Fruit of a Welcoming Week Brunch

 “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:1-2

 

I don’t know if a 12-year-old girl and her Persian father are truly angels, but it felt like that to me when they came to our rescue a few weeks after meeting them! It began with Welcoming Week last year.

My husband, Steve and I were excited by the thought of setting aside some days to honor our community’s immigrants and their contributions to our culture and commerce. We knew that many of our neighbors came here from other countries, but we hadn’t had a chance to meet them. Welcoming Week seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We live on West Lake Sammamish Parkway, a hilly street with fast-moving traffic and steep driveways. There are no sidewalks or gathering places where neighbors might get acquainted, so often people only know whoever lives next door.

We decided to walk to six or seven houses in each direction and invite the people we met to brunch on Sunday of our set-aside week.  We printed an invitation to hand out and included the following note along with our names and email address:

Dear Neighbors

Because of the long driveways on our busy street, this isn’t an easy place to meet the people who live nearby. Please join us for Sunday brunch on the 24th, so we can get to know each other. Families welcome. Please let us know if you can come. We look forward to seeing you!

It was fun meeting neighbors and discovering homes we’d never seen before tucked into the hillside. Everyone seemed surprised and pleased to be invited. Some people said they would arrive a little late because of their worship service and we learned about their faith.

On the appointed day, about 24 people came and there was great fellowship. There were neighbors from Taiwan, France, and Iran, as well as many parts of this country. We had learned that one girl would be coming on her birthday, so we had cake and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and “Hip, Hip, Hooray!”

We hadn’t asked anyone to bring food, but several people did. One man brought fresh eggs from the hens he proudly showed us when we met on our invitations walk! People exchanged email addresses and business cards and when we asked if they’d like to gather again to map the neighborhood for emergency preparedness, they all said, “Yes!” The day turned out better than we could have imagined!

The people we met told us how much they appreciated the personal invitation and the chance to connect with the families around them. They wanted a more personal sense of community and many commented that it’s a rare pleasure to be invited into someone’s home for a meal.

Because we live on a lake, in the weeks that followed, a family collected donations for their school fund-raiser, traveling from house-to-house by paddleboard and canoe to canvas their now-familiar neighbors.

Steve and I were invited to dinner with three families: our Muslim hosts, a Jewish couple, and the two of us. We had a wonderful sharing experience. And it was the host father and his daughter, our brunch birthday girl, who came to our aid a few weeks later when we needed an emergency babysitter for our granddaughters!

It’s been almost a year since we followed the impulse to reach out to our neighbors. We’re looking forward to doing it again soon. Welcoming Week is a great way to further the BelPres mission to be a warm and welcoming multi-ethnic community and bring peace and healing to the places we live, work and play.

 

Welcoming Week

September 14-23, 2018

Ways You Can Participate:

  • Read and discuss: Welcoming the Stranger
  • Watch the documentary screening of 8 Borders 8 Days
  • Join the Facing Racism Bible Study
  • Volunteer at Talk Time to converse with new English speakers.
  • Look online for community events in your local cities.
  • Invite your neighbors to a neighborhood potluck or barbecue.
  • Plan a meal with friends, each inviting someone who’s new to our community.
  • Worship with New Hope Revival Church at 11 a.m. in the BelPres Upper Campus Building.
  • Reach out to people you don’t know after church services.
  • Pray about ways you can bring healing and peace in the places you live, work and play.
  • Share your ideas with others; then, act on one of them.

Who is Your Neighbor?

We organized neighborhood potlucks for years when our kids were younger and then every year afterward, we would say, “We need to do this again.” Somehow, 10 years slipped by.  Last year, we promised this would change.

In the dark, cold winter of 2016 walking door-to-door to 25 neighbors with an invitation for a potluck dinner, we were met with surprise and delight.  Several neighbors had lived in the neighborhood for years but had yet to meet others.  Others had intended to organize such a gathering but never got around to it.  And one young child greeted us at the door with joy and excitement to receive an invitation.

The neighborhood potluck was a smashing success.  22 households brought a great variety of food and drink.  As the evening progressed, conversations bubbled.  We became aware our neighborhood had become more international over the years.  It was a delight to see the comradery among neighbors and a surprise by how easy it was to bring everyone together.  All that was really required of us was extending the invitation.

As this summer neared its end, we again reached out to neighbors by hosting a Saturday evening barbeque. Again, our neighbors greeted us with joy and excitement.  We have seen these gatherings bring neighbors closer together, helping all to feel like they belong and are a community.  We intend to find more opportunities to gather as a supportive community and to help all feel welcomed.

Join the Justice & Reconciliation Team and BelPres folks to reach out to their neighbors for Welcoming Week Sep 15-24, a nationwide celebration of immigrants and refugees’s contributions, and community’s role in helping them feel at home.Host a potluck, barbecue, coffee or brunch in your neighborhood to build understanding and support between long time residents and newcomers to our land.