Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:34-40
True hospitality, true service, true love…whatever you want to call it. I have enjoyed getting to know my Ugandan friends and how they view hospitality. Some Ugandans are beautiful examples of hosting others in their homes and they see the true meaning of treating people as if Jesus himself is visiting them. The “could be entertaining angels” is a very real perspective here. The true feeling of hospitality is when we don’t groan at daily interruptions of visitors, when we are willing to help someone in need, and when we open our homes and our lives to other people.
Leland and I have had the privilege to visit friends, discipleship group members, pastors, and other people connected with the ministry in their homes and communities. And not only have we been blessed by our time with tea or a meal they have prepared for us, but we also get to see their home, meet their families, and experience a glimpse of their lives. It has meant a lot to us (and them) as we learn more about each other. Sometimes we even come back with gifts from their home. As a “Thank You” for coming to see them, they often send people with tomatoes, rice, bananas, and live chickens (even a guinea fowl one time).
One afternoon with the women’s discipleship group, we discussed hospitality and some cultural beliefs about hospitality. They talked about how some people viewed hospitality as a way to receive blessings if they hosted someone. It wasn’t a gift or pleasure, but a responsibility and an expectation of material blessings or answered prayers from God and/or from the person they hosted. There was uncomfortable laughter when we discussed true hospitality of not expecting anything in return. To truly serve. Hospitality is really a gift when done with no expectations and complete surrender to God with time, resources, and relationships. Hospitality is more than hosting. Hospitality is a life-style.
So after this conversation, and many others, about Christ-centered living, it has been so much fun for Mary (my co-leader) and me to visit each of the ladies in their homes and discuss all sorts of topics. It has been a joy to see them excited that we have come. It has been interesting to hear different perspectives about daily life. Their families come and greet us. We get to meet their children and husbands. My favorite visit was when the jaja (grandmother) came out and didn’t speak any English but was gushing with thankfulness in her language for us coming to spend time with her family. She left us with hugs and a huge smile.
I have been challenged by my Ugandan friends who have displayed the gift of hospitality. I am challenged by their example to not only host, but to serve people without feeling inconvenienced by my own time or schedule. It’s not always easy, and as I discovered, not everyone has the best intentions, but what a blessing to find those servants of God who truly serve as if Jesus himself came to see them. In your world, how are you using the gift of hospitality?