Hospitality

Klaw Meh and her new granddaughter Susan
Karenni grandmother Klaw Meh and her new granddaughter Susan. Christ Community UMCs Refugee Resettlement Mission coaches expectant and new parents on pre- and post-natal care and offers essential supplies. Photo: Pam Suddaby

Islam, Christianity and Judaism share the same story as the first and defining example of hospitality in their sacred texts:

God’s servant Abraham unknowingly welcomes three angels under the oak trees at Marme.  Upon seeing his visitors arrive, Abraham runs to these strangers, prostrates himself, washes their feet, and provides them with food and water for their journey.  Only after these services are performed do these strangers announce the fulfillment of God’s promise to grant Abraham a son.  Story found in Gen. 18.1–15

The Bible addresses hospitality in terms of “welcoming the stranger”:

(F)or I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me….Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.  Matthew 25:35-36, 40

You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  Deuteronomy 10:19

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.  Hebrews 13:2

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.   Romans 15:7

Hospitality involves:

  • An invitation and a warm, personal welcome.
  • Welcoming the other as a sister or brother created in the image of God and welcomed and accepted in your world.
  • The understanding that it is unconditional.  There is no expectation of a return.
  • It requires:  trust, openness, risk, humility, sincerity, suspension of pre-judgments, a willing heart.
  • Can involve:  sharing a meal, teaching someone how to drive, collecting clothing for someone in need, tutoring a student, driving someone to the doctor, listening, sharing one’s self with another and letting them into our lives.

Who are “Strangers?”

“Those who are different are the strangers among us.  There are many ways of being different:  one can be different by virtue of values, culture, race, language or education, religious or political orientation.  And while most of us can find it stimulating or at least interesting to meet a stranger for a short while, it is a very different thing to truly open up and allow a stranger to become a friend.”  Jean Vanier

  • The refugee who has lost her home, her family
  • The immigrant or migrant worker seeking economic survival
  • Jesus is the stranger / Jesus was the refugee, who fled to Egypt with his parents as a toddler to save his life
  • Sometimes I am the stranger
  • Sometimes YOU are the stranger

Hospitality transforms us all…

  • In our relationships and interactions, we are transformed through the grace of God’s Spirit.
  • Inviting in and welcoming are ways to respond to God’s word which says three dozen times in the Hebrew Bible we are to welcome the widows, the orphans, and the strangers.  Very often the strangers that we welcome are also widows or orphans, and become a new connection to God. 
  • Hospitality is welcoming people into our LIVES.  Our personal space, our frailties and strengths, our hopes and dreams.  And it is entering in the lives of others.  Freely, with no expectation of return.  It is being vulnerable to the most vulnerable and realizing that to the immigrant or refugee, we are the stranger.

More about hospitality to refugees

Resettled refugees are just beginning a phase in their lives when recovery and healing become a possibility. Resettlement itself brings new traumas and challenges which also need to be overcome. Refugees need communities to assist them in coping with, and recovering from, the traumas they have experienced. They require relationships which embrace them and foster and nourish wholeness and health.  Simply knowing that other people are aware of their situation helps to alleviate fears of isolation and can signal the start of a recovery process which will last for years. When trust is built between refugees and assisting communities, refugees are free to accept not only material assistance from these communities but also offerings of love, friendship and a sense of belonging.

Cosponsoring a refugee family in collaboration with a CWS resettlement office or affiliate provides refugees the structure though which they may begin to recover their lives. It is a practical approach to involving congregations in the daily lives of refugees and provides members the opportunity to form relationships with people who are in dire need of many basic human necessities. Through congregational cosponsorship, people of faith are able to provide the relationships refugees need to move past the fear, loneliness and loss of identity which characterize the trauma of forced flight. In this very practical manner, cosponsorship allows for congregations and their members to become agents in transforming the lives of refugees.

By offering hospitality to refugees, we are

  • Welcoming the living God into our lives. 
  • Building real relationships with people in tangible need.
  • Providing communities of support to those who have lost their homes.
  • Building relationships within our communities, strengthening our homes, congregations and communities.
  • Forming global relationships… giving the realities of global crises names and faces and developing ties that expand the global dimensions of our lives and our communities.

And this leads to

  • A deeper faith commitment.
  • New engagement with global and local issues.
  • The spread of caring, concern and interest concerning issues around the world.
  • Building bridges across cultural divides.
  • Build interfaith relationships in this world that continues to politicize faith.

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