Many Bible stories not only show how serious our obligation is to welcome the stranger, but they tell us that strangers are carrying precious gifts with them. And that the stranger might even be an angel, or a messenger of good news.
Something happens between the guest and host – you can become transformed by the experience. Like the Samaritan who helped the man on the road to Jericho. Or the woman who had little oil to offer Elijah. Or King David, when Abigail brought a meal and prevented a battle. Or Jesus, when he talked with the Samaritan woman at the well, or when he washed his disciples’ feet. We have the opportunity to transform and be transformed by the stranger.
Leviticus 19:33-34 instructs us to welcome the alien, to LOVE the alien, because we were once aliens too.
Perhaps you once lived in another country. Have you ever felt like an alien? When does a place begin to feel like home?
I want to create a home where others, including strangers, can feel welcome. And I want my children to learn hospitality.
During the first week of a new school year, I told my children: “It’s not your job to get the best marks, or be the fastest in the class. Your job is to notice people. Who is feeling left out? Who feels less important? Go to them. Offer hospitality.” I want my children to have a strong sense of home and hearth as one that travels with you wherever you go, and one that is shared with others.
My husband and I had hosted three young adults over the years, each stay ranging from 2 to 6 months, but none of them were strangers. They were family or friends.
Two years ago, I was working for an adoption agency, rewriting their website. I was supposed to write in a way that would inspire people to adopt. Each day, I was writing words like “open your heart and home to someone in need.” And each day I felt God nudging me.
In the midst of this project, I got an e-mail from my brother saying that there were about 10 Afghan refugee youth looking for host families in Ontario – 3 of them, girls. Could I open my heart and home to someone in need? I didn’t know. Our family talked about it, and everyone agreed – we could offer hospitality to one of these youth.
But I had many worries and concerns. I have an active imagination, so my fears and questions ranged from the practical to the absurd:
- What will it be like to have a teenager in our home?
- Will we need to eat halal meat?
- What will this experience be like for our children?
- How will we live as 2 different faiths under one roof?
- Do I have the energy for this?
- Can we trust her with our home and our possessions?
- Does she have links to the Taliban?
- Will she use up all of my favourite shampoo?
Picture of Shegofa and our girls
In the first weeks and months of hosting Shegofa, I had to examine these fears. During this time, my sister-in-law gifted me with a special blue stone that was shaped like a small egg. The blue stone was native to Afghanistan, and she encouraged me to hold that stone and expect surprises.