A BROKEN HEART!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Man Who Walked on Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Miracle in Rwanda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Visiting mothers of disabled children outside Love with

            Action’s Family Empowerment Center, Bumbog

 

Iman’ishimwe! Ndakunda Love with Actions!

Julie Munezero St. Peter & Frank St. Peter

Stars in Her Eyes

Estrella means “star” in Spanish and her eyes reflect that as they sparkle with joy. But this wasn’t always the case for the young Dominican girl. I would get teased a lot, says Estrella of her life before Children of the Nations (COTN). “People would tell my mom not to let me look at them because they didn’t like the way I looked.” Estrella’s esotropia (condition of which one or both eyes turns inward) made it difficult for her to see. Her poor eyesight caused her to struggle in school and she was teased for her appearance. Her family struggled to afford food and clothing so paying expensive medical bills was out of the question.

Fortunately, visiting medical Venture teams from COTN treated Estrella and subsequently, she was able to have eye surgery.  “It has changed my life forever!” Estrella declares. “My total disposition changed after my surgeries. I have self-confidence and I am happy.”

Today, through COTN, Estrella attends school and enjoys nutritious meals. She receives important follow-up care through their medical clinic including prescription glasses that continue to correct her vision. Her surgery and continued care have helped her grow up a happy and confident young woman. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of medical Venture teams, the clinic staff, and partners who supported the clinic and children like Estrella.

The COTN clinic plays a crucial role in keeping children healthy and by offering lower cost medical care to the community of Barahona in pediatrics, gynecology, surgical procedures, and dentistry. Last year, thanks to the generosity and tireless work of COTN partners and volunteers, the clinic doubled in size.

Barb Kjose, a nurse and Venture team member, recalls the early days of the clinic: “We would come in the morning and there would be a line out way past the clinic. And we’d feel bad because we could not see all those who came.”  And now a second story has been added to the building, creating more space for surgery, dental care, and processing patients. The expansion has also moved the clinic’s laundry room and kitchen from an old shack to a more hygienic space within the building.

Estrella wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up. To everyone who supported the clinic, she says, “Thank you. . . Without the clinic, we would not have medical help. More people would suffer and have bad health, and I would still be suffering physically and emotionally with my crossed eyes.”

Thank you for helping children like Estrella ‘see’ their way to a healthier future.

 

If you would like to find out how you can go on a Medical Mission with COTN or other organizations, please come to the Global Outreach Talk on Medical Missions, Sunday, April 8, 12:15pm in S-140.

Building Homes in Baja

Dear Friends and Family,

Wow! The weekend in Mexico was phenomenal. It’s amazing what 12 people can do in just 72 hours. God taught so much on our journey to Rosarito and Tijuana through our mission, our team and those we ministered.

One thing God taught us: love has no language—you can see love simply through emotions. We were in an all Spanish-speaking part of Mexico. Our team and the translators were the only ones who spoke English. It was difficult communicating with the family and the others while sharing the gospel. When we handed over the keys of their home to Nina, the mom, we didn’t need words or a translator. The tears of happiness that flowed spoke more than anyone could’ve said.

On Friday, we built a house in Rosarito for the Barreto Family (Fabian-29, Nina-26, Eduin-12, and Elias-7). The house was built quickly by our fantastic team with no injuries on the building site. (God was definitely watching over us.) On Saturday, we went to Tijuana where we invited families to come hear the word and team members’ testimonies. It was unbelievable seeing people, invited by complete strangers who don’t even speak Spanish, come to a park to hear the word of God!

Our lives will never be the same because of this trip and we thank you for your prayer, encouragement and financial support. Without your partnership, our mission trip might not have been possible. Thank you for investing in us for the Kingdom’s sake! God wants us to be bolder about sharing our faith – not just in Mexico, but right here in Kirkland.

May the Lord bless you and your family for being a part of God’s transformation, not only of the many of families we served but also in our life.  Please don’t stop praying for them: that they accept the gospel and for protection of those who recently accepted Christ.

Love in Christ,

Molly, Mark, and Leslie  Behrends

 

Please pray for BelPres’ next Impact team to Baja on April 5-8.  If you are interested in going on the Baja trip scheduled for Oct 11-14, please contact Chuck Pilcher at chuck@bourlandweb.com

 

Urbana! Annie’s Story

by Annie Aeschbacher, BelPres member and grad student at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA.

