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Traveling Mercies - July/August 2012

by Linda Johnson Seyenkulo

Hospitality [hos-pi-tal-i-tee] (noun)

1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.

2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way

Through the stories of the Bible, we are called to offer hospitality. Hospitality is about receiving and inviting people in our homes, yes, but also in our churches, our friendships, and all aspects of our lives. Hospitality sounds gracious, wonderful, and Christian.

Misused, misunderstood, or missing, it can be a stumbling block to enjoying a family visit at your home, to a growing evangelism program at a church, or to welcoming that new neighbor into a community.

When hospitality goes well, it is life-giving. However, it is often unnoticed or taken for granted. It can also be offered in ways that are unfamiliar to the one receiving it.

Recognizing differences

Several years ago, my children and I were having a discussion about how families are different. As we talked about this, I said, “Well, you know Daddy’s and Mommy’s families are different. What are the differences you notice between them?” Ours is a bi-racial, cross-cultural marriage (my husband is from Liberia), and I was expecting a discussion on food, dress, levels of noise, even race. But what came up was hospitality.

“Well,” said my oldest, “When we go to stay with anyone from your family, it’s three, four days at the max. With Daddy’s family you can go and stay for a year.”

“Yeah,” added her younger brother, “Or forever.”

Now, the children were not making a judgment about either side of our family. They were saying what they had experienced in our families’ interactions: Hospitality is different depending on which side of the family you are visiting.

The Rev. Linda Johnson Seyenkulo serves as pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Park Forest, Ill. She and her husband, Jensen Seyenkulo, wrote the 2010-2011 Bible study "People of God: Unity in the Midst of Diversity." Jensen was elected bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia in early 2012.

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