Open Heart, Open Home

Christmas 2021

Dear family and friends,

Christmas is forever linked to hospitality because of Luke. The Evangelist includes the detail of absence in Bethlehem for the birth of our Savior. No one knew who he was.

And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).

The irony of the incarnated Son of God in a feeding trough exists because there was no room left in the local lodge. The glut of travelers, who were obligated to register for the census in their hometown, caused the shortage.

Fortunately, during our programmed six-month home assignment, we never lacked a place for us. Our daughter and her husband graciously invited us to stay with them in Aurora, Colorado, whenever we were not traveling among Alliance churches. (The day we arrived in May they surprised us with the news that they were expecting their first child! We are excited to be abuelos early in the New Year!)

And travel we did. Our tour calendar took us far from Colorado to upstate New York, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois. Over these last six months, between the two of us, we have reported, clarified and inspired 35 churches with what God continues to do in Spain.

And everywhere we went we received hospitality. We stayed in simple houses and sumptuous ones, spacious houses and cramped ones, quiet houses and boisterous ones. The commonality in all of them is that they were not just houses—places to stay—but homes. Homes with fellow followers of Jesus that received us generously and graciously in his name.

Though “tour” (as we call it in the Alliance) could be considered an inefficient use of time, for us “breaking bread from house to house, sharing table with glad and generous hearts” (Acts  2:46) was invaluable. Showing hospitality is truly a hallmark of authentic love as Paul enjoins in Romans 12. We bless all of you who opened your homes or shared your table with us.

We value it so much because is vital to our ministry. Pre-Covid, Marilyn and I had people in our home for meals about twice a week. We missed this dearly during the pandemic. For five of the last seven years we have had several young adults living with us in our apartment in Tres Cantos. We look forward to getting back to sharing our safe space again!

Hospitality has power, no matter how simple and basic. Marilyn was humbled by the hospitality of impoverished Honduran women in a mountain village in 1981. God called her to mission there. That same year Tim was humbled by the hospitality of Cambodian refugees toward my parents in the camps in Thailand. Welcome and honor and attention in the humblest of spaces are all that are really necessary.

I learned this fall that the number one desire of international students who come to study is to be invited into an American home. Many Spanish exchange students we have met in Spain over the years have been deeply impacted, some even to faith by Christian host families. Most of the English Camp monitors from 2004-2016 would say that the most memorable and lasting part of their experience in Tres Cantos was two weeks in the homes of Spanish host families. Some friendships last to this day. Hospitality is a genuine biblical value that we must not lose because of the pandemic. Opening our home can mean opening our heart in friendly reception of beloved guests, passing visitors and even strangers (yet-to-be-friends!).

With grateful hearts,

Tim and Marilyn

 

*published with permission from the authors

Hospitality Must Resist Fear

I sent my husband to the store the other night to pick up some tahini for the hummus I was making. We were having an open house for our church family the next day and that was one of the recipes we were going to enjoy. As he wandered the aisles trying to find the ingredient, he ran into some of our neighbors from down the street who are from Pakistan.

My husband mentioned what he was looking for, and the neighbor said, “You don’t want this store brand. I’ll bring over the real deal from my country.” Later that evening, he proceeded to do just that. It was a wonderful opportunity to invite him in, have a short chat with him, and invite his family to our open house the next day.

I am wired for hospitality and have a love for all people—no matter where they are from or how different they are. If we are to reach the world for Christ, we must resist the fear of interacting with people who are different than us. We must fight past the tendency to stick with the comfortable and familiar. We need to listen to those who think differently than we do, including those who have a different political viewpoint or ideology than we have.

We often view hospitality as being good at hosting and entertaining, and while it can include that aspect, hospitality is more so about being welcoming. Are you including people into your circle and conversations? Do you make a point of reaching out to those who aren’t part of the crowd? Do you go out of your way to encourage the lost, the hurting, and the broken? Are you able to listen without having an agenda? Are you open to opportunities to invite someone in?

Jesus often interacted with those on the fringes of society—the woman with the bleeding issue, the Samaritan woman, lepers, tax collectors, and sinners. He was always on the lookout for these people in the crowd that followed Him, and He was able to draw them in and include them. He extended grace and hospitality, and He listened to their fears, their concerns, and their hurts. Because He showed love and care, they turned to Him.

As we interact with others, let’s make sure we are putting aside fear of the different or unknown. Let’s work on being generous and inviting to those around us. Look around and be on the alert for those who are overlooked or hurting and offer a hand of hospitality.