My experience at Urbana 2009 helped to shape my college experience (especially relating to my time studying in Central America), as well as the decision to become a YAV and even my decision to come to Fuller. I honestly don’t know how my life might be different if it hadn’t been for Urbana, but I firmly believe that God used the conference to work in powerful ways in my life. Here are some more details:

In December 2009, I had the opportunity to attend the Urbana missions conference as a sophomore in college. I had heard from a number of people that it was “life-changing” and I, (hopefully yet naively), signed up, entirely unaware of how profoundly just one of those five days would affect the course of my life.
At Urbana I was able to worship with 16,000 brothers and sisters from around the world and hear about amazing ways that God was working.

Less than one week later, I saw this work on the ground through the ministry of the InnerCHANGE team in Xela, Guatemala… a ministry that I never would have known about had it not been for Urbana. I went to Guatemala right after Urbana with a Spanish immersion trip from my school, not as a direct result of the conference. BUT because of Urbana, we connected with the InnerCHANGE team there which most likely would not have happened otherwise.

Almost six years later, I now consider InnerCHANGE to be a second Guatemalan “family.” Their work has ministered to me deeply, just as it does to the boys they share life with.
InnerCHANGE was one factor that brought me back to Guatemala, not one but two more times in the following years. During my most recent stay in Guatemala (2012-2013), encouragement from an InnerCHANGE team member was the catalyst for my process of thinking and praying about coming to study at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Now, as a 2nd year Fuller student, I’ll be returning to Urbana at the end of this year. Looking back on these experiences over the past 6 years, I’m much more aware of how life-changing this gathering can be and am excited and grateful for the opportunity to go again. I can’t wait to go back with open hands and an open heart, and see how the Holy Spirit will continue to work and move in my life, in the lives of my brothers and sisters, and in the world!

For more about Urbana ’18, click HERE.
For another powerful Urbana story, watch Sara’s Story.
To register, or for questions, contact Mary Kim.

Juanita’s Books: An NFE Adventure

By Shirley Kinsey

In Guatemalan villages, pine needles covering a floor signify happiness in receiving honored guests.  As our July Nicolas Fund for Education (NFE) team entered the house of Juanita, an 18-year-old girl with disabilities, we loved the aroma of pine which greeted us.  Sitting on wooden benches alojuanitang the walls, we noticed a rustic bed in one corner of the room, a beautiful painting of a mountain and lake on one wall – created by Juanita – and a small white board on the wall just inside the door.

Juanita and her mother and father gave us warm welcomes and expressed their gratitude for NFE supplying Juanita with her own computer and regular tutor.  To Al Lopus, who encouraged Juanita to set goals, this family presented an original Mayan weaving – created by Juanita’s mother – embroidered with these words:  “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you forever.”

As Juanita thanked us and showed us her work with Ricardo, her tutor, she shared a poster on which she had written three main goals for her future:  to teach her mother and father to read and write, to write her own story, and to help young people in her village.

Yet as we left her small wood-framed house, she showed us how she already helps the children in her village.  A creative entrepreneur, Juanita runs a tiny tienda (store) built of wood and situated at the opening of her parents’ Agros-earned property.  As well as selling snacks and school supplies, Juanita recently began loaning books to children in her library-less village!  Her one wooden shelf, about one-fourth of the way full, holds about 20 books, among them Spanish versions of Green Eggs and Ham and Charlotte’s Web.

I picked out a book called Frida about the life and artwork of Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist who was married to the even more famous Diego Rivera.  When I showed it to Becci Merritt, she told me that NFE gave this book to Juanita because they thought she could identify with the pain of Kahlo’s life and her artistic expressions of that pain.  Juanita, who suffers from spina bifida, creates her own works of art.

Juanita says that children return the books she loans.  On previous days on this trip, I gave teacher, tutor, and student training workshops explaining the importance of reading and the research finding that children need to spend about two hours a day actually reading.  The problem:  they have few books, and in their classrooms, the books are locked in cabinets or small rooms for fear that the children will ruin them or take them away.  NFE wants to expand Juanita’s library, to fill up her shelf, and to add more shelves.

Please let us know if you have high-quality Spanish children’s books to donate, wish to contribute to the purchase of books, or want to join an NFE adventure to the villages in which we work.

For more information, please contact Becci Merritt.  Or see the website.

Break My Heart –Mary McCracken

We here at BelPres Mission & Serve are following all of impact teams as they travel this summer, sharing the love of Jesus as they go.  Last night our own Mary McCracken posted a beautiful, challenging piece on her blog.  Take a look:

“Yesterday we toured an orphanage for kids ages 5 and under. Our plan was to stay for two hours, play with kids, provide a mid-morning snack, and then leave. The front of the orphanage is beautiful, behind walls covered in purple bougainvillea. I stepped into the main building and all was quiet – the children were outside in the back play yard, waiting for us to come in.

