What if we start by saying,
For the past year and few months, my wife and I have had the joy of welcoming a little girl into our home from someone else’s home. She needed another space in which she could be safe and grow for awhile. And now, she is a full-on toddler (we call her a “two-nager,” a mix between a two-year old and the full on attitude of a teenager!). And like most parents, we are just doing the best we can to raise her well.
This, of course, includes instilling good manners. We are working on being polite, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome.’ It wasn’t until I began to think about the coming season that the phrase “You’re Welcome,” stood out to me as somewhat odd. For many of us, it is just a filler phrase that we say when someone thanks us for something. Are people only welcome once they receive something from us? Isn’t this a bit out of order?
It got me wondering, what if we started off our interactions by communicating welcome at the outset? How could we go about doing that? I think about Mary and Joseph, traveling together and weary from their journey. Everyone else in their hometown said there was no room—their hometown! Even the local inn couldn’t accommodate them well, so the baby Jesus had to be laid in a manger. The savior of the world, God-with-us, did not get the welcome he deserved. At least, not at first.
It makes me wonder, how many people missed out on the God-with-them because their lives were already too full. What if they were willing to say “you’re welcome,” when that weary couple showed up on their doorstep. What a gift that would have been!
At HopeSprings, we want to start every interaction with “You’re Welcome!” knowing that we are, in some sort of mysterious way, also welcoming Jesus.
Extending the welcome…
We have had a year focusing on welcome in different ways. We have welcomed new staff members and volunteers this year. I have experienced welcome personally as so many in the community have embraced me as our new Executive Director. We have welcomed new brothers and sisters to serve. We have even helped one sister have her own new place of welcome, by providing savings matching to get her own place! The welcoming continues!
We have trained church leaders and members in being more welcoming. We’ve led 40 brand-new volunteers through our Journey Training as new volunteers to better prepare them for service. We trained 25 pastors and leaders in our training sessions around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, including faculty and staff at a major university. Our desire is that no matter who you are, you can experience radical welcome and love when you step into one of our partner churches or institutions.
Your generous gift during this season will help to sustain the ongoing work of HopeSprings, and help us prepare and expand for the future! We are in a key year of planning for what the next years of welcome will look like. You can use the enclosed envelope or give online at www.hopesprings.org/donate and select “You’re Welcome!” as the giving campaign.
Please know that before anything else, “you’re welcome” at HopeSprings. Welcome to serve, welcome to give, welcome to pray, welcome to advocate, welcome to learn with us, and welcome to join us as we seek to all experience the Hope and Healing that comes through restored relationships.
As the hymn reminds us, “let every heart prepare him room.” May we all do the needed preparation for God to be welcomed into our hearts by welcoming others into our lives.
With deep gratitude,
Derek H. Miller.