Denver chaplain brings home “radical hospitality”

Community Life
Couscous celebration

Posted: June 26, 2023

Teaching the art of welcoming – from Algeria to Holly Creek Life Plan Community

Hospitality is important. There probably aren’t many who would disagree, but what “hospitality” exactly means can be another matter. Just ask Chaplain Jim Kok of Holly Creek Life Plan Community, who recently returned from a four-month stint in Algeria.

Kok joined his wife in the city of Laghouat, Algeria, for part of her 10-month term teaching English with the State Department’s English Language Fellow program. While he also learned to overcome the challenges of working remotely as a chaplain, one of the biggest things Kok took away from his time in Algeria was a completely new concept of what it means to be welcomed.

Algerian culture is centered around the concept of hospitality. “Every house has a parlor just for welcoming guests and making sure they are comfortable,” Kok said. In fact, during a visit to southern Algeria, he was told that tradition dictates if someone asks to stay with a stranger, the stranger should put them up immediately and not even ask who they are for the first three days.

An Algerian welcome parlor

Kok came away with no shortage of eye-opening examples, from being served a feast during Ramadan — while none of their Muslim hosts was eating during the day — to being invited over for coffee by a young stranger who knew English and overheard him and his wife while shopping.

“After chatting for 2 or 3 minutes, he invited us to his home for coffee and dessert. We were hesitant, but eventually went, met his mother, and enjoyed their hospitality,” Kok said. “I would probably not do that in the U.S., but we talked to people who said that this kind of thing happens all the time. That’s a part of the culture there — such generous hospitality. Even though we are hospitable here, it is usually not to that extent.”

Kok and his wife were also welcomed into a local cultural center where they were able to “build relationships with a number of musicians.” Four to five times a week the couple walked the half hour from their home to the center. “We were able to go and sit in this room, and some people would just show up… I play the guitar, and they graciously welcomed me in to play some things.”

Chaplain Kok and friend Djamel playing together in the cultural center of Laghouat

As one of very few Americans in the country, Kok quickly experienced “what it feels like to be an outsider in a culture that I don’t understand and a language I don’t know.” But he also discovered “how that kind of feeling can be overcome by overwhelming hospitality and kindness.”

Algeria’s “radical hospitality” bridged the gap.

“The relationships and welcome made all the difference,” Kok said. “The language and cultural differences become less important because they just wanted you to feel at home.”

Kok is glad to be back in person with the residents at Holly Creek, as he especially missed the opportunities to share face-to-face conversations while he was away. The concept of Algerian hospitality, however, is one he hopes will reinvigorate in his own duties and share with both Holly Creek and its parent organization Christian Living Communities (CLC) as well.

“We were embraced with such kindness and caring by the people of Laghouat. For my work as a chaplain, exhibiting this kind of welcome and generosity of spirit are essential,” he said.

As he reflects on radical generosity, Kok is pleased with the ways Holly Creek and other CLC communities incorporate care in each interaction and excited for ways they can continue to grow.

“Since our intent as an organization is to make people feel at home, then we must continue to think about new ways of welcoming people to help them feel important and loved. At times in Algeria, the incredible welcome we received didn’t seem right because we didn’t feel like we deserved it. But that’s not the point,” he added. “It’s about making someone know that they are cared about unconditionally.”

That new perspective is something he will take back to in-person pastoral care as he cares for Holly Creek residents and leads CLC’s pastoral team.

“I was reminded of the power of our relationships,” he concluded, “and how sometimes the people in our lives can make all the difference in how we live our days.”

Get In Touch With Us

We’re here to answer your questions and to help infuse everyday with joy & happiness. Fill out the form below to connect with a representative.

Holly Creek respects your privacy and never sells or trades your personal information.

Thank You For Contacting Us!

Here's what you can expect next.

You contacted Holly Creek for more information

2 We will call you at:
(555) 555-5555

You'll speak with a Senior Living Advisor

During the hours of:

Mon-Fri: 8am - 5pm

In the meantime, check out the following resources

Holly Creek Active Senior Living Community is owned and managed by Christian Living Communities and is a full service life plan community. We offer active Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care as well as Skilled Nursing, and Rehabilitation. Holly Creek Active Senior Living Community is located in Centennial, Colorado and services the areas in and around Greenwood Village, Englewood, Columbine, Cherry Hills Village, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Heritage Hills, Meridian, Dove Valley, Stonegate, Parker, Aurora, Lakewood, and South Denver. We also are an ideal senior community for those in the zip codes 80122, 80120, 80121, 80111, 80130, 80126, 80129, 80112, and 80124.

A Neighborhood of Christian Living Communities

Holly Creek Retirement Community adheres to all regulations as written in the Americans with Disabilities Act and The Fair Housing Act and accordingly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, familial status, disability (whether it be mental or physical), or sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation).