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

 

10th Annual Auto Angels Car Show-N-Shine!

Do you ever come up at a red light with some shiny, rumbly, vroom-vroom kind of car next to you? If you’re like me, you might roll the window down a bit to hear the purr of a fine engine. I’ve always been a classic car fan, since I was a kid, vacationing at my aunt & uncle’s place in Boise, where Uncle Ron always kept his Model A & Model T under dust covers, AutoAngels_Acebut was always driving some chromed-out, baby blue, metal-flaked piece of American muscle art. I will never forget tooling around Boise with my cousin Mary in Uncle Ron’s Model T, Hoyt Axton blaring on the Walkman in the seat next to us. How cool would it be to drive a Model T to your high school every day? But I digress.

The reason I’m talking about shiny hunks of metal today is because in just two weeks, the Auto Angels 10th Annual Car Show-N-Shine is on! September 17, 9am-3pm, right out in the BelPres Lower Parking Lot.

Everyone is welcome to attend and it’s free to the public! If you have a set of wheels you would like to shine up and show we invite you to participate. Registration is easy, and being an entrant brings a new level of fun.

Some of the highlights of our show include:

  • Unique & rare collector cars
  • Lunch grilled to perfection by Brief Encounter
  • Make ‘n Take model building fun for the kids
  • PPG coloring books
  • Door prizes and raffle items
  • Awards and dash plaques for entries

In addition there will be seminars on Lubricants and Car Detailing by the professionals from Chevron and Griot’s Garage.

If you have attended one of our car shows in the past, you won’t want to miss this one! Never attended before? Invite a neighbor and friend to come with you and of course bring the whole family for a day filled with fun. You may want to check out the 2015 award winners along with a link to their photo.

There’s even a parade of the winners at 2pm! Our family never misses the Auto Angels Car Show, and it’s going to be a special one this year, for the 10th Anniversary. See you there!

What Would Jesus Say to a Muslim?

It seems a bit presumptuous to assume I could know what Jesus would say to a Muslim today.  After all, there are 3.3 million followers of Islam living in the U.S. today. That’s equivalent to 1% of our population. And, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. So how could I know what Jesus would say to a Muslim?

Many of us who read this blog don’t know much abouCross-in-the-foreground-the-Dome-of-the-Rock-shrine-in-the-Old-City-of-Jerusalem-in-the-background_larget who they are and what Muslims believe other than what we see on TV or read in the news. That’s why I am writing this series on Islam. I want to help us become better informed and better equipped for the world we live in as followers of Jesus.

That brings me back to this crucial question of what Jesus would say to a Muslim, because the answer to this question gives us strong guidance for how Jesus invites us to engage this world we live in.

What would Jesus say to a Muslim?

The responses to this question generally fall within one of three different categories. The first is characterized by the main idea that Muslims, Jews and Christians all believe in the same God. When a Muslim says ‘There is no God but Allah’, they are proclaiming loyalty to the same Unique, One and only true God that Jews and Christians proclaim. The term ‘Allah’ is the Aramaic equivalent to the word we use in English for ‘God’. So, people who think of Islam in this way would see Jesus saying the same thing to a Muslim, as He would say to the rest of us who follow him; “I no longer call you servants…instead I call you friends,” Jn 15:15. Thus, Islam is part of the one big family of faith and is fundamentally a religion of peace. It’s just another way of worshipping God. That’s one view.

There is a second category of responses, which swings to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This view is characterized by the main idea that Muslims worship a false god whose ultimate agenda is to force the world into submission using whatever means possible, including war and acts of terror. The only way to safety and security for the rest of us is to either build a wall to keep them out or launch an all out war to wipe them out. So from this perspective, Jesus would tell Muslims they are children of the devil and that He has come to destroy the works of the devil; 1Jn 3:18. Islam is a religion of violence and all Muslims are terrorists. That’s the opposite end of the spectrum of perception regarding followers of Islam among Christians.

While the first group is more progressive and tolerant, the second group is more militant and oppositional. One tells us “we are all the same” and the other tells us to “keep ‘em out or wipe ‘em out.” It is interesting to me that the progressives in Jesus’ day were called Sadducees and the militants were called Zealots. Neither group could get behind the Kingdom of God way of life Jesus announced. Instead, they would ultimately join forces to crucify him. Think about that for a moment.

Jesus is Lord of the third way. When presented with a forced choice between two binary options, Jesus always chose something different. The third way in this Christian conversation is the view that Islam is an incomplete religion. Sadly, Muslims do not have a full understanding of the One true God they worship. There are over 90 names for ‘Allah’ in Islam, but none of them conveys the intimate relationship with Abba Father that is characteristic of God in the Christian faith. Muslims also do not have full assurance of salvation because their faith is based on obedience and good works rather than the ultimate work of Christ who paid the debt for all our sins on the cross. So what would Jesus say to a Muslim? We are called to look to scripture for our answers. “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest… take my yoke on you and you will find rest for your souls,” Mt 10.28,29. “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jn 14.6.

