Hospitality – An attitude of the heart
Today was our last day meeting with the brothers of the Baptist Union here in Bashkortostan, and it all began with me preaching to them on the subject of hospitality. I had considered this subject for a number of days and something in my conversation with Bud and Henry solidified it for me. So, we began by looking at this word in the Greek and discovered that it means “Love for the stranger”. We also discovered that hospitality is a much broader word that it has come to mean in our English and Russian cultures that have reduced it to simply enjoying a meal with brothers and sisters in Christ in someones home. I shared the following definition, Hospitality is the divine enablement to share with others our home, our lives, our personal space and resources without communicating a need for performance or an expectation of return. I finished by emphasizing that in Scripture hospitality is a command given to believers and specifically to Elders. Also, if we truly want to understand hospitality we can look to God who is the best example of welcoming aliens, strangers and enemies into His home and giving them citizenship, a new family and full rights as sons through the welcoming expression of love of Jesus paying for our sins on the cross. We talked a little about what that kind of hospitality would look like if we viewed our homes and our churches as platforms for exercising hospitality. Ultimately it is an attitude of the heart that is applied to our love for both our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as the stranger.
Hospitality – Love for the Stranger
After lunch we went with our translator Marina and Victor Slobyodan to visit with the Street Kids ministry at the Good News Church. Now, what is important to know is that in cities like Ufa there are children that are either neglected by parents who are on drugs or alcohol and don’t really care where their children are or children that are homeless and survive by hanging out in various places during the day and in the basements and attics of the high-rise buildings that are all over the place during the night. This ministry is structured to reach out to these children. Well, when we arrived there were about 15 or so and by the time we left three hours later there were about 27. They ranged from ages 12 to 19 and some of them have been in the ministry for over 7 years while others were there for only their first or second time. These children are hungry to go to a place where they are going to be treated with love and welcomed. So, for four days out of the week these children come to the Good News Church for three hours in the afternoon. They have snacks, a Bible Study, sing worship songs and have times of fun and fellowship. It is funny, but their favorite game is Monopoly, and when we arrive we found a number of them playing and we were invited to join in by teaming up with one of the street kids playing. Now think about it. What a great game to be playing to kids who have dropped out of school and are trying to survive. A game that teaches them how to add money, buy property, mortgage property, pay rent, buy houses and hotels, invest in a utility company, pay taxes and to press on and pass Go. It was amazing how well they played. After a time of snacks, candy and brief introductions we moved into the main church room where they peppered us with questions about California, our likes in food, family make up, and how we became Christians. So each of us shared how God drew us to Him. It was great to share the Gospel. All of the children wanted us to return and honestly, I want to return. At the end we met in the brothers office at the church and we heard the testimony of Karina who is now 21 (I believe) and is a product of the Street Kids ministry. She told about her life of drugs and alcohol, moving from location to location, and how God delivered her through the Street Kids Ministry. She finally went to a rehab center and returned to Ufa and now is a leader in the ministry. This is a ministry that is actively practicing hospitality as they love the stranger in the form discarded and neglected children.
Hospitality – Love for the Brethren
Finally, after visiting with the Street Kids we went off to visit in the home of Arkaday and Goulia and their three children, Nadia (I think), Roman and Tamara. Arkaday is the secretary for Piotr Zhuk, the head pastor for the area. They just moved into a new home from a tiny one room apartment to a two bedroom house in the country. We sat and ate a delicious meal in their living room and talked about life in the States and in Russia. They are a delightful family and their children are adorable.
It has been a great day of hospitality, and we can all attribute it to the hospitality extended to us from our sovereign and loving God who “in Jesus Christ [we] who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Aliens, strangers now citizens and sons. It is amazing really!