Practicing Hospitality

Posted by  | Friday, May 6, 2011  at 8:00 AM  
I asked my husband if he had any suggestions for what to write about this week on POH, and he suggested I write about practicing hospitality. This is something the Holy Spirit has gifted me with and something I learned a lot about from having it modeled to me through my parents and through another couple who led Ed to the Lord and discipled him early in his Christian life.

Practicing hospitality in our family happens in a variety of ways. I want to share these different ways with you and encourage you to take a step of faith and maybe open up your home or your life in a way you haven't before.

1. Have people over. This is probably the easiest thing to do, but I think sometimes people shy away from it. I know some who fear the hassle, or think their home is too small or too messy or too whatever. We do not have the most ideal home for having people over for a meal. We have a small table that only seats four. And our house isn't always the neatest. But we like to have people over to our home - for dinner, for a playdate, for games. Our house is always open and always available. Some ideas to help in this area: 1) Eat in shifts. If we have another family over, we feed the kids first and then let them go play so that the adults can sit down to eat. 2) Have a leftovers get together. Sometimes we will ask friends to come over with their leftovers, we will pull out our leftovers, and we will share together. I may not want to eat that lasagna for the third night in a row, but it's brand new to my friends!

2. Host guests from church. We have a Japanese Language Congregation at our church and each summer they have a group of students come from Japan to visit. They ask for a host family for each student so they can see what American home life is like. We were able to have a really sweet girl from Japan stay with us for a week last summer. To say my boys loved it is an understatement. We spent the next month learning all we could about Japan from the library and talking to our Japanese friends at church. After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Samuel and Joel wanted to know everything that was happening. Hosting this friend helped open up the world a little bit more to my boys.

3. Have a student/young person live with you. This is probably the biggest test of hospitality, but one that can be a real blessing to someone else. We just said goodbye to our third student this past week after 1.5 years. Ed and I have always wanted our home to be a blessing to someone else. When we purchased our current house 3 years ago, we knew we wanted to open up one of our bedrooms to someone who needed help getting through a transition period. Our first student was someone we met at church. Mary was a graduate student who was planning on getting married in a few months and needed somewhere to stay until then. She stayed with us for about 2 months. Shortly thereafter, a college friend of Ed's had a sister who was moving back to the US after spending some time abroad. Janet was relocating to the Chicago area and hoping to get an internship in the city. She didn't know anyone here and didn't have a job yet. She was able to stay with us for about 6 months while she found work, figured her way around the city, and decided where she would move next. Our third student, Jonathan, was another friend from church. He was in his last year of a PhD program and had been renting a room from a family who was trying to sell their house. Ed told him he should take the $500/month he was paying in rent and buy himself a car and come live with us. Jonathan planned on staying from September 2009 to June 2010, but when June came he wasn't done with his program and had just broke up with his girlfriend. We encouraged him to stay on longer and finish his program before moving out. He finished in March 2011, got a full time job at a great hospital downtown and signed a lease last week. Our extra bedroom is sitting empty now, but we are getting together someone next week who needs somewhere to stay this summer. The man who disciples Ed has a college aged daughter and one of her friends needs somewhere to live for the summer while she works in the area and goes to soccer practice. Having someone live with you can be a real challenge. You are opening up your life and your home to someone that may not always be easy to love (hey, I'm sure there are many times when I'm not so loveable either!). But it can be a way to love someone and support them through a transition in their life. And it can be a living example to your children of how to love someone and serve them in a practical way.

Practicing hospitality in our home is one way we hope to put hands and feet to the gospel and to love others around us. I hope you are encouraged to step out in faith and give it a try.


Leah F said...

I love your suggestions! It is hard to 'let your guard down' enough to invite people over no matter how crazy the day has been or how your house looks...or to ask them to eat your leftovers instead of a gourmet meal. But that is having a heart of hospitality, and I appreciate your sharing with us. Question--do the students who live with you share your meals? Do you charge them for their room/board? Do they have to obey certain house rules? sorry, I am just curious and wondering how to implement something like that.

Leah F said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leah said...

(grr...I just typed a long comment and it was lost!)

To answer your questions:
1) The students have always been welcome to share all meals with us. Because of schedules, they have typically had breakfast almost every day and dinner 3 or so times per week. They always let me know their schedules at the beginning of the week so I could plan.
2) We did not charge the first two girls any money. Jonathan decided to start paying us some money after the first year. For the girl that is coming this summer we have asked her if she could pay $100/month to offset the cost of food. She has also said she would babysit one Saturday night a month for us.
3) We haven't had to make any house rules. With our friend that was getting married, we told her in the beginning that we would prefer that she not be in the room with her boyfriend with the door closed and that he not stay overnight. It was never a problem. And once I did make a sign for the bathroom for Jonathan to tell him how I wanted him to leave the shower when he was done. :)
I hope that helps. We have really enjoyed allowing God to use us in this way to bless someone else.

Cecilia said...

My parents had folks live with us on and off when I was growing up. Though it wasn't a conscious thing at the time, it was a great example to me of living out our faith.

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