Jesus is the fullness of God incarnate in human form, Col. 1.15,19.  He is the Universal Lord of an uncompromising Gospel and the one and only cure to our sin problem, Col 1.13-14, Col 1.19-22, Mt 26.28, Acts 4.12, Eph 2.8   Those who place their trust in Him are made new and have a secure hope for eternity, Jn 3.16, 2 Cor 5.17; Ro, 6.23.

Understanding Islam as an incomplete religion gives us clear guidance as followers of Jesus. The One, Almighty, Compassionate, Gracious, and Loving God has revealed the fullness of His grace and truth in Jesus Christ. This wonderful good news is for everyone, including Muslims. Yes, some Muslims are extreme terrorists and have a warped, not incomplete, understanding of God. But they are a very small minority and are the reason many Muslims are abandoning Islam in the Middle East and here in the U.S..

Muslims are people: people we are called to love, not fear. People we are called to welcome and seek relationship with, not to exclude.  People who need a Savior and His name is Jesus. So what can you do today?  Begin praying for the salvation of your Muslim neighbors. Ask God to give you a Muslim friend. Pray that God will send followers of Jesus to show and tell the Good News of the Gospel to Muslims in places where they have no access to the Gospel. Find out more about one of the ministries Belpres supports to share Jesus with Muslims.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” Rom 10.13-14.

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!

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

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.

 

The Family Caretaker and Historian: Celebrating Arlene Darby

One of the first people I met when I started working at BelPres over 8 years ago was Arlene Darby. I originally thought she might have been a staff member. She was always around the building working on something: making copies, passing out articles, collecting prayers, dropping off notes, preparing things to mail and checking out everything in the narthex.

At that time we had those rolling cubes in the lobby where the departments put information and brochures for people to pick up or look over. Arlene made sure we had current information and enough available.  She would do her personalArlene Darby inventory and let departments or the front desk know what was needed.  She cared that we had what people may be looking for.

Add to that Arlene’s meticulous and faithful management and leadership of the monthly collection of food and funds for Local Food Relief, it’s easy to understand my confusion about Arlene’s role as part of the church staff.

The longer I was here, however, I realized that Arlene had a much greater role than her opportunities serving as LFR coordinator, prayer warrior, fact checker and copier. Arlene is our BelPres family care taker and historian.

More than those things she does around BelPres, Arlene knows and loves the people who make up and are connected to this church.  She scours the local papers—Bellevue, Seattle, Kirkland—daily to see how her church is part of what is happening outside of the church building. Maybe it’s one of the many articles about the Jubilee REACH Center and the way it is impacting lives of families on the Eastside. Or perhaps it is about how the Jubilee Service Day has changed the way churches and schools come together, or perhaps it is an article about the importance of our food banks and the need for providing food in a place and time where many families find it hard to put enough food on the table each day.

But most often, it is a photo, article or mention of someone—member, grandchild, pastor, child—who is part of BelPres that she cuts out, copies and hands out to various staff members.  Many of us have a very large ARLENE folder in our file drawers filled with these mementos. Like a proud aunt or grandmother, Arlene wants to share the news and brag about her family.

Such a gift for all of us; to have someone who sees the BelPres community as her family and gains joy from finding and sharing those snippets of life.  She knows us, too.  The names of our children, their activities and accomplishments.

She cares for us and about us. She cares about the things we do and she cares about who we are as a church.  Her care for that role as a church has helped her share the word for over 25 years about Local Food Relief, a BelPres partnership with Hopelink and the Emergency Feeding Program which has raised over half a million dollars and delivered many tons of food.  She cares that BelPres is making a difference in lives in her community by helping families put food on the table.

Arlene is beginning to step away from some of these things.  She is starting to hand over some of the Local Food Relief responsibility and she is finding some fellow prayer warriors to share those prayers, but she is still caring for her family—bringing in articles and stories about BelPres—the church and the people she loves.  I wonder who may be next to step in and follow some of the many footprints Arlene has left all over this church. And I hope that we all take a piece of that caring, loving and celebrating that Arlene encourages in our church community.

Wouldn’t that be awesome, awesome, awesome!

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!

 

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.

Medical Teams International–Volunteers Bring Hope and Healing

Roxanne was late for her appointment at the Mobile Dental Clinic stationed at a low-income housing facility on the Eastside. She was fatigued, stressed and concerned that she had missed her chance to be seen that day. For her, this was her only option and to lose it could mean months more of debilitating pain she had been dealing with for over a year now. She was late because she had been at the hospital that morning with her brother who had just been diagnosed with cancer. For most of us that would be a call to the dentist office to reschedule but when this is your only option you fit it in around a family emergency.

