Hospitality – A Virtue

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]

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“Angels Unawares”!

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Heb. 13:2

Who are the “strangers” the Bible is referring to here? A Biblical stranger is any person – apart from yourself – who has a need. It could even be your next door neighbor. But primarily, here, it refers to people that we do not know or whom under normal circumstances we could hardly care about.

Our key scripture above refers, chiefly, to the account, in Genesis chapter 18, of how Abraham entertained total strangers who just happened to be the LORD Himself and two of His angels. Let us look at this account up close.

“1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. 9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.”

In this account, we can clearly see Abraham’s attitude to strangers in the way he treated the three men. Abraham had a heart of mercy. He lifts up his eyes and sees three men standing outside his tent “in the heat of the day”. This little detail – “in the heat of the day” – indicates that the men were tired, exhausted and hungry.

Abraham does not know they are angels. The LORD was not wearing a three-piece suit, nor did He roll up in a Jaguar. He came on foot and He looked tired and hungry.

Clearly, the men have come a long way and they probably have a long way to go. Abraham decides he cannot let them pass. He must do something for them! His heart trembles with mercy – and generosity.

But first, he must get their permission. Abraham has a servant’s heart. Just because he has something to give to these men, Abraham does not walk up to them with his hands stuck in his pockets and tell them, “I can see you are hungry. Now, sit down and let me see what I can do for you. And don’t make noise. I don’t like noise around my house.”

Bless the Lord, no. Abraham does not talk or behave like that. Instead, he tells them:

“3 My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant.”

Abraham calls himself their servant and deliberately makes these strangers his lords. To which they replied,

So do, as thou hast said.”

Abraham springs into action. Abraham has a large heart. Without thinking, his heart knows exactly what it needs to do to refresh these exhausted men. The rest, as they say, is history. The “morsel of bread” that he sets out to prepare for them turns out to be a banquet!

It could be that Abraham did not prepare a good and tender calf for every stranger who passed by… or, it may well be that he did. After all, not many people passed through the dry plains of Mamre in those days and Abraham’s heart was able to take care of anyone who had a need. But, whatever he did or did not do, Abraham’s heart to strangers, or people in need, is clearly revealed in these scriptures.

That is unlike so many of us. Many of us have an ‘accountant’ mind where keeping an account of the things we own is of more importance to us than helping someone in need. To many people, a stranger – or a needy person – is an intrusion into their lives! But it was not so with Abraham.

Has anyone passed by your house or your place of work lately, whom you felt was not deserving of your attention? They probably did not meet your (worldly) criteria of someone you needed to do a favor to.

Most people will bend over backwards to extend their warmest welcome to people they know or to people who look important – or to people they want to help – but not to “other” people.

But God comes incognito. When the Lord decides to visit you in person He does not send a celebrity your way. Nor does He send your best friend around. On the contrary, He will send a type of person that you couldn’t care about – or the kind of person that you loathe. That will be your angel. God knows our hearts and He knows all the pride and selfishness in us. This is a test that He therefore sets before us. Being the God of heaven, He is not going to give us kindergarten stuff. God will give us something that will test us to the core, for He longs to mature us in the Spirit.

But this test comes with a blessing. According to His good purposes, God sometimes does bless us materially to the extent that we do the same to others. But it is not the material blessing which we are to seek after, and that is why it is not a law for God to bless us in that manner. It is the fruit of the Spirit that is God’s true blessing to us. The Bible, in Luke 6:38, says:

“30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. 31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Lk. 6:30-38)

That is God’s character. But, again, notice God’s many promises to us when we “entertain strangers”. And God is faithful, which means He will fulfill every promise of His.

It all hinges on the heart. Do we have a loving, tender heart? Or is our heart hard and selfish and judgemental?

I thank God for the many men and women of God the world over who have exactly this heart. I personally have had the honor of coming across some of them. They are not necessarily the people who can preach the cross very well. But they are brothers and sisters who can live it.

God will bless these people with a heavenly blessing.

 

Hospitality

They say opposites attract each other. That’s me and my wife. I happen to be the stingiest, miserliest fellow on earth. At least, that’s what I believe and you would sooner move a mountain than convince me otherwise. Just the thought of a visitor coming to visit our house can leave me sleepless at night, trying to “balance accounts” – how much should we spend, etc. The less, the better.

My wife, on the other hand, never takes such considerations to mind. My wife loves entertaining visitors. She also loves cooking. And she loves shopping (if such a word can be used in our less-than-a-dollar-a-day family budget). When it comes to spending, my wife is on “permanent no-holds-barred” mode. I often jibe her, “The way you spend, you were meant to live in a king’s house!”

She can spend a month’s salary in one day, and that’s a fact.

As a matter of fact, if she had her way, Flo would spend all her life in the kitchen, cooking and entertaining visitors. Which, needless to say, would send me to an early grave through heartbreak.

But truth be told, I long for a heart like hers. But we walk by faith, and I am trusting to arrive there one day. What a day that will be!

Recently when I was in Dar es Salaam, our long-time sister and friend, Teddy, called to visit. She is family, and we were happy to see her. Just before she arrived, Flo and Joe went ‘shopping’, and when they came back they got into action in the kitchen…

I stood afar and took a few snaps. For now the pics might come in handy as evidence when the money runs out.

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Photos of Tanzania and Africa.

Beginning today, I will be adding photos of my country Tanzania to my posts. I realize this is a good place as any to share the beauty of my country with my cherished readers.

I cannot promise too many photos, but I will be trying to scavenge around. Many of the photos that I will initially be posting were graciously taken by my good friend Carol Lanthier, who left them with me.

A few I have taken myself, and some are from friends.

This first pic is classic Tanzanian hospitality.

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(Credit: FunFunky.com)