As I was at the back of our group, I had a bit more time to look around. The laundry room was filled with baby sleepers, cloth diapers, little boy pants and little girl dresses. Just like all the ones I washed for years as the mother of young children. It was familiar, but overwhelming in the amount of daily wash. The machines never stop running and the clotheslines were full of baby blankets drying in the sun.

I went outside, and immediately a little girl lifted her arms for me to pick her up and claim her. Our team of twenty could not hold all… for more of Mary’s extraordinary blog, please click here!

Alongside Nicaragua

So exciting to see that another Impact Team to Nicaragua is going soon!  These amazing families, with children who have all attended Spanish immersion school, are heading off soon!  Something about the idea that all of these moms & dads will be depending on their kids for every basic bit of understanding on this trip really piques my interest.  How about yours?  Do you want to know what’s happens when BelPres students & their parents land in Nicaragua?

Here’s a link for more information.  Be part of what God is doing in Nicaragua!

Another Mission!

2015-04-07 11.42.05

Well over a year ago, two enthusiastic and passionate moms (Alischia Besteman and Samantha Willing) came in to meet with the Missions Department with a desire – We want to go on a mission with our families.

They weren’t sure where. They didn’t know how…yet.

But in April it happened. Three families, with children of various ages, spent their spring break in the Dominican Republic serving alongside Children of the Nations and I Love Baseball, because these two women took a leap of faith and responded to what they believed God was calling them to.

Here’s a bit of Samantha’s family’s story.

What surprised me the most about our mission trip was… how amazing we functioned as a family. We were out of our comfort zone and physically uncomfortable at times but we really banded together and had a great time.  It ignited a passion in our marriage and took our love and respect for each to a deeper level.  The impact truly showed when we asked our kids if they wanted to go to Hawaii this next year or another mission trip and they enthusiastically said “ANOTHER MISSION!”   

God really showed up when… At the end of our trip when we were saying our goodbyes we decided to give away a few things, but felt like it wasn’t enough. We could have given it all and still have wanted to give more.  When my 11 year old son gave away his favorite football to one of the boys he had bonded with my heart was bursting.  I knew it was special to him and I knew that his gift to this child was the Holy Spirit working through him.  I have never felt such complete peace as I did when I was getting rid of my material things. 

I had an “ah ha” moment as I realized that this is how it must feel to tithe (which is something we have always been scared to commit to) – the feeling of peace, joy, and calm that comes with not being attached to our things and allowing God to use our blessings to bless others. 

We had been warned before our mission trip that sometimes people come back and feel really guilty about their own comfortable lives.  We came back not feeling guilty, but feeling incredibly accountable for how we use what God has given us.  We came back with a desire to be different, to spend different, to give different and to develop servants’ hearts in ourselves and our children.  Our eyes were opened to how God can use us if we let Him, even when we feel ill-equipped and not particularly strong.  We came back with softer hearts and eyes to see the mission field around us in Bellevue not just far away.  This trip helped us re-define our family and create a vision for our future.  It was incredible.

2015-04-07 09.24.31

Steadfast Senders, Rally the Troops!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impact Team Reflection: Why go?

Becky Gonzalez
BelPres Director of Global Outreach

We often wonder what is the impact of short-term mission experiences (or as we call them “Impact Teams”)? At BelPres we typically only send individuals or groups to serve with Ministry Partners where we already have a relationship, so it is usually not just a one-time experience. But the question remains, what impact are we making?

“I sat…wondering what I could do as one person to make an impact in the lives of the 27,000,000 people enslaved around the world today. I’ve gone on lots of mission trips, but do those really make a difference?” Read more of this reflection on Why Short-Term Missions Matters for Social Justice and how Isaiah 61 has changed one person’s perspective short-term missions.

To learn more about opportunities to engage in Impact Teams through BelPres click here.
Learn more about Adventures in Missions, click here.

Rwanda Impact Team – Recap

In early July, three women from Bellevue Presbyterian Church traveled to Rwanda for a two-week impact trip.  We had been praying and planning for the trip since January.  Our desire was to engage in ministry of presence—going to listen, learn, pray with and for people, and foster good relationships with ministry partners and Christian women who are living in Rwanda long term.

Our missionary, Jean McAllister, identified eight other women who were leaders in ministry to participate in a retreat on Lake Muhazi, which is an hour and a half from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.  One woman, Torey, is the American executive director of a non-profit that works with former street boys.  We visited her ministry site on a Saturday afternoon.  She had returned from a month in the United States a few days prior and said, “I don’t know if I’ll be going to the retreat.  I just got back.  I have a lot of work to do, and I may not be able to take the time off, especially since I just had a month off in America.”

