When I was a kid, I grew up in a small house in Washington, IL. I didn’t think it was that small, but I knew that my parents were feeling cramped and had a desire for a larger space. As a junior in high school, this dream my parents had of a bigger space became a reality: they were going to build a house.
As I look back on this, what was cool was the reason behind why my parents wanted a bigger space. It was so they could use their home for the Kingdom. They wanted me to be able to have larger groups of friends over or invite the youth group over. They wanted to be able to host our ever-growing family for holidays or offer a space to people who might need it. I can look back and see that they loved being able to do this: to show hospitality to those around them in the church and outside of the church. They have been living in their home now for over 10 years and they are still showing acts of hospitality by opening their home and their lives to those God puts on their path.
I remember feeling so nervous as the last one being dropped off to meet my host family in March of 2013. I was in Nottingham, England—3,984 miles away from home. It wasn’t my first mission trip so you would think that I’d be fine…but I was scared. And what made it scarier to me, was living in a stranger’s house for a week away from the team I came with. From what I knew, they were believers, and this wasn’t their first time hosting a student. But the whole experience was new to me and the nausea I felt was real.
Within seconds of meeting my host family, my fears subsided, and I was welcomed in with love and kindness, hospitality and joy. They fed me wonderful meals, shared recipes with me, invited me to join them in watching some of their favorite TV shows while drinking tea, asked questions to get to know me, and sent me home with some lovely treats and a tea set that I still treasure today. It was a week that I will never forget and one of the best parts was experiencing such rich hospitality so far away from home.
When my husband, Jonathan, and I felt called to start a Life Group, we had no idea what God would do. We just knew that we didn’t want to sit on the sidelines anymore—we were ready to step out and invite people in. In early spring of 2018, God brought people into our lives off and on who were around our age and looking for a place to belong within the church. Our group has grown and shifted from where it started, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. They are grateful to be invited into a home and into someone’s life and they mention this often. This act of opening our home started off being stressful for me, but something changed along the way: I valued having people in my home more than the state of my home. Sometimes my house is cluttered, sometimes it’s crazy clean. These people have gone from acquaintances to friends and I appreciate that they value the time together in a safe place more than the state of my home.
The act of opening our home to our Life Group has changed our lives. One of the most amazing things to experience in this life is watching God move and work in the lives of those around you. Every week I am challenged and encouraged by them. Every week we grow closer to Him together and share that excitement with fellow believers who cheer one another on. Now those in our group are inviting others into their homes for guy’s nights, game nights, etc. Hospitality keeps on giving.
The more I experience hospitality, the more I understand that the Church isn’t a building, it’s the people. The Church comes alive not only in the big happenings around us but also in the mundane moments of life. Whether we are far from home or in our own houses, we are a part of the Church when we are gathered with other believers. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
This discipline of hospitality is learned. It isn’t a natural tendency for us and is something I still struggle with. Each time I experience the joy of hospitality, I am reminded of why this is something the Lord calls us to.
Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’”
Romans 12:13 says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
1 Peter 4:9 says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Whether you are a practiced veteran of hospitality, or someone who doesn’t do this often, I just want to encourage you to pray for opportunities to practice hospitality. When we lay down our homes for the Kingdom’s purpose, amazing things can happen as we welcome new people, those in need, and fellow brothers and sisters into our homes and lives.