Worship Interrupted

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – Luke 2:4-7

Keychain leadership is easy to recognize and has unexpected benefits. When I was a teenager, I was blessed with the opportunity to share my musical gifts in worship. Our youth leader handed over the worship time to the youth group. We built each other up, we learned new songs, we gained new volunteers, and we formed a strong worship team with a bunch of high schoolers. Over time as I transitioned from high school to college, I took a more significant leadership role in the youth group. Our youth leader began to give us more and more responsibility, to the point of giving me keys to the fellowship hall. Handing over the keys to the building led me to ministry that I could have never imagined.


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!

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

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!

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.

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.


Do the Work: Perseverance in Haiti

It is a glamour job when you see if from afar at the conferences…doing incredible things for impossibly poor people in places that could be Biblical times if people weren’t dressed in thrift shop clothes. Today we are doing to get dirty, on top of already sweaty and smelly. Not something usually mentioned at missionary conferences, the sweaty and smelly. We put the culvert under the road for this irrigation canal a couple of years ago knowing full well we didn’t have the money to connect the canal with it and bring the water through. Now we have a little bit more money do some of the canal–not enough to get water flowing, but closer. We have learned to do what we can knowing or hoping that another year we can finish this canal and make a much more effective irrigation canal system for hundreds of people.

It took a long time for us to figure it out. Or for God to open our eyes,  whatever happened. There are a lot of things that could be done to grow a lot of food here in one of the poorest driest parts of a place that wears out a lot of adjectives. A LOT of food. It is the ‘could be done’ part that is the fine print. Things have to be done. People can’t eat potential, which means someone has to plan and work with people and communities, and have the equipment and the technicians and the expertise. All of it as far out as you can get in a country that is already challenged for infrastructure. And then, get something done.

By American standards it isn’t that much money or big a project. And from here, you might miss the urgency. After all, while food from Miami is expensive, it isn’t prohibitively so, and it’s currently plentiful. But that won’t last, and famine conditions are clearly on the horizon. So we have to dig down next to the culvert which is buried under runoff from the hill and find the elevation for the bottom of the culvert. From there we can do the grade for the rest of the canal upstream and downstream. We brought the backhoe to hopefully save a couple of days of digging by hand. We keep digging deeper and deeper.

Finally, we are down in the hole with one of the men, digging the last little bit with a machete, the all-purpose tool of choice in most of the developing world. The hole is nine feet deep and sliding down in it’s clear that the soil is good all the way down. All it needs is water. Runoff is not an issue because the same rich soil is 100’ deep.

We find the bottom and mark a spot on the top of the culvert to use for a bench mark for surveying. It looks hopeless. There is nothing here but scrub mesquite and the canal is going to have to be deep, expensive and hard to build and we aren’t even going to see the water flow in this iteration. This project is a building block to get closer to one day having a canal: a canal that will be a game changer for hundreds of families. We have to keep that goal in front of us, or we might lose hope.

The irrigation canal project before last looked more hopeless than this one. For months we were dreaming about putting in an irrigation pump on the big river 12 miles away. There are 23 big pumping stations on that river. Nearly all of them don’t work now if they ever did. I had it all thought out in my head how we could try something different. Not complicated, just different.

Then on the day we were going to go over there and start working, reality hit. The brush had grown up and we couldn’t even walk to the site without hacking through the impenetrable brush. All of the sudden it didn’t look very possible or very promising. Self-doubt showed up then, saying: What kind of crazy harebrained idea is this anyhow? Who are you to think that you can do an irrigation canal over here when no one else has succeeded? And by the way that is solid rock you are talking about cutting a slot in to bring the water in to the pump. But God is faithful. That project works, and this next one will too. It’s time to practice perseverance.

There is no book. There are no plans. There is no one to go to and see if this is a good idea at this stage. It is you, God, and a crew that is has taught you the meaning of the word ‘loyal.’ You do the next thing next because this is what you said you were going to be doing at this stage months ago when it looked so much more possible from far away. Feel that gentle urging of God to just do a little bit more and keep going. Keep telling yourself that the other one worked so this one should too. You just have to do the next thing next. If God is in it, it has to work even if you aren’t so sure.

Two of the men from the community are present and helping enthusiastically. As they work, they point out that it hasn’t rained in months, the drought is two going on three years old and there has not regularly been any water in the river that feeds this canal for months.

You have to remind them (and yourself) that there are off years here which is why cactus grow so well. But there are years when there is plenty of water. In the plenty years you can’t be building canals because there is too much mud. So if you are going to work, you have to work now when there is dust in your teeth from the wind and dirt in your shoes from sliding down into the hole.

