TRAGEDY AND CELEBRATION

This story is a reprint from King County Youth Chaplaincy.

I couldn’t believe the text from one of our youth: Eve got killed last night.  I tried to convince myself that this was not true. I was in shock and denial. How could this be?! God wouldn’t allow this to happen!

Eve* was only 19. She was smart, compassionate, and beautiful. She had been through many trials and difficulties in her young life, yet she held on to her faith.
She was shy and hardly spoke when we met, but after a while, Eve opened up and we shared many smiles and laughs. She was close to another youth I knew from the detention center and would join us when we got together. We shared many meals and talks about life issues. We talked about her upbringing and spiritual journey and she began joining us when we presented our ministry at various churches. Soon after, she became bold enough to publicly share her experiences and perspectives. Eve would often express her appreciation for being in positive settings where she could grow in her relationship with God.
It has been a few weeks and I still can’t believe she’s gone and really miss her. We continue to pray for her family and loved ones.
The day after I got the tragic news, I had the privilege of witnessing a graduation ceremony of one of our young men. It was such a joy to see Gerald* receive his certificate for completing his program at a local technical college.
Gerald’s life hadn’t always been so hopeful. When I first met him in the detention center, he described himself as angry and at rock bottom. “My life was all about bad things: fighting, drinking, smoking, crimes…,” Gerald once explained to me. Things began to change as he got to know Jesus. He started to attend church in juvy and talked with the chaplains as much as he could. Gerald would encourage the guys in his hall to pray and get closer to God. He became known as “The Holy Kid,” a label he wore proudly.
I felt very honored to celebrate with his family at his graduation. When Gerald and I got together for lunch the following week, he expressed his gratitude. “Thank you for always being there for me. You’re helping me change my life,” he stated with sincerity.
Mourning and joy. The two are always parts of life, and once in a while, we experience them simultaneously. Yet through it all, we know from Scripture that God’s comfort and peace is available. According to Psalm 116, in our deepest distress and sorrow, even when we feel “the anguish of the grave,” we can call on God and have our souls comforted, and somehow, we can say, “The Lord has been good.”
We are extremely grateful for your dedication to our mission! We praise God for your support and prayers. Thank you!
*Names of youth sometimes altered.  To help Eve’s family, see their gofundme page.

New Horizons serving the young and homeless

Youth homelessness impacts nearly 1,500 youth in King County every day.

Increasing at an annual rate of 20% over the past three years, homelessness is an acknowledged state of emergency in King County. Youth make up a significant portion of these numbers.  However, services available to youth are notably fewer than those available to other demographics experiencing homelessness.

“Count Us In,” King County’s one-night count of homeless and unstably housed individuals, revealed that there was somewhere around 800-850 youth on the streets in King County, with at least 200-300 of them spending each night in alleyways, under bridges, in cars, or in tents.

“The root cause of youth homelessness is family disruption. We serve young people ages 18 to 24 – folks you would expect to be at home.  But the youth we serve don’t have that option,” says Mary Steele of New Horizons.

A common misconception is that youth on the streets are rebellious, headstrong runaways. The truth is that many youths leave home as a means of survival due to physical or sexual abuse. Others are forced out because of rifts between stepparents and children or parents who suffer from substance abuse problems. Many youth age out of foster care or leave juvenile corrections with no place to go. Left with little choice, these young people leave often dangerous homes for dangerous streets and must figure out how to survive with almost no resources or relationships. Nationwide studies reveal:

  • One in three youth on the streets has been involved in foster care, sometimes living in 20+ homes by age 18.
  • Nationally, over one in four youth who “come out” to their parents as LGBTQ are thrown out of their home.
  • Surveys show that between 50-60 percent of homeless youth have been physically or sexually abused in their own home.

 Effects of Youth Homelessness

Being homeless has repercussions that can last well beyond transition into sustainability. The more time a young person spends without a stable home, the more difficult success becomes in almost every area of life, even after leaving the streets.

  • Exploitation – The streets make youth more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, increasing the risk of disease, injury, and death.
  • Arrest – Homeless youth are 2.5X more likely to be arrested as adults when compared with stably housed peers.
  • Mental Illness – Homeless youth report higher rates of mental illness symptoms, including depression, PTSD, and anxiety, resulting in increased risk for suicide attempts.

New Horizons (NH) offers programs to facilitate youth’s transition off the streets. From a hot meal and shower to case management and job training, NH meets youth where they are and reconnects them to their God-given potential and empowers them toward success.

Because youth may arrive distraught, disconnected, or disillusioned, NH seeks to be a safe place where they will be accepted for who they are. Inspired by the love of Jesus, NH offers services and love to any and every youth who comes to them in need of assistance, because each person deserves to be loved, seen, known, and respected.

