Strangers and Hospitality
Updated: Apr 12, 2018
Hi, I’m Toni and in the last 12 years over 11,000 strangers have slept in my beds. BUT before you go and get the wrong impression of me, let me explain! I’m a CEO, wife, mother, Star Wars fanatic, small-town-girl, healthcare advocate, a ballroom dancer, and a Jesus-follower. I am also an avid practitioner of hospitality, and the founder of a nonprofit called Philos Hospitality. Since 2006, our Hospitality House programs have been serving more than 11,000 people facing a medical crisis away from home by providing home-like lodging, meals, prayer support, transportation assistance, and many other services. I guess you could say that I have learned a thing or two during my lifetime of showing hospitality to strangers.
Hospitality in action is where we become practitioners of true hospitality.
These hospitality focused sessions will inspire you, challenge you, and could even change your life. Since founding Hospitality House of Tulsa, I have learned quite a few things about hospitality that have been transformational for me personally, for my staff and volunteers, and for the guests we have served.
Now if you're thinking, this is just another girly, Martha Stewart-like blog, think again. After 12 years and 11,472 guests sleeping in our beds, I still can’t properly fold a fitted sheet! Don’t sent me the link to the videos, I’ve watched them all. It’s really just a matter of patience for me.
Here, we will cover the areas of our lives that are touched by hospitality, our homes, our businesses, our community, our churches, and within healthcare. Some of the information will be controversial, culturally relevant, practical, and hopefully entertaining. Even if you are not a person inclined to follow a Christian faith blog, I hope you will hang out with me here for a few minutes each week. I promise the wisdom I’m sharing will be applicable to your life, your relationships, and your business.
First things first, however. What is Hospitality?
If you look at the American culture of hospitality, you will notice it is mostly focused on entertaining, decorating, cooking, etc. However, that is not true hospitality. Before I even knew I would be starting Hospitality House, I was compelled to study hospitality for two years, as a hobby, not as a college requirement. :) It began when one of my dearest friends asked me to come speak to her ladies bible study class about how to be more open and friendly to people who come into our church and community. I thought I should probably see what God’s word had to say about that before I opened my big mouth. Romans 12:13 says, “Share with God’s people in need. Practice Hospitality.” I was intrigued by that verse. What did sharing with those in need have to do with my American version of entertaining, decorating, cooking, and Home and Garden Television?
Ok fair warning here, we are moving into history and language now. Stay with me. I knew there was probably more to this word ‘hospitality’ than my limited version, so I went to the original Greek language that the New Testament is translated from. The Greek word used here is PhiloXenia. Philos means Brotherly Love, and Xenia means … STRANGER! WHAT in the world is going on here?! We are supposed to be showing brotherly love to strangers, who are in need? Back up just a minute, this goes against ALL my cultural upbringing of “Don’t talk to strangers”, “don’t take things from strangers”, and my mother’s favorite “don’t bring strangers home!” I was the kid always bringing stray dogs home and I think she thought this would eventually migrate up to people. Hmmmm, I guess it did!
Our Stranger Danger culture is real. At a time when we are dealing with serious issues such as immigration, child abductions, violence against women, bullying, school shootings, economic uncertainty, and healthcare crisis, how can anyone think to practice showing brotherly love towards strangers? The fear of what could happen makes you want to lock yourself in your home, close the blinds, and order all your food and household needs online so the only stranger you have to deal with is the UPS guy.
Ok, let’s all take a deep breath now and step away from the scary place. I had to find out how God viewed strangers and how we respond to new faces in our community. While there are many verses about strangers in the Old and New Testament, today I want to focus on a verse that helped transform my understanding of hospitality.
Exodus 23:9 says, “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger since you were a stranger in the land of Egypt.” During this time of nomad style of living, people were completely dependent upon the hospitality of strangers. This verse is speaking to the Hebrew children about the compassion they must now show since they are no longer under the bondage of Pharaoh. Now that they have set up their own community, God is commanding them to consider those who are traveling through, sojourning, on their way. As these strangers come through their community, they are to be the Motel 6, Wendy’s restaurant, vet clinic, etc. They are not to take advantage of them while in a vulnerable situation.
Compassion, strangers, hospitality.
Each week, I want to give you a Hospitality in Action tip that can help us all practice hospitality (showing brotherly love to strangers).
Let me know what you learned or observed by leaving me a comment. In case you're curious to learn more about Hospitality House, please visit us at HHTulsa.org. Thanks again!
Hospitality In Action Tip #1:
As you encounter people this week, make eye contact and smile at EVERYONE!