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Pondering Hospitality, Revisited

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : August 31, 2006

Recently, the folks in my house (all 8 of us) have been discussing whether to extend full hospitality to a homeless man we’ve been getting to know. The thing that has made the discussion a bit longer than it otherwise would have been is the presence of a 5 year old girl and a 4 month old boy in our house.

We’ve decided to extend hospitality to this man (he needs a place to stay for 10 days until he is able to move into a treatment facility). We let him know yesterday, but he is thinking about it. It must be a little scary and akward to move into a house full of people, even if just for 10 days, after being on the streets for so long.

If he decides to take us up on our offer, we’ll have another decision to make as a group: should we extend longer-term hospitality after he gets out of treatment? These sorts of decisions are the sorts of decision we knew we’d eventually have to make at Missio Dei, and it is good to think through the issues now, since we’ll be faced with many more such decisions in the future, especially as we (hopefully) grow in our capacity to offer hospitality when we find a place on the West Bank for the Missio House.

We’ve been thinking through what sort of boundaries or expectations to place on someone like our friend. We wish we didn’t have to set any boundaries, but for our safety (and also for his), it is a necessity. We’ve got some figured out, but we’re open to advice from others.

Here are some questions for you, my readers:

When are some times that you’ve extended hospitality to the stranger? Do you have any stories/lessons to share?

What sort of guidelines would you set if you were going to have someone unfamiliar to you stay in your home for a while?

Is there any way of reading Matthew 25:31-46 that makes it ok NOT to extend hospitality? Especially to someone who professes Christ?

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Comments

5 Responses to “Pondering Hospitality, Revisited”

  1. Jeremy on September 1st, 2006 4:06 pm

    Mark-

    I this that you’re community is wrestling with this problem is awesome. A radical witness.

    I have not had anyone who was that much of a stranger in my home so I have nothing to offer about boundaries. But I am encouraged/blessed by MD’s witness.

  2. Ariah Fine on September 1st, 2006 7:35 pm

    Great that you are opening your home. I think we run into the difficulty of safety being a concern far too often, and it has kept us from being the church we should truly be.

    Open your home, and you’ll figure out the way it needs to work as you go. This is your friend and your home, not a business or government. You are the Body of Christ.

  3. Ariah Fine on September 1st, 2006 7:36 pm

    P.S. My only comment is don’t let someone sleep on your mattress unless your okay with getting pee on it (you never know, but if they have alcohol on their breath it’s a warning sign).

  4. tim on September 2nd, 2006 7:46 pm

    Mark,

    When I worked at Loome I often attended Catholic Worker meetings. They have two houses where they invite women in various states of need move in. I think they make the rule of no drugs or alcohol, no TV, and some other stuff. If you want to get in touch with them to find out how they handle it, call Loome Books and they can direct your call accordingly, or talk to Tom Loome the owner.

    Don’t feel bad about setting up rules. Families run by rules. Churches run by rules. Rules are meant to encourage growth and harmony.

  5. espiritu paz on September 2nd, 2006 8:34 pm

    I?ve found that discernment is essential. If you accept everyone in, inherently there will be scads of infiltrators at the door waiting to bring it all to ruin. Not to say that one should not take in an exploiter such that the spirit of hospitality reforms her. Sometimes hospitality is casting pearls to swine, sometimes it is casting bread on the water. But only God knows

    I?ve given hospitality to a number of strangers. Some have since turned up to be felons. I live to tell the story. I am blessed that only some people had stuff stolen and that nobody got violated. There?s always a risk but life in Christ was never risk free. As for boundaries, I?ve never considered them to be inherently negative. It?s a way to demonstrate to a person that you care about them and yourself. Involve the stranger in the daily rhythms of seeking the Lord and prayer and the life of breaking bread.

    You can also run a name through police records so that you can be more intentional about supporting and ministering to a stranger in their place of weakness. Christians often in an attempt to graciously forgive “the past” set themselves up for failure via head in the sand love. Christ?s love isn?t blind-it sees everything someone has done and loves and receives them and gives them a bed to sleep in anyway.

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