Author Henri Nouwen defines hospitality as “The love of strangers, or those who are estranged from country, culture, family, friends, even from God.” We refer to our Jubilee REACH Center as a “hub for hospitality.” We welcome and unconditionally love our neighbors from the 120 countries represented in our city and strive to build a collaborative community of care for their “needs.” Jubilee Elves is one way we do this during the Christmas Holiday season. Through the Family Connection Centers within the Bellevue School District, we learn the needs of kids and families in our community.
Here’s a story: Two months ago, Lange, a lawyer, and his wife Keye, a nurse, arrived at Jubilee REACH with their three lovely children ages 8, 6 and 4. Through a US sponsored effort, they were among the fortunate few able to escape the violence that erupted in Congo. Since their immigration program does not permit them to work during the first 150 days of their settlement into the United States, Doris, our Community Care Advisor went to work building a collaborative support network of people and partners to help with their essential needs.
A local church stepped in the gap to help with housing. Our Jubilee REACH Thrift Store provided furnishings, housewares and, clothing, and the Renewal Food Bank provided food. More volunteers came alongside to love, encourage and support the family. A Jubilee Elf, who was providing Christmas Gifts for the kids, upon hearing their story, was moved to invest in our Community Care Fund to provide additional gap funding for the urgent needs; from medications, to utilities and rent support for the family.
Gratitude, grace and giving back… During their 150 day re-settlement gap time, parents Lange and Keye, who both speak perfect English, volunteer to help others. In addition, Lange, an attorney, is studying non-profit leadership. Keye is studying to become recertified in the United States to serve as a nurse. Their children are not only adapting, but beginning to thrive in Bellevue schools. Last week, as Lange and Keye were checking in with Doris, there was that moment when no one was able to find words to express their thanks. Instead they simply joined hands and bowed their heads in gratitude, and wept…in joy.
Oh…and here’s a little bow for a story of heart, hope and hospitality: The two oldest kids are also talented musicians. One dreamed to have a piano again. The other played guitar and hoped to have one again. Just after meeting with the parents, a volunteer called Doris to offer to donate their family’s piano as they downsized out of their home. Then a staff member, hearing the story, donated her guitar. There will be a joyous sound coming from Lange and Keye’s home this Christmas.
Thank you all for “loving our neighbor” through your generosity and the gift of hospitality!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!