I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about the etymology of the word “hospitality” but obviously, it relates to “hospital,” “hospice,” and the adjective form “hospitable.” I think since we’ve been missionaries, hospitality is a word we’ve come to explore in practice more than we ever would have before we were missionaries. We’ve often been dependent on the hospitality of others through our lifestyle of traveling. We’ve also learned to live with an open door to guests who are traveling themselves. We’ve provided meals and showers and beds to hundreds of people in our years here in Mexico.
Case in point, one of our Camino co-workers and my former supervisor (when I was our area team leader the past 2 years) was traveling recently and needed a place to stay for a couple nights. That’s a pretty normal type of hospitality to offer as we’ve done that many times in our 10 years in Mexico. A family that we know by God’s providence who serve with the mission agency Pioneers, recently needed help as the parents needed to be at a conference in the USA but couldn’t take their four kids. So, we took two of the boys, and an IMB missionary family near here took the girl and the youngest boy. Cameron and Dayton had a blast as the boys were close in age and it gave them a rare treat of having overnight guests…for 9 nights in a row! The parents got back Saturday, and we kept them and the other two kids too for the past two nights. They’re now on their way back to the mountains of Puebla to a new work their just beginning to develop in a small town. To go to a small grocery store means a 2 hour drive one-way even though it’s only about 30 miles away.
They just left about an hour ago. We’re praying for their 200 mile, 7 hour drive back to the town where they’ll be working at an Intercultural University branch teaching English and developing relationships with the students, the families, the staff, and the few believers in the area.
These rural areas can be very resistant to the Gospel, especially any organized type of church work, so to bring the Gospel and to help with the infant church plant that is there without any trained workers, they’ll need to sow seeds of friendship and develop relationships and earn the trust of the community before they’ll have any chance of a more visible ministry there. If you want to know what ministry to indigenous peoples are typically like, this seems like a good example. Weekend warriors need not apply. This kind of work takes years, sometimes generations. Most of us from the USA have no patience for this kind of outreach, and our American minds that are wrapped around “efficiency” and “the most bang for the buck” typically find this type of ministry to fall short of our ideals and demands for “God’s work.” If that’s our thinking, we fail to realize that we can probably trace the roots of the Gospel that made their way to our time and place in this world back to generational missions that created the foundation of the Gospel upon which we live today. Mission fields across the globe that have seen a measure of “success” typically achieved that success after generational missions. It doesn’t easily fit within our paradigm of technologically-time and formula-based missions, but just like most things in this world, that which springs up quickly, dies out quickly, and that which is slowly and carefully cultivated tends to yield the best results.
So what does all that have to do with “hospitality”? I have no idea. I was up til 1 a.m the last two nights working on a course assignment, and my tired mind is wandering as I type. Sorry.
So, finding the trail of thought again, we’ve rarely had guests for 11 consecutive nights, although some years ago when summer work teams were more common, I’m sure we’ve had guests for even longer stretches. But speaking of “stretches” that’s a good word to use. It is stretching. Hospitality stretches one’s strength, one’s patience, one’s resources, one’s experience. And those are good things to stretch. We need that kind of stretching because it is above all a spiritual stretching.
That is why we’re commanded (not suggested) to practice hospitality. It is even a requirement for the character of elders (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8), but more than that, all believers are commanded to practice hospitality (1 Peter 4:9; Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2). It’s not always an easy thing to do, but what do we expect with spiritual disciplines? They’re rarely easy, and we have to work at them. Sometimes practicing hospitality just sort of happens because people just show up at the door. In those cases, the easy part is finding the opportunities to offer hospitality. The hard part, if it is hard, is to practice it, to do it well, and to do so without grumbling or complaining.
1 Peter 4:9
New International Version
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
New Living Translation
Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.
English Standard Version
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
OK. We have the Word. “Offer,” “show,” “cheerfully share,” “hospitality,” “home,” “meal,” “place to stay,” “without grumbling.” Let’s practice it.
We’ll be traveling this summer and we’ll be needing some hospitality. We’ll be sure to offer you a stretching experience in practicing hospitality! We thank you in advance. And as always, our home here is open to you any time.
As we say in Mexico:
“Mi casa es tu casa.” (My house is your house.)