Community Outreach Partner Focus: YFC’s City Life

Youth for Christ’s City Life ministry is a relational, holistic ministry that desires to see deep change in an urban neighborhood through transforming the lives of youth. Working together with like-minded partners, Christian adults connect with urban youth and work to introduce them in a natural way to the person of Jesus Christ, and then disciple them into the next generation of leaders for their neighborhood.

Every day at Youth for Christ we are blessed to impact young people throughout King and Snohomish Counties with the love and hope of Jesus Christ. One of them is a 7th grader at our City Life Club. Jose, the youngest of five kids, has not had an easy life. His father is absent and his mother has had a string of live-in boyfriends. Two of Jose’s older brothers joined gangs when they were in middle school and his two older sisters are teen moms. Only one of his siblings graduated from high school, and Jose has had difficulty making sense of it all.

Throughout of all this, YFC leaders are faithfully walking alongside Jose. We help Jose with his homework; bring him to YFC Club every week, to camps, special events and small groups. We listen to him. We even surprised him with the only Christmas gifts he received last year. We are very blessed to work with Jose. Scripture says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Jose recently said to a YFC staff member, “Guess what? I know what I want to be when I grow up! I want to be one of those investigators that helps protect children who have been abused!” It is remarkable that Jose wants to help others when he grows up, and we are honored to journey alongside Jose as God is doing a “good work” in his life. Your faithful support, through your prayers and financial gifts, ensures that this work continues every day for kids like Jose and hundreds more. Thank you!

Want to learn more about the work of YFC, or volunteer with them? contact Get Connected, below.

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What is God Calling YOU Into?

Have you noticed that the last several Lenten seasons Pastor Scott has suggested that rather than giving something up for Lent we take something on? Well, your Mission + Serve department has been listening. We’ve compiled some ideas for service and prayer in this Season of Lent. Of course this list is not exhaustive. In fact, if you come up with something from the list, OR something you’ve dreamed up on your own, would you please let me know? Shoot me an email at Nan Van Zwol. Read on for ideas and links, and Take Something ON for Lent!

  • Serve a meal at a day center or winter shelter, helping our neighbors who are unhoused, in transition or escaping from difficult situations. Opportunities with New Horizons, CFH, and others.
  • Register for the Discover + Live Your Purpose Webinar Re-Broadcast. Register HERE
  • Correspond with a Bellevue Presbyterian Church Missionary living abroad. Contact Nan Van Zwol
  • Pray for a First Responder through Bellevue Police Prayer Partners (BP3). Read more about it and sign up HERE
  • Give up 1, 2, or even 5 lattes a week in order to increase your gift to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.
  • Volunteer with Club Jubilee at Chinook Middle School.
  • Join the Fireside Knitters, meeting first and third Thursdays, 9am-12pm in the Welcome room
  • Pick up a copy of Seek God for the City 2016, a Lenten prayer booklet specifically for Revival, available in the Lobby, or download the app HERE
  • Choose a Community or Global Outreach Partner to pray for every day. See our Mission + Serve Directory for a list of partners and missionaries
  • Prayer Walk your neighborhood daily, or weekly, or as often as works for you. Let us know what you did, below!
  • Pray daily for a Winter Impact Team. Pray for Haiti with Crossworld, Guatemala with Nicolas Fund for Education, and Dominican Republic with Children of the Nations. Contact Nan Van Zwol
  • Become a KidReach tutor or an Eastside Academy mentor.
  • Read Roadmap to Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil (available in the church library), and join the Justice and Reconciliation discussion group.
  • Read a selection from the Lenten resources on display in the 1st floor Welcome Room Library
    Check out the Library’s Online Catalog for more Lenten resources
  • Join the Usher Team.
  • Join the Flower Committee.
  • Send a care package to a Missionary or BelPres College Student.
  • Pack a used handbag–in good condition–with toiletries and snack foods. Keep it in your car to hand to women in need you encounter.
  • Stop by the Mission + Serve office (on the 2nd floor of the Lower Campus) and pick up a Family Prayer & Action Journey pack. 30 days of prayer geared toward families wanting to pray together for issues of Justice. Produced by Steps of Justice

Fill out this Form to find out more, or let us know what cool thing you’re taking on in the comments section, below!

BelPres Serve Service Opportunity Contact Form

Contact information for ministry opportunities.
  • Please indicate the areas in which you have interest in serving.

 

Care Net of Puget Sound: Hearing, Sharing and Doing the Gospel

Care-Net-Logo-300-Color.jpg

“I’m so thankful I found this place.” “I love my parenting advisor.”

Praise the Lord that these are the type of comments frequently read on Care Net client exit surveys. Every client is different, but many are mired in sad and complicated life situations. Nearly all are anxious, facing unplanned (and often unwanted) pregnancies. They need kindness, reassurance, someone to come calmly alongside and lend them strength, and they thrive with Jesus people advising them.

Care Net of Puget Sound strives to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (Jas 1:22): Care Net clients will hear the message of salvation in our centers, and they will also witness salvation in action. Below are the stories of two clients who have heard and seen the Gospel at Care Net (names have been changed to protect their privacy.)

