Kairos- God is Moving

23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24 In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing[a] on the earth. 25 The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”  Isaiah 19:23-25 (NIV)

We set out Friday morning for Beirut, but our missionaries warned us not to come because of public rioting. We flew over most of Europe with two connections as God didn’t just change our plans; He wrecked them. It’s a humbling lesson in who is in charge and whose mission this is anyway.We finally got off the plane in Athens 23 hours after our departure from Seattle.

The first stop was Areopagus, a smoothed rock formation in a grove of olive trees and at the base of the Acropolis. Paul addressed the crowds in Acts 17 here. What a blessing to worship at a nearby Afghan church, started by and ministering to refugees. After the service, we met privately with the local missionaries who shared how they are raising up Christian refugee leaders to lead the new believers. These people are on the front lines! Praying over them brought tears to many of us.
At an Iranian Evangelical Church, we met privately with an Iranian refugee in Greece illegally and homeless living outside an Orthodox church for nearly 20 years. An intelligent carpenter who speaks numerous languages, he described a dangerous life on the streets, with no help from the government. He is angry, hopeless, and not a believer, pushing back hard on the value of prayer to have any impact on his life. We left him with broken hearts, wondering what we could do to help him. We stopped on the sidewalk and prayed for him.

The evening found us in Victoria Square, a destination for many refugees when they first arrive. Previously, it was filled with refugees sleeping and living in the park. Now, police are present because human trafficking is happening, mostly of young boys. Refugees linger there, with nothing else to do but wait the three year period for their paperwork to go through.

The next day, we faced the reality that it is not safe for us to go to Beirut, so we asked God to show his plan for us here in Athens. He provided a “chance” meeting with a refugee from Iran who lost literally everything to follow Christ and an inspiring time with the leader of a flourishing nonprofit that serves thousands of refugees and sees God show up daily to perform amazing miracles. We left with the overwhelming and unmistakable feeling that we had been on holy ground.

At Good Samaritan the next day, we spent time with the children of mothers classes learning English and other skills. A welcoming place for women and children refugees (Iranians, Afghans, Syrians, and Africans) providing various services. Many of the children loved conversing in very good English and taking photos with us. We prayed for an Iranian employee who shared his heartbreaking and astonishing story. We laid hands on him for protection, safety, and his strength while he brings others to Christ. The prayers coming out of our team members were straight from God. He started to shake and dropped to his knees as the Holy Spirit filled this man up along with us and the room we were in.

The following day, we traveled about an hour outside of Athens to help our host lead the conference teaching the biblical view of marriage and parenting to mostly Iranian refugees, knowing that they have in many different cultural practices. In our free time, the men and women played a lively game of dodgeball. This was something that would never happen in Iran, our mission partner told us. Amazing things happen when the Holy Spirit is at work, and we respond to the guidance given.
The heartache from more stories of the pain of being a refugee separated from parents and other relatives and not having the dignity of caring for their families well themselves. Many are still separated from wives and children. Please pray for the Lord of us all to continue revealing himself to them in any way he pleases to do so.

God is on full display in Rwanda

It has been nearly a year and a half since my two-week stay in Rwanda. There’s no doubt it was transformative and life-changing. When time allows distance from an impactful experience, I can discern more keenly what God was doing with me and the lasting transformation He has brought into my life through that experience.

Reflecting on what it meant to join BelPres’ mission team to Rwanda, three primary emphases struck me. First, top of mind, are the people I developed friendships within Rwanda. As an example, Jado – our cook at the AEE guest house – caringly provided delicious food daily and authentically was interested and concerned for what we did and who we are.

Along with so many others, Jado embodies the second emphasis – the relentless commitment of hospitality displayed by our hosts. Sharing a meal in a community leader’s home, being welcomed into a traditional village celebration, we were always esteemed with respect and honor. At times, I was a bit uncomfortable, perhaps feeling not deserving. It reflected the open hearts of a people whose chief commitment is to love God and all neighbors.

My final reflection about my mission experience: God is on full display in Rwanda. Everywhere you turn, people demonstrate their obvious affection for Jesus. All ages dance in joy, sing with strength, and live their commitments to Christ publicly – a stark contrast to a passive reserve that shrouds our faith in America. Forever changed by Rwanda, I continuously pray that God will provide more: more sustainable support for the youth of Rwanda, more hospitality and expressiveness in my faith, and more opportunities for our community to travel to Rwanda to experience firsthand the love of God through the global mission.

