Practice Hospitality

by Ken Elzinga

When I was an undergraduate at Kalamazoo College, a professor invited me to his home. I was really scared going there. I thought you’d have to talk at some elevated level. But instead he just had me to his home with some other students. I never forgot it, and that’s been decades ago.

Jesus didn’t have a home as we think of a home, but we know that His disciples were with Him and not just when He formally taught them as a rabbi. For me, this aspect of Jesus’ life has come to mean making my home a welcome place for students.

I learned this from my first wife, who before she died of cancer often opened our home to students. I also learned it from James Huston, whom I knew when he was a professor at Oxford.  I never forgot his telling me that he and his wife Rita did not believe they owned their home. They had title to it, but it was the Lord’s, and theirs to share.

So how do you open a home?

Well, you let the word out. Students have used rooms in our home for everything from Bible studies to fellowship groups. In one season of our life, on Saturday nights there was an international teahouse meeting at our home—where internationals would come for games, and entertainment, and English lessons. International Students Inc staff and local churches staffed the event. Most of the time my wife and I were not even there—although we might stop in during the evening.

We also have found that inviting students around 9:00 p.m. for a one-hour brownies and milk study break fits their schedules.  It’s a great way to show Christian hospitality. Every Thanksgiving I extend an invitation to all my students to dinner at our home if they’re not going elsewhere. Thanksgiving is a great time to have internationals to explain why our nation is thankful.

What does all this mean long-run? I hope that students themselves, when home-owners someday, might think about how Jesus might call them to use this asset for Kingdom purposes.

Besides, whatever value and convenience our home has been to others, opening our home in this way has taught us to keep a looser hold on our possessions than we otherwise would. In the process, some of our selfishness has been beaten out of us