Intentional Hospitality--Together at the Table

Dinner with international students

Dinner with international students

The room buzzed with different languages, though English prevailed. Faces were mostly Asian and Middle Eastern.

Fifty foreign students from the University of Central Florida crowded around Texas themed-table settings, and the Texas BBQ we served seemed to make a hit. I loved chatting with new friends from China and Iran at my table.

Steve and I each shared a little of our personal stories, including our journeys with Jesus. Questions that followed asked about Texas (I answered those), about challenges and rewards in our work, about knowing God.

Last week some old friends picked up some take out and dropped by to have dinner with us. It was a sweet time—lots of memories and new stories.In a few weeks about 30 mostly young men and women will come bearing gifts for a new baby girl–and her parents. I may have hosted a shower for the mom when she was born—her mom is one of my best friends. Our big back room has hosted many bridal and baby showers.

Welcoming New and Old Friends

I could name many more gatherings—small and large. We added a room to our home just so we could host big dinners and cozy groups. Some of our hospitality relates to our responsibilities leading Cru—we love to bring people into our home for more casual and comfortable time to get to know them.

But I began this kind of hospitality long before Steve and I were married.

My roommates and I hosted an international dinner for all the singles at our ministry headquarters. Everyone brought a dish from another nation, and some even dressed accordingly.

One time I hosted a birthday party for my dog--I wasn't sure if one barking reply was a yes or no. Another time we had a creative party. Every guest had to create food to share, or a sing a song or read a poem or something creative. For those who came unprepared, I gave them a sack of props and together they had to put on a skit.

One of my favorite parties was a Sherlock Holmes party. I prepared the meal from my Sherlock Holmes cookbook and we tried to solve one of his cases before the end.

Widening Our Circle

Once Steve and I were married, we began to host “discussion dinners.” We invited several couples/singles from different segments of our ministry, or different arenas of our lives—people who wouldn’t normally get together--to join us for dinner and discussion. I prepared dinner and gave them a topic for discussion.

We talked about what it would like if we really lived the Sermon on the Mount. Or we each read the same book and shared how it impacted our lives. Probably the favorite conversation was “How can we be lifelong learners?” The best answer came from our friend Ron—he did a complete acrostic from “lifelong learning.”

I know this kind of hospitality isn’t quite the same as biblical hospitality—gladly welcoming strangers into your home. But I think it is more than the oft-criticized "entertaining"—a perfect home and perfect meal that subtly solicits an invitation in return. (No danger of a perfect home with me--I throw a blanket over my piles.)

That’s why I call it intentional hospitality. Sometimes the intention is to hang out with some good friends—I love those times. They often can last for hours.I love having people from other nations and cultures into our home, to see how we live, to taste our favorite foods, to get to know each other. I treasure times with our ministry staff, and it’s fun to get to know students from all over.

Getting singles together doesn’t require a theme, but it made our parties more fun and interactive. I especially appreciated the creativity we sparked.  Showering brides and babies with gifts and love is kind and generous.

Discussion dinners always fulfilled our intentions—good food, connecting people to new friends, and stimulating conversation stemming from a starter topic. Maybe we will do those again.

The intention? To bring people together around the table, in our homes, with good food, to share life and love and to build community.

What about you? How do you invite people into your life?

C2016 Judy Douglass