Cassidy was in considerable distress when she came in for a pregnancy test. This was not what she planned, and she was so stricken by fear that she could barely eat or sleep. A volunteer client advocate listened to her concerns, helped her process the ramifications of pregnancy, shared information about available resources, and prayed for her silently and aloud. After Cassidy’s positive pregnancy test, she scheduled an ultrasound, where she was able to clearly see the life growing in her womb. When she returned for a second ultrasound, Cassidy’s countenance had improved so dramatically that she did not look like the same young woman. She had come to terms with her decision to carry her pregnancy, despite the father’s objections and family pressure to abort. Even with these difficulties, Cassidy was overflowing with gratitude, “Every time I leave here, I feel so much better than when I came. You are all so wonderful and uplifting!”

Cassidy has undergone a transformation, and her baby will live – all because she witnessed the love of Jesus in action. As Care Net continues to support her through childbirth and parenting classes, our prayer is that Cassidy will enter into relationship with Jesus Christ and be a witness to others of His life-changing mercy and love.

Renee is a young expectant mother who did not grow up in the United States. She felt financially stressed and anxious about raising a child in a culture she herself did not completely understand. Renee took full advantage of parenting classes with a Care Net advisor. As she and her husband worked their way through the parenting curriculum, which includes Bible Study, they earned Care Net Cash to spend in the Baby Boutique, which is well stocked with pregnancy and baby supplies – items donated by Care Net supporters. Renee testifies, “My Care Net experience was beyond my expectations. I learned how to love and care for my baby. My relationship with my husband has improved as we took classes together and grew in confidence as parents.” May God work in Renee to help her connect the spirit of peace and generosity she experienced at Care Net with the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

Renewal Food Bank, Sharing Dignity and Respect

default-logoby Rich Bowen, Director

What I’ve learned after seventeen years as the director of the Renewal Food Bank is that every family that comes to us has a story. No matter what circumstances first bring them here, what I have found to be most important is how they are first received. Making them feel welcomed and respected will go a long way in easing the stress and often the humiliation they feel in having to enter a food bank. I want to share two of those stories of families that we have served.

Maria first came to the food bank around 2011. She had heard about us from her sister who was also a client of Renewal. She would come regularly every week, and always by herself. She is married and has two children. She was always appreciative for the food she received, and would thank us each week. We came to learn from Maria that her husband was an auto mechanic who had been out of work for some time. He would get part-time work off and on but nothing full time that would cover the family’s needs. Maria shared with us that her husband was opposed to her using a food bank. She said he was too proud to have his family come to a food bank. For the welfare of her family she decided they needed the help we offered. Maria is one of the few stories for which we are allowed to witness an end to our ministry to her family. In the spring of last year, her husband got a full time job as a mechanic! Maria has not needed the assistance of Renewal since last year.

My second story is about Anna. Anna came to the United States in the early 1990’s. She and her husband emigrated from Russia. At the time of their arrival to the US, both Anna and her husband were in their early sixties. They had emigrated here because they had two adult children who lived in the Seattle area. They moved into a government-subsidized apartment in Bellevue. Their total income was about $1,000 per month! They began using the food bank soon after we opened in 1998. The food they received from us was vital. It helped supplement what food they could afford to purchase. Anna’s husband passed away about eight years ago. She still lives in the same small apartment and now nearly eighty years old, she still drives to our food bank every week.

With the great majority of our clients we never know the outcome of our work. Many families come and go. Those we no longer see, we can only hope their situation has improved and that is why we no longer see them. All we can do is minister to them by not only meeting their physical need for food but try and meet their emotional need of being treated with dignity and respect each time they come through our doors.

A Theology of Resources: The Kingdom Value of “the Ask”

Steve Bury, Executive Director for Urban Impact in Seattle, presented a Theology of Resources to those gathered for their Fall Celebration event. Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach, and team members Kris Bennett and Julie Brunings, were glad to attend, and suggested we share Steve’s ideas with our mission community.

Steve shared that his thinking around “the ask” has been evolving into this goal: to develop a consistent message to our greater community–whether materially poor or wealthy–to provide a biblical basis and framework for our work in community development and resource development that brings glory to God and transformation to His people.

Around this goal, Urban Impact has developed the following questions:

Who is God?
Who are we?
How should we live?
How should we work?

They were led to four commitments that Urban Impact believes about God, and everything they do flows from them. Steve was gracious to send his notes to me (Mary) and I’ll share them here:

Four Foundational commitments:

  1. God is relational. Beginning with the Trinity, that dance between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we see throughout Biblical history even to this present day a loving God pursuing us to be in relationship with Him. This culminated with Jesus leaving the glory of heaven and moving into the neighborhood. When Jesus returned to heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, and to reveal God’s truth and His kingdom to earth. 2 Corinthians 5 lays out His message of reconciliation and call us to be His ambassadors.

A key foundation of Urban Impact is this commitment to reconciling our relationship with God, self, others and creation. We work knowing that Christ has brought reconciliation to all four relationships (God, self, others, and creation). Therefore, we are to nurture, honor and steward these four relationships in a way that honors God and is in alignment with His purposes. These broken relationships are what causes poverty, individual and systemic generational poverty, social, material, and spiritual poverty. We work to break these cycles and build hope in all these areas.

