Saturday, October 20, 2012

Real Life Hospitality

This week I had yet another cooking-for-company fiasco.  I put two whole chickens into a hot oven at 5:00 p.m., and then for some reason turned the oven OFF without noticing. At 6:00, just a half hour before my guests arrived, I opened the oven door to take a look and found two stone-cold, raw chickens!  Panic! My husband saved the day by wrestling and cutting them up for quicker cooking. Waiting for the meal to cook made for plenty of time to chat with our guests.

Even though I’m a cross-cultural worker in the Middle East, I spend most of my time going grocery shopping, cooking, taking kids to appointments, cooking, cleaning house, home schooling, and cooking. Sometimes I ask myself, where does ministry come in here? I don’t have much time for preparing Bible studies or planning outreach events...

What I can do is open  my home and invite people into the life we’re already living. Dinner is a daily event at our house, and  hospitality is probably my most significant ministry here.

Hospitality is About Being Flexible

Over the years I’ve learned to be flexible if people come late, if they come early, or if they bring extra friends along. On chicken fiasco night, I was happy when Bahar called at the last minute to ask if she and her husband could bring her brother Cem.  Bahar and I have been praying for years that Cem would come to the Lord. We had a lovely evening laughing and telling stories. At the end we pulled out the Bible, as we do most nights, to read and pray together.  I smiled when my kids prayed for Cem.

Hospitality is About Making Time

Lale is a young Christian who expressed to me several times that she wanted to get together, but I never made definite plans with her.  However, the third time she asked about visiting us, I decided that rather than waiting for a convenient time, I would MAKE time for Lale. So I rushed home one afternoon after a prayer meeting to start preparing a simple dinner. When she arrived, I invited her to the kitchen and we  talked while she helped me cook. Our family had a delightful time getting to know her, and after the kids went to bed, I worked up the courage to ask how her relationship with God was going. We spent a few minutes talking and praying about our daily time with God, and I sent her out the door with a hug.

I suspect that in the Middle East, simple hospitality speaks louder than a Bible study, but at the same time it can be overwhelming to invite people over. I like to remember the following real life hospitality tips.:


If you burn the food, laugh it off.  You don’t need to  impress anyone.

Let Your Guests Help

Don’t kill yourself trying to have everything ready on time. Invite guests to the kitchen and let them help you.

Keep It Simple

Have 2 to 4 easy recipes, default dishes you can cook for company anytime.
Serve a bar of chocolate broken into pieces with fruit and tea or coffee for a quick dessert.

What does hospitality look like in your home? What is your favorite tip for making entertaining easier?


  1. I love this! My main ministry right now (besides taking care of our son) is hospitality. It's so encouraging to see others doing the same!! :)

  2. Hospitality is also a big part of my ministry here... we have three weekend guests as I type!

    For me, the biggest change came when I intentionally stopped thinking of it as entertaining (because then it was my job to make sure that the house is spotless, the food delightful, the kids are perfectly behaved and that everyone had a good time) and choose to remember that what I'm doing is sharing my family with and being friendly to guests... someone who's not regularly in or a part of my home. Then I can chuck attempting perfection (while not a bad thing in and of itself) our the \window. Guests are more likely to feel welcome if I'm not in a sour mood because I didn't meet MY expections before they arrived.

    1. Wow, that is really a great insight,Richelle.I've also let go of having a spotless house for guests, and I've felt bad about it! But when I read your comment, it makes me feel better. I will repeat this to myself, "I'm not entertaining..."

  3. I don't know where I heard it, but "Seek to bless, not impress" always helps me with hospitality. Also, since hospitality doesn't come naturally to me, I have to practice it, and learn from others who are gifted in hospitality. One thing I learned is that if someone drops by, instead of asking them if they'd like a drink, asking if they would like juice or coffee. That makes the decision for them to stay easier. And after dinner, it helps to not look at the clock or saying something like, "you must be tired." Maybe that is just common sense, but I had to learn it!

    Serving Jesus in Kenya

  4. When we first moved to the field, a spiritual gifts test our team director had us take showed that hospitality was NOT at all my gifting. I felt discouraged by this, but decided that it really was an area that I wanted to grow in, and so for the past four and a half years, I have been working on it! I think the role of a missionary wife requires growth in the area of hospitality no matter what. I feel like I have grown a lot, through God's grace, and hospitality is coming more naturally to me. We have groups of people in our home throughout the week and there rarely is a day that no one stops by. Like Richelle wrote, defining a difference between hospitality and entertaining helped a lot. A wise older woman told me that gracious hospitality has very little to do with entertaining. So, for me, gracious hospitality means inviting someone who stops by our gate to come in even if my house isn't spotless (which with small children, it rarely is)... or inviting someone to stay for cafecito (afternoon coffee time) even if I only have store bought crackers to offer. I have learned some tips, though, to make these things easier... having cookie dough made and frozen so I can throw a sheet of cookies in the oven if I see someone will be staying for cafecito... or, investing in some storage ottomans for our living room so that when I see someone at the gate, I can quickly throw the loose toys strewn about in them! ha!

  5. Thanks for your comments. I'm learning from you. I love the "Seek to bless, not impress" mentality. It kind of goes along with what Richelle says about the difference between hospitality and entertaining.

    And those are great practical tips, Sarah. The frozen cookie dough and storage ottomans. I don't have little kids and toys around anymore, but I have homeschooling teenagers and a myriad of books strewn around the living room, so I probably need a quick stash place in my living room too!