This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. The prompt today is “hospitality.”
As the children piled out of the buses or climbed out of their parents’ cars, the anxiety was evident on many of their faces. Several had come by themselves, not knowing anyone, and spending a week away from home in an unfamiliar place is a big deal when you’re only nine or ten years old.
Our main aim was to make them feel welcome – to assure them that this was a place where they belonged, where they were valued, where there were people who cared for them, where they would be well looked after.
It was amazing to watch as, throughout our week at camp, a group of strangers became a community. New friendships were made, and there was lots of laughter. Of course there were squabbles and upsets from time to time, but generally there was an acceptance of one another that was beautiful to witness.
I was so proud of the team and the way they led by example in creating this kind of atmosphere…
…because what the children didn’t fully understand was that the team were almost all strangers to one another too. This was no established team that had worked together before. Many of them had met for the first time that day, and many of them were every bit as apprehensive as the campers, yet you’d never have known it by the way they pulled together and encouraged one another.
The common factor was Jesus. Although they didn’t know one another, they knew him, and that was enough. United by their love for him, they were able to share that love with others.
One Bible dictionary defines hospitality as “love of strangers.” Surely that’s a kind of love that is only possible when we understand God’s love for us – that his is a kingdom where the outsiders are included, where everyone is invited, and where everyone has value.
And when we grasp that and demonstrate that love to others, the impact is powerful.
Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I hope and pray that the children will remember some of what was said during that week at camp, that the truths they heard about Jesus will continue to sink in and bring transformation, but I know that love in action is important too, and maybe the two can work together.
When we know we’re loved and accepted by people, it brings an openness to what those people have to say and an interest to understand what motivates that kindness and generosity.
And, as Jesus said, “When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40 NLT)