“I just want to ‘love our new neighbors’ and help them learn English.” That’s what Alyson McMurtry said upon learning that 84 foreign languages were spoken by students in the Bellevue School District, in August of 2006, as we prepared to open the Jubilee REACH Center.
A selfless servant-leader, Alyson volunteered to serve and meet the need. In October of 2006, with six other volunteer teachers, she began ESL (English as Second Language) classes to serve 12 non-English speaking immigrants. What followed was more than we ever dreamed or imagined. As Alyson helped people learn English, God used English as a language of relationship, reconciliation and community building among diverse cultures. As we often say, “Wherever two or more are gathered, there is food!” Soon, former “strangers” from different countries attending English classes together began preparing food for one another – the weekly International Lunch was born. Organically, people who had been “strangers” formed friendships and small groups. Over time numerous services and activities evolved.
Alyson was an inspiration in helping Jubilee REACH become a “hub center for hospitality and community.” A Bible verse says, “Share with God’s people who are in need, practice hospitality.” Author Henri Nouwen defined hospitality as the “Love of strangers, or those who are estranged, from their country, culture, family, friends and even from God.” Today, through Alyson’s hospitable, steadfast love and selfless leadership, hundreds of “strangers” come weekly to love and be loved at Jubilee REACH by scores of volunteer teachers, who have built relationships and caring community among people learning English.
Alas, there comes that time. After 11 long years of steadfast, selfless, servant leadership, with both heartfelt joy and sadness, Alyson has announced that she is retiring. A faithful beacon of love and light to thousands at Jubilee REACH. Alyson will be deeply missed. Her warm, welcoming, loving smile and her kind, patient, presence and persevering soul is irreplaceable. Our own heart swells with great joy and thankfulness for having had the privilege of serving alongside Alyson all these years; it also aches with sadness at the thought of her not being here. We know you will all join in expressing our deep gratitude, love and appreciation by saying to Alyson….
“Well done! Well done good and faithful servant.”