Hospitality to strangers does not come naturally to me. I love entertaining friends and family, inviting them into my home, treating them as honored guests, cooking for them, and preparing a cozy place for them to spend a few days on those longer visits. However, when meeting new people, I become very self-conscious, finding myself tongue-tied and my heart racing. Even meeting strangers is uncomfortable for me; it’s hard to imagine inviting them into my home or knowing how to show them hospitality.
After my sophomore year of college, I took a gap year to go teach missionary and aid worker children in the country of Kyrgyzstan. While I was there, I was thrown into a totally new way of living. It’s an ex-soviet, second-world country. The people there are primarily Muslim. Their culture is so different from anything that I had experienced. Interestingly, out of all the new ways of life to adapt to, one of the more challenging parts of the culture for me, was the expectation of hospitality to strangers. I was shocked one day when two women arrived at the door of my apartment. I had only met them briefly a couple days prior, and they asked if they could come inside. My roommate, who had been living in the country for a few years, graciously pulled me aside to let me know that when people come to your home, even if they are strangers, it is expected that you will invite them in for tea. If they stay long enough, you cook a meal. You even offer them a place to sleep if it starts getting late. While I felt overwhelmed by being so outside of my comfort zone, I was grateful for the opportunity to strengthen my hospitality muscles during my stay in this foreign country.
Hospitality is a vital part of the Christian way of life. It’s mentioned numerous times throughout scripture – love your neighbor, pray for your enemies, feed the hungry, welcome the foreigner. A 2019 study by Barna Research found that hospitality is connected to the spiritual vibrancy of our homes. One of the key insights of their study stated, “…faith formation correlates with hospitality. In fact, hospitality-minded households typically engage with faith at a much deeper level.”* But what does “hospitality” mean right now during a global pandemic? How can we practice hospitality and still keep everyone safe? While we can’t safely invite strangers into our homes, we can still find imaginative ways to be friendly and generous with our family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. Here are a few ideas…
- Buy coffee or a meal for the strangers behind you in the drive-thru
- Leave an encouraging note on a windshield of a car you’re parked next to at the grocery store.
- Volunteer to be a part of the P.A.L.S. program at St. Lucas UCC and help keep in touch with St. Lucas members who need extra care right now
- Send a card to local healthcare workers
What ideas do you have for how you can show an extravagant welcome to others? This week, we’re including “pass it on” cards as part of our Lenten focus on Making Lent Make a Difference. If you find a way to show love and generosity to a neighbor or stranger this week, please consider leaving one of these cards to encourage people to pass on the kindness and to invite them to be a part of our faith community.
Hospitality might not come easily to all of us. It can feel awkward or uncomfortable, but scripture tells us that it’s worth it! We might just be entertaining angels…or at least buying them a cup of coffee.
*Barna Research, Households of Faith