The Basics: Family, Friends, and Diapers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step By Step Justice: El Camino del Inmigrante

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformation Stories–King County Youth Chaplaincy

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

From the Streets to the Path of Righteousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From Gang Member to Peacemaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broadcasting Hope: First Response Radio

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Following the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami in Indonesia, people were desperate for information to rebuild their lives: “Just tell us what is happening!” they urged.

We felt it was important to get a radio station on the air, but had never done this before in disaster conditions. First Response Radio (FRR) got its start in the aftermath of the tsunami. It took a month to get the radio station up and running in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. While that was a great achievement in difficult conditions, we didn’t think it was fast enough as we missed the whole Emergency Phase of the disaster. We subsequently made it our goal to set up a radio station within 72 hours of a disaster striking and start broadcasting critical information to the affected community.

FRR is not a company or an organization. It is a network of networks made up of radio broadcasters, NGOs, and government partners. In each country, it is also a network of responders.

Our strategy has improved dramatically since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the approach of FRR now is to buy equipment, train teams, and practice in disaster prone countries such as the Philippines, India, and Indonesia before disaster strikes. The equipment is then left in the country, and the local team responds to the next disaster.

We refer to the equipment we leave as the “Suitcase Radio,” which is really three suitcases or bags that include: a complete studio, FM transmitter, and an antenna. Each case is less than 45 lbs and can be checked as luggage on any airline. If set up properly, this station can reach a radius of 12 mi or more. However, the real secret to our success is not the equipment, but rather the training we provide.

We combine radio, NGOs, and government staff into a team and lead a five-day training workshop where they learn to run a radio station in a disaster zone. The NGOs learn from the radio announcers and vice versa. While the training we have given to people has been important, the “magic” really happens in the three-day field trials that we conduct. This enables us to put things into practice in a disaster-prone area under realistic field conditions. Sometimes the next disaster even strikes during the training event! FRR spends more time and resources on capacity building as that is the key to a good response.

An independent research paper (1) showed how FRR broadcasts in 2013 helped members of the community to recover following Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines. In summary, the disaster radio (FRR) provided reliable information that decreased fears. Through an understanding of what was happening, community members developed a sense of control and the ability to adapt:

“If you know what is going on . . . it is much easier to do right.”

“You could get information on what was going on, how I could rebuild my house.”

“They told us . . . to get food . . . and they told us about roads . . . and so on.”

Hearing voices and music played over the radio reminded the survivors of normality and offered moments of rest from the fight for survival and recovery. Some participants expressed that the joyful music played influenced them so much that they could feel happiness, and endure:

“I think that the music also . . . it made me feel . . . like normal . . . for a while. To rest my brain.”

 “It was a kind of silence that is deafening. And the radio broke through it, someway. The music and to hear another voice, in the middle of the night, that made me able to hang in there for one night more.”

Also following Typhoon Haiyan, Alexandra Sicotte-Lévesque, at the time the Advocacy and Communications Specialist for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said:

“Well done to First Response Radio! We have been going around radio (stations) in Tacloban talking about our (mobile) medical missions for pregnant & breastfeeding women . . . every day in a new barangay – we identify these women in advance in each community, but it’s not possible to identify everyone of course . . . so radio really helps. When our nurses went on First Response Radio the turnout was incredible – 250+ women showed up in one morning (compared to only 40 the previous day).”

Since 2004, our FRR teams have responded to 20 disasters with the most recent being the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Typhoon Koppu (Lando) in the Philippines, the South India floods, and the Afghan-Pakistan earthquake.

Out of catastrophe in Indonesia, we developed this network to empower victims of natural disasters. We hope to continue our field trainings and provision of equipment, which allow these countries to not only protect the safety of their citizens through the dispersal of critical information but also to provide comfort and hope in the midst of disaster.