Jesus For All

She sat across the table from me, her young sons flanking her, one on her left and one on her right. Seven days earlier they had given everything they had left to a man in Turkey to take them to Athens. The journey took them through the forest, along a muddy path by the river, evading fences, wild animals and border guards. They traveled at night and hid during the day. On the fourth day, they ran out of food. On the seventh day, they arrived in Athens, cold, wet, dirty, hungry and with no possessions. She had no one to turn to for help and no place to go. But then someone told her about a church, which was helping refugees, so she went there. They welcomed her and found her a place to stay in an old unheated building. Now she was sitting across from me to receive a free meal. I, along with a small team from

Seattle, had come to serve her and the nearly one hundred other refugees who were there that day. As she told me her story, her hands shook uncontrollably. She didn’t know if it was the cold weather or the trauma she had been through which caused the shaking.

Her story was that after a few years of marriage, her husband began to beat her regularly. Several times he made arrangements to loan her to his friends for a price. Finally, she had enough. She got brave and divorced him. At first, he didn’t want anything to do with her or the boys. So he gave them to her. But then he changed his mind and asked his friends to help him kill her. So she fled and left her country out of fear for her life. First, she went to Turkey. But when they told her they were going to send her back, she found the man who took her to Athens. “Today,” she said, “I am going to apply for my papers from the government.” These papers would allow her boys to go to school in Athens and permit her to work. But documents like this, she lamented, could take several months and sometimes up to a year to receive. After we ate, I gathered our group around her and prayed for her and her boys. Then she left.

The next day, we came again to serve meals. There she was, sitting at a different table, a big beautiful smile foretelling the announcement she was about to make. She had received her papers! But Jesus goodness and love was not unnoticed. Her oldest son explained that the reason why this happened was that we had prayed to our God! And like so many Muslims before them, who have fled their countries in the Middle East, this mother and her two boys eventually committed their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Two months later, the pastor of the church we served in baptized them.

We are living in unprecedented times. We see the most significant turning of Muslims to faith in Christ since the birth of Islam. Coincidentally, Christians have been praying for Muslims to encounter the Risen Christ for over 30 years. Today’s movements are fueled by three decades of faithful prayers.

I am telling you this because May 6 marks the beginning of Ramadan for our Muslim neighbors and continues through June 4. Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims. I want to invite you to join with Christians all over the world in praying for them and using something called the “Muslim World Prayer Guide” to help you. The Prayer Guide will introduce you to specific Muslim people and places where they live, like Egypt, Malaysia, Turkey, and Sudan. You will read the stories of Muslims who have encountered Jesus and learn specific things to pray for during this holy month. You can pick up a copy of the “Muslim World Prayer Guide” in the lobby today or download a PDF version at www.30daysprayer.com. Join the movement.

Translation tidbit: Ifs, ands, or buts

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul bases his argument for the resurrection of the dead on the claim that God raised Jesus to life: “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12, NIV). As I begin to draft the CT notes for translators on this verse, I see a number of issues that require explanation, including how to understand Paul’s use of a rhetorical question, how to translate with active verbs (in languages where the passive verbs aren’t natural), and how to unpack the abstract noun “resurrection.”

But I start with the small things. In Greek, the verse begins with a conjunction that functions in different ways. In some contexts, it’s translated as “and,” which is not how it’s used in this verse. The NIV translates it here as “but,” a valid option since Paul is contrasting the proclamation known to the Corinthians—that Christ is risen—with the competing claim that there is no resurrection. Another valid way to translate the conjunction is “now,” since it introduces a new stage in Paul’s discourse on the resurrection.

Then there’s the Greek word translated “if.” In this verse, it’s introducing a fact. However, in some African languages, the word “if” can only signal uncertainty about whether or not a statement is true. So our CT notes must point out that it may be clearer to translate with a word meaning “since.” Although these are little words, they are important links in the chain of Paul’s logic. In some languages, the meaning will be clearest if translators use a structure more like that of the Good News Bible: “Now, since our message is that Christ has been raised from death, how can some of you say that the dead will not be raised to life?”

