Friday, October 20, 2017

Hospitality

Oh, how VERY glad I am to have my husband home!

He and 15 others from our church just completed a short term mission assignment in El Salvador.  They came home exhausted and exuberant!  The vocational building project we started some six years ago is almost complete.

While he was away, I had the joy of hosting several people in our home for various reasons.

During our first trip to El Salvador in 2011, our original team assignment had to be scraped.  We were quickly re-assigned to work with a struggling little church positioned literally on the side of a mountain.

Within just a few days, our hearts were knit for eternity with the young pastors, their children and the beautiful people of that mountain community.  There was no government assistance for the families trying to scratch a living from the uncooperative soil.  That meant no water lines, no sewer system and sparse electrical service.

Yet in spite of the harsh living conditions, we found them to be some of the most hospitable people we'd ever met.  "Mi casa, es su casa!"   (Thanks to Margret Register, my eighth grade Spanish teacher, for that line.)

We tend to hear that popular phrase and imagine some sprawling hacienda with Antonio Banderas waving to us from the grand staircase of the entryway, "My home is your home!"  But on the mountain of Portellious it has a different connotation.

"Welcome!  Would you like a glass of rain water collected by my cistern?" 

"Have a tortilla, won't you?  She's frying another one on that stone in the lean-to kitchen now." 

"That's a long walk up the mountain.  Sit with me a while on this wooden bench.  My husband built it."  

"Oh, you need a toilet?  Yes, my outhouse is over there." 

"Mi casa es su casa!"

You get the idea.

During one of our hikes up the mountain, we experienced a torrential downpour.  The rain started just after we'd arrived at the home of one of the church members.  They gladly made room for our team to join them.  We crowded together onto the narrowly covered areas outside their sleeping room and the shelter that served as a kitchen.

They spoke no English and we knew only a few phrases in Spanish.  But we all smiled and sang for one another while their baby slept and the chickens clucked and the storm roared.  I left there feeling I had been hosted like royalty.

It gave me a new view on hospitality!

I grew up living in a house that was open to strangers and friends alike almost all the time.  Mom never worried much about her carpet or curtains or special dishes.  She just wanted people to feel welcome.  And they did!

Over the years, I somehow began to focus more on appearance than on atmosphere when entertaining.  And that subtle shift caused me to stop inviting people to our home at random times.

They could only come when I'd had plenty of notice.  Prepared a full meal.  Sanitized the guest bath.  Touched up the living room paint job.  The list went on and on.

But this year, Frank and I made a decision to change that.  Now granted, with just the two of us living here it is much easier to keep things tidy.  And I must be honest, we also have more room to hide a mess quickly when necessary.

Even so, we've decided to keep the priority on enjoying the company instead of impressing the company.  It makes for a much more relaxed visit.

There was a season in my life when I would hand guests a set of clean sheets and say, "These are for the bed you'll be sleeping on in that room.  Welcome!"  I don't have to do that anymore.  But I don't rush for the paintbrush, either.

And we've discovered there's a hidden secret about hospitality that our friends in El Salvador know well.  When you open your heart and home to visitors, it breaks you out of the ugly prison of selfishness and moves you into the beauty of kindness.  That is a move worth pursuing!

Hope you find a little something to ponder for yourself as we approach the 2017 Season of Celebrating.



What about you?  Did you grow up living in the house that was open to all the neighbor kids?  Do you enjoy hosting surprise guests?  Or do you prefer more notice?  I'd love to hear your take on hospitality in the comment section below.  





  


11 comments:

  1. This is my heart and life, these days. With two little ones, perfection in housekeeping is elusive. But with our missional approach to life and ministry, everyone's welcome in our perfectly messy house any time. Great truth!

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    1. I've watched you become the "hostess with the mostest" whether prepared or not! So proud of you, Amanda!

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  2. Sheri,

    This post was a good reminder for me. I have not been having people over as often lately because it just seems like too much work to get everything shipshape and company-ready. But I need to change my mindset in the way you wrote about and open the door whether the toilet is clean or not. :-)

    Thanks for always writing something worth reading.

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    1. Ah Becky, you've so often been MY model of hospitality! I remember the Christmas you made your home available to us while you were away. Kindness is indeed eternal!

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  4. Growing up we were quite poor, although us kids didn't know that :-) We had so much love and fun in our home. But, our home was open to all the neighborhood kids, so mom knew where we were, there were 7 of us kids. I also kept my home open to all the friends of my own 3 children so I knew where they were also. But, we always had company for Sunday dinner (lunch) these days, ha! If there was a visiting pastor and family, they were with us for dinner, maybe an elderly couple who had no one, they were with us, relatives who were alone. We Always had someone for Sunday dinner and any other time someone needed a meal or encouragement. Us kids had the very best example of hospitality and kindness from our parents. We didn't have a big fancy house but it sure was full of love and welcomness, is that a word? ha! I try to follow my parents on this but fail miserably on it. I think I don't have the best house, the nicest stuff, but then I have to stop and think, NO, Just welcome them in Wendy, that is what they need. I am the one blessed to have them in my home and life. Sorry this is so long, guess I'm a bit passionate about it, ha! Good blog post to make us realize what we need to keep on doing. Thank you. Wendy

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    1. I think "welcomness" is a Beautiful word, Wendy! Thanks for encouraging our younger parents that money isn't what children mark most - it's connection. (That required a good. long response.) Thanks, again!

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  5. I grew up in a household that welcomed anyone at anytime! We never knew how many we would have for Thanksgiving and every Friday on her way home from work, my Mom would stop and get a couple of pizzas for my sister and me and all our friends that would be there...my Mom was neat and clean but not overly concerned about appearances...she just loved having a house full of friends.

    On the other hand for some reason, when I got married, I too needed plenty of notice, no drop ins, not a speck of dust could be anywhere....I used to actually shampoo the carpets before we had overnight guests....but not so much anymore....our kids are grown and out, and I'm tired of cleaning!!! I just want to enjoy my friends and family....we are having a houseful for Thanksgiving and I couldn't be happier!!

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    1. Cheering with you, Dale! There's freedom in that, right? Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Oh Sheri, I am also guilty of wanting notice to have guests in order to get the kitchen just so, the toilets cleaned, etc. while my husband is like 'just don't worry about it'. Hmmmm. This post really spoke to me and made me realize that I am sort of selfish and I need to change that!! I read your blog faithfully but rarely comment. I always enjoy your perspective and just wanted to tell you so. Thank you for the wake up call. I'm going to work on that! :)

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    1. LeeAnne, thank you for sharing. I hope you enjoy many future moments of joyful hospitality! Blessings!

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