(1) Karin Hugelius, Mervyn Gifford, Per Ortenwall, Annsofie Adolfsson, “To silence the deafening silence”: Survivor’s needs and experiences of the impact of disaster radio for their recovery after a natural disaster, International Emergency Nursing (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.ienj.2015.11.009

 

Back to School, Back to Whole

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 I Did for Summer Vacation–Dissertation Work!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in July–A Matt Talbot Center Tradition

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

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

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

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

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

Song in the Desert–Missionaries and Music

Our family attended the 11am Modern Worship Service this last Sunday, July 10. Our oldest son was the scripture reader, and with all of our kids middle and high school ages, that’s the place to be on Sunday mornings. It was a beautiful, moving service, full of worship. I love both worship styles at Bellevue Presbyterian Church, and very much recommend that everyone check out both Modern and Sanctuary worship this summer. Everyone involved is giving their best to our Father in praise, and I think it gives us a good idea of what to expect in heaven.

This Sunday, I didn’t bother to look at the order of worship, for some reason, so I was not prepared when Desert Song, a Hillsong United song started up. Back in 2008, when I first heard this song, we were still worshipping with the Wamena International Fellowship in Wamena, Indonesia. We were selling off all our worldly goods and preparing to move back to America after four years on the mission field with MAF. My heart was not ready to leave that place, though it was clear that God was sending us home.

It was the most heartbreaking time of my life. If you look at it on a map, Wamena is in the middle of the island of New Guinea, just North of Australia. But as the airplane flies, it’s much farther. Our usual flight route was Seattle>Taipei>Singapore>Jakarta>Bali>Jayapura (on the coast)>Wamena (in the highlands). That’s three days (THREE!) of flying. Google maps won’t even plot if for me. So when we were leaving there, I knew that if I ever went back, it was going to be a long, long distance into the future. I was heartbroken. All the friends I had made, the Indonesian ones, whom I would likely never see again. The Dutch, Swiss, New Zealander, Irish friends, whom I would likely never see again. And the American/Canadian friends, who might come to Seattle on furlough, but still, it would be a long time before I would get to see them again. And the culture, which I had come to love and understand. Not to mention the sense of failure that Ted and I, who had planned to be lifetime missionaries, felt at having our expected career—our calling–cut short. It was a confusing, emotionally, sad time for our whole family. God knew what was going on, but I often felt that I was wandering in the dark.

Then, we began to sing this song in worship:

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold

My "Produce Department"
My “Produce Department”

So refine me, Lord, through the flame

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

This is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow

And I was heartbroken. I fell into this song and stayed there. For nearly a year I cried my way through this song. I was so grateful that when I returned to worship at BePres and the Modern Worship band started playing it. The words and music were my rock in the massive tumult of my soul.

I clung to the idea that through Jesus, I had the victory. That whatever the season of life, that I could praise God. I could have access to the certainty that God knew me, God cared for me, and that, as my desire was for his glory, I would know joy again.
So this last Sunday, as we gave God glory in this song once more, I wept, as I always have with this song. But eight years later, I am, by God’s grace, in a place of greater understanding of God’s heart for hurting people. For people who believe that God has one plan, but then he shows them a new, not always welcome plan. God loves those who serve him with their lives. God’s reasons for bringing us back were not clear to us for a very long time after our return. But we have a better idea of what God was doing then, now.

Missionaries who leave the field have a hard road to travel, almost always, back to whole life in their country of origin. My story, and the influence of the Desert Song in my journey back to wholeness in Christ, is only one of many. It is my hope that we would all stand in prayer with the missionaries in our church, and in our lives, no matter where they are in their mission journey. Pray that God would give our missionaries the strength to give him praise in every circumstance, as Job did when he said “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” –Job 2.10

God is for us, in every trial, in every joy, in every situation, God is for us. He is forming us to be more like his son, Jesus, which is our ultimate good. If we can rest in that truth, then we can indeed sing:

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

Racism is a Global Epidemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Texting Can Change Lives

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom Schools: Reaching Kids Through Love and Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praying for Muslims in Ramadan

Dome of the Rock (1)The evening of June 5 will mark the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month for followers of Islam all around the world.

Each year Muslims look forward to Ramadan with great excitement.  It’s a time characterized by religious zeal and deeper community with other Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst” and “sun-baked ground.” It is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who will spend from dawn to sunset in a complete fast, abstaining from all food, drink and other physical desires such as smoking, physical intimacy, etc. It also expresses the spiritual thirst for God. Muslims view fasting as an act of faith in, and worship of, Allah. Fasting allows the reverent to atone for sins and prepare to receive holy visions.