  1. God is creator and owner of all creation. We believe everything was created by God and for God’s purposes. Our sin caused brokenness in our relationship with God; it also broke creation and our relationship with creation. God continues to work toward redeeming us relationally and to see His creation, His Kingdom, healed and brought here on earth. Colossians lays out Christ’s supremacy and His work to restore all things unto Himself. We are committed to combating our American culture of ownership, which impacts every area of our lives, with this foundational truth that God is owner of all and all our work should point back to Him and bring Him glory.

We are committed to Living only under God’s Kingdom. Our culture tempts us to live in dual kingdoms, God’s and our own, but that does not work. We cannot serve two masters.  We live knowing that this earth and possessions will fade away. Therefore we will seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, listening to God’s voice so that we may obey His commands.  We seek this for our entire community: our families, neighbors, staff board, volunteers and giving partners.

  1. God is provider. We believe God is the sole provider of all things, including our possessions, our finances, our families, and our ministry. There is so much laid out in scripture showing how God provides for His people and His work. He provides for what He directs. We see the importance of fighting our tendencies to rely on ourselves, on our expectations of others, and on our resources as the source for our hope and security.  Instead we live our lives full of trust, understanding that God is our Provider.

God entrusts us to steward all that He has provided. God is owner; our role is to be His stewards. This is a very different way than most of us have been living. We see God’s provision as ours and then give Him back a little through our benevolence and good will. Our commitment is to see it all as God’s, and to respond by listening to Him and asking Him not just “what do you want me to give?” but “how do you want me to steward all that You have given to me?”  We surrender all wealth and resources under His authority, living a life of freedom in stewardship. 

  1. God is generous. The final foundational truth that we are committed to, is that God is generous. His nature is generous; we see this in creation, in His redemptive grace and giving His own Son, to His ongoing provision for His people. He continues to give abundantly out of all His resources. We look to God as the ultimate example of generosity and recognize Him as the Giver of all good gifts.

We are called to similar generously as a form of worship and obedience to God. Modeling God we are called to be generous stewards with what He provides.  He provides for us so that we can enjoy and share His resources in community.  He calls us to be cheerful givers, and to take risks, reach out and share everything in a radical way. Acts 4 describes this new church in a powerful way: “The gospel was being proclaimed, grace was abounding, people were so committed to Jesus and this new community that they did not consider their possessions as their own, but sold land to provide for each other.” As a result, “there was no poor among them.” This was a radical generosity that was contagious and powerful. This scripture has become a rally cry for us, and we dream of this being said of our churches and the Urban Impact community. Wouldn’t it be exciting if that is how all our churches and communities were known?!

 

Where have you experienced God’s radical generosity in your life?

Where do you feel challenged and/or invited to give radically in your community?

Praying with Purpose: Bellevue Police Prayer Partners

Hi! My name is Deneen Blake and I’ve been a part of Bellevue Police Prayer Partners (BP3) since 2007, praying for a Bellevue officer. Now that my daughters have both graduated from High School (what?!), I was looking for something new and am taking over leadership of this ministry. I am really looking forward to doing a re-fresh and getting new people signed up to support our officers in prayer.

Why BP3?  Remember that early wind storm that we had in late August? I was stuck in traffic, just wanting to get home to my safe, dry house and away from all of the leaves and branches hitting my car. I finally got up to a dark intersection where a police officer was standing in the middle of the road, being hit by all that flying debris and honked at by frustrated motorists and I realized…he was standing out there to get US all home as quickly and safely as possible. Talk about a thankless job!  I’m sure that members of this congregation honor the speed limits and, in any rare occasion where someone “accidentally” violated a traffic law and was caught, I’m certain that they were polite and respectful to the officer, but I understand that some other people are rather rude and hostile to them. 😉 Car3Police

These men and women see the people of Bellevue at their worst and most vulnerable, and try to treat everyone with respect. I wouldn’t want any of these officers to be out on patrol without their protective vests and I honestly believe that prayer support is as important for these first responders as their weapons and body armor.

First, I’m hoping that everyone who is currently praying for an officer will let me know, so that we can keep you up to date on any changes.  Second, I’m hoping that a lot of new people will join us! Last year alone, 20 officers retired or left the department and 30 new officers were hired. There are now about 180 officers, plus additional dispatchers and firefighters.  The first thing that I want to do is make sure that each of these first responders has at least one person that prays for them regularly.

I haven’t found it hard to do. Whenever I see a police car or hear a siren, I remember the officer that I pray for by name. I pray that he is safe and protected. I pray that he has insight and patience. I pray that he has courage and compassion, and I pray that God surrounds him with a strong support system of friends and family.

Thanks and I hope to hear from many of you soon.

To join BP3, please contact GetConnected.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Congregations for the Homeless Changes Lives

Emilio, like many people, lost everything in 2008, including his home. After spending six years as a restaurant manager on a cruise ship, Emilio returned to Seattle with little to his name. Fortunately, Emilio learned about the Congregations for the Homeless Emergency Winter Shelter where he stayed until he was able to enter the Year-Round Shelter program. Looking back, Emilio attributes much of his success to his relationship with his case manager: “He helped me face things from the past that are painful, but you have to get those skeletons out of the close to move forward.” Now, Emilio is a House Manager at one of CFH’s permanent houses, which requires him to take responsibility for the house and to create a sense of community for the men living there. He also works a full-time job at Nintendo.

