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

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?

Celebrating Child Sponsorship–May 15!

It was 24 years ago that Ted and I first sponsored a child. We helped a young boy in Kenya get an education and the food that he and his family needed to keep him out of the workforce and in school. At the time, we were having fertility issues (we had our first kiddo 12 years after we were married), and it meant a lot to me to have Nzokia to care for, even from a distance.  We prayed for him, sent him birthday and Christmas gifts (cash, which the project leaders would use to give him gifts) and corresponded with him via snail mail.

Since then, we’ve sponsored a girl in India, and another Kenyan boy. We have sponsored new children as each of our biological kids have come along. Currently we sponsor Putu, a little Balinese guy, and Kelvin, who lives in the Dominican Republic. We’re not the best at sponsorship. I go months without writing my kids sometimes. And we’ve never visited any of our sponsored kids, either, though I sure would love to.

But it is so fun watching these kids grow and develop into healthy adulthood. The opportunity to pray and write to children outside of our own culture is so world-expanding for our kids, too. I love that they have a larger understanding of the kingdom of God through our sponsorship children. And now we can do it through email, though I still love getting Putu’s drawings a few times a year.

Last Sunday, some of our BelPres families who sponsor children shared stories of how sponsorship has impacted them. John Kim was there, and caught their testimonies on video. Hear from Laurel Fortin HERE, and from Brian Los HERE.

If you sponsor a child already, great! We want to celebrate you! Please stop by the giant map in the Lobby and put a pin in your child’s location. You DO NOT have to have sponsored through BelPres Partner ministries to put your pin on the map. We want to get an idea of how many BelPres families have Child Sponsorship as part of their family giving profile. We hope you’ll participate! We praise God for your gift of sponsorship.

Of course, we will also have many children available for sponsorship, as well. Kids from many of our ministry partners.  It is so fun to see the faces of all the kids who have been sponsored through past sponsorship Sundays, and pray over the faces of those in need of sponsors.

So come by, have a snack, pray for the children, put a pin in the map, and maybe pick out a new child for sponsorship. BelPres is a congregation that believes in children!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Testimony from a Helper: Kathy Claudon

One of our extraordinary BelPres volunteers, Kathy Claudon, helps with a variety of ministries through Mission + Serve. Mary McCracken, Community Outreach Director, asked Kathy to share her testimony with us on the blog. God has done amazing things through Kathy. Enjoy her testimony!

An amazing thing happened to me when I was about 31 years old. I had the unexpected experience of God answering my fervent prayer. It was the Vietnam era, and the mantra was “God is Dead.” I was afraid it was true. I don’t know if I can convey how extraordinary this was in writing, but I’ll try.

Our baby son, who is now a big, strong, father of three blessed sons, was born with an underdeveloped immune system, which, back then they didn’t know how to treat. Our son was so ill the doctors told us, many times, he may not live through the night. Severe asthma, ongoing pneumonia, horrible ear infections–his eardrums burst 90 times. They tried tubes but they wouldn’t stay in. He was in so much pain all the time. He finally developed permanent holes in his ears which relieved some of the awful pain.

He often had so much puss running out of his ears, nose, lungs that no day care or preschool felt safe with him there. Our whole lives were taken over by the “keep our son alive” project. We had him sleep with us so we could hear if he stopped breathing. His life was hospitals, doctors up to three times a day with emergencies, and painful frightening treatments. He would wake up in the hospital after he had become unconscious at home. He didn’t actually get to regular school until 3rd grade. This was before I knew God was real, and hope was hard to come by.

Then one day I was in such despair, I started crying and asking God if he was real and if Jesus was really his son. I cried and moved thru the house praying like a zombie for 3 days and nights. Couldn’t stop. I had to know if life had any meaning. The third day, while I was crying and sweeping our 6 year old daughter’s room and fervently praying, I heard an actual deep voice around me say “YES Kathy, I AM REAL AND JESUS IS MY SON AND UNTIL YOU COME TO ME, PEOPLE MUST HELP EACH OTHER.” An amazing happening!

It still took me a number of years to mature in my faith, but I knew God had blessed me with the most amazing gift he could have given me: relief that he lives.

