TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. Biblical Foundations and Practical Steps to Hospitality
B. Cross-Cultural Advice
C. When Muslims Come to Your Home
D. When You’re Invited to Their Home
E. What Can Our Church, Ministries and Groups Do to Reach Internationals and Immigrants through Hospitality?
A. Biblical Foundations of Hospitality
- A priority of Biblical cultures—spending time with people, sharing your home, heart, food with others.
- OT Examples—“Eat with us, stay with us”
- Gen. 18—Abraham welcomed & prepared food for 3 strangers—the Lord & 2 angels
- 1 Kings 17—widow made bread for Elijah, he stayed in her prophet’s room; God provided for her; son raised from dead
- 2 Kings 4—Woman provided meals & room for prophet Elisha, God gave her a son, whom Elisha later raised from the dead
- Esther 1:3-5; Daniel 5—feasts lasted for days/ weeks
- NT Examples—Important in Jesus’ ministry & early church
- Luke 5:27-32—Jesus at Levi’s—Jesus ate with those who were despised, to minister & teach about the Kingdom
- Luke 10:38-42—Jesus & disciples at Mary & Martha’s—good friends, to teach & minister
- Luke 19:1-10—Jesus at Zaccheus’; biggest compliment to Zac., to come to his home, to reach out & teach
- Acts 2:42-47—Christians ate together in homes to praise God & be united; the church grew
- NT Exhortations
- Matt. 25:35-40—I was hungry & you fed me, I was thirsty & you gave me a drink, a stranger & you invited me in—by doing it to others
- Rom. 12:13—practice & pursue hospitality, share with needy
- 1 Tim. 3:2, Titus 1:8—Elders must be…hospitable
- Heb. 13:2—show hospitality to strangers, may be angels
- 1 Peter 4:9—Be hospitable to one another without complaint or grumbling
- Rom. 12:7–Spiritual gift—some have it, comes easily, they really enjoy it & see much fruit; men included; but we all need to do it as part of the Body, to minister, evangelize, & befriend
Ministry of Hospitality
Open the door to your heart & your home; “make your home an instrument of ministry”; lets people know you want to share your home/heart/life with them
- Ministry to the Body of Christ—builds community, a need for MBBs
- Rom. 12:10—be devoted to each other; builds fellowship in the Body—how can we worship & grow together if we don’t know each other?
- Gal. 6:2—bear one another’s burdens—“we have not talked (heart talk) until we have eaten together” (old Arab proverb)
- Book of James—ministry to the sick, suffering & needy (meals, serve others, benevolence); there are a lot of lonely people in our churches
- James 1:27—taking care of widows & orphans = pure & faultless religion, accepted by God
- HOW? Home Bible studies, prayer groups, kids clubs, youth hang-outs; SS class parties, fellowship; meals with newcomers & good friends; house a college or exchange student; take meals to sick, take care of their kids; ______________________
- Ministry of outreach—to befriend & witness
- Hospitality accepts & allows people into your family/ circle
- Opens the door to share your faith naturally in a non-threatening environment; come to your home but not to church
- Shows people that you really care about them & their lives, when you invite them to your home
- HOW? Outreach Bible studies, kids clubs, youth hang-outs; neighborhood BBQs or block parties; meals with friends & newcomers; take meals to sick; ________________
- Ministry to internationals & new-comers to your community
- Hospitality is a high priority in most countries & cultures; Americans have lost the heart of hospitality
- Speaks volumes to people from other cultures (“No American has ever invited us over in 20 years”)
- Pray for a burden to reach internationals/ immigrants, & how to do that in your context
- Become a friend, stop by to visit, see where you can help out—where to shop, filling out forms, school work, help with English
- Learn how to share Christ with them, in their cultural/religious context, so not to offend them or build walls
- Adopt a foreign student or refugee
- Ministry to the Body of Christ—builds community, a need for MBBs
Hindrances to Hospitality—“CHAOS” (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome)
- “My home isn’t clean enough/ isn’t perfect/ isn’t big enough”—Your home doesn’t have to be perfect, just a comfortable place to welcome people.
- “I’m not a good cook”–You don’t have to be a master chef; just make basic food that fits the occasion, order out or get pick-up; it’s your fellowship & warm heart that count.
- “I’m too busy; I don’t have time”—We do need to slow down in our society and lives; pray that God helps you rearrange your schedule, & make the sacrifice.
- “Let’s go out for lunch” instead of “come over to my home”—OK on occasion, but it loses the heart of sharing your home with someone.
- Fear & insecurity–“I don’t know them very well” “What will they think of me?” “I don’t understand their culture; what if I do something wrong?” Ask God to give you the peace & security to share your life and home with others; they will not judge you, they will bless you for sharing.
- Language & cultural barriers
Action Points—“What must I do?”
- Review & study these notes more intently.
- Pray that God would give you an open heart & mind to show more hospitality.
