Rev. James NS Kollie-Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Cotton Tree, Liberia
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Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
“Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13b)
These folks were not simply “practicing” hospitality as though it was something they were just trying out or learning how to do it. Nor were they merely going through the motions of hospitality. Nor were they novices at it!
They were doing it!
And was it ever an amazing experience to be on the receiving end of their hospitality! In all honesty, I struggle in my search for the words to describe it to you. I can’t seem to string together enough superlatives to do the experience justice in terms of telling you what it was like so that you might experience some of it vicariously.
Maybe I’ll leave it at this for now. While I was there (and I will get around to sharing with you in a moment as to where I was and who these incredibly hospitable people were)…while I was there I found myself recalling a scene from the movie “Field of Dreams” and a rather famous line from that scene. “Is this heaven?” asks one of the ball players who had come out of the corn field and on to the wonderful baseball field created by Kevin Costner’s character. And the reply? “No, it’s Iowa!”
And so I said to myself and to several others several times: “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s the Best Practices Conference in Phoenix!”
That’s where I was last week for three days in order to gather ideas and resources that I might be able to share with congregations and pastors in our Minnesota North District. The hosts for this conference were the members of Christ Lutheran Church in Phoenix. (There you have the where and the who along with the why!)
From the moment I stepped on to their church grounds until the moment I left each day, those brothers and sisters in Christ DID HOSPITALITY! How’s this for starters and for an illustration of their massive hospitality? On Thursday for lunch and dinner; on Friday for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and, on Saturday for breakfast and lunch – this congregation prepared and served the approximately 1,200 attendees all of those meals for FREE (as in “free” as in “not even a free-will offering to help cover the expense – and the food was excellent)! Did you need a ride somewhere? They would gladly take you! Need help finding your way around their church grounds? Just ask anyone wearing an orange shirt with “Ask Me” on it! Need to see a genuine smile on someone’s face? They were all over the place. And like the food, they were being given for FREE!
By the way – did I mention that they served us Root Beer floats for break Thursday afternoon and Ice Cream Sundaes for the break Friday afternoon (along with an abundance of more healthier alternatives such as fruit and tree-ripened grapefruit)?
Friends, I know this is an extraordinary example of Christian hospitality, and it
was all done in the name of Christ, to the glory of Christ, and to the building of
But I pray their example inspires us and encourages us to seek to be the absolute best practitioners and doers of hospitality that we can possibly be in our own congregations when guests and visitors come calling to our church home. It’s a great way to share the love of Christ. It’s a great way to create an atmosphere which beckons guests and visitors to come back again and again to hear the Word of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ. And it does bring Him honor and glory when we do it in His name.
Who knows? They may even ask as I did with regards to your church: “Is this heaven?”
“No, it’s just our church home. But, I’d love to share with you how you can have eternal life in heaven!”
In Christ and His welcoming Hospitality and Love,
Rev. David Strohschein
Mission and Ministry Facilitator
Minnesota North District - LCMS