“Sally, we need a place for 'M' to stay for the next ten days.”
A Ukrainian team was in town and needed a place for one of their team members. The next two days I spent preparing for my guest, and I started reminiscing about our journey into hospitality. It does not come naturally to me, but we are becoming experienced hosts, now.
"Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13
Some people think I have the “gift of hospitality.” I do not. Hospitality is not mentioned as one of the spiritual gifts even though we often refer to it as one.
Either way, I am not a hospitable person. I am an introvert and my home is my haven away from the world where I can recharge and get ready to be with people again the next day. If I have outsiders in my home, I am not recharging. I am still pouring out and draining my emotional resources.
Your "Average" is Good Enough
I learned a lot about hospitality when we spent three months in Russia in 1997. We lived with a Russian family in their second-floor apartment. The family consisted of five people: a couple, two college-aged daughters, and a four-year-old daughter.
Vera, the four-year-old, was enchanted with our flashlight and would sneak into our room to find it. The family lived in a small apartment that had two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. The whole family slept in one bedroom so we could have the other bedroom.
They also cried when we left. I would have cried for joy in this instance, but they were sad because we were leaving. This sleeping arrangement humbled me and convicted me. Their whole apartment would fit inside my home with a bedroom and bathroom to spare.
Now, I live in a typical ranch house built in 1950. It is small and old by today’s standards. I did not think my house was nice enough to host people. When I experienced this family’s hospitality with their small apartment, I realized I needed to be obedient and share my home as well.
Practice Makes Perspective
Two years later, a Russian friend needed cataract surgery that was not offered in her country. She came to Houston for the surgery. She and her translator stayed with us for three months, which was quite a stretch for us. We went from never hosting anyone to sharing one bathroom for all four of us. It was a wonderful cross-cultural experience, and I even learned a few words of Russian that I still use today.
Over time, we were able to invest in a third bedroom and second bathroom in our home. The bedroom was ready before the shower was completed. Another young lady from Russia spent a weekend with us.
When I apologized for the uncompleted shower, she said, “This room is just for me? All by myself? At home, I share a room with my sister and my parents. At camp, I share a room with the other counselors. This is wonderful—a room just for me.”
Again I thought my “best” wasn’t good enough, it was a blessing to the young lady.
Gospel Opportunities in the Making
The shower is completed, now, and we can offer a bedroom and private bath to our guests. Although small, it is a private space. We have hosted so many folks since the first guests came twenty years ago. We have shared with Perspectives instructors, Muslim teachers from Central Asia, and a young man from Russia needing cataract surgery just to name a few.
Our pastor in Nizhniy Novgorod also likes to visit us during the winter months as the Houston winter is a lot milder. He feels at home in our back bedroom, and visiting here provides a sabbatical experience for him.
That third bedroom has provided us with opportunities to share the gospel with Muslims, disciple young adults, and provide restful and refreshing experiences for those who need a break.
With some practice, I have learned I do not have to have the “gift” of hospitality to be obedient. And God is pleased to beautify my small acts of obedience by his grace.
Sally Hinzie is a Church Consultant who has worked at UBA for many years. Her primary areas of ministry focus include church planting, bible storying training, organic church, and ministry implementation.