16 And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up. 17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. 18 And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. 19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. 20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all her camels… 25 She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in. Gen 24:16-25
The town that I live in, Singida, is located at the crossroads to virtually every region in Tanzania. Every main road that cuts across the country passes through Singida. This is the reason Singida has the largest bus terminal in Tanzania.
It turns out, naturally, that our home receives heavy traffic in terms of visitors and passersby. We receive literally tons of visitors every year. On average, hardly a day passes by without my house being home to a traveler of one sort or another. Most are brothers and sisters in Christ, of course, who happen to be on their way to a distant town or village in this land of far-flung regions and who of necessity must lodge in Singida. At times they come in car-loads; and we even on occasion have had to put them in near-by guesthouses after our house filled up to overflowing.
In general, the vast majority of the church considers our presence here to be an unprecedented boon. In earlier days these same travelers had to lodge in guesthouses or, if they did not have the money, they would spend the night out in the cold at the bus terminal. Now everyone knows we are here.
But this is exactly the kind of situation that I am absolutely ill-suited for. What I mean is, I would love to be more welcoming to visitors than I find I am. I am the sort of guy who “counts the cost” – all for the wrong reasons. I calculate the amount of food visitors eat; I count how much water they use; and I always keep an eye on the electricity meter. One time a man came to my house and he had five suits which he washed but he needed to dry with our iron box because they would not dry fast enough. That cut deep into my meagre budget and I vowed I would never allow him back into my house. Later, I repented, of course.
I could write a book about my attitude towards the visitors who come into my house; but I guess it would just about depress everyone.
I may not have been suited to come to such a hotspot as Singida; but it is definitely not so with my wife. With her, it is a completely different scenario. The business of welcoming visitors is her perfect setting. She loves welcoming people into our house, and she welcomes everyone. Moreover, she will go out of her way to do all she can to make them comfortable. According to my calculations, she nearly always goes way, way overboard. If there are visitors at home, she cooks so much food which she later compels them to carry on their journey. Moreover, if someone wants to stay on and enjoy our (her) hospitality, she is more than willing. They can stay for whatever length of time they want.
One thing I can say with a clear conscience is that I have never heard my wife grumbling or complaining about the amount of visitors that come into our house. In all the years I have lived with her she has always welcomed visitors to our house with a smile and a very open and generous heart.
Actually, I could write a book about Flo, and maybe one day I will.
I thought I was the only one who observed these things until, one day, my daughter Keren said to me, “Dad, mom teaches us so much.”
But… this is exactly the kind of heart that God wants us to have – a kind, loving and hospitable heart. The Bible says we are to be
“… given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2)
And in 1 Peter 4:9 the Bible says,
“Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”
The great spiritual men and women of old were not people who knew the Bible from cover to cover; on the contrary, they were people who lived to the full the little they knew about God. Their hearts trembled.
Hence, Rebekah, a simple village girl, but one who had the heart of God, became one of the greatest women in the history of the Bible.
May our homes be a place where people can feel the love of God through our hospitality. This ought to be always. But during such times as the Christmas season especially, let us pull all stops, rev up the gears, and go out there and show the heart of Christ to people in need. And it really ought not to matter whether you celebrate Christmas or not. For Christ’s sake.
[My wife, Flo: the greatest of them all]