Eric, another CFH client, is a current resident at the Year-Round Shelter. “I became homeless very suddenly,” he explained. “I never had this problem in my life. I always worked. I owned a condo.” After spending some time in a tent city, Eric knew he needed to find a new place to stay. The Year-Round Shelter was the perfect place for him. He shared, “This is really my spring board here. I started out at tent city over the summer, which is all fine and well, but there’s no resources there, no motivation. It’s just a place to stay, and nobody’s trying to get you work; no one is trying to get you to do anything.” He continued, “Here we have the resources, and the motivation, and the guys here are trying to improve their situation, so I’m surrounded by people who are trying to better themselves instead of people who are content with where they are. It is what you make it, and that’s why I’m really grateful to have this opportunity.”

CFH has been truly blessed by serving men like Emilio and Eric as they continue the mission of helping men move from homelessness to housing and well-being.

BelPres supported ministry Congregations for the Homeless continues to take an active role to end homelessness on the Eastside. This article was featured in the Bellevue It’s Your City publication. Find out ways to serve with Congregations for the Homeless at the Day Center in Downtown Bellevue or the Eastside Winter Shelter by contacting GetConnected.

Celebrating Becky Gonzalez

by Richard Leatherberry,  pastor for Mission

It is with gratitude and sadness that we say goodbye to Becky Gonzalez this month as our Global Outreach Director.  Over the last couple of months, Becky has sensed God’s strong call to something different and that she’d need to leave her position here before God would show her what was next.  Often, when God calls us to something, He asks us to “Go” before He shows us the what, where and how of His call.Becky meal packing

So, we celebrate Becky’s work here at BelPres.  Over the last 3 ½ years,  Becky has established strong relationships with our ministry partners, engaged more people from BelPres in Global Missions than ever before, and improved our Impact Team model .

Becky’s innovative and creative approach to missions developed a multi-church partnership to respond to the Oso mudslide, raising over $100,000 for churches there to help victims of the mudslide.  Additionally, Becky worked with Family Life Ministries and created opportunities for children, youth and families to engage in mission like Child Sponsorship Sunday.  Now over 150 children from around the world are being sponsored. 150 families from BelPres have a child somewhere else in the world for whom they pray and give financial support.  As a result, these kids have a new hope and a future because they are getting enough food to eat, going to school and experiencing Jesus.

Becky also helped create a food packing event for children and families here at BelPres to learn about poverty in Sierra Leone and participate in God’s greater work in the world. Last year thousands of meals were packed in our community center, then shipped to the Sierra Leone.

Becky has been a great blessing to me personally and to the global outreach of our church.  Becky leaves for a short vacation on Oct 22 and then will be back in the office Nov 1-5 before flying to Rwanda to help Jean McAllister move back home from Rwanda.  Please join me in thanking Becky for her service here.  Pray for her in this journey she is on and consider sending her a note or email expressing your thanks and appreciation for her ministry here.

Well done good and faithful servant!  Well done!
-Pastor Rich

Fireside Knitters = Cozy Missionaries Among Us!

The Fireside Knitters gather every Thursday from 9:00 to Noon.  While it’s true that they are sitting and knitting, they are also reaching out to the Eastside and the World through their efforts.  They are busy creating beautiful lap robes, mittens, wristlets, hats and scarves. This group of women of all ages gather the first and third Thursdays of each month, in the Fireside room adjacent to the main lobby at BelPres.

If you stop in for a quick visit, you will hear more than knitting needles clicking at a fast pace! You will hear conversation between lifelong friends and newcomers; stories of family celebrations and prayer requests; and information on how to learn a new pattern or stitch. Fireside Knitters creations can be found gracing heads, hands, necks and laps of many vulnerable populations both locally and around the world!

Whether it is lap robes for persons who are homebound, hats and mittens for elementary kids across the mountains in eastern Washington, baby blankets for families in Guatemala – this group is committed to serving those in need, both locally and globally. Anyone is welcome to join in, no matter what their level of knowledge or skill. If you want to learn to knit or crochet, and see your creations be used by God, the ladies are happy to show you how to do it! Yarn is supplied, as needed, as well as patterns, knitting needles or crochet hooks. Be the crafting hands of Jesus for a world in need. Stop by for a visit, or come on in and sit for a bit; the Fireside Knitters will teach you what you want to learn while sharing life with you by the fire.

Come knit with us! 

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Contact information for ministry opportunities.
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Finding home and a hope: Jared’s Eastside Academy Story

Jared had always struggled with school, and as a result, he simply didn’t attend. His home was filled with so much dysfunction that he was never taught the most basic of life-skills.  He arrived at Eastside Academy scared and unsure of his desire to stay.  A small Christian school seemed daunting: there might be no place to hide.   And then, almost as soon as he started, he found out that Eastside Academy hosts a two-day fall retreat for all of their students, he was really unsure of what lay ahead. However, he quickly learned that this retreat provided him with opportunities he had never dreamed of.

