A couple years ago I attended the Verge Network Conference right here in Austin. The mission of the conference that year was Discipleship. I sat in awe as speaker after speaker filled my cup. One of the speakers, Jo Saxton, left such an impression on me I quote a single line from her speech almost daily. In her talk An Image of Discipleship, Jo taught a powerful truth ~
You can’t be what you can’t see
We need living examples of what discipleship looks like in our lives. We need to see outrageous hospitality, which is a powerful form of discipleship, modeled. Not so we can imitate friends or trends, but so we can strive, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be like Jesus Christ. I mentioned last week that it’s one thing to have head knowledge and be all smarty-pants and theoretical, but we need people in our lives who walk the walk.
My friend Maggie Tate is a beautiful example of what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Christ. Maggie and I are friends from church and over the years we’ve done our fair share of life together. We’ve worshiped, taken spiritual gifts classes, hosted The African Children’s Choir, swapped advice on cooking and gardening, and currently we do life together with a small group of women we call the GraceHorses. I’m honored to have her as a guest at the table today. Maggie is the first of several friends who will be joining us for 31 Days of Outrageous Hospitality. I asked each friend the same question I posed at the beginning of the series.
What does Outrageous Hospitality mean to you?
When my daughter was very young, she saw a black woman at church and whispered to me, “I don’t like black people.” I was horrified, shocked and sad at those words. Then I felt guilty – of course she felt that way – she was resisting the unfamiliar. At that moment, our family began the long wonderful journey of getting to know a wide variety of people and cultures. The first opportunity that came our way involved hosting some of the kids from the African Children’s Choir. We jumped at the chance and hosted the bus driver and one child. It was a beautiful moment when my daughter said at the end of the experience, “Momma, in my heart, I see her as white and I bet in her heart, she sees me as black.” What an insightful statement from a 5 year old! She realized then what some adults never learn – when we take time to know each other, we’re just not that different.
For the past 11 years we’ve continued to open up our home to international students through Christmas International House. The program connects students from across the globe who are studying in the U.S. with host families during the two week Christmas Break. There are about 27 programs nationwide accepting students. The Austin program hosts anywhere from 8-15 students over the holiday. The students in our program have come from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Maritius, France and Russia. Some are undergraduates, some are grad students, some are single, some married, some even with young children. These students are the crème of the crop – interesting, multi talented and curious. It been a pleasure getting to know each person we’ve been blessed with hosting.
But it’s not always rosy. There is sacrifice involved in doing this kind of outrageous hospitality. You are after all inviting a total stranger into your home at the what’s often one of the busiest times of the year. There are other demands like last minute shopping and cooking for a family crowd and saying yes to this involves a vulnerability and an openness to being AVAILABLE. And the result is that in the midst of the flurry of activity, deep conversations about faith, politics, hopes and dreams happen. We share the holiness of Christmas and the fun at New Year’s. The kids catch a glimpse of a bigger picture. It’s a life changer.
I think that being a foreign student anywhere must feel a bit like living in a hallway. Statistics show that very few of these students ever see the inside of an American home. Even for us, as we go about living in our homes and neighborhoods, in our cozy lives, busy-ness can often get in the way of our relationships. The students come from far and wide across the globe. They eat different food and speak a different language, but in our heart of hearts, don’t we all just want to be invited in and be known?
Day #7 Table Talk: Share a story of a time when you were invited in and felt known.