Today just worry about measuring to build this little section of canal as far as the money flows. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

As for the worries the team discussed? A week after we did the digging to check for the elevation there was a surprise rainstorm that didn’t show up on the weather forecast. It rained all night. At our house we got an inch of gentle rain. At the canal site and in some areas that feed the river that feeds the irrigation canal they got five inches of rain overnight- more rain than had been received in the last year. So we work, So we trust in God. Not so glamorous, but good work all the same.


Renewal Food Bank, Sharing Dignity and Respect

default-logoby Rich Bowen, Director

What I’ve learned after seventeen years as the director of the Renewal Food Bank is that every family that comes to us has a story. No matter what circumstances first bring them here, what I have found to be most important is how they are first received. Making them feel welcomed and respected will go a long way in easing the stress and often the humiliation they feel in having to enter a food bank. I want to share two of those stories of families that we have served.

Maria first came to the food bank around 2011. She had heard about us from her sister who was also a client of Renewal. She would come regularly every week, and always by herself. She is married and has two children. She was always appreciative for the food she received, and would thank us each week. We came to learn from Maria that her husband was an auto mechanic who had been out of work for some time. He would get part-time work off and on but nothing full time that would cover the family’s needs. Maria shared with us that her husband was opposed to her using a food bank. She said he was too proud to have his family come to a food bank. For the welfare of her family she decided they needed the help we offered. Maria is one of the few stories for which we are allowed to witness an end to our ministry to her family. In the spring of last year, her husband got a full time job as a mechanic! Maria has not needed the assistance of Renewal since last year.

My second story is about Anna. Anna came to the United States in the early 1990’s. She and her husband emigrated from Russia. At the time of their arrival to the US, both Anna and her husband were in their early sixties. They had emigrated here because they had two adult children who lived in the Seattle area. They moved into a government-subsidized apartment in Bellevue. Their total income was about $1,000 per month! They began using the food bank soon after we opened in 1998. The food they received from us was vital. It helped supplement what food they could afford to purchase. Anna’s husband passed away about eight years ago. She still lives in the same small apartment and now nearly eighty years old, she still drives to our food bank every week.

With the great majority of our clients we never know the outcome of our work. Many families come and go. Those we no longer see, we can only hope their situation has improved and that is why we no longer see them. All we can do is minister to them by not only meeting their physical need for food but try and meet their emotional need of being treated with dignity and respect each time they come through our doors.

Basically Wonderful: Baby Basics of Bellevue

Fall, the time of harvest and thanksgiving, is a vivid reminder of the importance of intentional planning, and moving forward with purpose. This is the time of year when we reach out to ask for your volunteer help to continue to providing diapers for low-income young families in our community.

On the Eastside, Baby Basics is one of several “safety net” organizations working for the well-being of poor and low-income families. Poverty, sadly, is a growing problem in our country and in our community. Our purpose is to provide diapers that help babies thrive and help families stay above the poverty line. We also help connect families to other services in the community if they have other needs. It is rewarding to be a part of a larger effort that advocates for poor and low-income families.

October marked the beginning of our fourth year distributing diapers, and by early 2016 we will ????????????????????????????????????have distributed 100,000 diapers. The impact of these diapers is far-reaching. Baby Basics literally needs caring, helping hands to carry on the work we are doing.  As a 100% volunteer-run non-profit, we can only do what we do because volunteers are giving the gift of time, expertise, and kindness.We currently need helping hands and caring hearts to carry on the work of Baby Basics, from bundling and distributing diapers twice a month to working with families by responding to their requests for assistance.

Thank you for reaching out to meet the needs of low-income families on the Eastside.
Contact Get Connected to get involved.

Fireside Knitters = Cozy Missionaries Among Us!

The Fireside Knitters gather every Thursday from 9:00 to Noon.  While it’s true that they are sitting and knitting, they are also reaching out to the Eastside and the World through their efforts.  They are busy creating beautiful lap robes, mittens, wristlets, hats and scarves. This group of women of all ages gather the first and third Thursdays of each month, in the Fireside room adjacent to the main lobby at BelPres.

If you stop in for a quick visit, you will hear more than knitting needles clicking at a fast pace! You will hear conversation between lifelong friends and newcomers; stories of family celebrations and prayer requests; and information on how to learn a new pattern or stitch. Fireside Knitters creations can be found gracing heads, hands, necks and laps of many vulnerable populations both locally and around the world!

