Step By Step Justice: El Camino del Inmigrante

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter from the Editor

When asked, most people I know tell me they observe Lent for two reasons: first, it is socially expected in their circles, and second, it is a chance to give up a bad habit for a maintainable length of time, although if they are anything like me, these habits are almost certainly reintroduced at some point.

The trouble is, God is not only concerned with what we do not do. It is what we do do that also matters. I have not always appreciated this idea, but Ephesians 4:17-32 recently fell into my lap and as I mused on this passage, I came to the realization that giving something up is not why Christians observe Lent. (more…)

Good and Faithful Servant: Thank You Anne Korsmo

If you read The Messenger, Anne Korsmo has touched your life. For years, Anne has been a faithful Communications team member. Month after month and year after year she has combed through articles, calendars, and announcements looking to make sure they make sense, are spelled correctly, and are pleasing to read. Her love for words and reading has blessed these pages and brought us God’s message in correct English and proper grammar. (more…)

41 Days

It took me 41 days, in the spring of 1996. After working 19 years in my home church in Los Angeles, I needed a reboot. I said goodbye to family and friends, loaded two geriatric Labradors into the back of my Volvo station wagon, and hit the road. It was Monday, sunny and warm; the first day of Holy Week.

My three brothers lived in the Pacific Northwest; I’d stay with one of them until I found work. I felt reborn. I put the car in drive, popped in a cassette, and started singing, the dogs howling in harmony as we left the LA basin.

And then it began to rain. (more…)

1 Great Hour of Sharing: A Lenten Practice, An Invitation

“Three million refugees is not just another statistic. It is a searing indictment of our collective failure to end the war in Syria.”

In August 2014, the actress Angelina Jolie made this statement about the crisis in Syria in her role as UNHCR Special Envoy (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). On February 4, 2015, Amnesty International published statistics showing the refugee population to be nearly four million people, with half the refugees being children. The statement made by Jolie found its way into the consciousness of the American public and is now finding its way to us at BelPres. (more…)

Devotion

Inspired by Luke 18:13.

Read Luke 18:9-14

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” Luke 18:13

O Lord, Jesus with us, who did for our sake fast forty days and forty nights, we seek a closer walk with You. (more…)

Reflecting on VBA

It was a typical Friday afternoon drive down I-405. We had just left the final day of Vacation Bible Adventure (VBA) and were slogging our way down the freeway, trying to get my 13-year-old son, Oliver, to his soccer tournament in Renton. Enya was blasting on the CD player to soothe three-month old Seth, screaming in his car seat. In the very back were nine-year-old Rosalind and seven-year-old Rhett. I was thinking about a million different things: wondering how I was going to get kids to a swim meet and soccer game the next day with my husband out of town, whether there was a Dairy Queen close to the soccer field for pre-game treats, if I had time to stop at Starbucks to get me through the next 3 hours, when out of the blue a voice spoke up from the back seat, “I think I’ve changed.”  I turned down the stereo, irritated that our Enya-Zen was being interrupted. “What did you say?” I yelled to the back.  Rhett looked up and met my eyes in the rearview mirror. “I think I’ve changed, Mom,” he said again.  “I love Jesus more than I used to.” (more…)

40 Days of Impatience

40 days has quite the significance in accounts throughout scripture: from 40 days of rain during the flood (Genesis 7:12), the 40 days given to Nineveh to repent (Jonah 3:4), all the way up to when Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness as told in Matthew 4. But there is one particular 40-day period that strikes a chord with me: the 40 days Moses spent on Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments and the impatience of the Israelites awaiting his return (Exodus 19-32). (more…)

“Ask Scott”

It was just another Sunday morning as students began to gather in the UC-303 lobby at BelPres, chat with friends, or find a seat in the café to play Bananagrams as they eagerly awaited the hour that lay ahead. On this particular Sunday, the program was going to look a little different for the Middle and High School students.

Rather than listening to a talk by one of our fearless Family Life Ministry leaders and breaking into small groups, the students had the opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session with Dr. Scott Dudley during which he answered both faith-based and personal questions that they had written the week before. (more…)

Answering the Call: Saying Goodbye to Frank Burgess

The following is an excerpt from the FPCB History Committee*

Our organizing pastor, Frank Burgess, knows the experience of entering a new “land of promise” at God’s call. He and his wife, Helen, came to share Jesus Christ with their new neighbors and community in 1955. Imagine the joy the neighbors felt when Frank knocked on their doors inviting them to worship with the “first” Presbyterian Church on the Eastside. Bellevue residents like Freeman and Beth Fike were among the many residents longing for a Presbyterian Church in Bellevue and they became two of the first members. Between 1952 and 1955, there were obstacles, challenges and setbacks but finally in 1955, the Council of Churches and the Seattle Presbytery agreed the time had come for a Presbyterian church in Bellevue. (more…)

The Secret Service of Jane Fox

The role of an usher is often simply defined as someone who escorts people to their seats, but for those who serve as ushers at BelPres, it is often so much more. For over 20 years, Jane Fox has been ensuring that each and every person who walks in the Sanctuary of BelPres on Sundays not only has a seat and a bulletin, but also truly feels welcome in God’s house.

“I look at it as: we are the first people that many people meet when they come in the church. Many times, we are the only people they interact with, and our smile, helping them find a seat, helping them find where things are – doing all that, with the grace of God in our hearts – can make a big difference to a person,” says Jane. (more…)

Birth Announcements Mar 2015

Anna Grace Woody
born 8/5/14
to Aimee and Tony Woody

Jonathan Reece Bishop
Born 1/20/15 to
Emilie and Mike Bishop

The New Baby ministry seeks to greet new babies in our church community with the love of Christ. If you know of a family who is due to have a baby or adopt a baby in the coming months please contact Jenelle Mullet at jmullet@belpres.org or in the church Office, 425-454-3082, so we may include them in this ministry.

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