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Why We Welcome: The Joy We See

When I moved to Washington in the summer of 2011 to intern with World Relief, I didn’t know anyone. I met my first friends unexpectedly when I was assigned by World Relief to take a newly-arrived Iranian family by bus to their first dentist appointment.

The mom was quiet and kind, with a shy smile, very aware of her beginning English skills. The three teenage boys were cheerful, chatty, and eager to try out their English, explore their new city, and connect with a new friend. We talked throughout the whole excursion, and when we got back to their apartment, they invited me in for tea and urged me to come visit them again.

I was looking for new friends just as much as they were, so I returned to their apartment many evenings that summer. My apartment was quiet and empty, but theirs was always warm, active, and full of love, and I was grateful to be welcomed into it. They fed me dinner, showed me family photos, and taught me how to play backgammon. I brought them lemon bars, took them to the pumpkin patch, and practiced English vocabulary with them.

This was my first experience of the joy of what World Relief calls “mutually-transformative relationships”. The love and hospitality of this family encouraged and blessed me, just as much or more than I encouraged or blessed them.

Years later, when I read Karen González’s book The God Who Sees, I was struck by how she described the truth that I experienced: “When we open ourselves up to friendships with immigrants and take intentional steps to know and be known in mutuality, we widen the circle of our affections. Suddenly, immigrants are no longer a burden or a drain on our economy, but a Ruth, a Hagar, or a Joseph to be loved. They become multidimensional people to us – friends who enrich our lives with their very selves. We welcome them and simultaneously welcome Christ and his joy.”

Megan Kennedy,

ESL Program Manager

Megan Kennedy is the English Language Learning Program Manager at World Relief Western Washington. She leads our ESL Program with grace and care, supporting new neighbors as they learn!

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