This is why I am so happy to follow his mandate from that day, that “people must help each other.” This has led me gradually into a joyful life of helping. I assist with the Congregations for the Homeless (CFH) homeless shelter BelPres provides for 40 men for the month of December. I also am blessed to be a tutor in our KidREACH program. (We always need more tutors). And I am assisting in setting up a new BelPres project of feeding breakfast to homeless young people at the New Horizons shelter in Seattle. We would love to have your help to provide a breakfast for about 20 people to help these kids.

I have told this story to Christians, non-Christians, and atheists alike. A few ask me if I was asleep and dreamt this. No, absolutely not! I see some people start doing some deep thinking, and some who know how blessed I was to have this divine experience. So far, no one has called me “crazy” or accused me of making it up.

Believe me, this was a clear answer to my fervent prayer. Again, I thank God for this gift. This is why I am so thankful to be able to pitch in and do as he told me. I’m so glad that our church has so many ways to help people in our community.

Want to help with CFH, KidREACH, or with breakfasts at New Horizons? Contact Get Connected today!

Experiencing Christmas Overseas

This time of year, my heart turns to missionary friends living overseas. Christmas for Missionaries can be a mixed bag. For the first time missionary experiencing Christmas in a developing world context, Christmas can be hard. But then, it isn’t. First, you’re missing all of the trappings of Christmas in your “home country”, but then, you also get to skip all the trappings of western Christmas, which isn’t always a bad thing. You’re missing family. Loneliness hits, big time. But then, you’ve also got your new family of friends on the mission field.  Folks who you bonded with over transportation, shopping or language learning woes. These people take up residence in your heart very quickly, and at Christmas, having them around makes all the difference.

When you do Christmas overseas, you’ll certainly miss some of the sights, smells, and sounds of Christmas back home. However, most missionaries have that sense of hope, peace, joy and love that sometimes are missing in Christmas in the west. If you’re serving in the developing world, or in an unreached place, all around you there are people God loves, people Jesus came for, and you’ve got a unique opening to talk about who Jesus is and what he did, because of this world famous holiday. So there’s a lot of joy and hope in Christmas overseas for folks working toward fulfilling the great commission.

This is also the time of year when families get reunited on t
he mission field. Children who are over 18 generally roll off their parent’s visa, so have to go back to their “passport country”—which is rarely home. For some missionaries this means the end of their overseas service. But for many, it means sending kids to college in the US while the parents and younger siblings remain “home” in faraway lands. Christmas has a heightened sense of waiting when you’re waiting for a plane to arrive.

So my heart turns toward these families this time of year, when many mission agencies support flying college-age kids back to the field for Christmas with family. Sometimes the planes go the other direction, though, allowing the whole missionary family to experience the wonder that is Christmas in America. I remember friends of ours delaying furlough by 6 months, because they, and their children, had not experienced Christmas in America in more than a dozen years. There are some pretty great things about Christmas here in the states—live church music comes to mind—and it’s special to let kids experience it for the first time.

No matter what stage of life, from those new to the field, to those who have just moved back to the states after years of fruitful ministry, missionaries need to be remembered in prayer at this time of year.

May your Christmas be filled with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love!

 

Finding home and a hope: Jared’s Eastside Academy Story

Jared had always struggled with school, and as a result, he simply didn’t attend. His home was filled with so much dysfunction that he was never taught the most basic of life-skills.  He arrived at Eastside Academy scared and unsure of his desire to stay.  A small Christian school seemed daunting: there might be no place to hide.   And then, almost as soon as he started, he found out that Eastside Academy hosts a two-day fall retreat for all of their students, he was really unsure of what lay ahead. However, he quickly learned that this retreat provided him with opportunities he had never dreamed of.

They were going to l10408809_10152713425601445_6823308324329766019_net him ride a motorcycle for the first time?   The staff were willing to jump in and get shot up playing paintball alongside the students?  (Guess who won?)   Each person got hoisted into a crazy ropes course and cheered each other along.   Students formed teams and performed ski
ts by a fire pit late at night.  And then, a “chaplain” talked about Jesus in a different way.  Jesus…present in Jared’s suffering.  Jesus…a steady voice in the darkness.  Jared began to realize for the first time that he was surrounded by people who deeply value him and want him to succeed.  He found a place where he could be himself.

