By Larry McCrary, Executive Director,
from his new book, The Marketspace: Essential Relationships Between the Sending Church, Marketplace Worker, and Missionary Team
“When we close the doors of our homes, we close the doors of our hearts.”
Living in another country is hard. Working within another culture’s ideologies is hard. At the end of the day, most expats just want to be home. It’s their haven for speaking English, eating comfort food, and a way to shut out the realities of living overseas.
When we think about the Jesus we say we follow, we have to imagine what a day of work must have looked like for him. Everyday, he spent time with people who misunderstood who he was, what he was saying and what he stood for. Many of the people he came into contact with couldn’t care less about getting to know him as a person. If you are an expat reading this, you can probably relate.
We have to remember that when Jesus came to earth to live among us, he stepped out of his own comfort zone. He went from a perfect world, living with his father, to become a lowly human being. Talk about a cross-cultural leap! Yet we see in the Bible that Jesus was the epitome of hospitality — both giving it and accepting it. We need to follow his example.
Hospitality is huge when you live overseas. Yes, your home can be a much-needed sanctuary for you, but it’s also a place that you can welcome people in. Show them you care enough to cook them a meal, share a coffee, and listen to their life stories. Be willing to open up your home to your neighbors. It may just be a quick, informal visit as you ask them a question about utilizing a Spanish appliance, but even that will build bridges with your neighbors.
What about receiving hospitality? Other cultures seem to be so much better at this than we are. If someone invites you to their home, say yes! Sure, you will probably spend a lot of the time feeling out of place, lost in conversation (if you are speaking in the native tongue) and if the food is still something you are getting used to, then you may find yourself graciously choking down a piece of meat. But don’t miss the blessing of receiving hospitality from a neighbor. It will build strong connections for your relationship that hopefully lead to conversations about the God you serve.
A few years ago, Susan and I had the opportunity to visit a city in the Middle East, where there were many Syrian refugees seeking a new home. We went with another humanitarian aid worker to visit a new arrival. This woman, her children, her sister’s family, and her mother all lived together. They shared a one room apartment with a tiny kitchen just outside the only main room. It served as their bedroom and living room. Imagine 12 people living in the size of a small living room.
As we made our greetings and were welcomed into her apartment, she had us sit down around the edges of the wall where we all faced one another. She left the room for a few minutes and shortly returned with tea, plastic cups, and cookies. She had little, but wanted to demonstrate what was culturally appropriate for her, showing hospitality. It was extremely important that we received it well.
May we open up who we are so more people will come to know who our God is.
“Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” - 1 Thessalonians 2:8