Whether it is lap robes for persons who are homebound, hats and mittens for elementary kids across the mountains in eastern Washington, baby blankets for families in Guatemala – this group is committed to serving those in need, both locally and globally. Anyone is welcome to join in, no matter what their level of knowledge or skill. If you want to learn to knit or crochet, and see your creations be used by God, the ladies are happy to show you how to do it! Yarn is supplied, as needed, as well as patterns, knitting needles or crochet hooks. Be the crafting hands of Jesus for a world in need. Stop by for a visit, or come on in and sit for a bit; the Fireside Knitters will teach you what you want to learn while sharing life with you by the fire.

Come knit with us! 

BelPres Serve Service Opportunity Contact Form

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

Juanita’s Books: An NFE Adventure

By Shirley Kinsey

In Guatemalan villages, pine needles covering a floor signify happiness in receiving honored guests.  As our July Nicolas Fund for Education (NFE) team entered the house of Juanita, an 18-year-old girl with disabilities, we loved the aroma of pine which greeted us.  Sitting on wooden benches alojuanitang the walls, we noticed a rustic bed in one corner of the room, a beautiful painting of a mountain and lake on one wall – created by Juanita – and a small white board on the wall just inside the door.

Juanita and her mother and father gave us warm welcomes and expressed their gratitude for NFE supplying Juanita with her own computer and regular tutor.  To Al Lopus, who encouraged Juanita to set goals, this family presented an original Mayan weaving – created by Juanita’s mother – embroidered with these words:  “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you forever.”

As Juanita thanked us and showed us her work with Ricardo, her tutor, she shared a poster on which she had written three main goals for her future:  to teach her mother and father to read and write, to write her own story, and to help young people in her village.

Yet as we left her small wood-framed house, she showed us how she already helps the children in her village.  A creative entrepreneur, Juanita runs a tiny tienda (store) built of wood and situated at the opening of her parents’ Agros-earned property.  As well as selling snacks and school supplies, Juanita recently began loaning books to children in her library-less village!  Her one wooden shelf, about one-fourth of the way full, holds about 20 books, among them Spanish versions of Green Eggs and Ham and Charlotte’s Web.

I picked out a book called Frida about the life and artwork of Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist who was married to the even more famous Diego Rivera.  When I showed it to Becci Merritt, she told me that NFE gave this book to Juanita because they thought she could identify with the pain of Kahlo’s life and her artistic expressions of that pain.  Juanita, who suffers from spina bifida, creates her own works of art.

Juanita says that children return the books she loans.  On previous days on this trip, I gave teacher, tutor, and student training workshops explaining the importance of reading and the research finding that children need to spend about two hours a day actually reading.  The problem:  they have few books, and in their classrooms, the books are locked in cabinets or small rooms for fear that the children will ruin them or take them away.  NFE wants to expand Juanita’s library, to fill up her shelf, and to add more shelves.

Please let us know if you have high-quality Spanish children’s books to donate, wish to contribute to the purchase of books, or want to join an NFE adventure to the villages in which we work.

For more information, please contact Becci Merritt.  Or see the website.

Keep going. Stay inspired. Seek justice. Pursue God.

Becky Gonzalez

I came across this blog post last week on Sojourners and it resonated with me.  I am not burned-out…[today] but I have gone through seasons where I wonder if any of the work we are doing to reach our community and world matters.

Are we making an impact?
Are we doing things right?
Are we doing the right things?
Are we pleasing God?
Are we representing the church well?
Are we creating a sustainable model or one of dependence?
Are we doing more harm than good?

This author, Stephen Mattson, encourages us to “Never quit, and never underestimate your involvement in justice work, because it means passionately caring for humanity — people who are often the most vulnerable, persecuted, abused, helpless, and exploited. Which matters. Keep going. Stay inspired. Seek justice. Pursue God.”

Check out the full article. I hope that it is as encouraging to you as it was to me.  Be encouraged in your work, your ministry and your life for Him.


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?

An Update from Lynn Pelton in Sierra Leone

Lynn Pelton, our BelPres member currently serving as an Ebola nurse, has posted an update on the Greatest Goal Ministries blog. We invite you to read her updates and join us in praying for her safety and for the people of Sierra Leone.

You can find her update here: December 22: An update from Lynn in Sierra Leone

Congregations for the Homeless

By Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach

Two home-schooled girls took it upon themselves to knit 40 hats for the Congregations for the Homeless men who were housed at BelPres all December! Once the hats were finished, the girls put them into white gift boxes with clear plastic tops. The men were able to choose a hat that fit their style (!) and were incredibly blessed by the gift of these sweet young girls. The girls were able to pull in a few of their friends to assist in the knitting, and thoroughly enjoyed their project. Praise the Lord for these wonderful young people who so sweetly gave of their time, talent and treasure to bring the warmth of Christ’s love through such a practical gift.

