When I married, I began to observe my gracious mother-in-law, Elisabeth McCullough, who was raised in the South. Her hometown of Charleston, S.C., has been named the most polite city in America. Her home always had an “open door” and she graciously served anyone who walked in. She readily made her guests feel at home because she wasn’t trying to impress them. She truly cared about them. The moment they walked through her door she made them feel special and they became the center of attention. This genuine compassion flowed from a heart filled with the love of Jesus Christ.
How I got started
When my husband and I were newlyweds, we happily worked for a Christian organization that didn’t pay much. Driving home to our tiny one-bedroom apartment one day, we passed many ranch-style houses. I sighed and told my husband I didn’t want to raise our children in an apartment. I wanted to have a yard for a swing set, and a puppy. I told him that I was going to start praying for a house. Without even turning his head from watching the traffic, he said, “As long as we are in Christian work, we will never own a house.”
Determined woman that I am, I refused to believe that. I told him that I was going to ask God to give us a house. I secretly “made a deal” with God and told Him that if He gave us a house, I would give it back to Him and fill it with His people. I would do anything that would benefit His Kingdom here on earth. For the next three years I quietly prayed that God would provide a house for us before we had children. When I mentioned it to my husband, he would just smile with a look that seemed to say, “Poor girl, this will never happen. I hope it doesn’t disappoint her too much.”
Finally the time came when the Lord enabled us to buy a house just two blocks from the campus where we worked. I immediately began to fill it with the students we worked with, and just about anyone else who came along. As the years have passed we have lived in five different houses. We have lost track of the number of people who have experienced some sort of hospitality in our homes. Our lives and the lives of our family have been greatly enriched by all the wonderful people we have had the privilege of enjoying. Many have come to know the Lord Jesus as their Savior because we opened our home to them.
A perfect example of this is our friend Rich. We had been to a football game with Rich and his sister Lynda, a girl in my Bible study group. After the game, Lynda and I were in my kitchen fixing something to eat. We stood by the sink and prayed quietly together because we overheard my husband, Sam, sharing the gospel with Rich. We stalled our preparations and were privileged to overhear Rich praying and asking Christ into his life. We hugged and cried as we stood by the sink that day. Rich went on to become a fully committed follower of Christ. Lynda later went into full-time Christian work and led the rest of her family to the Lord.
A few weeks after we moved into our first house we heard about two students who were brand-new believers. Marta and Toon, who were roommates, had been swindled out of their student apartment and were sleeping in various locations—on floors and in broom closets. I offered them our guest bedroom even though it was in the midst of having the wallpaper removed, and it only contained a double bed and a desk. They moved in and were a wonderful blessing to us that semester. They later told us that their parents were going to have them leave campus and come home had they not found a place to live.
You may be thinking, I’m too private a person. I couldn’t do what Nan did. Well, God may not be calling you to take kids in off the street, but He still wants to bless you, using your own talents.
Ability versus availability
In setting the tone for your own “heavenly hospitality,” it is paramount that you have the right perspective. How you feel about having guests in your home will determine how they feel. Open up your home so that you can begin to share the love of Christ with others.
When you endeavor to be hospitable rather than to entertain, you and your guests will be more relaxed. God is not looking for your ability but rather your availability. Jesus Himself showed us how to minister in our homes. His first miracle took place at a wedding in Cana. As soon as Matthew came to Christ, He gave a dinner party. Zacchaeus descended the sycamore tree and shared his new-found faith with his guests in his home.
The very fact that you are reading this article says that you are willing to be available to God and what He may have for you. Begin by praying and ask God to show you what He has for you.
Our present culture is moving toward more and more isolation. We work at jobs where we sit in cubicles in front of computer screens and talk to unknown faces on telephones. We come home, lock our doors, and sit in front of the television. Hospitality counteracts this trend because most people are honored when you open your home to them. I once encouraged a new believer to open her home to her neighbors. Mary had never done anything like this before. I suggested she have a Christmas Coffee, and I would be willing to give a Christmas devotional.
As the neighbors arrived, it was obvious that most of them did not know each other. We asked them to share their own holiday traditions and found that they were eager to share and enjoyed doing so.
As the women were leaving the coffee, they thanked Mary profusely for inviting them into her home and asked her to repeat this event every Christmas! It was clear to see that they were hungry for relationship. From the comments they made we realized that several women had come to a new faith in Jesus after hearing the devotional on the true meaning of Christmas. Mary was on cloud nine.
God uses people when they open their homes for “heavenly hospitality.”