Welcoming Others As God Has Welcomed Us
Last fall, my family and I relocated to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, because my husband accepted his first vocational ministry position at a church here. As we continue to get settled into our new house and better acquainted with our new community, my heart can’t help but to reflect appreciatively on the memories that my time in Fort Worth, Texas, and more particularly, at Southwestern Seminary, gave to me.
One of the most cherished experiences I gained from my time there was the privileged opportunity to assist Southwestern’s President and First Lady Patterson in providing hospitality to the various visitors of Pecan Manor (their home so appropriately named after its surrounding trees). My job as Hostess required a variety of skills, mostly menial, but entirely significant. Tasks such as baking cookies, organizing utility closets, monogramming sympathy handkerchiefs, vacuuming pine needles, and more, as vast as they are, all have one commonality: they contributed to the hospitality Mrs. Patterson extends.
Christian hospitality is essentially welcoming others as God has welcomed us.
Specifically, it is utilizing our God-given resources to make provision for the physical or emotional needs of others graciously, whether food, lodging, a listening ear, or an encouraging note. God has graciously provided for our greatest need by giving us Jesus. Believers are instructed to mirror this, particularly within the home. As a homemaker, I am convinced that this is an assignment God desires for me to embrace immediately. With my husband now involved in vocational ministry, I should not want for people in need whom I can serve hospitably by applying the following principles I have learned from observing Mrs. Patterson’s life of ministry for the past five years. I hope that you are inspired to do the same!
1. Do what you can.
This is a message Mrs. Patterson often shares, based off of valuable characteristics learned from the woman in Bethany who anointed Jesus’ head. This woman sought to make sacrificial provision for her Messiah’s impending death and burial by anointing him with her costly perfume— worshipfully meeting the need of the moment in the intimacy and privacy of one’s home. Jesus praised that “she [did] what she could”. While there are many more layers of depth to this story, we can derive that God is pleased with our faithful efforts to obey Him. Consider your own personal means, talents, schedule, experiences, goods, etc. and do what you can to be hospitable to others.
2. Be resourceful.
Both rich and poor have enough to extend hospitality to others in the capacity God has called them. I’m realizing that even on a pastor’s salary (which is stereotypically bemoaned), we do possess enough to share a meal with the newly engaged couple— it doesn’t have to be fancy— and we do possess enough to give a gift to the unbelieving next-door neighbor—it can be handmade! A key part of leveraging all that God has given us is to manage it well, being neither too wasteful nor overly indulgent. I always enjoyed watching Mrs. Patterson creatively maximize her resources. She would transform leftovers into a fresh meal for her and Dr. Patterson and the unused toiletries from her hotel stays and repurpose them to stock her guest rooms. Once, she even gave me old, yet usable, drapes that were being replaced in order to prevent the fabric from simply being trashed. Much more important than the quality or amount of resources we have, is simply stewarding whatever we do have faithfully.
3. Be prepared.
One of my favorite expressions of Mrs. Patterson’s is to “anticipate needs”, which she does of her house-guests. I’ve witnessed first-hand the wisdom of maintaining a pantry stocked with extra food and drinks to share in a moment’s notice, and how handy it is to keep a stash of simple, yet meaningful gifts to give to someone as an encouraging gesture. Additionally, I’ve seen how an organized home is a prepared home; these are two sides of the same coin. This doesn’t mean having an immaculately decorated or clean living room, but rather striving to diligently (although not perfectly) keep a home that is welcoming and comfortable for any neighbor or friend who might stop by unannounced. Being prepared allows us to respond eagerly to an opportunity to share hospitality with others.
4. Be generous.
The decision to be hospitable can make us vulnerable. After all, we’re freely giving away our hard-earned resources and heartfelt sentiments. At times, this generosity might not yield the earthly rewards we naturally crave—the meal wasn’t appreciated, the sleeping arrangements were complained about, the gift went unacknowledged, etc. Mrs. Patterson has modeled unending graciousness and generosity in many unreciprocated situations such as these, demonstrating that choosing to be hospitable is ultimately a matter of loyally obeying God, who has asked us to love others in this way (Romans 12:13).
5. Entertain angels.
In Hebrews 13:2, the church was implored to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” because it’s possible they could actually be serving messengers of God without knowing it. Although, in the original context, “strangers” refers specifically to foreign Christians who had been driven away from their own homes by persecution, the principle that can be applied is broader: Embrace the inclusion of those in need into your home life. This can include including holiday traditions, family meals, and play-dates.
These instances of hospitality portray the gospel; after all, every believer was once a stranger whom God welcomed into His spiritual family through Jesus.
While Mrs. Patterson self-proclaims to be “family obsessed”, she and her husband have modeled to me this very principle of inviting outsiders inside to experience warm hospitality that reflects God’s love.[i]
6. Ask for help.
Having been one, I know first-hand that Mrs. Patterson accomplishes all that she does due in part to the aide of her “helpers”, as she affectionately calls them. Also, it is revealed that the woman described in Proverbs 31 had “maidens” who enabled her to accomplish much. Quite simply, if you’ve been handed a seemingly insurmountable task, such as housing your in-laws for a week or providing a meal for your local church’s weekly potluck, ask for help. Doing so can provide an opportunity to disciple a younger woman or share company with a lonely widow.
Even though I am now hundreds of miles away from Texas and Pecan Manor, the lessons I learned were not left behind, as they are ones that profoundly molded my approach to ministry. Proverbs 11:16 tells us that “A gracious woman gets honor”; may my testimony and life’s work honor Mrs. Patterson as I seek to glorify God by extending hospitality to others.