Pchum Ben-Festival of the Dead

Phnom Penh is a ghost town.  For 3 days, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic while people fled as if a tsunami was coming up the Mekong from the Gulf of Thailand.  Every year at this time, Cambodian families leave to pay homage to their ancestors in their home village. Almost everything is closed, except maybe a gas station and a few shopping markets.  It’s like the only time I can get over 30 mph on my bike – once a year!

Alana visited for a week, and loved it; teaching English at DOVE(Develop Our Village Economy), visiting schoolmates, spending time with her step-siblings, Johnnathan and Yorean. She ate all her favorite Khmer dishes. Then she missed her flight booked through some fly-by-night Chinese Airline; so we got an extra day with her.  Good bye, Kids!  🙁

Three kids and one teen from HOP were integrated back to their home villages yesterday and today. In some cases, this is a good thing. In other cases, it’s a tragedy.  I have lived with and been a part of these kids’ lives for 5 years now. They call me “daddy.” Every time I have been called “daddy,” it startles me and makes me think: am I being a good example of a father? Am I loving them, and encouraging them? My time with them has allowed me to love these children in a way that has eluded me most of my life. Miss Chanta, 12 years old, a tough cookie and a HOP scrapper, knew her time was down to the wire; soon to be shipped out to a distant aunt. For the last week – every day – she escorts me out to where I park my motorcycle, slips her arm into mine and off we go.  Upon firing up the Baja, she hops on the back and I drop her back at HOP. The next day, she waits for me to come home from work and goes through the same ritual. My soul has been shaped (living in a community of children nobody really wanted) in ways that would never happen in a conventional world.

 I am now teaching the “Missional Church” block in ONYX. We are discovering that God is a ‘sending God’ and we, as his people, are a ‘sent people’ – pushed out of our safe and comfortable nests into uncertainty to bring hope to the marginalized and rejected. Local pastors don’t like this block as they are interested in keeping the actions within the church building where they believe: they are in control, there is no risk, discomfort, nor leveling of power. The students are into this concept though and are surprised to find this principle everywhere in the Bible.

It worked out well when most ONYX students joined in an interfaith tree-planting event in the vanishing jungles of Cambodia for four days.  It was truly a holistic mission at its best. I had planned to go but Bophal’s assistant smashed her knee and I got to mind ‘Fort Banchee.’
It has been fun and this 5th-year cohort has been the most responsive to all we do. I love this group as they choose to be vulnerable, curious, fun and open to new paradigms.  We have two from HOP this year. ONYX Phnom is also a very close Christian Community and missional. We’ve got all the right DNA. 

Bophal and I would do well to savor such times as tremendous gifts. The more organic we become and the deeper we go (personally, HOP and DOVE), the more elusive funding becomes. The correlation escapes me.  Maybe recovering our souls is part of the cost issue.  The structures and systems that served so well in the past don’t seem to fit the revived soul.

 

Peace to you,

Brian and Bophal

 

URBANA in a Nutshell

When I was a sophomore at Whitworth University (2009), I went to Urbana missions’ conference for the first time. I kept hearing about Urbana: “It will change your life!” I was skeptical, of course, but it definitely intrigued me. I was excited about the thousands of college students from around the world gathering in one place to learn more about missions. And so, I went…and, indeed, it did change my life.  (That’s where I first heard about InnerCHANGE. Immediately, I connected with the Guatemalan team, maintained a friendship over the past 8 years and now, have worked as a missionary with InnerCHANGE for over a year in Los Angeles).  When I got there, I realized that I really didn’t have a paradigm for HOW BIG it would be. It was amazing and also a bit overwhelming but in a good way.

There are SO many connections: so many mission organizations, break-out sessions and specialized tracks for people to focus on, as well as Bible studies, awesome speakers and amazing multi-cultural worship.

