“Always be eager to practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13).
My mother seemed to have this verse written into her DNA. Elinore Mae Gesch was a shy person by nature. My dad was the blabbermouth, the extrovert, the man who knew everybody in the county. He’d tap the horn and raise a hand to every driver he met on the county roads, accompanied by “Chris, John.” It took me a while to figure out this was simply his pronunciation-with-a-twinkle-in-his-eye of the old European greeting, “Hail, fellow Christian.”
Mom, though quieter, would no sooner see a new person in church then she’d be inviting them to have lunch, if not today, then another day. She’d make a “welcome basket” with a card and invitation to church and to the Gesch home and deliver it to new residents in her neighbourhood. Blessed we were, I say, by our parents – models of hospitality.
Gifts of grace
Having visitors is also a gift. Our family has been blessed by many visitors to our farm, some announced, some unannounced. One day a car drove up and two older folks stepped out and said, “You’re Curt Gesch. Who are we?” Well! The car was an American-made sedan with Wisconsin plates. Someone from my hometown? “Meerdink?” Turns out her maiden name was Meerdink but I knew the couple as Mr. and Mrs. Howard Rushton from Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. They had driven the Alaskan Highway and were returning by an alternate route, including Highway 16. My dad had told them that we lived “right near that highway, on a dusty road. Why not stop in and see them?” In J.R.R. Tolkien’s words, this was a “sudden miraculous grace.”
On any given night, we may get a telephone call from Bill Rutherford, either on his way from Vancouver to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, hauling fresh fruit and vegetables north, or on his way south for another load. We’ve had telephone calls from Smithers, a half-hour away, from Dr. Al Greene, Dr. Lloyd Den Boer, and the Van Brummelens (Harro and Wilma) – all mentors of mine in the field of Christian education. And all showed up while on business in Smithers but knew I was in pretty poor health due to depression. Again: visitors who were gifts of grace.
Finally, I would like to name Élias Escobar – originally from El Salvador and now from Medicine Hat, Alberta – and Saneesh Kunnath – originally from Kerala State in India and now from Kitimat, B.C. Both asked if they could visit our farm to learn more about possibilities of food production in their own region. They got broccoli, potatoes and carrots to take home: I received a lesson in history, culture, the joys and pains of immigration and encouragement.
I met Élias at a conference where I gave a presentation about stewardship. Afterwards, Élias sent me a note of thanks, saying “My mother goes to church but I never knew that religion had anything to do with agriculture.”
Saneesh delighted and encouraged me when he described Kerala State in India as a region of India in which Hindus, Christians (Catholics), Buddhists and other religions co-exist peacefully.
I’d tell you about the joy that children give us when they visit, but I’ll let the picture speak for itself.
If hospitality is a gift, charis, used by God to build his church and nourish his people, I think visiting is equally important. Accepting an invitation, making time for a visit, sharing your life story, showing interest in the host’s life: the ministry of visiting finds its Biblical models in the actions of the Creator, walking through the garden in the cool of the day; in Abraham’s visitors who arrived with the good news of an heir; in Jesus Christ who left his home to visit among us for a season; and in the opportunities we have to entertain angels unawares.
An old lady from a church in Smithers used to say, “Well, Thursday is my day to go visiting.” We could do with more like her.
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