Eastside Academy serves teens that other programs cannot or will not serve and serves them in a unique way.  They provide youth with an education, addiction recovery, mental health counseling, housing, mentors, and alumni support. Twice a year, all students are taken on retreats in order for them to build relationships, have new experiences, get to know one another, and hear about Jesus.  Eastside Academy partners with the community to serve at-risk youth, through events such as their upcoming Dinner and Live Auction being held October 17, at the Meydenbauer Center.  Additionally, they are looking for volunteers serve as mentors to these students, providing youth with healthy relationships that can be life-changing. For students like Jared, being paired with a mentor can make the all the difference.

If you feel called to mentor an Eastside Academy student, please contact Get Connected.
For more information on Eastside Academy events or programs, please contact Elyse Nicholson, director of Development for Eastside Academy.

 

 

First Responders Need Prayer

This summer Washington State has experienced catastrophic wildfires, with devastating loss of property and lives. Community Outreach mission partner, Mike Ryan, Chaplain for the Bellevue Fire Department and the Bellevue Police Department, let us know the impact the fires have had on our local fire departments and first responders. Mike states, “Between Bellevue, Eastside and Duvall Fire Departments, 30 first responders traveled across the state to fight the wildfires. The County also sent a significant amount of equipment. All of the fire service family felt the p2611ain of the loss of life suffered in Okanogan County. For the fatalities suffered in Twisp, Seattle Fire sent a team of peers to lead critical incident stress management efforts, and the Federation of Fire Chaplains provided support directly to the agencies and families impacted.”

The heartbreaking loss of the firefighters in the wildfires impacts our community of first responders deeply. Bellevue Fire Department continues to have 8 firefighters on the wildfire teams. Additionally, as law enforcement across our country have been randomly targeted and attacked, BelPres Community Outreach is raising the call for leadership for our Bellevue Police Prayer Partner Team. We recognize that our first responders and their families are sacrificially giving to serve and protect our community, and we are called as a church to care for them through our prayers. If you are interested in helping to organize this year’s team of prayer warriors in partnership with local law enforcement and Community Outreach, please contact Mary McCracken, Community Outreach Director.

Eastside Academy Seniors: Isaac

Over the last few weeks, BelPres Missions has been sharing stories of the nine seniors scheduled to graduate from Eastside Academy this month. Isaac’s story concludes our series.

isaac
Eastside Academy Senior: Isaac

Before Eastside Academy, I didn’t have much purpose.  I was a drug addict who didn’t think he could get his diploma.  I went through gangs, drugs, and thugs.  I did a lot of damage and was dealt a lot of damage.  Since coming to Eastside Academy, I have a purpose.  I love people.  I have family and friends.  I love myself.  I am happy and strong without hate in my heart.  Soon, I’ll finally have that diploma!  I’ve achieved what once seemed impossible to me.

After graduation, I plan to move back to Melbourne, Australia.  I’m going to serve the world of recovery there and help my friends and strangers get clean and achieve happiness.  My goals are to get married, have a family, share recovery, and start a Narcotics Anonymous meeting to help people get clean.

 

Eastside Academy Seniors: Sasha’s Story

Over the last few weeks, BelPres Missions has been sharing stories of the nine seniors scheduled to graduate from Eastside Academy this month. Here is Sasha’s story.

Before EA I was going to a local high school in Seattle. I was a very depressed person. I didn’t like anyone; I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and most of all I hated myself. I was doing okay in school but when a close friend of mine passed away it was different and I was just depressed. The middle of my junior year my parents started looking at different schools that would be more fitting for me. They found EA online and we decided to give it a try.

My time at EA has been shaky and I have had my ups and downs. It’s a small school and it feels different and people know each other. I like how tight we are and when someone’s not doing well we always want to cheer each other up.  My favorite class is Pre-Calculus. I never thought I was good in math, but when I came to EA I felt like I had a chance. I felt encouraged to do a harder class and was challenging by my teachers. Now I can work one on one with my Math teacher and I love Math class. I disliked my recovery class at first because we had to share our feelings but now I see that it’s helpful to know each other and to be able to support our friends.

Being vulnerable and open is helping me let people in and has helped me be more accepting of myself. I now take my classes more seriously and I have all A’s! Having smaller classes and more time with teachers is helping me get good grades.  I now enjoy my time in class.

