Opening our home to what the Bible might call “strangers” — or, people who have different backgrounds and whom we don’t know very well — has been a surprising adventure in many ways. Here are the three biggest surprises about gathering with people with stories so different than our own.
1. I’ve been surprised how much even small gestures of hospitality mean to lonely or international guests.
Once I invited a single immigrant girl over, and she told me that it was the first time she’d ever really socialized without her family along. A few years ago, an acquaintance and her husband invited a Libyan family over. They found out that the family had lived in the USA for six years and never been invited inside an American’s home! They didn’t know what was culturally appropriate to bring as a gift, so they asked a friend for help. They arrived with so many gifts: a homemade cake, a Libyan specialty dish of potatoes and beef, a European box of chocolates and a handmade crocheted table covering. Stories like this remind me that what seems easy for us, like having someone over for the afternoon, can be really meaningful to our foreign guests!
2. I’ve been surprised how well we’ve connected with people who might seem to not have much in common with us.
One of our closest friends in our last city was a Muslim friend from the Middle East. He shared his story, wept at our table, and asked us to pray for him. I was surprised how dear he became to us as we shared many meals, conversations and prayers. We don’t see each other often any more due to distance, but when we do see him, it feels a bit like seeing a member of our family again — he’s always warm and open. These kinds of deeper connections cannot be forced — God must orchestrate them — but by opening our homes to strangers we provide a natural setting for connections to happen.
3. I’ve been surprised how openly we can talk about our faith with people of other faiths in our home.
The opportunities are virtually endless to talk about our faith when people are at our table regularly. It comes up naturally, whether we pray before a meal, hang a verse on the wall, share a book from our bookshelf, or just talk about life through a Christian lens.
Now it’s your turn! What has surprised you the most about hosting “strangers” (or should we just call them what they are — “potential friends”)?