What New Horizons Offers

    • Outreach – Teams of staff and volunteers set out on foot to connect with youth around the city to let them know about our services and programs.
    • Day Program – Day programs offer the opportunity to explore new interests like writing or music, as well as connect with various community partners. Breakfast served from 8:15 – 9:00am, Monday-Thursday.
    • Drop-In – These two hours (Sunday – Thursday. 7:00 – 9:00pm) give youth access to services like a meal, showers, laundry, clothing, and sign-ups for case management & shelter.
    • Emergency Shelter – Opened February 2016 in a partnership with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, 22 beds provide a safe place to rest for homeless youth five nights a week. Sunday – Thursday. 9:30pm – 7:30am.
    • The Nest – A transitional shelter providing a space for 12 youth to temporarily reside while they search for permanent housing.
    • Case Management – Case managers assist with housing placements, employment applications, government documents, and other barriers to exiting the streets.
    • Youth Employment Program – Nine-month apprenticeships providing youth a safe opportunity to earn a stipend, learn a hard skill, and develop relevant soft skills for long-term employment.
    • Street Bean – Since 2009 Street Bean Coffee Roasters has been New Horizons’ job training partner, training apprentices as baristas and teaching them the basics of roasting and coffee shop operation.

BelPres prayerfully supports the ministry of New Horizons with volunteers, funds, and advocacy.  Anyone interested in engaging with NH may contact BelPres’ Community Outreach Director, Tom Brewer

Christmas in July–A Matt Talbot Center Tradition

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

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

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

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

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

Young Life Bellevue–Helping Teens Connect with Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Outreach Partner Focus: YFC’s City Life

Youth for Christ’s City Life ministry is a relational, holistic ministry that desires to see deep change in an urban neighborhood through transforming the lives of youth. Working together with like-minded partners, Christian adults connect with urban youth and work to introduce them in a natural way to the person of Jesus Christ, and then disciple them into the next generation of leaders for their neighborhood.

Every day at Youth for Christ we are blessed to impact young people throughout King and Snohomish Counties with the love and hope of Jesus Christ. One of them is a 7th grader at our City Life Club. Jose, the youngest of five kids, has not had an easy life. His father is absent and his mother has had a string of live-in boyfriends. Two of Jose’s older brothers joined gangs when they were in middle school and his two older sisters are teen moms. Only one of his siblings graduated from high school, and Jose has had difficulty making sense of it all.

Throughout of all this, YFC leaders are faithfully walking alongside Jose. We help Jose with his homework; bring him to YFC Club every week, to camps, special events and small groups. We listen to him. We even surprised him with the only Christmas gifts he received last year. We are very blessed to work with Jose. Scripture says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Jose recently said to a YFC staff member, “Guess what? I know what I want to be when I grow up! I want to be one of those investigators that helps protect children who have been abused!” It is remarkable that Jose wants to help others when he grows up, and we are honored to journey alongside Jose as God is doing a “good work” in his life. Your faithful support, through your prayers and financial gifts, ensures that this work continues every day for kids like Jose and hundreds more. Thank you!

Want to learn more about the work of YFC, or volunteer with them? contact Get Connected, below.

BelPres Serve Service Opportunity Contact Form

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

Thomsons are back in Japan

We had the Thomson family with us for much of July and August. What a delight it was to see their children participating in VBA and youth events this summer, and to see the family in worship with us so much.

End of summer means back to school, though, and for Peter, Wendi, and the kids, that means heading back to Japan.  Along these lines, Peter recently posted a difficult to read, but very important story, about kids heading back to school in Japan.  He says: “Why we are here. And as a parent with children in the Japanese school system, the amount of pressure on kids as they head into the second semester after summer break is brutal. I would even say shameful. Sure, high tests scores on standardized testing, but at what price?”  Read the story HERE.

What else do the Thomsons do in Japan?  I looked on their website, which is very worth visiting, and found this description of their work:

“We work alongside visionary Japanese pastors and congregations to help plant new churches throughout Japan. Our vision is to see already existing communities transformed into Christ-communities.

The disciples sent out by Jesus were to bring transformation. People already belonged to naturally occurring communities. A new disciple of Christ stayed in the community, seeking its transformation into a Christ-centered community through their presence.

With this same model, our ministry seeks to concretely support the transformation of new believers’ families, workplaces, human relationships, schools, cities, any venue where ‘community already exists’ into ‘Christ communities’ functioning on the principles of the Kingdom of God.

Additionally, we are constructing new Kingdom-based business and education models to see Kingdom expansion through being salt and light in our communities.

We do this on both the micro and macro levels. On the micro level, we are working to plant new, reproducing churches in regions of Japan. For example, from 1999-2003, we planted a church in Yamagata, a city six hours north of Tokyo. We are now planting a church in western Japan.

On the macro level, we are developing leaders and helping to foster a church planting movement. Our passion is not just for one church to be planted, but for a movement to spread that results in exponential church growth.”