I’m graduating in a few weeks and I’ve applied to Bellevue College. After that I plan to go to law school because I want to be a lawyer. I want to help the people that can’t get the help they should.

If it wasn’t for EA I can honestly say that I would be dead. I was very depressed before EA and I didn’t have the help that I needed. Now I have a counselor, Recovery class, and relationships with teachers and classmates that have helped me view myself better.

Prayer requests: I want to pray for all the kids that haven’t had the opportunity to be in a school like EA and pray that they find the help that they need.

More Than Sad

by Rich Leatherberry, Mission Pastor

Yesterday, I was at a funeral to support a friend of mine. He called me last week with the horrible news that his nephew had been killed in a drive-by shooting. The young man was walking on a sidewalk in Dallas when suddenly someone pulled up alongside him, pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger. He was 26 years young. The father of two and no one can figure out why this happened or who would do this to him. His family and friends here in Seattle are shocked, heartsick and grieving that yet another senseless killing has stolen one more human life. He had a name and a history. He was:

a friend
a nephew
a brother
a father
a son.

And now he is gone. The funeral concluded with everyone passing by his open casket to say goodbye. Then his sobbing father, who is younger than me, slowly lowered the varnished wooden lid down over his son and they carried him away.

In my Presbyterian tradition we call a service like this “A Celebration of Life and the Hope of the Resurrection.” But in my friend’s Christian tradition; they grieve. They cry and they wail and they let it all out. I grieved too. I grieved for a young man I didn’t know and for his kids who will grow up without him. I grieved for my friend and his family and I grieved because they were grieving. I grieved because stuff like this goes on and on and on and I’m tired of it. I grieved because we live in a fallen, broken, messed up world where people can steal lives and apparently get away with it. The murderer has still not been found out. And in the midst of all the crying and sobbing, I suddenly realize I’m more than sad. I’m mad.

I’m mad because life can be so unfair, fragile and unjust. I’m mad because there is very little we can do to protect ourselves from things like tragedy and death. I’m mad because life has become so cheap. That which God made in His own image became so cut-rate and despicable that it could be ended without a second thought.

So someone pulled the trigger… Which is a thought that, as it so forcefully races across the surface of my brain, causes me to realize what I’m really mad about: I am mad about sin and darkness and depravity and everything else that distorts the value of human beings and treats them like the dirt we sweep up off the floor. But I am not helpless. Because Jesus didn’t just come to die on a cross so we could all leap into heaven some day and be finally rid of this awful mess. Jesus came to rescue everyone, everywhere…..here on earth. And then, just before he ascended into Heaven, Jesus said; “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Mtt 28:19-20.

Jesus and His way are the only hope for this crazy, sin-sick world. As followers of Jesus, going and teaching and baptizing are our job. The rescue of this world depends on our obedience. As much as we might wish otherwise, God could do it all by Himself but He chooses to do it with us. And if we disobey, God will wait for another faithful generation to step forward. I hate the sin that steals life and makes me so mad. But the solution to it all has been placed in our hands and in our hearts.

What makes you sad and mad about the world? What is God asking from you?

BelPres Congregations for the Homeless Hosting: A Gift Received

Mary McCracken, Community Outreach Director 

 

This past December, BelPres hosted the men from Congregations for the Homeless. This is an annual event for BelPres, one we look forward to and find great joy in doing. Our BelPres congregation went above and beyond in providing meals, gifts, and relationally connecting with the men. Last week, BelPres Missions department received the following email from one mom whose family had participated in providing dinner one wintry evening.

“My family just had a wonderful time doing this. My 16 year old daughter sat and talked to one of the men for the longest time. Then William and I joined them. The gentleman was very outgoing and just plain fun to talk to. He gave my daughter advice about boys and life and from what I heard, it was very good advice!

I volunteer for Open Door Legal Services and I had met a couple of the men there as clients, so it was fun to recognize them and be able to chat with them in a more informal setting. All of the men are so truly grateful and appreciative. One gentleman told me about how the dinner we made reminded him so much of what his grandmother, who raised him and is now deceased, used to make. You could tell what fond memories it brought back. There were tears in his eyes.

