God at Work: From Seattle to Nicaragua

By Millie Sondles

Millie (second from the left) pictured with her family

Millie (second from the left) pictured with her family

Last year, I along with a close friend forged the idea of a mission’s trip to Nicaragua.  Six years prior my friend and local youth pastor Katie McGrew along with her family followed their calling to serve the poor and broken-hearted by moving to Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua.  There they formed their own ministry known as Connect Nicaragua.  One of things they provide are scholarships for uniforms and school supplies so boys and girls can remain in school.  The McGrew’s also provide guidance to the parents most of whom are illiterate and need direction in encouraging goals in their children.

In March of 2017 I began to organize a team of women who would join me in a mission trip.  The common bond between us was our love of Jesus and our desire to be His hands and feet.  The group was based in Edmonds and was not affiliated with any particular church.  The Hallows’ North Seattle Expression—which my husband Jeff and I attend—had itself only just formed.

During this time I was also busy with another mission—closer by.  I worked with the Union Gospel Mission Search and Rescue vans, serving Seattle’s downtown homeless.  Along with my husband and other north end MC folk we would begin our journeys from Pioneer Square at 7:30 p.m. traveling to the bleakest corners of the city to help the homeless, hungry, and hurting then finish up at around 11:30 pm.

One particular night with the van I recalled vividly.  Although recruiting individuals in my usual manner, by the time the van was ready to leave, the group had no resemblance to my original list.  I’ll never forget that night.  I would turn around and see more pockets of volunteers and the homeless praying together than ever before.  It was so moving I had to capture it in a picture which I had never done before.  That was my moment, I thought, because it wasn’t the group I had picked.  Instead God had hand-picked these people. 

I was reminded that this group resembled our team heading to Nicaragua which had morphed into five women who had only met in person two times.   I was filled with complete peace about Nicaragua because I realized that God had hand-picked each one of us.  From that night our team named was formed:  Special Ops Nicaragua (S.O.N.) team.

By January 2018, with nearly a year of planning, the S.O.N. team landed in Nicaragua engaging in a variety of events.  Our team focused on the moms of the youth in the scholarship program and the adolescent girls.  One project was devised to encourage the teens and the moms to dream and to visualize goals for their lives.  Another event distributed reusable hygiene products to increase the girls’ school attendance.  The girls were also taught how to make jewelry in order to raise funds.  Finally, our team visited an inner city neighborhood struggling with poverty, alcoholism, drugs, and sex trades where the group emphasized truths of God’s love, care, and forgiveness through place-card exercises with young locals.

What most impressed me about the whole trip was that God’s faithfulness was so real in everything we did.  We were obedient, planted the seeds, and trusted God.  I had also prayed for the courage to speak Spanish and God really rewarded me with so many nice conversations with people.

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At some point I had also planned to share a love story emphasizing God’s love for the girls but I ran out of time with having to organize so much.  While I was sad realizing I needed to let go of that plan, God remained faithful.  He gave me the desire to be the fragrance of His gospel to everyone including our team, the hosts, the girls and women we were called to serve.  Through that He fulfilled my heart’s desire to share His love in Nicaragua which itself became a much bigger story than the one I could have written.

I hope to motivate others in The Hallows Church whether it is knocking on a neighbor’s door or taking a missions trip.  My vision is to someday go back to Nicaragua with men and women and partner with a local church down there.  I would do it all over again with the exact same group.  We formed deep friendships and this trip united us with a deep bond that will never be broken.

Do You Still Expect God to Surprise You?

By Bill Bacon

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Isaiah tells us those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.  A common thread in so many faith stories is the element of surprise.  In a conversation with Edmond’s MC hosts Jake and Jamie Lyon their story begins with the question, "When was the last time God really surprised you?"

“The creation of The Hallows North Expression was a huge unexpected answer to our prayers,” Jamie answered.

The Hallows Church is one church that gathers in three locations—referred to as expressions.  One gathering in the Fremont neighborhood, one in West Seattle and, more recently, one in Shoreline—the North Seattle Expression.

As a recently married couple of just two years, the Lyons initially had their roots in the Fremont gathering.  Pastor Andrew himself officiated their wedding.  Neighborhood friends of theirs also attended Fremont.  But, over time, the proximity of Fremont to where they lived in Edmonds became challenging.  Traffic and work schedules were obvious issues but ties to their own neighborhood were growing more and more problematic as well.

“I continued to run into people in the grocery store or at the gym with whom we shared our faith,” Jamie recalled.   “And every conversation always ended with the question of where we went to church.”  Sadly, when she answered the response was usually, “Oh, well, I can’t go all the way down to Fremont.”

Jake added, “We really felt called to live in the north.  We grew up and went to school here.  So we began to feel torn.  While we had our old ties to Fremont, we started to feel the need to engage more in our own neighborhood which meant the possibility of leaving Hallows.  It would be a big step for us to leave.  It also meant giving up a certain comfort zone.  But, ultimately, we felt God was asking us to submit our view of where we wanted to go to church.”

