(by Eric McLaughlin)
This post has been a while in coming. Some of you may remember the earlier thoughts on homelessness, as experienced by our family this year in the US. No doubt, this continues to be a challenge, and we are currently thankful for several weeks of staying still here in Colorado. However, there is another side to that struggle.
Over the past seven months, we have been hosted by no less than 30 families, maybe more. Friends and family alike have welcomed us into their homes. When I was a young single guy, even half of a married couple, I didn't think of myself as much of an imposition. When Ben cries at 1am, and Maggie is up at 5:30, I no longer feel I can safely say that. And yet, people give up rooms to us, they prepare us meals, and (perhaps the most gracious of all) they amazingly make us feel like they are glad to do it. I have said it many times, and I could not mean it more: Our nomadic family is sustained along the long journey by just such hospitality as this.
We have slept in bedrooms, while our hosts' kids take a sleeping bag, or even while the hosts themselves take the couch. Multiple times, we have come to stay at a house, when our friends weren't even there. People have rearranged schedules for us, and introduced us to their friends. One family even scheduled Rachel and I for a complimentary professional massage!
A special mention goes to our four long-term hosts (thus far): Tim and Sharon McLaughlin, Jean Selle, and the Fader family have all taken us in for extended periods of time. It is no small thing to bring a family into your home for a couple days, sometimes stopping everything else in its tracks. However, after a while, if you continue as the host, life must go on, and that means that the guests become a part of your daily life. This is another whole step in sacrifice and hospitality, and we are very grateful for it.
The fourth family is Dan and Suzanne Hayward (pictured here - I figure if they choose a photo for a facebook profile, it's fair game to share it) and their four boys. They are going to get special mention, because no one has amazed me more with their hospitality this year.
Dan and Suzanne are a doctor-doctor couple, who had lived at Tenwek for a year, prior to our arrival in Kenya. We had met briefly, during their visit back while we were there. When they heard that I was going to be working in St. Joseph, MI, for a few months, they contacted me and said that they would be happy for me and my family to come and stay at their home. For several months. With their family. And eat their food. They even delayed dinner sometimes when I was working late, so that I could eat with their family. And then there is the extra car that they let me drive. And the dollhouse they found and brought so that Maggie would have some girly toys. And the time they arranged a babysitter for us to attend a missions event. And on it goes... They barely knew us. I'm so very glad for the friendship that resulted for this time. And in the end, they send us on our way with a feeling that they were blessed by our presence, and that they are looking forward to us coming by again.
Really, it's overwhelming blessing. It strengthens and sustains.
One of the universal features of missionary life is that, while living in foreign countries, you very often will play the host. When I see the love that has been shown to us by so many, I begin to see that this is a gift of an opportunity. An opportunity to love. An opportunity to glorify God.
"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:8-11)
"Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints." (Philemon 7)