These stories are uncomfortably commonplace at our Mobile Dental clinics but here is the good news…

Dr. Karr, who volunteers his time locally with MTI aMTIPicture1nd leads dental missions overseas, was able to fit her in. About thirty minutes and a couple of extracted teeth later, Roxanne finally felt relief and had the highlight of an otherwise difficult day.

The reality is children and adults from low-income families suffer from more dental decay and are less likely to receive treatment than those in higher income brackets. The situation is precipitated by high levels of poverty, coverage limitations of low-income insurance options, lack of insurance altogether and a shortage of accessible locations. Left untreated, dental problems lead to chronic pain, difficulty eating, speech problems and severe and debilitating health conditions. Healthy, pain free teeth and mouths increase confidence and can prepare patients for jobs and job searches.

Volunteers like Dr. Karr and many others bring hope and healing to people such as Roxanne by partnering with Medical Teams International and their Mobile Dental Program. MTI has eleven fully equipped mobile dental clinics that travel throughout Oregon and Washington caring for patients. The clinics are in high demand and are regularly booked out several months. In order to care for these patients, we rely on dental professionals with hearts for those in need to come along side and make a lasting impact.

If you are a dental professional there is a place for you. Dentists, hygienists and assistants regularly volunteer their talents around times that fit their schedules. We have people that volunteer from once a year to once a week and it all goes a long ways. We’ll have all the supplies and equipment you’ll need to be successful. Retired dentist? Washington has some incredible benefits for retired dentists who volunteer their time up to and including insurance coverage, license renewals and more at no cost.

Roxanne could have easily moved on to the next thing in this demanding day but she wanted to express her thanks for Dr. Karr and the other dental professional volunteers who were there that day. With gauze in her mouth and a smile on her face she insisted that we shoot a video on our phone. “I’ve never experienced care this good. I am thankful. This makes my day better and I am very thankful for the dentists. I want them to know – thank you, thank you, thank you”.

Never experienced care this good? How could that be?

My guess is because it came as a gift wrapped in compassion and generosity on a really hard day.

To volunteer contact GetConnected.

Young Life Bellevue–Helping Teens Connect with Jesus

Since 1941 Young Life has introduced millions of teenagers to Jesus Christ and helped them grow in their faith.   With an emphasis on showing kids that faith in God can be fun, exhilarating, and life-changing, Young Life has almost 80,000 volunteers reaching almost 2 million kids a year around the world.

Here in Bellevue, Young Life is on the move.  Our mission is to be wide and deep in the world of Bellevue teenagers.  We want to be wide….introducing kids to Jesus at every middle school and high school in the city….and deep….challenging and encouraging kids to becoming disciples.

We currently take over 250 middle school and high school kids from Bellevue to camp each summer where they hear the Gospel in a fresh way, while surrounded by some of the most incredible beauty of God’s creation.   After camp, we encourage kids to get involved in Young Life each week back home where they are encouraged to grow in their faith.

One of the kids who met Christ at a Young Life camp last year was Josh*.  Josh attends Bellevue HS and comes from a family where English is not spoken at home, and his parents made no mention of Christ while being raised.  Last spring, Josh found that he could make a lot of money by stealing alcohol from stores and then selling it to classmates.  But, while he was caught up in that lifestyle, Josh heard about Young Life camp from a friend.  He thought it sounded fun and signed up.

While at Malibu Josh heard about Jesus for the first time and felt deep conviction about his past life.  He confessed his old life to his leader one night under the stars, and decided to follow Christ.  In the months after returning home, Josh became a part of a local church, and joined it’s youth group.  He still comes to Young Life occasionally and is growing in his faith through the encouragement of both the church and Young Life.

We love Josh’s story for a lot of reasons, but in particular we love that it shows how Young Life and the church can work together.  We’re grateful for Bel Pres and it’s members for supporting our work with dis-interested teenagers who need to know about the God who loves them.   Lost teenagers are a difficult crowd to reach, but together Young Life and the local church can reach the thousands of teenagers in Bellevue who don’t know Christ.

Volunteer leaders who go to summer camp with kids, and then follow up with them throughout the year are what make Young Life work. We have plenty of kids involved and now need more leaders to mentor and disciple them.  We need adults willing to give just  a couple hours a week to invest in the lives of teenagers. The difference you can make is incredible and eternal. If you’d like to know more about becoming a volunteer leader, or think you know someone who would be a great fit, please contact GetConnected.

Re-Thinking Unreached People Groups

Nan’s note: Rev. John Kim is our new Global Outreach Director here at BelPres. He brings vast experience from his years in a variety of ministries. This is his first post for the BelPres mission blog. mail_image_previewWelcome, John!

