True hospitality

James just got back from South Sudan on Saturday.  I force myself not to worry about him when he is in Africa.  I don't want to dishonor God by not believing God is in control of that situation.  But honestly, the Holy Spirit makes it easy.  Every trip, I have had a peace come over me, and I just know that it is ok.

South Sudan is an important country in Africa to our family.  We have a South Sudanese congregation at Citychurch, and James's previous trip has endeared us to that struggling, new country.  We pay attention to any news we come across about South Sudan.

One thing that popped up on my FaceBook feed a few months ago was an article posted by Food for the Hungry about the food shortage in South Sudan.  Because of all the tribal fighting that went on for the last year, many farmers were displaced and unable to plant their crops.  Hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced in UN camps, the city of Juba, or have fled to neighboring countries.

As James was packing for this trip, I kept bringing up these facts and encouraging him to pack more snacks and Cliff bars.  I was really worried that he was going to go hungry, like really, really go hungry.

The funny thing is that every single time I got to talk to him on the phone while he was in South Sudan, he was complaining about having to eat too much.  I'm not joking.  It was a constant stream of meals.  One day they went to visit some families in their homes, and he had to eat about 5 dinners.

James was so humbled by this experience.  The country is experiencing a food shortage.  The people of South Sudan were not getting enough to eat, but they were so intent on making sure their visitors had an abundant meal.  The village women all cooked elaborate meals in their outdoor kitchens.  The amount of work and monetary sacrifice that went into each of those 5 meals was astonishing.

Shannon Abook lives at the top of Dinka Mountain.  They went to visit her husband, but when he wasn't home she brought out cold waters and Cokes for the guys to drink.

Anykol is preparing greens for dinner.

This was Sunday dinner at Simon's home.

This was the farewell meal for the guys.  The men butchered the goat and the women prepared food all day to provide this feast as a celebration of sending their visitors back home.

Their were times when James, Donnie, and Lual were taken out to eat.  Their restaurants are not as commercial or established as we are use to, but there are restaurants.  Our Americans had taken lots of money with them for the trip, but in several instances, one of the South Sudanese men would stand firm that they were paying for the meal.  They would lay on the generosity thick in those instances, ordering extra food when a dish would come out differently than the Americans had hoped when they ordered.  They would insist on ordering extra items with the meal, like hot teas.  They wanted to make sure that their visitors had a wonderful meal, no matter the cost.

These meals made a huge impact on James.

Alueo treated the guys to this South Sudanese restaurant.  They ate dried fish, goat, soup, and injera bread.

I just finished reading a book called

Neighbors and Wise Men

by Tony Kriz

.  In this book, there is a chapter about this same sort of experience that Tony has as a missionary in Albania. Here is a short excerpt from his book.

"Occasionally I would get a chance to travel to an Albanian village.  I am not talking about an outlying city, or even a small town.  These were mountainside villages, consisting of only a few hovels....   
We would soon find ourselves sitting in a small living space, next to a freshly stoked fire.  These highlanders were simple folk but full of honor.  Within minutes I had a warm cup of mountain tea in my cold hands.  Our business rarely lasted more than a day, and though we were strangers, we were always offered a warm bed.  I was treated like a long-lost relative. 
Dinner was always, always the best they had to offer.  Each time I insisted that they not make a fuss, but there was no discussion to be had.  It was easy to imagine that a month's resources were spent on a single meal. 
My definition of hospitality will never be the same. 
True hospitality pushes past what we can afford to give up and makes deposits in accounts we can never lose."

I'm forever affected by this new definition of hospitality.  "True hospitality pushes past what we can afford to give up and makes deposits in accounts we can never lose."  That is truly profound.

While James was in Africa last week, I had two opportunities to bless someone monetarily.  It was clear God had placed these circumstances into my path, and I knew He was challenging me to give.  One of these individuals was a friend and the other individual was a stranger.  Looking back on these two times of giving, it is odd that I feel just as good about giving to that stranger as I do about giving to my good friend.

My hope is that I made deposits in that account I can never lose.

I may never have the opportunity to lavish a month's resources on a stranger, but I know every chance I get to show kindness to friends or strangers will be changed after learning this new definition of true hospitality.

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23-24 ESV

As usual, I've got a song to share.  That's what's up.