They were going to l10408809_10152713425601445_6823308324329766019_net him ride a motorcycle for the first time?   The staff were willing to jump in and get shot up playing paintball alongside the students?  (Guess who won?)   Each person got hoisted into a crazy ropes course and cheered each other along.   Students formed teams and performed ski
ts by a fire pit late at night.  And then, a “chaplain” talked about Jesus in a different way.  Jesus…present in Jared’s suffering.  Jesus…a steady voice in the darkness.  Jared began to realize for the first time that he was surrounded by people who deeply value him and want him to succeed.  He found a place where he could be himself.

Eastside Academy serves teens that other programs cannot or will not serve and serves them in a unique way.  They provide youth with an education, addiction recovery, mental health counseling, housing, mentors, and alumni support. Twice a year, all students are taken on retreats in order for them to build relationships, have new experiences, get to know one another, and hear about Jesus.  Eastside Academy partners with the community to serve at-risk youth, through events such as their upcoming Dinner and Live Auction being held October 17, at the Meydenbauer Center.  Additionally, they are looking for volunteers serve as mentors to these students, providing youth with healthy relationships that can be life-changing. For students like Jared, being paired with a mentor can make the all the difference.

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

 

 

Bridge Disabilities: A Short Story

This sweet, true story brought to you by our friends at the Meyer Mobility Center:

A group of young men came into Bridge Disabilities’ Meyer Mobility Center a week ago. Forced to flee their home country, one of the men had been severely injured, and was in need of a hospital bed and a wheelchair. As they were new to the US, the men were limited in their knowledge of English. Through gestures, expressions, lots of looking back and forth between the friends, we were all able to figure out exactly what they needed.

The young, injured man needed an improved hospital bed and a power wheel chair to make life easier. He knew it; his eyes said so. Our cost to refurbish the equipment far exceeded the amount of money they had (mostly from one of their church sponsors). There was much back and forth discussion and gesturing between the friends as they tried to problem solve and find a solution.

In the end, it didn’t matter to Gerry, our center’s supervisor. He knew what he had to do, trusting that God would find a way to allow Bridge to help this young man. Happy and grateful that we were able to outfit the young man with equipment that would help him immensely, our good Meyer Mobility Center folks went about serving the woman next in line. The woman had patiently and graciously waited her turn, and had seen and heard the exchanges of the group of men. What happened next completely blew us away! She blessed us with a generous donation to Bridge, completely covering the cost of the equipment for the injured young man!

Angels are among us. Truly there are, and we’ve seen so, so many.

Auto Angels Car Show–Making Memories

The Auto Angels Car Show, September 19 here at Bellevue Presbyterian Church’s lower parking lot, is a do-not-miss fun experience for the whole family!  The super cool folks at Auto Angels take a “brake” from helping get folks back on the road to make the car show a real party.  There’s always something new to see, as well as some very extraordinary cars.

This year there will be model cars for kids to assemble, and Microsoft video game races to play, as well as a raffle and vote for your favorite car!  Bring the family, enjoy the lunch available through Brief Encounter cafe, and soak up the carnival ambiance.

For my family, with our three sons, the annual Auto Angels Car Show has become a family tradition.  Husband and I enjoy looking for the oldest and most unique vehicles in the show.  There’s always something to learn about the history of automobiles and automobiling in the fun plaques that the owners develop for their cars.

While Dad and the oldest wander around appreciating Shelby’s work on classic Mustangs and imagining themselves in every Ferarri on the lot, usually loitering around the Lamborghinis in the hopes that the owner will rev up the engine,  the middle and younger sons always want to play Forza at the Microsoft display, and enjoy the games.  As they get older, the younger two have become more interested in the cars, as well.

The big highlight for all of the boys every year is the gorgeous new Kenworth semi-truck that somehow makes an appearance.  They look forward to getting up in that massive cab, pretending to drive, and imagining what it would be like to live in such a tiny space while travelling the country.  It gives the imagination scope, that big truck does.

Our family won’t miss the Auto Angels Car Show this year, nor should yours!  9am to 3pm, September 19, it’s the only place to be!

BelPres Youth Make New Friends Among Seattle’s Homeless Adults

On a hot Saturday afternoon in June, BelPres high school youth and leaders piled into two vans and headed into downtown Seattle. Our plan was to park close to the Pioneer Square Park, where people experiencing homeless congregate. For the past year BelPres youth have been learning about homelessness in our area through serving at Mary’s Place, Congregations for the Homeless, and the Denver mission trip. On this outing, led by BelPres Interim Director for Youth Ministries, our focus was all about interacting with homeless persons, learning about their lives and praying with them. We began with a walking tour of the area, stopping by Bread of Life Mission and Compass House. Afterwards, we broke up into small groups; Daniel gave each group $20 to spend as we felt led in serving a person who was homeless.

My group consisted of four girls who are going on the Bolivia mission trip with me. We walked to the park and surveyed the area. How could we feed the maximum amount of people with our $20? We decided on pizza cut in smaller slices, but the pizza store was closed. Then we spied a Subway across the way and decided to get three foot-long subs cut in quarters – enough for 12 people. With the subs purchased, we walked over to the park.

