July 3, 2024

On Saturday, June 22 I was twirling cotton candy cones and covered with a layer of sugar and sweat. It was as perfect of a hot summer day as you can get, hundreds and hundreds of folks from all over mid-Missouri coming by to see just what this Summer Market was all about. One of our staff was helping me with the cotton candy, and she asked me something I’ve thought about a few times since then. She said, “So as you look around at how City of Refuge has grown over the past few years, how do you feel? Like, are you anxious? Or proud?” I wasn’t sure how to answer her at first. Because I feel a lot of things – sometimes different things all at the same time. But the answer I gave her is the one that feels the most true. 

What I feel is gratitude.

4 years ago, I had arrived back in Columbia (after swearing I’d never return) in the middle of a pandemic with no real end insight. So much felt uncertain. My husband and I, and our 9 month-old foster baby, had just been forced to leave our community, our home, our jobs. My parents graciously took us in and we were introduced to the beauty and challenges of multi-generational living. 

When I took this job, over a year later, life was still uncertain. The world was polarizing – is polarizing. Everyone has lots of opinions about a lot of things. My own individual bubble of shoulds and shouldn’ts was popped as I became more and more acquainted with the hurts and conflicts around the world that were making waves in mid-Missouri. I had much to learn about having a broader perspective on life, much to learn about listening and showing up, about withholding judgment. I still do.

I probably grew up believing some sort of lie that what’s happening there doesn’t actually matter to me here, that they wasn’t me… and so I spent too much of my life choosing disinterest or apathy. I don’t get to do that anymore. I don’t want to do that anymore. Because what’s happening there, absolutely impacts here. And they have a lot to teach me about compassion, resilience, and love. They make me a better human. And when I reflect on all of that, what I feel is gratitude. Gratitude that’s deeply rooted in humility.

There impacts here. And I’m so grateful that it does.

Because, friends, it’s a testament to the kind of city that we live in. It’s a testament to the kind of people who live here. We are a diverse community, from all over the world, with different cultures and languages, different foods, and different experiences. It’s actually quite mind-blowing, when you really think about it. And when I think about why the impact is so great, it has a lot to do with being the type of community who welcomes, who embraces, who cares enough to see others as more important than themselves. The type of community that is better together. I’m grateful to live in a community that inspires me every single day. 

Did you know that in just the first few months of 2024, our volunteer base has grown to a steady 200+ folks who are giving their time every single week? And that all of those hours add up to what would be the equivalent of 8 additional full-time staff? Did you know that every month we have over 60 individuals or businesses giving to us on a recurring basis? Did you know that several of our interns have changed the trajectory of their careers after volunteering for a semester or longer? Did you know that a young Afghan woman, while selling items at our Summer Market, interviewed with the Missouri Business Alert and is quoted as saying, “We just want to make something to show other people how to never give up.”? Did you know that one of our refugee friends arrived at the market and immediately threw on a volunteer badge and looked for any possible way she could help serve?

I feel grateful. 

How could I not? I’m surrounded by people, every day, from all walks of life and a myriad of cultures… and I am inspired by how they give. Generosity that begs nothing in return. Generosity that looks different for each individual according to what each can give, but it radically changes the landscape of City of Refuge…and it changes the culture of our entire city. We literally could not do what we do without the constant flow of generosity that comes in and out of this place. 

The words are never adequate enough, but from the deepest parts of me: thank you

Thank you for teaching me what it means to give sacrificially, for teaching me how to show up, for teaching me how to get back up again and start over. From our refugee friends, to our volunteers, to our donors, to our staff, to our community partners…I have learned so much from each of you. 

I pray that, no matter what comes, we will always be the type of community that reflects values of generosity and gratitude. Values that truly change lives… them and me. Because we’re really all the same: we. A humanity who is figuring out how to do life together in the midst of so much uncertainty

Debbie Beal
Executive Director

Join us on September 23, 2024 at Columbia Country Club for our 9th Annual Golf Tournament! Spend the day golfing with friends while also supporting local refugees in Columbia, MO.

Early Registration is open! Teams that register before July 1st will receive 10% off of their registration fee.


Our newest City of Refuge T-Shirt is now available for purchase at City Boutique and on our website. Your purchase of one T-Shirt for $15, allows us to gift two T-Shirts to refugees that we serve. Available in adult sizes, S-2XL, and flexible material to stay cool in the summer heat. Support local refugees and purchase yours today!

On August 12, we will be hosting our annual Back-to-School Bash. We are expecting 300+ kids! Each child will have the opportunity to pick out a brand new outfit and pick up school supplies they’ll need to start the year out right. We have already been so blessed with gifts of pencils, markers, school boxes… you name it, we’ve got it! But now, we’d really like to focus on getting kids a top-to-bottom outfit that they can feel confident and comfortable in as they head to school- some, for the very first time!

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