Opening Your Home to Others
by Stephanie Wolfe
My thesaurus describes hospitality as “welcome, warmth, kindness, and generosity.”
As a ministry family for over 16 years, we have had many opportunities to offer all of the above. I have done it with open arms, crossed arms, and even with my hands firmly placed on my hips! We have opened our lives, home, and hearts to all kinds of wonderful people (even some not-so-wonderful people), and all for varying durations and purposes. Some for just a meal, others for long stays. Some expected, others unexpected. Some in celebration, others in devastation. Some to bring us something, others in need of something.
A Home to Others
I remember “Cody,” a 17-year-old with an attitude as big as Texas and a history of parental woes to match. He came to our home both cynical and suspicious, emotionally hungry and yet spiritually dead. A little kindness and generosity went a long way with Cody; and through our family’s outreach to him, we are still “connected” at the heart years later.
I remember a minister’s wife who had just discovered her husband was having an affair show up at our house around midnight, not knowing where to go for help. She had read an article I wrote and looked me up in the phone book. She needed a great deal of “welcoming, warmth, kindness, and generosity.” I have no magic wand, but a cup of tea and a listening ear helped her to make it through the night.
I remember one nonbeliever, the husband of a woman attending our church, who found himself lost and alone after a moral failure was discovered. We ministered to his wife and offered him a place to stay while she worked through her feelings, with every intention of sharing the gospel and trusting God for a complete restoration. He found forgiveness in Christ; and both, having surrendered whole-heartedly to the process of reconciliation, are now co-leaders in our Marriage Intimacy program. I wish all the stories had that kind of ending, but we are just a shelter in the midst of a storm. We have no control over the storm or how others navigate through it.
A Home to Ourselves
Our home is not only an extension of our ministry, but also our refuge; our first responsibility is to those in it! So we need to protect our home and our family. Our boys always knew that, and it was clearly communicated to our “guests.” We never had to pack anyone’s things or enforce this rule, because it was non-negotiable and fully respected.
To protect our private lives and our “castle,” certain rooms in our house are devoted to entertaining our guests, while other areas of our house remain private and inaccessible. This provides a sense of “home,” and offers us the necessary privacy as husband and wife. Family should always be first, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be other things allowed, and hospitality may be one of those things. Scripture reminds us not to withhold good from someone when it is in our power to do it (Prov. 3:27). Jesus said in Matthew 25 that what we do for the “least of these,” we, in a very real sense, do for Him.
In all those years of doing for the “least of these,” we were never robbed, pillaged, or deceived. It seems that all most people need is someone to believe in them and offer some kindness even if only for the night. A little hospitality goes a long way for some, changing their lives forever, while others criticize you for not doing more, and change seems to elude them. The awesome thing is that the rewards in heaven are the same whether your gift is appreciated or not.
Watching the home God has supplied for us become a tool in His hands has been a great experience for our family. Many times over the years, our instruction to those who have been under our roof has been another source of spiritual education for our boys. They have learned to welcome others into our family, kindly sharing their home, and becoming more generous to those who have less than we do. If there was ever resistance or resentment, we never saw it. Some of those who lived with us were their own friends who came from painful situations and who ultimately became a part of our family for a time. Our children saw that our arms were always big enough for them, their friends, and the others God would bring to our home. I am proud of them for that, and to this day we share many great memories of those times.
Now that our boys are gone, and we both work a lot outside the home, it has been quite awhile since we have had a long-term houseguest. I travel and both of our schedules are hectic, making it difficult for us to have guests. One of the rules that has governed our ministry marriage is to never have one of us left alone in the house with someone from the opposite sex. So for now, we limit our hospitality to inviting the church staff over to the house for dinners, elders’ meetings, my monthly “Leading Ladies” mentoring groups, and other such things. Our home is used to counsel, mentor, train, and fellowship as the need arises. It is a constant center of activity.
In practicing hospitality, you need to remember to be open to how God might want to use your home in the lives of others. So if you need a place to stay, give us a call. “Our light is always on.”