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Why We Welcome: The Gift of Giving

Near the front of our church building in Olympia, WA hangs a large, vibrant map of the world. In addition to its visual geography, each nation of the world is represented with its corresponding flag. It is a recent purchase for our newly acquired building, but it was hung intentionally to highlight our core values of “kingdom imagination” and “generous hospitality.” Over the past year, however, that map has served as a sign and symbol in ways that we could never have dreamed.

When the Thurston County office of World Relief Western Washington opened in the spring of 2023, we didn’t fully know what to expect. But this we did know – it was an answer to our deepest longings and desires. Our leadership core didn’t have to agonize in prayer to discern God’s will about our participation. Rather, a simple reading of Scripture and our church values was sufficient. There was an alignment that filled us with expectations.

In a short matter of time, as needs became known, dozens of volunteers emerged to be World Relief host homes and eager members of a Good Neighbor Team. If I had to venture a guess, people from our church have offered up hundreds if not thousands of collective hours driving, serving, helping, tutoring, cooking, and Google translating their way through beautiful yet awkward conversations. The result has been nothing short of revolutionary in a profoundly transformational way. No longer are our church values aspirational – they are far more actionable.

For our small, suburban church previously lacking in much racial diversity, this past year has made our global map explode in technicolor reality. We have been reminded of God’s big, global world. We have been re-centered on the King and His kingdom redeemed from every tongue, tribe, and nation. And as the sounds of multiple languages now fill our homes and meeting spaces, the richness of relationships with those very different from us has stretched us to encounter a God far bigger than before. In a very real sense, strangers have become family.

Here in Thurston County, the nations have come to us, and we have received far more than we have given. These brilliant, kind, humble, courageous people have graced us with friendship and a bigger and better image of God. It’s a gift that fills us with gratitude as we look back over the past year, and with hope for the more that is to come.

Paul Jones


Paul Jones is the Lead Pastor at Reality Church in Olympia. Reality Church is dedicated to their partnership with World Relief Western Washington in Thurston County.

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