Christ is risen indeed! Thank you for remembering my CT teammates and me in your prayers as we work together to provide tools that translators in many African languages will use to bring the good news to their people.

 

Joseph Nyamutera brings reconciliation and healing in Rwanda

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

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

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

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

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

Imana Inguhe Umugieshu! (May God Bless You!)

Olive Branch After the Flood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch Seila’s Story

A Missionary’s Perspective: Family, Dating, and Courtship in Cambodia

Cambodian young adults

The following is a post written by long-term Cambodian missionary, Brian Maher. Read as he gently reminds us that family is a gift, and a family founded on love is a building block for a healthy society.

One evening while I was going to pick up my daughter from the University of Economics and Finance, I glanced at my watch and saw there was still a bit of time before she got out. So to kill time, I went to a nearby barber shop to have my hair shampooed. In the shop, there was a man in his mid-sixties getting his hair dyed, “Do you have a family?” he asked the female stylist. In Khmer culture sometimes people ask staff about their husbands or wives. “Family,” she said, “Yes, I used to have a family, but I divorced my husband.” The conversation went on and on, and I found out that young lady was twenty-four years old. I knew that this young lady had built her family on the foundation of arranged marriages.

Arranged marriages are still popular in the Khmer culture, especially in the provinces or in the countryside. However, in the city, most people are exposed to western cultural values and customs through globalization via various forms of media, so it seems that the younger generation prefers the practice of choosing their own partner for marriage.

Family is the cell of the society. If the cells have some problems, the whole society will also suffer. Before we talk about the happiness in a family, we should trace the Khmer word ‘family’ to the root word which means, “Father and Mother, I Love You.” Before starting a family, one has to decide to get married first. Before marriage one has to choose a partner. Before choosing a partner, one has to be in some kind of community. What criterion does one use in choosing someone to be their lifelong partner?  Based on what? Love, lust, social status (Hindu cast system), or economics? If we have wrong expectations or criteria, we will never be able to build a good and happy family at all. But rather, I tell you that love is a very important component for building a solid family unit.

During the civil war, which lasted from 1967-1975, Cambodia went through so many challenges and frustrations. The present society is the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge era. During this era, Cambodian couples were forced to get married in a common thatch cafeteria. They got married because of fear, not because of love. Most of the parents of young adults in today’s present society have gone through forced marriages.

“If I lived separately from my mother-in-law, I would not have divorced him at all,” the stylist continued. She let out a long sigh of despair before she continued to share her personal story. It is unusual to hear a young female stylist share her personal story to a customer in her shop like that. She must have really needed to share her grief with someone.

In Khmer culture, the groom has to come live at the bride’s house, and he has to put down a dowry for the bride’s parents. It implies that the groom must buy a wife. But in the Bible, God brought Eve to Adam as a gift. Adam did not pay anything, and his wife was a free gift from God.

The best gift that each parent can give to their children when they get married is independence from the cultural obligations of children to the parents. The best gift to them would be not interfering too much in their personal family business. Older Khmer people still want to live in an extended family situation, not so much in a nuclear family. When a son or daughter gets married, their priority is to their own family – parents have no business interfering in their decisions and choices. “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Gen 2:24)  The husband has to cut any links of unhealthy parental influences from both sets of parents and give full attention to the needs and health of the newlywed couple.

As you know, the family is the cell of the society. In Khmer Rouge time, they tried to destroy the family component. I remembered a saying from Confucius.

 

If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.

If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home.

If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.

If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

— Confucius

 

After Creation, God built the human race through a family. What is a family?  Family started with Adam and Eve. God brought Eve to Adam. That means Adam did not hunt down or choose a wife. He received a wife as a gift from God. But in the Khmer culture, the phrase ‘take a wife’ or ‘look for a wife’ can determine what happens in the future for the couple. Adam did not look for a wife. God knew he lived alone, and it was not easy, so He gave him a woman as his wife. If Adam looked for a wife on his own according to some faulty criteria, and she did not work out the way he liked, he might toss her out and look for another one. Believe it or not, in Khmer culture, because the man has to pay for his wife, he has the right to throw her away if she does not perform or do the job he paid for. A man will look for another one at a price he can afford.  When one buys a phone they like, it isn’t long before a better model comes out, and they toss the old one away and buy a new one. But a wife is not like buying a useful item – a wife is someone you are given as a gift.