A typical day starts off by getting up early and sharing a meal together, before the fast begins at dawn. Prayers are offered throughout the day until the fast is finally broken at sunset.  Then, participants will eat together and go to the Mosque, where a part of the Qur’an will be read and a final prayer offered.

The last ten days of Ramadan are particularly significant, especially the 27th night, which is also called the ‘Night of Power’, or the ‘Night of Destiny’. This is when Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an.

Ramadan is a time for Muslims to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-discipline and sacrifice. Through fasting, the humbled follower sympathizes with those who are hungry and have very little to eat every day. Through increased devotion, the passionate seek to draw closer to their Creator.  Through increased charity, the faithful foster generosity toward others.

For ten years, BelPres has joined with Christians world-wide in praying for Muslims during Ramadan using the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World Guide.  The guide has great information about what Muslims believe, shares testimonies from Muslims who have encountered Jesus during this holy month, introduces specific Muslim people groups and provides specific things to pray for. Each day has a different focus.

Paul Filidis, north American coordinator of 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World points out that praying, “expands our ability to love. As you pray for people, you can’t help but get God’s perspective, and His heart for them, which is very different from the fear, anger or even hate that is so easily incited when only focusing on the actions of extremists.”

Since 2001, there have been 72 movements of at least one thousand Muslims turning towards Christ, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. This great awakening among Muslims has occurred at the same time as another great movement that has been taking place–the movement among Christians to pray for the Muslim world.   This is what the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World is all about.

God has given us a force that can call on all heaven and bring its power here on earth. It has been said that when we work, we work.  But when we pray, God works.  We will not impact Muslims through our arguments or by our shouting.  But we will impact them through our bold prayers in Jesus name.  Pick up a copy of the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (or download the .PDF) and join the great movement of Christians who are praying throughout Ramadan.

 

Getting to Know our Muslim Neighbors: 5 points where Islam and Christianity Diverge

God-fearing Muslims from many counties are moving to the U.S.  It is estimated that 3.3 million Muslims currently live in this country, which is equivalent to 1% of the population.  Many of us who read this blog don’t know much about Muslims or what they believe, outside of what we see on TV or read in the news.  So I am starting a monthly series on Islam to help us become better informed and learn how to engage in relationship with our Muslim neighbors.  Next month, Muslims will celebrate Ramadan, which commemorates the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. That will be the topic of my blog post next month.  This month, I want to share 5 ways Christian beliefs are essentially different from what Muslims believe.

The most important driving principle to understand behind Islam, recited in the call to prayer, is La ilaha illa Allah—”There is no god but Allah.” This heavily influences all other Muslim confessions, and explains why many Muslims don’t “get” Christian faith.

1)  There is no category in Islam for the Trinity. Muslims believe that Jesus was the son of Mary and was a Messenger of God.  But since God is only One God, Muslims would never agree that Jesus was in very nature God; “I and the Father are One”; John 10:30.

2)  Muslims do not accept our primary source for faith, the Bible, as Divinely Inspired.  Christians bDome of the Rockelieve that the Bible is authoritative and inspired by the Holy Spirit.  God used real people at specific times to write in their own words, exactly what God wanted said.  Muslims find it unbelievable that God would speak through many human beings rather than dictate directly to one messenger of God, i.e. Muhammad. For Muslims, only Muhammad was the incorruptible conduit of God’s word.

3) Muslims understand ‘Isa—Jesus, very differently than Christians.  Muhammad viewed Jesus as an important prophet—along the lines of Noah, Abraham, and Moses—but not Immanuel, God with us.  Muslims do honor Jesus and affirm the miracles associated with him, but they would never consider worshiping him.  Muslims agree that Jesus was condemned to die on the cross, but they claim he was never crucified.  In Islam a prophet would never be executed as a criminal.  Even more inconceivable is the idea that a Son of God would be a slave or be publically executed as a criminal.  If Jesus died on the cross, enduring shame, then, from the Muslim perspective, Jesus was an utter failure.

4) Salvation by grace through faith makes no sense for a Muslim.  For a Muslim, the validating sign of faith is in what a person does. (James says something similar in James 2:14.)  But for a Muslim, the idea of an undeserved gift–like Jesus taking all our sins on Him so that we could take all His righteousness on ourselves–is incomprehensible.