There is real beauty in the Thomson’s work.  Japan is not an easy mission field, and any work done there must be done carefully, and with great patience. Peter and Wendi represent incarnational ministry so very well.  I’m reminded of Eugene Petersen’s A Long Obedience in a Single Direction when I think of Peter and Wendi’s work.  They are faithful, as we are faithful to pray for and support them.

Break My Heart –Mary McCracken

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

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

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

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

Bo-LOVE-ia Trippers Reach Out

BelPres Youth are on mission in Bolivia right now! The team is 24 teens and leaders, and they arrived in Cochabamba on July 12.

Our church has a long standing relationship with Ninos con Valor ministry, an organization that works to create cycles of hope for many neglected kids in Bolivia. Many of our teens on the trip are on a repeat visit to this beloved city, with it’s many kids in need. “How can I know what’s going on with the kids in Bolivia?” you ask?  Well, I’ve got some suggestions!

Keep up with the Bolivia team’s adventures at:

http://belpresbolivia15.weebly.com/

Or, on Instagram, @belpresbolivia15

Let’s keep these kids (and the grownups travelling with them) in our prayers!
Nan

Maddie is awesome!

BelPres Youth Make New Friends Among Seattle’s Homeless Adults

On a hot Saturday afternoon in June, BelPres high school youth and leaders piled into two vans and headed into downtown Seattle. Our plan was to park close to the Pioneer Square Park, where people experiencing homeless congregate. For the past year BelPres youth have been learning about homelessness in our area through serving at Mary’s Place, Congregations for the Homeless, and the Denver mission trip. On this outing, led by BelPres Interim Director for Youth Ministries, our focus was all about interacting with homeless persons, learning about their lives and praying with them. We began with a walking tour of the area, stopping by Bread of Life Mission and Compass House. Afterwards, we broke up into small groups; Daniel gave each group $20 to spend as we felt led in serving a person who was homeless.

My group consisted of four girls who are going on the Bolivia mission trip with me. We walked to the park and surveyed the area. How could we feed the maximum amount of people with our $20? We decided on pizza cut in smaller slices, but the pizza store was closed. Then we spied a Subway across the way and decided to get three foot-long subs cut in quarters – enough for 12 people. With the subs purchased, we walked over to the park.

As a leader and a mom, I was a little bit cautious about our first engagement. Closest to us were a few men on some park benches smoking weed, but I didn’t feel that was the best place for the girls to start. We noticed a couple sitting on a different bench and asked if we could sit with them. “Jenny” was hearing impaired, and her boyfriend, “Dave,” helped us all to have a conversation. Dave shared that it was Jenny’s birthday, and her eyes lit up when we offered her a sandwich. We asked about their life and what they liked about the area. Dave shared that he lived in one shelter, and she lived in another. After chatting a bit, we asked if we could pray with them. Dave’s eyes brightened and he said, “Yes! And I would like to pray for you.” We held hands and he prayed for us, thanking God for the food and for our small group’s willingness to spend time with them. We prayed for them, Jenny’s birthday celebration and thanking God for their faith and trust in Him.

As we got up to leave, we noticed a violin case next to them. Dave said he played the violin, and wanted to play a birthday song for Jenny, but a piece had broken off and he didn’t have money for glue. The girls looked at each other and said, “We can get some glue!” Two girls walked across the street to a convenience store for the glue while the rest of us stayed and continued to chat. Soon the girls returned and gave Dave the glue. He was thrilled to be able to repair his violin and play Jenny her song.

As we walked around for the next hour, passing out sandwiches and talking with men and women experiencing homelessness, our hearts were filled. We heard stories of brokenness, stories of hope, stories of lives that, from the outside, seemed lost and worthless, but on the inside were filled with faith and trust in God. We offered prayer and were prayed for. We asked for advice and were told: stay in school, trust in God, and keep on going. On a hot June day, we were refreshed by the Holy Spirit’s presence in the park.

After an hour in the park, our larger group of youth and leaders gathered at Subway for a cool drink, and debriefed our experiences. Over and over again, our young people talked about how joyful their time had been. Each small group had fed people, learned about their lives, and came away with a deeper understanding of God. Most shared that they would love to come down to the park again, to bring food, talk and pray. We had found God in the park in the lives of our homeless brothers and sisters. Tired and sweaty, we loaded into the vans with full hearts and a deeper understanding of what it means to serve the Lord in ways that are simple and impactful.

Serving our homeless brothers and sisters is not complicated. It doesn’t take a lot of money or time; it doesn’t require us to change our lives or move to an apartment downtown. Any day of the week, any of us can take a couple of hours to head downtown, grab a few sandwiches and hang out at the park. We can invite someone living on the streets to have lunch with us, and we can hear their story and pray for them. And in the end, our lives will be changed – for the better!

How have you interacted with people who are different than you? Can you imagine having lunch with a homeless person and learning about their life? What is God saying to you in this article?