 middle school and high school kids from Bellevue to camp each summer where they hear the Gospel in a fresh way, while surrounded by some of the most incredible beauty of God’s creation.   After camp, we encourage kids to get involved in Young Life each week back home where they are encouraged to grow in their faith.

One of the kids who met Christ at a Young Life camp last year was Josh*.  Josh attends Bellevue HS and comes from a family where English is not spoken at home, and his parents made no mention of Christ while being raised.  Last spring, Josh found that he could make a lot of money by stealing alcohol from stores and then selling it to classmates.  But, while he was caught up in that lifestyle, Josh heard about Young Life camp from a friend.  He thought it sounded fun and signed up.

While at Malibu Josh heard about Jesus for the first time and felt deep conviction about his past life.  He confessed his old life to his leader one night under the stars, and decided to follow Christ.  In the months after returning home, Josh became a part of a local church, and joined it’s youth group.  He still comes to Young Life occasionally and is growing in his faith through the encouragement of both the church and Young Life.

We love Josh’s story for a lot of reasons, but in particular we love that it shows how Young Life and the church can work together.  We’re grateful for Bel Pres and it’s members for supporting our work with dis-interested teenagers who need to know about the God who loves them.   Lost teenagers are a difficult crowd to reach, but together Young Life and the local church can reach the thousands of teenagers in Bellevue who don’t know Christ.

Volunteer leaders who go to summer camp with kids, and then follow up with them throughout the year are what make Young Life work. We have plenty of kids involved and now need more leaders to mentor and disciple them.  We need adults willing to give just  a couple hours a week to invest in the lives of teenagers. The difference you can make is incredible and eternal. If you’d like to know more about becoming a volunteer leader, or think you know someone who would be a great fit, please contact GetConnected.