This last week I met with one of the men who had been staying at our Church in December. He went on and on about how wonderful the meals were and how well they were treated. He felt appreciated. I am so glad our Church does this!”

We are deeply thankful for our BelPres community and your heart for service. Thank you to all who provided meals and supplies, shopped for gifts or made them yourselves, and spent time in a busy season to sit and visit with the men. Even though other churches are now hosting the men, there continue to be opportunities to provide meals and grow relationships. For more information on how you can stay involved year-round with the Congregations for the Homeless, please contact Elizabeth Hayford at ehayford@belpres.org or GetConnected. You can also find out more about CFH HERE.

It’s OK. Just eat.

I had been a part of the Bellevue Police Prayer Partners for several years when I started to wonder what else we could do to show our support to the department. We talked about hosting a Thanksgiving breakfast or lunch for the department staff and police officers at the church, but then we realized it would be tough for those working different shifts to attend. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it sooner, but we finally figured out we should go to them.

The Monday morning before Thanksgiving 2011 we showed up at the department with coffee, baked goods, fruit, breakfast casseroles . . . you name it, we brought it! As the night shift made their way home to their beds and the day shift made their way to briefings and patrol, Detective Jim Lindquist, one of the founders of the organization, reminded them of our invitation. The officers we met that day were grim, focused. Because at that time of giving thanks and spending time with family, the officers were investigating the disappearance of little Sky Metalwala.

“Who are you guys again?,” “Why are you doing this?,” “Do we have to come to your church?” These were just some of the questions we were asked. “We’re part of a group called ‘Bellevue Police Prayer Partners’ and we’re from Bellevue Presbyterian Church,” “To show our appreciation for the officers and staff of the Bellevue Police Department,” “No, you don’t have to come to our church.”

As more staff and officers showed up and asked the same questions, those that had come before them said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s ok. Just eat!” We didn’t talk to the officers and staff about their work; they needed a break from that. We discussed the things we had in common, our interests. These people are our neighbors, friends, fellow human beings. Once they realized we didn’t have an agenda, they relaxed.

When we showed up the next day to provide lunch (we wanted to make sure we served as many as possible, covering all 3 shifts), we got a lot of the same questions. Those who had attended the breakfast the day before again reassured their co-workers: “Don’t worry about it. It’s OK. Just eat!”

After a couple years of doing this, there are less questions and more reconnecting during the meals. As I talked with one of the officers a couple years ago, she told me that she was not just an officer in the department; she was, and is, a Bellevue Police Prayer Partner! She went on to tell me how she came to be in conversation with a woman on a bus while on a mission trip with our church. As they spoke, she shared with the woman that she was an officer in the Bellevue Police Department. The woman asked her what her last name was, then said, “I am the person who has been praying for you!” God brought each of these women thousands of miles away from home to meet each other.

Some may ask, “What do you do for the officers and staff, other than pray for them?” Prayer is the most powerful gift you can give to anyone. The Bible tells us, in Philippians 4: 6,7 “ . . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We give the staff and officers of the Bellevue Police Department the gift of the power of prayer. But for those who may not know Jesus, or think they know Him and want nothing to do with Him, we want to live out Bellevue Presbyterian’s mission statement:

If you have a heart for our community and for those who serve and protect it, consider becoming part of the Bellevue Police Prayer Partners, whether by praying or providing a celebratory meal once a year or both!

Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Day: A Reflection

By Becky Gonzalez, Director of Global Outreach
 
 

Earlier this month we Celebrated Martin Luther King Day. How did you celebrate?

The thing that I am in awe of this month was that he is the REVEREND Dr. Martin Luther King and that we have a national holiday set aside for him, and the movement he was a part of. I wonder if people reflect on that he was a Christian, who constantly shared the message of the Good News of the Gospel every opportunity he had. He was following his convictions as a follower of Christ.

Thank you Dr. King. I enjoyed my day off. More than that, I appreciate that he was the fact that I had the opportunity of hearing his wise and articulate words this week from a sermon entitled Love in Action, drawing on how the truth of this verse is revealed in race relation of his time and continue to ring through today.

Read the full transcript here. It is pretty awesome.

Did you have the day off work or school?
Did you put a famous quote on your Facebook status?
Did you participate in the March downtown Seattle?
What did you do to honor him?