A biblical year of Jubilee is a fiftieth year celebration, where debts are forgiven, slaves are set free, and the mercy of God is on display for the nation of Israel. When First Presbyterian in Bellevue (BelPres) was approaching their 50th anniversary they decided to take their celebration beyond their walls into the community. They celebrated by serving at a local school—Stevenson Elementary.
Eleven years ago eight hundred volunteers from BelPres showed up one Saturday to serve at Stevenson Elementary. They washed windows, power washed the desks, helped teachers prepare their classrooms with decorations, and photocopied worksheets. They came back the next year, and the next, and the following. They invited other congregations to join them and now eleven years later 19 schools were served by volunteers from 45 local congregations. Jubilee REACH partnered with them and has coordinated a massive effort on the Eastside–this year 2,270 volunteers showed up on Saturday, August 22nd to serve. There was such a large turnout of volunteers, they adopted fifteen nearby homes, and did service projects in the local neighborhood.
One impressive project they do at Stevenson is sewing “chair pockets“ which provides room for the kid’s books and supplies, since the students do not have traditional desks. Entering the gymnasium at Stevenson, the spirit of the room is light and the hum of sewing machines is unceasing. More than fifty women work a very organized assembly line, of cutting, surging, sewing, and quality control.
At one of the neighborhood sites a woman had her home transformed with a (much needed) fresh coat of light blue and white paint. This woman works very hard to maintain her home; but, as a single, mature, woman she is not able to do all this work on her own. So many volunteers showed up that they were able to paint the fence as well. The homeowner chatted with the volunteers as they worked, and continuously thanked everyone.
At Highland Middle School, two signs of academic achievement hang, where graffiti was once prominent. Working at the site were Pastor Matt from Bellevue Christian Reformed Church and Pastor James from Highland Covenant Church, who talk about while they are friends; the Jubilee REACH Service Day is a great opportunity for their congregations to work together. They now plan regular events together and even do a “pulpit swap” on occasion. These congregations also continue to work with Jubilee REACH to make sure Highland Middle School students don’t fall through the cracks. A Jubilee REACH Staff member even has their office set up in the lunchroom, making them available for all the students in the school. Currently, Highland is the only Middle school involved in the Jubilee Service Day (the rest are elementary schools).
At Lake Hills Elementary a pastor and small group from the congregation that meets in that school on Sundays cut flashcards for a teacher in a bilingual first grade classroom. The teacher in the class expressed her appreciation saying she typically spends her Saturday nights at home cutting out flashcards. The principal of the school, Kathy, and the assistant principal; Jane, shared the organized coordinated effort of the Jubilee Service Day is a huge help in allowing teachers to get ready for the year.
Lighthouse Christian Church meets at Phantom Lake Elementary on Sunday mornings. The Pastor, Wayne Ogimachi was on site delivering snacks to the various workers, and has a deep desire to serve the school. The Jubilee Service Day has helped them to make a connection in the schools and the congregation has invested in funding a Jubilee REACH staff person to work at the school year round.
The Jubilee Service day began as one congregation serving a school and has grown into a massive community movement. It is a day that continues to affect the community year round. Jubilee REACH serves on this day; but, they also have staff and volunteers serving in many of the schools, available to the students every day of the year. Additionally, on Sunday August 23rd more than 3,000 people from fifteen churches gathered in the park for a combined worship service.
Congregations from around Greater Seattle are serving their local schools. The Jubilee Service Day is an example of how God can move his people to have a major impact on the community.