Hospitality may well be a key missing ingredient in Western Christianity. A famous motel commercial says, “We’ll leave the lights on for you.” Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” So, is your light on? The Bible says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:2, ESV)
It was August, 2007, and rainy season in Mali, West Africa. I had a team of 6 Americans that I had brought to work in our village, F-Village where we had planted a church. In addition to those who had come from stateside we had a 17-year-old young lady from our church in country for a year. I carried a driver, and a couple of translators with us. Logistically, I had wanted to save some money, so we had one Landcruiser for transportation, and were going to make two trips to get everyone to the village (about a 3 hour trip each way).
I left three “first-timers” behind and the veterans went ahead to set up our hut and site for the week in the bush country. Once we had arrived we sent the Landcruiser back for the others. Rainy season presents some unique challenges, and the last 1 ½ hours was a dirt road that looked more like a river this time of year. When darkness arrived we knew that the second part of our time wouldn’t make it. It would be the following morning before we knew the whole story. All I knew that night was I had three Americans who had never been in this remote part of West Africa where there was no running water, no electricity, and only “squatty potties” or the bushes. These “newbies” had a female Muslim translator with them and a driver that did not speak English. I just knew they were going to want to go home as soon as they found me.
I wasn’t prepared for the joy on their faces when they bolted from their vehicle the next morning. All began to tell the stories of how they had been stuck in the mud and a neighboring village (we had not been to) came out to try and help them. When they were unable to pull the vehicle from the mud, they invited them into their huts to spend the night. Into the wee hours of the night our team had shared Bible stories with these new friends. One man, Baba, had received Christ. He woke up one of our men at 5:45 am the next morning energetically repeating the only word from English he remembered from the night before: “Bab-i-tize; bab-i-tize.” In the darkness Ryan and Baba made their way to a watering hole where Ryan baptized this new believer.
The next morning before heading out, the Muslim chief had told our team, “We watched your people drive past our village now for several months. We knew you had Good News, but you didn’t stop and tell us. So we prayed, and God got you stuck in the mud so you could share with us.” Hospitality from strangers paved the way for our folks, who were the guests, shared the Gospel.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” What would you do if strangers broke down in their car outside your home? Can you imagine inviting them in to your home for the night? What if they are actually angels, and God is testing you?