In what ways have you placed a criteria on your family? How can you see the ways in which God placed your family in your life as a gift?

As you continue this week, please pray for the missionaries in Cambodia and the strengthening and healing needed within Cambodian families.

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.

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

Want to Change the World? Sponsor a Child

In 2013, Christianity Today participated in a study of the effects of Child Sponsorship. The data gathered from that ground-breaking study was a powerful recommendation for sponsoring children as a way that we can truly have kingdom impact. I decided, this week, to share an article from that issue, that, three years later, still sticks in my mind. Please take the time to read Bruce Wydick’s excellent piece –Nan

A top economist shares the astounding news about that little picture hanging on our refrigerator:

“What can an ordinary person like me do to help the poor?” When people find out at parties and social gatherings that I am a development economist (and yes, we economists do attend such events), often they ask me this question. For a long time my response was the same: “Perhaps sponsor a child?”

I suppose I gave this answer because I myself sponsored a child, and if I was supposed to know something about helping the poor, I should encourage people to do what I was doing. After all, child sponsorship makes sense: By focusing on youth instead of adults, it aims to nip poverty in the bud, providing children in the developing world access to education, health services, and, in some programs, spiritual guidance. But over time my autopilot response started to annoy me. The truth was that I hadn’t the slightest clue about the effect child-sponsorship programs had on children.

Dissatisfaction with my pat answer began to inform conversations with my graduate students. “Have you considered researching the impact of child sponsorship?” I would ask. One student was interested, and she followed the topic long enough to find out that no one had ever investigated the topic, despite 9 million children sponsored worldwide, and the more than $5 billion per year being channeled into sponsorship programs from ordinary people wanting to help. But we were having trouble finding a sponsorship organization willing to work with us. What if the research discovered that sponsorship didn’t work? This was the risk that some organization out there had to take.

A couple years later, another graduate student, Joanna Chu, became interested in the topic, in part because she was sponsoring a child with Compassion International. Chu put out some feelers with Compassion’s research director, Joel Vanderhart, who decided to risk what no other child-sponsorship organization was willing to risk at that point: to allow its program to be scrutinized. We were able to carry out the study with one major condition: Compassion would remain anonymous. They would be referred to as “a leading child-sponsorship organization” in any academic publication.

In the course of talking with Vanderhart, we stumbled upon a vein of gold for any development economist: He casually mentioned that Compassion had used an arbitrary age-eligibility rule when they underwent a major worldwide expansion during the 1980s. When one of Compassion’s programs entered a new village, typically only children who were 12 and younger were eligible for sponsorship.

With that, our strategy for identifying the causal impacts of the program became clear. We would obtain early enrollment lists from different village projects introduced during the 1980s, and track down the families of those who were first sponsored in these projects. Then we would obtain information on the life outcomes of these formerly sponsored children—now adults—and compare them to their adult siblings who had been slightly too old to be sponsored when the program arrived in their village. In this way we would be able to control for genetics, family environment, and a host of other factors that the siblings held in common. The only difference that could affect adult life outcomes across the sample would be the fact that Providence had allowed some of these siblings and not others to be age-eligible for child sponsorship.

The Results

Chu found a partner for her research project: Laine Rutledge, now a doctoral student in economics at the University of Washington. The two graduate students spent the summer of 2008 in Uganda, where they obtained data on 809 individuals, including 188 who were sponsored as children. The students had a number of adventures in the field, including a run-in with a wild dog that took a bite out of Rutledge’s leg. A couple of months after they returned, Chu and Rutledge stopped by to share the results. A nervous excitement quickly filled my small office. MORE.

Celebrating Child Sponsorship–May 15!

It was 24 years ago that Ted and I first sponsored a child. We helped a young boy in Kenya get an education and the food that he and his family needed to keep him out of the workforce and in school. At the time, we were having fertility issues (we had our first kiddo 12 years after we were married), and it meant a lot to me to have Nzokia to care for, even from a distance.  We prayed for him, sent him birthday and Christmas gifts (cash, which the project leaders would use to give him gifts) and corresponded with him via snail mail.