Angel Tree Ministry

By Elizabeth Hayford, Director of Missions Administration

The Angel Tree ministry reaches out to the children of inmates and their families with the love of Christ.  This year, our Angel Tree volunteers here at BelPres have worked tirelessly to contact, prepare and deliver gifts to more than 100 children in the Bellevue and Tacoma areas and also to provide gift cards to almost 50 teenagers in Idaho. This dedicated team spends to fall in preparation and then in organization mode to make sure every child and caregiver receives a gift or gift card when they are all delivered starting December 13. And these special elves don’t just deliver Christmas gifts and cards; they bring the gift of Jesus Christ to each home, too. These volunteers include an age-appropriate Bible and share stories of Jesus with the children when they personally deliver to each home.

BelPres has been blessed in the last couple of years to partner with University Place Presbyterian Church south of Tacoma to help deliver to the families in that area.  It is a joy to share in ministry with our friends in Pierce County.

Here is a quote from an Angel Tree child that shows what these gifts mean:

“I was too young to actually remember my dad. But those Angel Tree presents – I don’t know how to describe it – they made me feel like I was important. I was really happy I got something from him, and to know that he’s OK.”– Akeylah, Angel Tree child

Thank you to this team of volunteers who share the joy and love of Jesus Christ at Christmas time.

Angel tree volunteers, Alice Fong and Jay Baranowski, sort, move and organize the gifts for delivery to Angel Tree children.
Angel tree volunteers, Alice Fong and Jay Baranowski, sort, move and organize the gifts for delivery to Angel Tree children.

If you gave to Angel Tree this year, THANK YOU!  If you want to get involved with this ministry at BelPres next year, contact GetConnected. 

What If…?

By Rich Leatherberry, Associate Pastor for Mission

I met a guy named Dan who has been taking Jesus’s command to love his neighbor seriously. You probably remember the story about the religious leader who asked Jesus what the most important commandment was. Jesus told him; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Mark 12:29-31. 

Most of us interpret Jesus’s command to love our neighbor metaphorically. So we discuss our metaphorical neighbors. And we pray for our metaphorical neighbors.  But the truth about metaphoric neighbors is that they are just so, well, they are metaphorical. They symbolize people we never meet, or talk with, or get to know. 

What if we took Jesus’s command seriously and actually loved the real neighbors next to us? What if we made it a point to learn the name of every neighbor we share a fence with or who lives across the street from us? What if we intentionally got to know them and their families? What if we cared enough to learn what makes them glad and what makes them sad?

Well Dan decided to take Jesus seriously and started to get to know his neighbors. One of his neighbors, named Ken, managed a mobile home park. Ken told Dan that the homes in the park were run down and needed significant repairs. But the people living there couldn’t afford to pay for the repairs, and the owners of the park didn’t have the money to repair the homes either. So Ken felt helpless and desperate because there wasn’t anything he could do about it. When Dan heard Ken talk about this and saw how it hurt Ken, Dan decided to help. So he recruited a whole bunch of volunteers and organized a day where they all showed up and fixed everything that was broken or run down. Dan’s crew repaired and stained decks, painted walls, fixed railings, patched roofs and installed new plumbing. They raised all the money they needed for the work and they got it all done in one day. The people in the Mobile Home Park were totally surprised that anyone would do this for them. Ken couldn’t believe it either and was really, really thankful for his neighbor Dan. 

One of the coolest things though was what happened after the work day. Some of the volunteers asked Dan when they could do it again. One thing led to another and they started a group called the Neighborhood Rehab Project. You can find them on line at www.beatool.org. That’s right. Be a tool. And when you check out their website you can either “Be a Tool” or “Donate a Tool” or let them know “I Need a Tool”. You can also watch the video of this story.

It all started when Dan decided to really love his neighbor, initiated a conversation and learned managing a rundown mobile home park broke Ken’s heart. So Dan rallied some friends, raised some money, and had a great adventure that transformed a bunch of people into tools. And now they have great friendships and are changing their neighborhood. 

We may not all start a new organization. But really loving your neighbor is a great way to start an adventure and show God’s love. 

So what are your neighbor’s names? What makes them mad, sad and glad? What story is God writing with the relationships you have with your neighbors?