As a leader and a mom, I was a little bit cautious about our first engagement. Closest to us were a few men on some park benches smoking weed, but I didn’t feel that was the best place for the girls to start. We noticed a couple sitting on a different bench and asked if we could sit with them. “Jenny” was hearing impaired, and her boyfriend, “Dave,” helped us all to have a conversation. Dave shared that it was Jenny’s birthday, and her eyes lit up when we offered her a sandwich. We asked about their life and what they liked about the area. Dave shared that he lived in one shelter, and she lived in another. After chatting a bit, we asked if we could pray with them. Dave’s eyes brightened and he said, “Yes! And I would like to pray for you.” We held hands and he prayed for us, thanking God for the food and for our small group’s willingness to spend time with them. We prayed for them, Jenny’s birthday celebration and thanking God for their faith and trust in Him.

As we got up to leave, we noticed a violin case next to them. Dave said he played the violin, and wanted to play a birthday song for Jenny, but a piece had broken off and he didn’t have money for glue. The girls looked at each other and said, “We can get some glue!” Two girls walked across the street to a convenience store for the glue while the rest of us stayed and continued to chat. Soon the girls returned and gave Dave the glue. He was thrilled to be able to repair his violin and play Jenny her song.

As we walked around for the next hour, passing out sandwiches and talking with men and women experiencing homelessness, our hearts were filled. We heard stories of brokenness, stories of hope, stories of lives that, from the outside, seemed lost and worthless, but on the inside were filled with faith and trust in God. We offered prayer and were prayed for. We asked for advice and were told: stay in school, trust in God, and keep on going. On a hot June day, we were refreshed by the Holy Spirit’s presence in the park.

After an hour in the park, our larger group of youth and leaders gathered at Subway for a cool drink, and debriefed our experiences. Over and over again, our young people talked about how joyful their time had been. Each small group had fed people, learned about their lives, and came away with a deeper understanding of God. Most shared that they would love to come down to the park again, to bring food, talk and pray. We had found God in the park in the lives of our homeless brothers and sisters. Tired and sweaty, we loaded into the vans with full hearts and a deeper understanding of what it means to serve the Lord in ways that are simple and impactful.

Serving our homeless brothers and sisters is not complicated. It doesn’t take a lot of money or time; it doesn’t require us to change our lives or move to an apartment downtown. Any day of the week, any of us can take a couple of hours to head downtown, grab a few sandwiches and hang out at the park. We can invite someone living on the streets to have lunch with us, and we can hear their story and pray for them. And in the end, our lives will be changed – for the better!

How have you interacted with people who are different than you? Can you imagine having lunch with a homeless person and learning about their life? What is God saying to you in this article?

Eastside Academy Seniors: Nick’s Story

Over the next few weeks, BelPres Missions will be sharing stories of the nine seniors scheduled to graduate from Eastside Academy this June. Here is Nick’s story.

Nick
Eastside Academy Senior: Nick

 

I was eight years old the first time I used drugs, that’s what started my addiction. I heard about Eastside Academy a few years later, and automatically thought I would never attend a school like that. My friends at the time were heavily into drugs, and I never felt they were really my friends unless I had access to drugs. I had a horrible relationship with my family. I disrespected them and was always running away.

During my third stint in treatment my parents enrolled me at Eastside Academy. I was resistant to EA at first and I eventually ended up back in treatment, but then I finally realized that this is the place I want to be. Being at Eastside Academy makes me want to stay sober. I’m always around other people who want to stay sober and we all work on that together. For the first time in my life, I’m excited to go to class every day. I have good relationships with my teachers and see them as my friends. Right now, I’m living in the boys Re:New home. I really like it because the people I live with help me talk out my problems and hold me accountable. I recently talked to a friend about our school, and told him we are like a family here. People around you help you a lot and we all share a common goal to stay sober. He is now enrolled and attending EA.

In the end, it’s entirely my decision whether or not I want to recover from addiction. I am very happy to be attending this school to help me do that.

One Year Memorial of the Oso Mudslide

By Becky Gonzalez, Global Outreach Director 
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Remembering
At 10:37am on March 22 we mark the one-year memorial of the Oso mudslide that took 43 lives. This week there are several community events surrounding remembering the lives lost and the community impacted by this disaster. Events listed below.
• Mar 20: Darrington, Oso, and Arlington ministers have coordinated “Gathering in Hope” in memorial of the mudslide.
• Mar 21: A fundraiser evening will be held at the Rhodes River Ranch.
• Mar 22: Hwy 530 will be shut down for 3 hours and Washington State will host a public event for the families affected.

The Church’s Response
In the weeks following the event, a movement emerged of churches reaching out and sacrificially giving to a cause they believed it. More than 30 churches responded by sending a united message of hope to the individuals and communities affected through the Arlington Ministerial Association, a group of churches serving that region. In total, over $160,000 was raised in a matter of weeks and sent directly to the Association churches. This funding was given to the Church, from the Church, with the message that they are not alone in their suffering. This support was meant to empower the local churches, which would be active participants long after the news media left, to have a place at the table in discussion about relief and recovery efforts. Mission accomplished.