Since then, we’ve sponsored a girl in India, and another Kenyan boy. We have sponsored new children as each of our biological kids have come along. Currently we sponsor Putu, a little Balinese guy, and Kelvin, who lives in the Dominican Republic. We’re not the best at sponsorship. I go months without writing my kids sometimes. And we’ve never visited any of our sponsored kids, either, though I sure would love to.

But it is so fun watching these kids grow and develop into healthy adulthood. The opportunity to pray and write to children outside of our own culture is so world-expanding for our kids, too. I love that they have a larger understanding of the kingdom of God through our sponsorship children. And now we can do it through email, though I still love getting Putu’s drawings a few times a year.

Last Sunday, some of our BelPres families who sponsor children shared stories of how sponsorship has impacted them. John Kim was there, and caught their testimonies on video. Hear from Laurel Fortin HERE, and from Brian Los HERE.

If you sponsor a child already, great! We want to celebrate you! Please stop by the giant map in the Lobby and put a pin in your child’s location. You DO NOT have to have sponsored through BelPres Partner ministries to put your pin on the map. We want to get an idea of how many BelPres families have Child Sponsorship as part of their family giving profile. We hope you’ll participate! We praise God for your gift of sponsorship.

Of course, we will also have many children available for sponsorship, as well. Kids from many of our ministry partners.  It is so fun to see the faces of all the kids who have been sponsored through past sponsorship Sundays, and pray over the faces of those in need of sponsors.

So come by, have a snack, pray for the children, put a pin in the map, and maybe pick out a new child for sponsorship. BelPres is a congregation that believes in children!

 

One Great Hour of Sharing

One Great Hour of Sharing

What does that phrase mean to you? One Great Hour of Sharing. Having grown up in the Presbyterian church, One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) makes me think of the little fish banks that we used to collect coins in for Sunday school on Palm Sunday. Some years it was a plastic bread loaf bank. Do you remember those?

As an adult, I came to understand that OGHS was an opportunity for giving, outside of our tithe, to the greater work of the church beyond our doors. This is still true today. The money we give to OGHS doesn’t stay at BelPres. Every bit of it gets divided three ways: Youth Impact Trips, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and World Relief for Syrian Refugees.

Our youth have three trips planned this summer. The middle school kids will be going to Yakima, the incoming freshmen to Seattle’s Rainer Valley, and the high school are going to Nashville. Why Nashville? Here’s a bit from the information packet:

  • We will immerse ourselves in the city by experiencing firsthand the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of urban life. Our lodging will be located in the heart of Nashville.
  • We will educate ourselves about the city – the unique issues and problems that the people of Nashville face and what God is doing to foster and further His Kingdom there, through the indigenous organizations that operate on the front lines of urban ministry.
  • We will become part of the solutions for the city by offering our time, energy and talent as we support the Nashville ministries. CSM will provide a variety of hands-on ministry opportunities to ensure that our time in the city is spent supplying substantive help to God’s people in the city.

More about all of these trips is to be found at belpres.org/events, among the summer events.

One third of OGHS goes to the work of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. https://pda.pcusa.org/page/your-gifts-at-work/ Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been the relief arm of the PCUSA, enabling “the church to share God’s love with our neighbors-in-need around the world by providing relief to those affected by natural disasters, provide food to the hungry, and helping to empower the poor and oppressed.” OGHS helps people as far away as Lebanon, Philippines, South Sudan, and Malawi.

Finally, one third of your OGHS gift goes to the work of World Relief Seattle with Syrian Refugees. The World Relief website shares: Our world is currently in the midst of the greatest refugee crisis in history. By the end of 2014, nearly 60 million people were forcibly displaced, with nearly a third—20 million—living outside of their countries as refugees. Desperate for protection and surrounded by unfamiliar, sometimes unwelcoming faces, refugees are truly some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Working in partnership with the local church, World Relief is committed to helping refugees and immigrants from all countries resettle and rebuild their lives.

So, you can see, whether your gifts are pennies in a fishy bank, or checks in the envelope from your bulletin, your giving to OGHS matters. It matters for the people who are served, and it matters for God’s kingdom work here on earth. See you Sunday!

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.

 

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! 

BelPres Serve Service Opportunity Contact Form

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