Thursday, August 11, 2016


At church on Sunday the sermon was about the parable of the banquet, where the invited guests are too busy (or too snobby?) to come, so the host invites all the outsiders who aren't usually considered worthy of such an invitation.

In the course of the talk, the pastor mentioned that the Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, more literally translates to "love of the stranger."  An article from Sojourners goes even farther, explaining that the root word of xenia could also refer to enemies, not just strangers.

We are hosting an exchange student this year.  She is not an enemy.  She was a stranger only in the sense we had never met, but in reality has much in common with us.  We handpicked her because we thought she would fit in well with our family.

Some of the host families in our program are hosting Muslim students.  There are other families around the country who welcome refugees through programs like World Relief.  There are families who adopt children with a history of trauma or with disabilities and fragile medical conditions.

I can't imagine coping with those challenges, but that is because they aren't the tasks set before me.  I fully believe that if any one of those were set before me, the measure of grace and faith to walk in that path would be provided as well, just as it was when I was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure, and just as we are experiencing now.

When we first started talking about hosting an exchange student, I felt like I had my hands full already handling my own condition, my kids' energy and issues, and so on.  I wondered if we were crazy for thinking we could add another person to our household.  And yet, I felt convicted it was the right step to take.

On Friday, Anya arrived at the airport.  We were all so excited to see each other.  It was a very emotional moment with hugs and tears.  She feels like a member of the family.

We are exercising hospitality, and the measure of grace and faith needed is here at just the right time.  My kids are still a handful and all my other issues are all still in the mix, and yet somehow, surprisingly, I feel less overwhelmed than before.

I feel encouraged and challenged at the same time by these reflections.  I know I have a long way to grow to be truly hospitable, to embrace and welcome strangers and enemies eagerly and lavishly as I would a beloved relative.  I also know that it is God's will to conform me to the character of Christ, and His sanctifying work will continue to be done in my life.

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