July 1, 2016

From the president's heart: practicing hospitality

Written by  Nelson Okanya

This article appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

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

This issue of Missionary Messenger focuses on hospitality. Sometimes this has to do with enjoying a meal of osh in Central Asia ("Welcoming the stranger"), accepting a cup of delicious tea ("Adventures in hospitality"), receiving a thoughtful gift ("Gift of a santur"), or providing a second home for university students ("Home away from home").

Hospitality sits so firmly near the center of a culture that to accept people’s hospitality is to accept them and to reject people’s hospitality is to reject them. This is a principle that cross-cultural workers take seriously. In Scripture, food plays a central role in God’s work of redemption. The passover meal was a memorial meal which involved a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The Lord had commanded the Israelites, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord ... You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt’” (Exodus 13:6–8, NRSV). Jesus left us a memorial and whenever we come to the table we remember Him.

Hospitality is important kingdom work. It is a time to share God’s goodness and show God’s love. Monasteries were traditionally known as places of hospitality. Guests, visitors, or pilgrims were to be greeted as if they were Christ Himself. Jesuit brother Alphonsus Rodriguez (born 1533), a doorkeeper at a Jesuit college, reportedly answered each knock on the door with “I am coming, Lord!”

I am coming, Lord. How appropriate. May we all hasten to show hospitality to those whom God brings into our lives and perhaps thereby extend the table, that those from every tongue, tribe, nation, and time who have placed their faith in Christ will eat together and celebrate the full union of the Church, the bride, with Jesus the bridegroom.

Nelson Okanya serves as president of EMM.

This article appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.