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Stretching Hospitality

By Rhonda Dippon – HCC Christian Volunteer

We recently hosted a young man from Turkey who was here to get his Master’s degree. It was supposed to be for one week. He had supposedly found temporary housing until he could gain access to his apartment. Well, the temporary housing fell through—his friend reneged (it was an understandable situation). We let him stay. One thing led to another, and he eventually moved to Virginia instead of staying in Minnesota. It was a lot of drama. The school was expensive. The recruiter promised him a well-paying job that did not materialize and should never have been promised.

Seventeen days he stayed. Not that I counted, but he did. We try to treat guests like family, but there’s still an undercurrent of having to be “up” for house guests. Let’s just say that I was stretched. I don’t think my stress showed because he thanked us profusely and said he felt like family. He was a nice young man, no trouble really. But I still felt a little strain.

You want to be hospitable and flexible, but not too “put out.” Stretching myself for a week is easy, seventeen days wore a little thin. I wanted my routine back. I didn’t want to smell smoke wafting in the windows from his outdoor smoking. I didn’t want to hear constant phone conversations. I didn’t want to wonder when or if he needed transportation that day. I wanted my house back. Just being honest.

It was a time of growth. I realized some trigger points about myself—what bothered me, what didn’t. I found I wasn’t really relaxing enough to treat him like family. I was actually tending to cater to him. So I began lowering my expectations and decreasing my “help.” I told him he was free to get his own breakfast and lunch—whatever we had for food was his. I provided suppers when I could, but when we were gone, supper was up to him. Since my overriding desire was to help him, hospitality won out over stress.

We had some very interesting conversations about religion. We invited him to church and he came—once. He was surprised by the warehouse look of our church. He expected some high-spired edifice. He liked the feel of the place and liked the music. We shared beliefs. I admitted I’d never had a religious conversation with a Muslim before. Turkish people are generally nominal Muslims. They don’t adhere to the “rules” of Islam, but consider themselves Muslim anyway. He admitted he was probably more of an agnostic than Muslim. In the midst of his school drama, he asked me to pray to Jesus for him. I did. He was amazed when everything worked out, even though it was different from what he originally planned. I told him I was not surprised because I had prayed. When we prayed at mealtime that day, he added a “Thank you, Jesus” at the end. A seed was planted.

After he left, a friend called with a need. I was more than willing, even eager, to help. I noted the difference in my attitude. Am I enthusiastic about helping a friend but more reluctant to help a stranger? Yet when we feed the stranger, it’s as if we were feeding Jesus. May I always remember this.

How have you been stretched in your hospitality?

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