The thought of a North Expression wasn’t new.  The couple explained that for two years the idea was talked about and aggressively prayed for by many members including Pastor Jeff Hundley.  But time went on and nothing happened.  Not only did the Lyons and others become resigned to thinking it wouldn’t happen others considered leaving The Hallows as well in search for a church closer by.  Even Pastor Jeff who was poised and ready to serve the north at the time, eventually increased his hours at his previous work as nothing seemed to be materializing.

In addition to leaving their comfort zone at The Hallows, Jake said they had never actually been to a different church in Edmonds before either.  For over four months they tried a variety of churches.  One church even asked the couple to host an MC of their own.

And then out of the blue—the element of surprise!

“About six months into our search I was still grieving the loss of The Hallows,” Jamie recalled.  “Then, I got a call from my dad who said there had been some movement on a North Expression.”  Soon Jeff approached the couple, telling them that it was really important to him if they would be willing to step back into The Hallows and help plant the new expression.

“It was as if out of nowhere God was answering our prayers,” Jamie said.   “At the time my dad had also called Rob and Kendra Waldburger—who had also moved to another church—to ask if they would return as well.  They did.  We felt like God was suddenly reconnecting our old group again.”

This element of surprise left an impression on Jamie.  “It was such a boost to my faith.  It made me realize that when God is at work the impossible will happen in His timing and that He will accomplish far more than what we can imagine—just like scripture says, God has prepared for us, things which eyes have not seen nor ears heard.”

For the next year things continued to fall into play.  “Every need the group had, God fulfilled,” Jamie said.   Their roles expanded as well.  During their earlier search, the one church that had asked them to lead an MC had provided training.  With the new North Expression in full swing, Jeff approached them again saying they needed an Edmonds MC and would they consider it?

Jake recalled, “We felt the pull and although I didn’t think I was completely prepared to lead an MC, I did believe God would provide us direction.”  

The North Expression is a little over a year old now hosting a 9 a.m. Sunday worship gathering in Shoreline along with two Edmonds MCs—one hosted by Jake and Jamie on Wednesday nights and another led by Pastor Jeff on Thursday nights.

Tests of Faith

By Bill Bacon

Often one of the great benefits tests of faith produce is empathy for others. At least that’s a conclusion one can come to when learning of the life and times of Seattle Pacific University (SPU) student Megan B.

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Nothing tugs at the heart more than to watch a loved one suffer. Megan grew up in nearby Arlington. While just a freshman in high school her father became ill. He developed headaches that became debilitating. “My dad would be in so much pain he would just sit in a chair in a dark room. He stopped interacting with us completely. For an entire year he saw doctor after doctor,” Megan recalled.

After two years, a neurologist finally discovered a spinal leak. Fluid from his brain was not only leaking it was also causing scarring at the base of his brain. Two more years later and still nothing worked. In fact, during all of Megan’s high school years her father suffered. “He was not the person I remembered,” she said. Megan struggled with what this meant. “I’d always been taught that if I prayed hard and long enough that he would be healed. My dad loved Jesus. Why was there no magic healing?”

After six long years Megan’s father finally began to improve as medications became more effective. “It taught me to rely on God even though all I could see at the time was my father suffering and the stress on my family. It taught me that sometimes we don’t get quick fixes. Mostly, it taught me that even though things don’t always make sense that I still need to rely on God,” she said.

In addition to all this Megan found herself taking on a personal battle of her own. At the end of her sophomore year she joined others in her church on a mission trip to the Philippines. “I had never felt the presence of God in my life more than when I was there. God was in my work, in my conversation, everywhere.” Megan recalled.

However, when Megan returned she began to experience such intense psychological struggles and anxieties that she could only describe it as spiritual warfare. Her struggles became debilitating. She stepped out of leadership roles. “It was terrifying. I thought I was going crazy. I could barely talk myself, much less to anyone else about this,” she explained. When Megan first approached her Pastor he dismissed it.

Then, her symptoms got worse. Two months later she returned to her Pastor who began to understand her troubles were more serious. He guided Megan in a variety of spiritual exercises which included verbally affirming her faith.

“He taught me not to just pray, but to speak my prayers, to commit to memory scripture versus reminding me of God’s power over Satan, and to affirm my faith in songs of worship.” Megan says that the net effect of all this was that, over time, speaking her prayers broke through her debilitating fears by reminding her of the truth that God is more powerful than the devil and if God is in her, then she as well becomes more powerful.

By the time Megan started college her tests of faith had clearly fueled her walk with God rather than defeated it. Prior to college Megan was assigned a church youth internship. When her pastor left for the summer she was inundated—writing sermons and lesson plans, directing this, assigning that. “It seemed I was at church all the time,” Megan recalled.

Consequently, her first year at SPU was jarring in comparison. Although she had just joined The Hallows Church, her weekdays left her stir crazy. “So, I started a small group on campus. I began learning about the faith backgrounds of others in my dorm and we began to meet, pray, and support one another. We all had our own friends but soon about five of us began to rely more and more on each other. That was a couple years ago; we’re now all roommates off campus.”

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Megan’s tests of faith definitely strengthened her. While it is clear her gifts have deep roots in the church life of her youth her subsequent tests of faith—with her father’s illness, her earlier spiritual struggles along with her compassion for her roommates—fostered a unique foundation of empathy for others. It is not surprising that as Megan completes her Psychology major at SPU she hopes to follow graduate studies in social work. As she so aptly put it, “I love people and I like being able to help them.”

