Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. Growing up, I had been on family vacations to multiple states around the country. Then, I started going on mission trips to places like Canada, South Dakota, New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Poland, England, and Spain. When my husband and I got married, we decided to save our money to travel together and experience the world Our Creator has made. We’ve been to the Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Ireland, and Scotland. I enjoy traveling. I enjoy experiencing new places. I enjoy trying new things—for the most part. But I still get anxiety…especially when staying with locals in their country because I’m still a stranger in a strange place.
In July of 2017, I went with a group from PCC on a mission trip to Granada, Spain to serve alongside our Global Impact partners, Chris and Nicia Irwin. I knew that when I arrived, I would be spending the week with a host family. I’ve had the privilege of staying with a host family before on a mission trip…but it was in Nottingham, England…and they spoke English.
I don’t know about you but traveling to a place where you only know bits and pieces of the language is pretty daunting. To add to that, I also was going to be staying in a home with complete strangers. [As I realized this, I know my face had to have been a little pale and I probably felt sick.] Leading up to the trip, I had been able to email with my host mom, Viviana, just a little so I at least knew what she looked like and her name. But that was it. I was a stranger to her. She was a stranger to me. I was in a strange country. I was, well, scared about what the week was going to be like.
Even though I was scared, I knew everything would be okay. One of the lessons I continue to learn is that I can’t fix everything, I need to be flexible, and God’s got it. God is the One who takes care of me—whether I’m in Spain or Indianapolis, IN, in England or Peoria, IL. I just have to trust and hold on tightly to Him knowing that He is going to do something incredible.
While I was a stranger, I was welcomed in Spain. A stranger took me into her home for an entire week. She let me be a part of her family. She fed me every meal. She let me borrow her shoes and socks when I didn’t have what I needed (it just so happened we wore the same size). She hugged me. She introduced me to her friends. She took me to one of the most beautiful places in Granada: The Sierra Nevada Mountains. She took me rock climbing and swing dancing and out for great food. My host mom showed me hospitality in one of the truest ways I’ve ever experienced it. I was a stranger, but I was welcomed in a place that wasn’t my home. I’m not sure if Viviana believes in Jesus or not, but she acted in a way that reflects the Gospel. Therefore, as a believer, shouldn’t I be doing the same thing?
Experiences like this are humbling and challenging. Jesus tells us to welcome strangers, to care for those around us who are different, who are lonely, who are new, who are traveling, who are in need. Matthew 25:35-36 says, “’For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”
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.” I know this is something I need to be more intentional about because I tend to get wrapped up in the normalcy of life and don’t think about how there are people all around me who I need to welcome—just like Viviana welcomed me. And on a bigger scale, how God welcomed me (Ephesians 2:19-20).
How can you care for the strangers around you?