I was disappointed and—I must confess—I was not hopeful that she would attend the retreat.  I had been praying for her by name for some time, and BelPres members had written notes to her by hand with Scripture verses and words of encouragement that we would give to each participant on the retreat.  I knew the retreat would be good, and I didn’t want her to miss out, but, of course, I couldn’t control her decision-making.

The following Wednesday was the day of the retreat, and I was glad to see Torey sitting in the minibus.  She had decided to come after all!  But on the bus ride, she largely was quiet and serious, busily typing texts and emails on her phone.

Prayer tree for the retreat

The retreat was restful and meaningful.  The theme was storytelling, looking specifically at the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus in John 4 and our own stories.  We spent a day and a half praying, singing songs, reading Scripture, journaling, and talking in pairs and in the larger group.  Each woman reported feeling more connected and rejuvenated as a result of the retreat.

 

Rwanda_prayerThe transformation in Torey was particularly marked.  She was smiling and talkative.  She shared with me, “I had thought that the United States was supposed to be restful, but it wasn’t really, not like this.  So many times when I’m sharing in the States, I can’t tell a story that is messy or hard; it has to have a neat and tidy ending, resolved in some clear way that promotes the ministry.  It was refreshing to just tell stories without having to spin it.”  She also said, “You know, when I get together with other ex-pats here [other Americans], we often tell stories about how hard life is in Rwanda…but at the end of the evening, we often feel more depressed about living here.  What I appreciated about the storytelling on the retreat was that it was not about commiseration.  The storytelling was done in a blanket of hope and truth.”

I give glory to God for using the retreat in Rwanda to minister to women ministers.  It was gratifying to see and experience mutual spiritual encouragement.  I am so glad that Bellevue Presbyterian sent the three of us to engage with the women in Rwanda.  At the end of the retreat, the women wrote thank-you notes to Bellevue Presbyterian for funding the retreat.  Here’s what Torey wrote:

“These past two days have been a huge gift and a powerful blessing.  I have felt tired, weak, and dry.  I have forgotten my father’s promises.  This retreat renewed my hope and my joy.  It opened my eyes to my father’s faithfulness.  My heart is thankful and full.”

Thanks be to God!

_______

Where do you find your hope and joy are renewed? How does this post inspire you to share your struggles with your community?

Dominican Republic Impact Team – Recap

I am returning from The Dominican Republic with a full heart and spirit of deep thankfulness and gratitude.  Our team spent the week in relationship with 25 – 30 of the boys that are currently enrolled in the I Love Baseball program in Barahona.  We had the opportunity to teach baseball clinics to some of the younger boys in the outlying communities, to play baseball with the older boys, and spend lots of time just talking with the boys and getting to know their life story.  There are several boys that live with a family member because their parents are no longer around.  There are several more that participate in the program, then go to school, then go to work because they are the sole provider for their family at home.  All of them are becoming leaders in their communities and trying to make a change in their families for generations to come, thanks to the servant hearts of the people of I Love Baseball and Children of the Nations.

I have seen impoverished countries before, but none of them have ever struck me as much as these boys did.  After spending a week with them and truly getting to know them, it touched my heart in a way that I’ve never felt before.

DR_Juan Isael
Juan Isael

Because of that, I decided to sponsor one of the boys that is enrolled in the ILB program.  His name is Juan Isael Cueva Feliz   He is 15 and has been part of the program for a few years.  It became very evident to me that he will truly be given a much greater chance to graduate high school and grow closer to God through my small donation and the relationship that I could provide.  If you are interested in this, let me know and I could tell you about the boys!

One of the things we did was bring a bunch of paper, markers, and stickers to make signs for each of the boys on the day that they played their game.  We started to bring the signs out to cheer and the boys flocked to us, asking us if they could use the markers and stickers to decorate their signs.  I’ve never seen high school boys get so excited to decorate a sign with their name on it.  We ended up completely interrupting the game and spent an hour and a half decorating signs, taking pictures, and laughing a lot.  I apologized to the coach for the interruption and he quickly stopped me and thanked me for the light we were bringing to the boys through the simple gesture of just being with them.  He said it had been some time that he had seen the boys this excited.

 

Here in America, I am constantly trying to fill my day with activities and tasks and find it a great accomplishment to check things off of my list to show progress.  In the DR, they thrive on living in community with one another and you will often find them just sitting in front of their homes, chatting with neighbors and watching the kids play.  This was a huge reminder for me to slow down, pay attention to what God has in store for my life, listen, be in relationship with those around me, and eliminate distractions.

Thank you for being on this journey with me, your prayers and support were appreciated beyond expectation and I am grateful!

Nic Shackleton
nicholausjames@yahoo.com