Years ago when my oldest daughter, Jules was barely a year old, Jimmy and I felt a calling from the Lord to move our family to Clarkston, GA. Clarkston is known to have a huge refugee resettlement population and houses people of all different ethnicities and cultures. Along with some other close friends who felt a similar calling, we moved into the community for a year.
I’m not sharing this to get a pat on my back because trust me, God really had to work in my heart when I was internally kicking and screaming. I was finding any sort of reason not to move there. It felt uncomfortable, irrational, and really inconvenient. We were the only ones with a baby and it was scary thinking about taking our child there. The apartment complex housed not only refugees but it was cockroach nation! That fact alone deterred me from wanting to go anywhere near the place let alone live there. As you can imagine, the Lord taught me some powerful truths as he usually does when I’m uncomfortable with my surroundings.
We made a decision to finally move at the last moment but had to rent out our townhouse. We rented it out the day we moved out and it further confirmed God’s hand on our decision. Safety was one of my biggest concerns especially with Jules. I remember pretty close to when we moved in, we heard helicopters right over our complex because they were looking for a criminal. Another time, a young girl got stabbed by some crazy man that entered through the backdoor of her apartment. On another occasion, a refugee man on the second level got tied up, beaten, and robbed. The criminals had gotten through by climbing onto his balcony! I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. Mom and dad, if you’re reading this…..sorry! Some things were better left not shared during that time.
We met and made friends with so many different kinds of people. Many came with absolutely nothing but a few clothes and pictures. Some of the people we met came from Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Burma. Even though they had little, they welcomed us in with hearts full of generosity. We ate so well that year and I truly learned what it meant to be hospitable. We all gained a few pounds from all the delicious starchy meals with yummy seasoned meats. These refugee families didn’t care that their apartments weren’t decorated perfectly or that they didn’t have matching plates. They just wanted to feed and spend time with us. They were grateful to even have a home and took pride in what little they owned. I loved seeing how the women decorated their homes with mostly donated and thrifted items.
Being Korean, I thought I understood hospitality as it always centered around food and serving others. These families took it to another level for me. They didn’t even care that they had a minor nuisance like cockroaches! What?! This was luxury for them. They had freedom. They were so much safer here than the war torn countries they left behind. This dumpy place we called home was heaven to so many others.
I say all of this because it’s a reminder of what’s important when we invite others into our lives and homes. It doesn’t matter how well our houses are or aren’t decorated. People care more about your heart in welcoming them than seeing your well dressed house. If you think I’m saying don’t decorate, you’re missing the point. Of course you can decorate and make your home as beautiful as you want it to be. Hospitality starts at the heart. We shouldn’t be more stressed about the condition of our house than the condition of our hearts. If you wait for your house to be perfect to welcome others, it will never happen. There is something beautiful about not having a perfect home and welcoming people into our imperfect, messy lives.
Maybe you’re renting or living in a less than ideal space, embrace contentment and thank God for the opportunities you still have to practice hospitality. Our family is far less than perfect. I’ve got complaining, messy, stubborn kids just like you! There is always a mile high list of chores that have yet to be tackled and I can always feel behind on so many things. But, I’m learning to prioritize and realize there are things that hold greater importance like sitting with a friend and listening to their hearts. Oh that laundry can wait just a bit longer! Don’t wait till the perfect day when you’ve got it all together and your house is just right. Do it today.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16