After four short-term mission projects to Kenya, there are some truths I’m reminded of each time. I’m reminded of the power of burying scripture in your heart and mind, so the Holy Spirit can use you to speak the Word of God to someone else. I’m reminded of the sovereignty of God and how in the darkness, He is light and brings joy to all who know him regardless of age, gender, race, or ethnicity. Perhaps it is like this in other nations, but in Kenya, I’m also struck by the culture of hospitality. While working in Kibera slum alongside 127 Worldwide partner Swahiba Networks, we often conduct home visits to pray, share scripture, and generally encourage the families of students in Swahiba Networks programs. To an American, these homes are cramped, dark, and sometimes even wet, if it has rained as it did while we were there in June. However, as my team repeatedly mentioned, the moment you ducked inside it somehow felt warm. There was a willing spirit and often a friendly smile that made us feel strangely at home. We weren’t offered scrumptious trays of Pinterest-worthy creations, nor were we turned away at the door. We came to be an encouragement (and I pray we were) but walked away moved by hope glimmering in the darkness. And it began with a simple willingness to open the door and welcome a stranger.
I’ve often been the recipient of biblical hospitality. During a time when I was seeking after God and uncertain in my faith walk, God put a friend and mentor in my life who demonstrated biblical hospitality to me. How many times in that first season did I stand in her kitchen and watch her cook while we talked about life and the Lord? How many times did I fall asleep on her couch after we watched a television show or I hesitantly confessed a struggle with sin? I witnessed her love for the Lord and for others in those years. I watched her share her home with dozens of people, sometimes friends but often strangers, with willingness and joy.
Scripture provides us with many examples of hospitality. In the days of the early church in Acts 16, hospitality led to the growth of the church at Philippi, thanks to a businesswoman named Lydia. Paul and Silas visited a place of prayer outside the city on the Sabbath. Lydia was there, and after hearing Paul talk about Jesus, was converted and baptized. Her first action as a believer? To invite them into her home. Not long after, Paul and Silas experienced prison cells and prayer-triggered earthquakes, prevented a man from committing suicide, and were nearly thrown out of the city. After these adventures, where did Paul and Silas go? To a refuge – Lydia’s house, where there were people meeting in safety to worship Jesus. We follow Paul’s missionary journeys in our studies, often overlooking the unnamed brothers and sisters who met them at the door and said, ”Paul, It’s so good to see you. Please, come inside.” It’s no wonder Paul recommends to Timothy (and to Titus, in Titus 1:7-8) that anyone interested in a leadership position in the church must have the qualities of self-control, respect, and hospitality among other worthwhile traits (1 Timothy 3:1-2). He was the recipient of biblical hospitality for much of his ministry and knew how it could be used for Kingdom good. But hospitality isn’t just for church leadership. In the same breath in Romans 12, we are instructed to be constant in prayer, contribute to the needs of the saints, and seek to show hospitality. Showing hospitality is an opportunity to live out your faith in Jesus in a tangible, observable way. It’s how we can help meet the needs of believers and nonbelievers – whether for hunger or community.
If you’re interested in caring for orphans and widows but aren’t sure where to start, permit me to give you a word of direction. Start by receiving the hospitality of others by attending an orphan care event in someone’s home. Better yet, take a brave step and open your home to your community and one of the 127 staff or our international partners as they share what God is doing in their lives and ministries. Too much? Invite a family who has recently taken in a foster child or adopted to your home for dinner one night. Save an exhausted family from cooking and cleaning up, just this once, and play cards and laugh a while.
If you’re like me, you have a litany of excuses running through your mind. My house isn’t clean. I can’t cook. I don’t have time. I don’t know how. But what about my dogs, my cats…my children?? What if they judge the size of my house or my style choices? I’m not like Chip and Joanna. Or even worse, what if I invite them and they say no?
I’m new to practicing hospitality, but I’d like to share four things I’ve learned:
- Comfort comes after preparation and practice. After the second or third time, you’ll find your routine.
- People are easier to please than you think. Some sweet tea and a bowl of M&Ms can go a long way.
- One time I nearly set my kitchen on fire with eight people in the house while cooking pork chops. A sense of humor and a willingness to order pizza in the event of catastrophe make for a really great story.
- Showing hospitality is more than sharing a physical space – it’s about demonstrating a willingness to share your life, the good and the bad, with someone else. You don’t have to be spotless, you just have to be available.
Will you allow your home to become a refuge for others, a center for orphan care and sharing the Gospel? We live in a culture, unlike Kenya, which prizes the home as a protective fortress from the world. I challenge you to create a safe haven within your home for the world to experience Christ.
Written by Jordyne Carmack
Jordyne Carmack is an Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at University of the Cumberlands and a member of the 127 Worldwide Board of Directors. She and her husband, Daniel, live in London, KY and spend their days serving in their church and local community as advocates for justice, community development, and orphan care.