Hospitality. What goes through your mind when you hear this word? Does it bring warm feelings and good memories, or do you brush it aside thinking it is not for you?
When I first joined YWAM, around 42 years ago, our only foundation stones were to know God and to make Him known… and to be hospitable. Now we have so many other values and hospitality is number 17 on the list. So often we look at the number and dismiss the importance of this value, and our resources and money go somewhere else.
I have learnt over the years that hospitality has nothing to do with napkin folding or good food, but everything to do with what is in our hearts. Of course, pretty napkins and good food are very important, but if our hearts are not open and welcoming, we practice mere entertainment rather than loving hospitality. Entertainment says, “Look at my beautiful home and my great food,” while hospitality says, “Here is my heart you are so welcome!” I was reminded of a welcome I received from my 5 year old nephew many years ago. I was on furlough in South Africa visiting my youngest brother. When I arrived, we went straight to the tennis court where the older nephew was playing a tennis match. Wes was so excited to see me. He squeezed in under my arm and whispered to me that after Sunday lunch we need to go for a nap immediately! When he saw my puzzled expression, he continued that if we don’t, we need to help with the lunch dishes. At the time, I thought it was just cute, but then I realised that it was really an open heart that wanted the best for me. Pure hospitality.
Entertainment says, “Look at my beautiful home and my great food,” while hospitality says, “Here is my heart you are so welcome!”
Hospitality is giving with no hope of return. Proverbs 11:24 says, “One man gives freely yet gains even more, another withholds unduly but comes to poverty.” If we close our hands and hold on to the little that we have, God can’t do anything with that. If we open our hands, what we have can flow to others and God can give us more. Sometimes, we need to take that first step and say, “Yes, Lord.” We are all so different and we express our hospitality differently. The golden thread of hospitality is kindness and respect. However, we can add to that prayer, listening, and forgiveness.
For me personally, hospitality begins with prayer. Ask the Lord if there is something specific He wants me to share with my guests to encourage them. It is called “leaving people better than you found them.” The Lord is so committed to us and those we meet. I believe with my whole heart that listening to the Lord and our guests is spiritual hospitality.
I have many stories to tell where I heard the whispers of the Lord. One of them happened when I was in Amsterdam. A family came from Wales to see if Amsterdam was the place for them to be. An hour before they arrived, I suddenly felt I needed to get special flowers for them. The Lord never has to invite me twice to buy flowers, and I grabbed my wallet and went over to the train station where there were multiple stands, inside and outside. There were lots of beautiful flowers, but a bunch of yellow roses caught my eye. I ignored it because I thought it was so boring against all the other bunches. I went inside the station, looked around in the shops there, but the yellow roses kept on calling my name. I bought them at the end, arranged them, and put them in the lounge of the guest flat. As the family came in, the wife burst into tears. My heart stopped – oh dear, what did I do wrong? It turned out that it was their 10th wedding anniversary and every year the husband buys his wife yellow roses. They had talked about it before they came that there would be no yellow roses on this anniversary. I was just as blessed and it spurred me on to listen to the Lord more.
Over the years, I have been so grateful for my leaders who demonstrated hospitality to me. 1 Timothy 3:2 tells us that leaders should be hospitable. I don’t think it is a choice for a leader: it is a responsibility to be hospitable and to model it to those they lead. The spirit of hospitality makes good leadership. It is a qualification, in fact.
I have found that I need to extend forgiveness very quickly, should my guests turn out to not be all that gracious. I found that if I don’t, my heart hardens and I might punish the next guests that are coming my way by being unkind and thinking they will be a burden like the previous guests. This is a valuable lesson I’ve learnt and taught my staff.
Hospitality is not just for the strangers that are coming our way. It is also about how we treat each other in our teams and in our living accommodation. I have worked for years on the Leadership Development Courses, and one of the values of the LDC is hospitality. The high level was maintained from day one until the last moment when the staff debrief finished. It is so important for our school staff to model the warmth of hospitality all through the three to six months that a school is taking place. I once spoke to the European DTS leaders and shared this thought. Later someone came to me and said that he had been leading DTSes for ten years and he always thought it was just important the first week of a school until the trainees are settled in. It was such a huge revelation for him. It is so important for our school leaders to model hospitality well. If you do that, our mission will be in a good place. Honour one another.
Let us trust the Lord to make us a people that are quick to bless and encourage. Let’s ask Him to open our eyes to see, and that He will give us ears to hear. Let us enjoy His hospitality as we sit with Him in adoration of who He is in our lives. I am fully aware that being hospitable will cost us something. It costs us our time, our finances, and our privacy, but as we step out, let us trust Him to guide us.
Let us see how far we can spread that golden thread of hospitality!
“Rita has been a dear friend and co-worker for decades. She has prepared special hospitable spaces for people from around the world. Rita not only creates beautiful, extravagant environments to bless people, but she enters into their world through her attentiveness and her wholehearted listening to their stories. People leave her presence feeling valued, heard, and deeply loved. She has added her fragrance to our many leadership training schools which has been a vital part of the delegates opening themselves up to Jesus’ love and invitations to go deeper. Every country needs a Rita to wave the flag of valuing people!” Rite Mayers