“There’s somebody pounding on the door,” Sandy told me. [names have been changed]
Two o’clock in the morning?! Who could that be?!
The night seemed foreboding. Could this be a ploy? Looking through the window I saw only her, crying, “Please help me. I’ve been raped.”
Cold, wet, and trembling, she rushed inside when I opened the door and ushered her to the sofa. In short gasps, she told her story, admitting she had lied. She was not raped, but was threatened. He offered her a ride home at the bar where they met. Instead, he drove down the forlorn River Road. When he threatened her in his stupor, she opened the car door and fell out. Waiting in the bushes until she thought he was gone, she ran to the trailer nestled next to a large warehouse by the river.
“I saw the light on the porch, and I felt I could trust you,” she sobbed.
The man drove by and then turned, coming back our way. That was when she begged to be let inside. Even after she was inside, he kept driving by our trailer.
There were two other guests in our trailer that night. My sister (asleep in the room we were sharing) and an elderly Amish man, asleep in my bedroom.
When it seemed safe to leave, we drove her to her apartment. We never saw her again.
Is it wrong to take risks? Was it wise to allow her into our home? Do we only invite others into our world when we feel prepared and safe?
Wide awake after our return, I remembered my prayer a few months before. A single nurse living fifty miles from home, I felt disconnected and frustrated that my schedule prohibited me from participating regularly in church events.
One day I told God, “I feel useless with little to give, but I offer my trailer to You.”
God took me up on that offer. Within a few months, a family asked permission to park their motor home at our place during the father’s hospitalization for cancer. They hooked their power to our electric meter and ran a hose from our water supply. Several weeks later, Sandy, a single mom asked to stay with us one night a week while taking college classes. Our sofa became her bed. During that same period, an Amish woman from our community had surgery at our hospital. We offered my bed to her husband Reuben and I moved in with my sister. That was why both Sandy and Reuben were with us the night this girl arrived on our porch.
And I thought all I had was a two-bedroom trailer.
God only asks us to share what we have. He will use it.
When the disciples suggested the crowds be sent away, Jesus instructed them to feed those people. Really? Feed 5,000 men plus women and children? They had been busy all day long. It was late. They were tired and wanted to go home. But then, since when should hospitality only be practiced when it looks fun?
There was a lad with a lunch of five loaves and two fish. It wasn’t much, but it became more than enough.
God asks us to share what we have for His use.
On a whim one Sunday, my Sunday school teacher invited her class for lunch. She also invited her son’s friends who were our age. I have no idea how over a dozen boys and girls squeezed into their car for the ride home. I cannot tell you what food was served or the design on the plates at her table. Never mind that my teacher had a heart condition, was never healthy, and died young. All I know is fifty years later this is still one of my favorite childhood memories. What made it so special? Her spontaneous warmth and affirmation.
God will use what we willingly share.
The Shunamite woman saw Elisha’s need as he came through her community. She and her husband built a simple room onto their house with a bed, a table, and a chair. Her purpose? To meet the needs of the Prophet. What an example of gracious hospitality! Read the story in 2 Kings 4.
God will use what we have and share.
When I was a child, my church owned three meeting houses, one centrally located and the other two at opposite ends of the county. Our congregation rotated meeting centrally one Sunday and at opposite ends on alternate Sundays. Because of travel distance, folks outside the community chose a home to visit for lunch, arriving unannounced and uninvited! What fun to decide where we would go this Sunday. On opposite Sundays, we waited expectantly to see what guests might come.
Years later, my aunt shared about the Sunday people kept coming until she had twenty guests plus her family of eight to serve. Going to the basement to get more canned fruit, she had a good cry before heading back upstairs.
We have lost something since then. Or perhaps some of us never found it in the first place!
Hospitality is an art and a command. Some of us might need a little more practice and experience, but the ability is right there if we are willing to hone that heart attitude.
When folks feel the welcome and the warmth of a gracious host, they fail to notice a less than perfect house. Lonely people need belonging and care, not exotic food and fanfare. Waiting until we are ‘ready’ or ‘feel like’ having company is no way to practice hospitality. In fact, it is not true hospitality.
There are many ways to do hospitality, and there is no set standard. Be who you are, and share what you have. Hospitality is not about entertaining or about showing off what we own or what we can do. Hospitality is not a competition. It is about blessing others with belonging, value, and importance. Hospitality is the affirmation we give to others that they are worthy.
When we invite folks whose lifestyles we cannot approve into our homes, we are giving them Jesus. When we share what we have to help ease the burdens of others, we are sharing the compassion of Jesus. When we provide rest and refreshment for God’s people, we are enabling their mission.
God wants us to give what we have, doing it willingly and cheerfully. He wants us to open, not only the doors of our homes, but the doors of our hearts as well.
Hors Devours on Hospitality
This article was first published in Daughters of Promise magazine. For more information about this magazine, go to the site here. This article (as well as one other one previously published in this magazine) has also been printed in the book Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women in Their Own Words. Published in July of 2018, you can find this book at this link:
For more information about this book, contact Herald Press at 800-245-7894.