Have you ever thought of making a difference with an unreached people group? When you think of an unreached people group you normally think of an obscure ethnic group living in a location almost impossible to get to. It can be, but it also can be an ethnic group that has less than 2% of its population that are evangelical Christian. And surprisingly you can find unreached people groups in some of the world’s most exotic cities, like Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, when you get beyond the beautiful city landscapes, bustling outdoor market shops, world financial center powerhouse, shopping districts and the best eateries in the world, has an underbelly of poverty and social injustice. Out of the 7 million people living in Hong Kong, 1.2 million live below the poverty line.  A few years ago, I had to opportunity to connect with Inner City Ministries (ICM), a Christian organization in Hong Kong that is reaching an unreached people group, the Nepalese. Originally, the Nepalese people came to Hong Kong as part of the Gurkha brigade of the British army. Most of the Nepali population in Hong Kong are the second and third generation of Gurkha soldiers that served in the British army in the 1970s. The Nepalese are one of the poorest groups severely marginalized by high unemployment, discrimination and the inherited disempowerment that comes from widespread socio-economic privation. Many of the Nepalese-Chinese children do not ever graduate from grade school and most follow the path to homelessness, drug & alcohol addiction, prostitution, and gangs.

One of the programs ICM has is a tutoring and mentoring program for children and youth. I came to one of the tutoring sessions and encountered one of the staff, Dhupa, who was teaching one of the classes to the students. Dhupa, a third generation Nepalese-Chinese, came to ICM as one of the students who grew up in the program and because of the love of Christ, she found a new life and noICM prayerw is an educator in the program.  In just a short time, you couldn’t help but feel love and compassion toward these children. I find it amazing that regardless of geographic location, children are the same everywhere you go. They play the same way, they joke the same way, they laugh at things the same way that all kids do. Dhupa shared story after story of children and families destroyed by drug abuse, homelessness and racial inequalities. ICM has groups that come in throughout the year to support the children & youth with tutoring, mentoring, bible studies, and music.

For many, unreached people groups are under the radar in our daily lives. Yes, there are places that many cannot go to but there are places accessible. Places where we can help and support organizations like ICM. They are on the front lines of sharing the love of Christ to the least in the world. I hope that we all will consider making a difference with an unreached people group. Impact.

What is God Calling YOU Into?

Have you noticed that the last several Lenten seasons Pastor Scott has suggested that rather than giving something up for Lent we take something on? Well, your Mission + Serve department has been listening. We’ve compiled some ideas for service and prayer in this Season of Lent. Of course this list is not exhaustive. In fact, if you come up with something from the list, OR something you’ve dreamed up on your own, would you please let me know? Shoot me an email at Nan Van Zwol. Read on for ideas and links, and Take Something ON for Lent!

  • Serve a meal at a day center or winter shelter, helping our neighbors who are unhoused, in transition or escaping from difficult situations. Opportunities with New Horizons, CFH, and others.
  • Register for the Discover + Live Your Purpose Webinar Re-Broadcast. Register HERE
  • Correspond with a Bellevue Presbyterian Church Missionary living abroad. Contact Nan Van Zwol
  • Pray for a First Responder through Bellevue Police Prayer Partners (BP3). Read more about it and sign up HERE
  • Give up 1, 2, or even 5 lattes a week in order to increase your gift to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.
  • Volunteer with Club Jubilee at Chinook Middle School.
  • Join the Fireside Knitters, meeting first and third Thursdays, 9am-12pm in the Welcome room
  • Pick up a copy of Seek God for the City 2016, a Lenten prayer booklet specifically for Revival, available in the Lobby, or download the app HERE
  • Choose a Community or Global Outreach Partner to pray for every day. See our Mission + Serve Directory for a list of partners and missionaries
  • Prayer Walk your neighborhood daily, or weekly, or as often as works for you. Let us know what you did, below!
  • Pray daily for a Winter Impact Team. Pray for Haiti with Crossworld, Guatemala with Nicolas Fund for Education, and Dominican Republic with Children of the Nations. Contact Nan Van Zwol
  • Become a KidReach tutor or an Eastside Academy mentor.
  • Read Roadmap to Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil (available in the church library), and join the Justice and Reconciliation discussion group.
  • Read a selection from the Lenten resources on display in the 1st floor Welcome Room Library
    Check out the Library’s Online Catalog for more Lenten resources
  • Join the Usher Team.
  • Join the Flower Committee.
  • Send a care package to a Missionary or BelPres College Student.
  • Pack a used handbag–in good condition–with toiletries and snack foods. Keep it in your car to hand to women in need you encounter.
  • Stop by the Mission + Serve office (on the 2nd floor of the Lower Campus) and pick up a Family Prayer & Action Journey pack. 30 days of prayer geared toward families wanting to pray together for issues of Justice. Produced by Steps of Justice

Fill out this Form to find out more, or let us know what cool thing you’re taking on in the comments section, below!

BelPres Serve Service Opportunity Contact Form

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