5) In Islam, God is all merciful, all knowing, and all compassionate.  Muslims actually have 99 names for what God is, but none of them conveys the intimate relationship with Abba Father that is a major characteristic of God in the Christian faith.

So what’s the point?  Our media often portrays Islam as a violent religion.  Some Muslims are violent but most are not.  Islam is built around the core tenant that there is no God but Allah.  Muslims are deeply devoted religious people.  They are also very hospitable.

Christianity is essentially relational.  We love our neighbors, one another, and the God who has come to us in Jesus.  This love is unconditional and the relationships are intimate.  It is this latter reality that makes Christianity so attractive.  Muslims won’t become convinced about Jesus or the Bible or grace through a quick conversation or a debate.  But they will see the real Jesus when we show grace and the effects of an intimate relationship with Abba Father.  So who are the Muslims God has put in your life and how can you show them love, grace and Abba Father?

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!

 

Racism and the Gospel, a visit with Dr. John Perkins

Racism: the belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them. Racism breeds fear and distrust, robbing everyone involved of their identity in Christ, created in God’s image, to know God, to love and bJohn-Perkinse loved. Racism is hateful and evil, pitting one human against another human, destroying relationships and ultimately bringing death. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I bring you news of great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).  All people. Racism steals away the good news of the gospel.

John Perkins began his life in 1930 in Mississippi as the son of a poor sharecropper. When he was seven months old his mother died and his father abandoned the family, leaving the children to be raised in poverty by their grandmother and extended family. John was seventeen when his older brother was murdered by a town marshal, and John’s family became afraid for his life. Vowing never to return to the place of his birth, John fled to California.

Fast forward to 1957 when John, through his son’s encouragement, attended a church service and encountered the Lord, giving his life to Christ. Though he had vowed never to return to his boyhood home, God had a bigger plan for John. In 1960, John moved their family to Mississippi to share the gospel of Christ with those still living in that area. John became a vocal supporter and leader in the civil rights movement, was beaten, arrested and tortured in jail, but never lost sight of the call on his life or the love of God in his heart. He came through this experience with a vision of a holistic ministry designed to remove the bondage of racism from all people, the oppressor and the oppressed.

Through the next four decades John wrote, spoke, taught, earned degrees and became an international leader in the church. He authored nine books, created non-profit ministries, joined boards at World Vision and Prison Fellowship, and became a leader in community development for impoverished people in urban and rural settings.  In 2004, Seattle Pacific joined with now Dr. John Perkins to launch the campus-based John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development.

Dr. Perkins was in town last week. On Monday, I had the privilege of joining a small gathering of urban leaders for lunch and teaching with by Dr. John. We met at Urban Impact and for two hours we sat at the feet of the master of reconciliation. At 85 years of age, he is an energetic man with a gentle demeanor and an incredible heart for God’s people. Moving around the room as he spoke, he made eye contact with each person. Words of scripture flowed effortlessly from him as spoke about the utter devastation racism had on our country, our communities and our churches.

He asked, “What is the time in which each of us is living? It is not the time to profile and hate, it is the time to start reading the word of God and believe what it says!” God has not designed us to be defined by race; we are all members of one race, the human race. We come from different ethnicities, cultures, lands, and we are all one race under God.

Dr. John spoke on God’s call on our lives to love. He said, “Love is the best chance…people get trapped in their own cultures…we have to love their eyes open…to look for ways to serve both sides.” The Gospel is the power to reconcile people together, and as the church we are called to reconcilers, to let the God of Reconciliation live in our hearts and walk out reconciliation in our lives. As Dr. John stated, “Let’s enjoy loving each other across all lines that divide us.” How do we do this? By coming together, working and learning together, and by staying together no matter what.

Have you experienced racism in your own life? If so, how did it impact your faith and your understanding of reconciliation?

Are you interested in further conversations on race and reconciliation? If so, BelPres has a Justice and Reconciliation team that meets twice a month. For more information contact me,  Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach at mmccracken@belpres.org.

 

 

Baby Basics Mother’s Day Diaper Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Baby Basics HERE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!