Things to know:

  • The focus is definitely on the college-age crowd, but anyone can come – so don’t feel dissuaded if you don’t fit in that group, especially if someone is excited about missions. It’s an AMAZING experience and I highly recommend it.
  • It’s HUGE. Thousands of people gather together; lots of energy and lots of information! It’s really exciting, so take advantage of it…but also take care of yourself.  You actually will be more engaged if you take some time to rest, process and pray, instead of feeling pressured to squeeze everything in (that was helpful for me, at least, as an introvert).
  • Be prayerful as you engage in Urbana, and be open to how God might move or work while you’re there. You never know what will open, or how God will speak to you:  through a speaker, worship, a conversation or a time of prayer.
  • Take notes, journal, have conversations, pray. It could be helpful to take something home to look over again later (notebooks with schedules and speakers are provided, but if you have your own that you prefer, bring it!).
  • Get ready…because, whether in a big or a small way, it WILL change your life if you let it!
  • Also, St. Louis is a fun city with lots of free things to do. There may not be a ton of free time, but you can take advantage of things that the city has to offer. It does get COLD in the winter, so bring winter clothes. My sister has lived in St. Louis for the last 5+ years. If it’s helpful to get a list of fun things to do or places to go, I’m happy to ask her! Urbana also does a good job of letting people know which restaurants to go to and helps direct the traffic so that no place is too flooded during lunch time.
  • Since Urbana is so big, it’s nice to go with a group of people you know. Groups can help people process, engage in conversation, explore, etc. and you can also split up and go to different sessions and share what you learned later!

To sum up Urbana in one sentence:  Thousands of people fired up for missions. Come to experience the joy, energy, and inspiration of Urbana. See how God is inviting YOU to participate in missions in your own backyard or across the world.

 

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

 

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!

 

Chris & Beverly Crowder, Serving with SIM in South Sudan

Last week we included a prayer in the bulletin for the Crowder family, who have been experiencing, with their mission community, the loss of a missionary child–the child of friends. Several folks asked for more information about the Crowders. Pastor Rich Leatherberry met Chris and Bev when he was in then Sudan, now South Sudan, with a team back in November 2006. BelPres Global Outreach has followed the Crowders ever since. Chris is now the National Director for SIM in South Sudan, and Bev serves as Medical Director. Read their biography, below.

Chris Crowder felt an almost physical pull on his life at age six. He was baptized at age seven and raised in a Christian home. However, the turning point in his life came when life choices forced him to choose Christ as his own savior, NOT his family’s.

After finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering at Baylor University he became more involved in local church life and plunged headlong into the field of wireless telecom. Several years of career success ensued but with it came an emptiness and an intense loathing of the corporate world.

After a lot of prayer and searching, Chris started to take some steps of short-term trips and more adventurous kinds of Christian service. He was discipled by an older man, something that contributed hugely to his spiritual development.

In 1998, after a brief stint in Guatemala with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Chris was ready to pray “Lord, I’ll do this if you want me to, but please don’t send me out alone.” About that same time, God began to call Beverly.

Having committed to mission service before they met, they began a search together and found a mutual passion and calling for Sudanese people, especially the Lost Boys of Sudan living in Nashville, TN.

SIM was a logical choice because of Bev’s abilities as a Family Nurse Practitioner and Chris’ interest in evangelism, discipleship, Bible Translation and a myriad of other things.

They spent a wonderful first year seconded to Samaritan’s Purse,– Bev doing medical work and medical training; Chris doing evangelism, church training, and community development.

Little Thomas was born Nov 11, 2006 having spent his entire gestational life in various parts of Sudan. Chris began serving his first term as director for the two Sudans in July 2008. Jonathan was born in August. Then in February of 2010, Bethlehem Joy was born.

BelPres, let’s remember the Crowder family in our prayers, especially now as their mission community grieves the loss of a child.

Break My Heart –Mary McCracken

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

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

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

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

Another Mission!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christ In the Middle East

By Rich Leatherberry, Mission Pastor

Reports from the Middle East fill websites, newspapers and television news stations with bad news about terrorist groups and uprisings. Our own government rightly strategizes and builds coalitions to bring peace to the region and protect national interests. But true peace is not established through military dominance or economic sanctions. True peace is found in a person and His name is Jesus. Forgiveness and Reconciliation are only possible through a relationship with Him. This is the message of the Christian church today in places like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. These Christians trace their ancestry back to the first church born at Pentecost. Sadly, many are forced to flee their homes, neighborhoods and work places in order to find refuge in safer places. But some Christians are staying. They refuse to be enemies with those who persecute them. They choose to love rather than hate. They have faith that their Christian witness will point to the only one who can bring true peace. As hard as it is for us to imagine here, they believe that staying rather than leaving, enduring persecution and suffering, is what Jesus is asking them to do. It is the cross they are being called to carry.