 

Megan can be found most Sunday afternoons helping to set up a hospitable space for our Fremont worship gathering. She is also actively involved in our ministry to college students and young adults. If you are interested in joining Megan as she serves in these ways, contact john@hallowschurch.org.

God Knew What He Was Doing...

Each of us carry forward a story of faith. As we study the stories of the men and women featured in Hebrews 11 in our Sunday teaching series entitled “Stories of Faith,” we will be sharing your stories of faith—God’s story—for others’ good and God’s glory. Today's story features Eric Henry from the West Seattle Expression.

 

While Eric Henry would insist he is simply someone who has tried to follow God’s leading in his life most would agree he is an accomplished, endearing soul who happens to have a world of experience and yet faces his own personal tests of faith—much like everyone else.

Although he grew up in Montana, Eric graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas completing a Masters degree in Teaching.

Eric felt God’s leading early in life. “I wanted to be an engineer, but the only university I got a scholarship to was a liberal arts school with an engineering program. But God knew what He was doing. I found that I wasn’t really suited for engineering. At the same time the university had just revamped their education department. It was the perfect place for me to move into teaching.”

His first job was in Guatemala as a high school teacher. Eric found himself developing his identity as a teacher and building new relationships that have lasted until this day. “After five years I felt that The Lord was urging me to move on—though I didn’t know where,” Eric recalled.

Eric soon landed a new job teaching computer skills in India. But before he signed the contract the job fell through. “It was late to look for another position but coincidentally, that school’s sister school turned out to have a Social Studies opening—in southern India. He took the job. Here again, he would be teaching high school but with an international curriculum. The diversity was new to Eric. As well as Christian students there were Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. “I learned a lot about myself and my faith at this time and how to talk with people of different perspectives,” Eric said.

“I loved India, but after the seventh year I knew God was again asking me to move on.” Eric then took a job in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta where he remained for 10 years. It was in Jakarta where Eric grew in new ways. “I learned a lot more about being part of a church community there, and about discipling.” he reflected. There was a comfort in Jakarta for Eric. He also felt a generous respect from the community for his ten years of teaching.

ERIC HENRY (Top left) with students in Jakarta.

ERIC HENRY (Top left) with students in Jakarta.


In the past, when Eric changed jobs, there was always a job to transition to. When it came time to leave Jakarta, giving up comfort and status without another job to transfer to or a plan in mind was a new challenge to Eric. Nevertheless, he followed his convictions to move on.

When asked what he learned from all these transitions Eric replied, “We often stress so much about finding our calling. Should I turn left or should I turn right? God is going to direct us as long as we are actively following Him. He is going to put us in the right place at the right time as He continues to mold us.” And sometimes, following ones convictions means knowing when to leave. Or, as Eric put it, recognizing when “I am holding onto something I should no longer be holding on to.”

Eric’s sister and mother were living in Seattle. In his decision to leave Jakarta, Eric recalled, “I didn’t feel God was calling me anywhere else in particular so I came to Seattle to be close to family. Now I can see God was leading me all along.” He did not find a full-time teaching job in Seattle right away—only substituting. As with any job going from tenure to no tenure can be tough. After twenty years of international teaching, Eric was asked a naïve question while substituting here, “Don’t you want to be a real teacher someday?”

Eric recalls that story as a seasoned man of faith. “I learned my identity as a teacher or a coach can be taken away and that I have to rely on God for my identity and nothing else.”

In time, Eric found that substitute teaching here was a great opportunity to get into a variety of classrooms and learn more about American education. But he didn’t want to be a substitute forever, and when job interviews fell through he began to wonder if God had other plans for him. And then he ran into the principal he had been subbing for. It was in a branch of the library that neither Eric nor the principal normally went to. A conversation ensued—and another door opened. Eric now teaches full-time at Tyee High School, coaches basketball and volunteers with Young Life in Tukwilla.

Talking with Eric Henry long enough would convince anyone he is most certainly a “real” teacher especially when he looks back on life’s lessons.

“When I think what I would tell younger people about their calling, I would say pray about it. Look for pride or selfish, superficial motivations and repent of them first and then seek God. Your calling is to follow Him. Take one step at a time even if your job doesn’t seem perfect and to remember that sometimes a calling isn’t forever. God will get you where He wants you.”

The fruits of Eric’s faith are evident in his joy. “I’m now in one of Seattle’s most ethnically diverse high schools which is right where I should be.”

Our calling to make disciples of all nations starts right here in Seattle. We are in the beginning stages of developing an opportunity to minister to international families—particularly refugees—near our West Seattle expression where Eric gathers to worship. If you are interested in hearing more or being a catalyst for this or other outreach opportunities to internationals, please contact Jen@hallowschurch.org.

 

Thanks to Bill Bacon for using his gift of listening and writing to help people tell their stories and so we can celebrate how God is at work in our community. If you have a story of faith you would be willing to share, please email info@hallowschurch.org. We look forward to hearing about it!