Medal of Valor
On March 18, “…a grateful state will pay tribute to those three communities and the tribe ‘in honor of outstanding acts of valor, risk of injury and death, and personal sacrifice in assisting in rescue, recovery and relief efforts’…Volunteers worked tirelessly and selflessly to help friends and neighbors in their hour of peril and helped their communities come together and heal.” Source here. This week, our friends from the Arlington Ministerial Association joined the Mayor of Arlington and others in traveling to Olympia to receive the State Medal of Valor, followed by a reception at the Governor’s Mansion. These churches shared with us that the prayers, concern, and financial gifts from over 30 churches played a significant role and led to such an honor for these communities.

The letter below is from a pastor in Arlington who has been very closely connected to the relief and recovery efforts and he shares some of the challenges. It has not been easy and there are complexities to providing this type of help. He expresses gratitude and honor to be walking alongside these communities this year and for the years to come.

To Him be the Glory. Amen.

___

Dear Becky,
Thank you for checking in. I am actively involved in the weekly meetings that take place every Thursday at the Rhodes River Ranch in Oso. There will be a “Gathering in Hope” event to be held in Darrington on March 20 at 7pm. 

In our naiveté, all of us (the government agencies, the mayor of Arlington and the pastors of the region) thought we would have completed the process of dispersing resources. The processes have been quite slow because there are ramifications and implications in giving finances to people. Let me give a few examples:
• If a family is on welfare, will a large gift push them off of welfare and assistance programs?
• In the initial months any monies families received will be deducted from a legal settlement from the government to each family.
• The uniqueness of this disaster was that loss of belongings and land was complete. In most events, even if the house is destroyed, you still have the land to build on. In this case, land is a complete loss never to be built on again.
• Losses of vehicles in the mudslide, for example, were not covered by insurance since the slide was considered an Act of God.
• If a bank or escrow decided to forgive debt for house and land, it is regarded as income and taxes are still owing. A forgiven debt of $300,000 would leave people with a $100,000 bill and nothing to show for it.

Here are a couple of needs we have made to date:
• At Christmastime we purchase gifts for about five families comprising about 25 people.
• A number of cars that survived have been paid off.
• A young man was able to enter an in-patient mental health program for 40 days.
• Make repairs to equipment used in the initial response of people who sought to rescue any survivors.
• Paid moving and living expenses for some who have moved out of the area because of the trauma.

At the end of this month I will have our accountant print out an exhaustive accounting of the dispersing of funds and known funds about to be sent out.

The one-year anniversary is about to be remembered and even today (Feb 26) people have for the first time stepped forward requesting help. The emotional, spiritual, and financial strains pressed on families are varied and different and each individual/family responds at their own pace. We certainly understand this, but with such a large loss of life and property, the dynamics of grief are further intensified. Likely we will be involved in this process for a couple more years! At the beginning, we all would have thought we would have completed our responsibilities within 6 months! We are all honored to serve in the capacity we each hold!

Acres of Diamonds Provides Hope for Women

Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
Homeless women are finding hope and developing critical life skills at Acres of Diamonds, an outreach ministry supported by BelPres.
While the name may puzzle you, Acres of Diamonds — or “Acres” for short — is a transitional housing organization that operates on large piece of property in Duvall. With a house and apartment complex, it can accommodate up to 16 homeless women and their children.
Acres of Diamonds takes each woman on “The Path to Graduation” which helps her rebuild a solid foundation for independent living. At Acres, each woman receives personal counseling. Staff and volunteers also provide parenting and budgeting workshops, employment coaching, tutoring and other services.
Acres is also distinctly dedicated to helping women learn to walk with God, and ensures that each woman has a home church community and attends a regular Bible study either onsite or within their community. Uplifting Kids, the children’s program for residents, also provides an introduction to Jesus and opportunities for relationships with tutors and mentors who encourage the children in life and school.
While Acres has experienced some challenges in recent years, it is now moving forward. Jen Paddock, former BelPres Community Outreach Director, became the organization’s executive director a year ago and sees God clearly at work in the life of Acres. Volunteers are vital to the operations at Acres Diamonds—working on projects, providing supplies, being a mentor, tutor or child care giver—all help the ministry expand and enrich its programs to the women and children. Jen says volunteers and community organizations have rallied around the ministry, enabling it expand and enrich its programs to both women and children. A number of area churches, notably Timberlake Church and BelPres, have come alongside Acres to provide vital support.
You and your friends can learn more about Acres of Diamonds at their spring fundraising event on March 7 at Efeste Winery. Come nibble gourmet pizza, sip a glass a wine, and hear what God is doing at Acres. Click here to sign up online!

Congregations for the Homeless

By Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach

Two home-schooled girls took it upon themselves to knit 40 hats for the Congregations for the Homeless men who were housed at BelPres all December! Once the hats were finished, the girls put them into white gift boxes with clear plastic tops. The men were able to choose a hat that fit their style (!) and were incredibly blessed by the gift of these sweet young girls. The girls were able to pull in a few of their friends to assist in the knitting, and thoroughly enjoyed their project. Praise the Lord for these wonderful young people who so sweetly gave of their time, talent and treasure to bring the warmth of Christ’s love through such a practical gift.

What If…?