On June 18, Muslims around the world will begin 30 days of fasting during a season called Ramadan. 23% of the World’s population is Muslim with 20% of those living in North Africa and the Middle East. This season creates a great opportunity for Christians in the West to join with Christians in the Middle East in solidarity and mission. Through prayer, we engage in an act of love for Muslim people, understanding their concerns, learning about their customs and praying they will discover Jesus as the true object of their devotion.

I invite you to pick up a copy of 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World in the lobby or at the Welcome desk. This guide will help you learn about Islam, what God is doing in the Muslim world and how you can pray for them. You can also find the guide and more information at www.30daysprayer.com. Our hope and our peace are in a person. Prayer is our most effective way of bringing change to the Middle East and supporting our Christian brothers and Sisters who are still living there.

MS/HS Denver Mission Trip

This past Spring Break, the BelPres Middle School and High School Departments sent a team of 10 people on a mission trip to Denver, Colorado, where we partnered with Center for Student Missions (CSM), an organization that facilitates urban missions and service experiences for various church groups.

As they guided us throughout the week, CSM was a mission tour guide of sorts for us—helping our group get to know the city of Denver and walk alongside its people. Even more, CSM helped us see the unique issues and problems in the city and allowed us to see firsthand what God is doing to foster and further His Kingdom in the city of Denver. (more…)

Steadfast Senders, Rally the Troops!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell Them We Are Not Terrorists

By Rev Rich Leatherberry 

“Tell them we are not terrorists”, she says in response to our question; “What would you say to our congregations?” She is 17, a Christian, in her senior year of high school and hoping to attend college next year. She is bright, well spoken and looks like any other 17 year old here in Bellevue with one big exception. She is Palestinian and lives with an international stereotype which, like the 26 foot wall that separates her from the rest of the world, prevents us from ever knowing who she really is. All her dreams, hopes and aspirations will remain hidden behind the wall and obscured by the stereotype assigned to her for the rest of her life. Because of the economic insecurity created by life behind the wall, she will graduate from college but will live most of her adult life unemployed and poor. Unless something changes.

“Hope” is a 4-week class I am teaching in May. The class will provide an overview of what is going on in Israel/Palestine; examine the varying perspectives and biases which influence the way we interpret current events there; look at the Bible and what it has to say about what God might want for Israel/Palestine; and how we can bring change.

Personally, my experience with Israel/Palestine has caused me to examine my own faith walk with Jesus. It has questioned how I view the world as a follower of Jesus and what I allow to influence my worldview. It has questioned my own sense of calling and how God might want to use me each day. It has questioned the way I interpret the Bible and how I allow it to speak into my life today. The truth is that Israel/Palestine is making me a different follower of Jesus.

My hope for you who take this class is that Israel/Palestine will be an outward journey of discovery, discussion and decision around what is happening and the people who live there. I also hope this class will launch you on an inward journey to examine your own faith and help you become a different follower of Jesus.

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…)

Impact Team Reflection: Why go?

Becky Gonzalez
BelPres Director of Global Outreach

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

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

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

6 Things Your Church Should be Doing, but Probably Isn’t

By Becky Gonzalez, Director of Global Outreach

 

This article from Relevant Magazine is a challenge for churches to be better at reaching our community and world for the sake of the Good News. BelPres! We are proud that you are a church community seeking to do these things. We are not perfect, but we are making good strides and love that we are a church committed to programs that lead to deeper and stronger relationships with each other and with God. Nonetheless it is a good challenge for us all to keep on track as ambassadors of the Gospel.

1. Working Face to Face with the Poor
2. Building Relationships with Other Churches
3. Putting Effort Toward Diversity
4. Chasing a Vision, not a Quota
5. Building a Missions Department that Goes Beyond the Offering Plate
6. Equipping Their Members, not Just Entertaining Them

In what areas are you proud of BelPres? Where do you think we can grow?