Love of the stranger
“Hospitality is the practice of God's welcome by reaching across difference to participate in God's actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis.” -Letty Russell
To begin, I would like to once again thank all who have supported me. It has been two and a half months since I left for Chicago. Wow! These months have been filled with a lot of excitement, boredom, laughing, crying, hellos, goodbyes, experiencing new things and craving old comforts. I have hit the whole spectrum! But en fin I am extremely happy and content in my new home.
If I were to summarize what I have taken away from this experience so far the word would be HOSPITALITY. The spanish word for guest comes from the same roots: huésped. To come into a new home, workplace, community and have such a warm welcome is overwhelmingly humbling and comforting. Here are a few of my recent experiences of hospitality:
- I have started to meet enough people that as I walk through town there is often a familiar face that greets me with “Raquel, adios!” That simple act of walking through the street and being acknowledged can make my day.
- One day I left my cell phone at home and it was very important that I make a call. I finally remembered that my family had a relative with a shop on the main street. In desperation I rushed in and asked if I could use her phone. She gracefully handed it over and then later helped me dial when I couldn’t get it to work.
- I found myself unsure what to do when I couldn’t quite read the cultural implications of a situation. I thought of running to my country coordinator, but instead I found a family member who listened, gave their advice and in a moment when I wasn’t sure what to do, made me feel understood.
- I visited a friend’s house and was invited to join them for some evening warm tea, honey and bread. I knew that it was more than just warmth and conversation, I was cared for.
- My host family has been there for me when I was sick, sad, late for work and just in need of some good old distraction.
- My coworkers have guided me, taught me, laughed with me and even taken me to Pilates!
A friend who is from and lives in another part of Mexico texted me before I left and said, “I hope you are not sad, because there is another family waiting for you here in Mexico.” It was comforting to hear then, but now I am very blessed to have found this to be true.
I have only read an excerpt from Just Hospitality: God's Welcome in a World of Difference by Letty Russell, but its now on my reading list. I’m thinking about this passage and I invite you all to contemplate it as well: “The word for hospitality in the Greek New Testament is philoxenia, love of the stranger. Its opposite is xenophobia, hatred of the stranger. The ministry of the church is to be partners with strangers, to welcome those whom Christ welcomed, and thus learn to be a community in which people are made one in Jesus Christ..."
Even as I write this newsletter about hospitably, I must confess that I have found myself struggling to show welcome to someone I recently encountered. Hospitality is not always easy. It’s never as pretty or simple as chocolate mints on a clean pillow. However, as I find myself living in an ever-present state of receiving hospitality I am contemplating more and more about how I can emulate the love and friendship that has been shown to me, even when it is not easy.
Today I am thinking about and praying for those who have made similar journeys as I have made. People who have crossed borders and left behind family: our brothers and sisters who are extranjeros in a new land and who are in need of that sense of family.
I am also thinking about and praying for those who have not crossed borders, but people who do not feel welcome in their own home or school: our brothers and sisters who are searching for love and acceptance.
“There are a lot of 'missing persons' in our world today whose situation of poverty, injustice, and suffering makes God weep. These missing persons are not strangers to God, for God already has reached out to care for them. Yet they are strangers in the world who need to know God cares through the witness of a church that practices a ministry of hospitality and justice on their behalf.” - Letty Russell
God’s work. Our hands.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.