By Rich Leatherberry, Associate Pastor for Mission

I met a guy named Dan who has been taking Jesus’s command to love his neighbor seriously. You probably remember the story about the religious leader who asked Jesus what the most important commandment was. Jesus told him; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Mark 12:29-31. 

Most of us interpret Jesus’s command to love our neighbor metaphorically. So we discuss our metaphorical neighbors. And we pray for our metaphorical neighbors.  But the truth about metaphoric neighbors is that they are just so, well, they are metaphorical. They symbolize people we never meet, or talk with, or get to know. 

What if we took Jesus’s command seriously and actually loved the real neighbors next to us? What if we made it a point to learn the name of every neighbor we share a fence with or who lives across the street from us? What if we intentionally got to know them and their families? What if we cared enough to learn what makes them glad and what makes them sad?

Well Dan decided to take Jesus seriously and started to get to know his neighbors. One of his neighbors, named Ken, managed a mobile home park. Ken told Dan that the homes in the park were run down and needed significant repairs. But the people living there couldn’t afford to pay for the repairs, and the owners of the park didn’t have the money to repair the homes either. So Ken felt helpless and desperate because there wasn’t anything he could do about it. When Dan heard Ken talk about this and saw how it hurt Ken, Dan decided to help. So he recruited a whole bunch of volunteers and organized a day where they all showed up and fixed everything that was broken or run down. Dan’s crew repaired and stained decks, painted walls, fixed railings, patched roofs and installed new plumbing. They raised all the money they needed for the work and they got it all done in one day. The people in the Mobile Home Park were totally surprised that anyone would do this for them. Ken couldn’t believe it either and was really, really thankful for his neighbor Dan. 

One of the coolest things though was what happened after the work day. Some of the volunteers asked Dan when they could do it again. One thing led to another and they started a group called the Neighborhood Rehab Project. You can find them on line at www.beatool.org. That’s right. Be a tool. And when you check out their website you can either “Be a Tool” or “Donate a Tool” or let them know “I Need a Tool”. You can also watch the video of this story.

It all started when Dan decided to really love his neighbor, initiated a conversation and learned managing a rundown mobile home park broke Ken’s heart. So Dan rallied some friends, raised some money, and had a great adventure that transformed a bunch of people into tools. And now they have great friendships and are changing their neighborhood. 

We may not all start a new organization. But really loving your neighbor is a great way to start an adventure and show God’s love. 

So what are your neighbor’s names? What makes them mad, sad and glad? What story is God writing with the relationships you have with your neighbors?

Smile Power

By Elizabeth Hayford, Director of Missions Administration

Recently I was challenged to be intentional about smiling for a whole week.  Although not a difficult task for me, I embraced fully the idea to actually stop, smile and acknowledge someone else.  From the gym to the grocery store to my co workers and family, I embraced the opportunity to devote 3 to 5 seconds to share a friendly smile.

In my normal routine, I often seek ways to be in solitude and introverted.  Spending much of my day answering phones and greeting people, I often crave the times I can just go through the motions of every day stuff and avoid contact.  But this week I had to look up, make eye contact and genuinely smile.  A week to step a little out of myself and be part of what was around me. 

What I found was a confirmation that we like to be connected to each other even in a brief way.  I liked how the reaction I received was appreciative and warm and not taken aback or annoyed.  Even with my own teenager, the presence of my own smile brought on a few more smiles from her! 

I also liked the way a smile opened the door to say a few words.  I work out with an early crowd at the gym each morning between 5 and 6am.  This smile experiment gave me the chance to connect in a place where we mostly look past each other.  Instead it was this affirmation of presence in the early morning that led to a few “good mornings,” and a small conversation with one of the regulars.  I now know he has to encourage himself out of bed as much as I do.  And I know the woman at the desk struggles with mornings, too, but has a new car that makes the drive to work easier.  So, nothing life changing in making a new relationship, but there is a beginning of a sense of community for me.  And the cool thing was that thinking about that smile just made me smile more and longer.

That was the discovery that has stayed with me.  That idea of community.  We all long to be independent, to guard our freedom and privacy. And yet, there is a sense of wanting to find a connection, a small identification with someone else that lets you know that you are noticed.  And isn’t that so true? No matter if we are in sweaty gym clothes, casual hang out clothes, or our Sunday best, we want to find that person who offers a smile, affirms our presence and maybe even says, “hi.”

I encourage you, especially as we approach the holiday season, to try out the smile challenge and look at someone and give them your best toothy grin.  Who knows what this may do for someone else.  Not to mention you. 

Will YOU take the Smile Challenge?

Rain or Shine or DOWNPOURS!

This is the view from the garage last Saturday during the Auto Angels Car Clinic and passing Eastside storm. Our Auto Angels ministry stays hard at work each Saturday serving those in our community who need help with their cars—minor repairs, inspections and referrals. And they provide great hospitality to all those waiting for their turn. The Auto Angels have been “changing oil and changing lives” since 2005. They are always open to new volunteers and visitors to their Saturday clinics. Stop by the garage one Saturday and check with one of the guys and see all the activity happening to serve others. It’s nice and dry in there! You can find out more about the Auto Angels at  www.autoangels.org