- Begin to pray for someone you know who needs the ministry & service of hospitality, or that God would show you who needs this (someone who is sick, lonely, newcomer, needs a friend or parent figure, _______).
- Take care of & pray about any hindrances you have—get rid of clutter, learn to make 1 or 2 good meals or desserts, give your house a good cleaning, make room in your schedule, etc.
What do YOU need to do?
- Take the step & invite someone over. Start small & easy, with 2 or 3 friends, or a family you already know.
For tea? Lunch? Dinner? Event? _______________________________
What will you serve?________________________________________
Topics to discuss? __________________________________________
- Afterwards, answer these questions:
What went well? __________________________________________
How did the food go over? __________________________________
What could be changed or improved? _________________________ _______________________________________________________
How were people ministered to or how was fellowship deepened? ________________________________________________________
How did God bless you thru this? ____________________________
- Now plan to minister through hospitality again.
- Share this study/workshop with others at your church–ladies’ ministry, men’s ministry, Sun. School class, Bible study group, etc.
- Teach/model hospitality to your children, so they can carry it on; parents who practice hospitality grow hospitable children.
- Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome & Wanted by Karen Mains, IVP
- The Joy of Hospitality by Vonette Bright & Barbara Ball, New Life
- A Woman of Hospitality Topical Bible Study by Dee Brestin, Nexgen, Cook Communications
B. HOSPITALITY–CROSS-CULTURAL ADVICE TO BUILD BRIDGES TO MUSLIMS
If in doubt of what to do, ask them—“What do you do / how do you do this in your culture?” They are glad you want to learn!
Remember that Muslims come from many different countries, regions, & cultures that have different customs & food preferences.
C. WHEN MUSLIMS COME TO YOUR HOME
- Invitation—You can invite them personally or on the phone. Let them know if the invitation is for lunch, dinner, dessert, or tea; & the time. Ask if they have any food restrictions or need “halal” meat. Be sure to invite their children—they will probably bring them anyway. It’s a good idea to call them the day before to remind them.
- Holidays are an excellent time to invite Muslims to your home; share the meaning of the holiday, especially if it has Christian roots (Thanksgiving) or is a Christian holiday. Explain symbols (tree, star, lights, bells) or decorations that you have on display.
- Prepare your family for their visit—discuss what to expect, that they will do things differently.
- Learn something about their country in advance—books from library, current events, travel videos—don’t be a “dumb American.”
- Pets should not be allowed in the house/room where you’re meeting; some cultures consider pets dirty or have no pets.
- Plan for a long time period for the meal—they won’t eat & run; develop an “exit strategy.”
- Remove missionary pictures & prayer letters from view.
- Do not place a Bible on the floor or lower than your waist; don’t use it as a decoration. Muslims have a high respect for the Qur’an, & we should show respect for the Holy Bible. If you have a visible Qur’an, place it on a top shelf; never put it on the floor or a low place.
- Remove offensive literature, evangelism books, etc., but offer them tracts or books if the conversation leads that way.
- Do not display immodest photos—such as people in bathing suits or skimpy clothes.
How to Dress
Many Muslim cultures consider American TV shows as the image of Americans, especially women—skimpy clothes, bed-hopping, promiscuous, flirty, etc. (such as Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Next Top Model, Desperate Housewives, etc.) Therefore, show them that this is not the Christian version of Americans.
- Style of clothes & amount of jewelry indicate a person’s status.
- Men should dress in long pants or jeans; short sleeves are fine, but do not wear shorts or T-shirts. Button or polo shirts are better.
- Women should wear long pants or capris or a skirt below the knees; short sleeves are usually acceptable, but avoid sleeveless or low neck tops. No cleavage should show; avoid tight-fitting clothes. Even if Muslim women do not dress conservatively, they link it to godliness & good morality. Sit in a conservative modest way.
- Most Muslims do not wear shoes in their own homes; you may want to be barefoot or just wear socks when they come.
Arrival & Greeting
- Time Orientation–Expect the guests to arrive late (some cultures) or to cancel if a closer relationship requires their presence. The later they arrive, the more important they are. Do not be frustrated if they arrive “late”; do not have the meal ready to serve at the time you’ve told them to come. Be forgiving if they don’t come at all.
- Greetings—Try to have both husband & wife (if married) greet the guests at the door. Some people will shake hands–do not shake the hand of a person from the opposite gender unless they offer their hand to you first. Others will greet you with a “cheek kiss”, men-to-men, women-to-women, especially if you know them well.
- Language–Try to learn a greeting in their language; this will show them that you are trying very hard to be a good friend & showing interest in them & their homeland. If they have children, allow their children to teach you a few words, such as how to count to 5. The kids will love it!
- Avoid prolonged eye contact with the opposite gender. Often Muslim men will flirt openly with American women.
- Avoid being alone with the opposite gender.
- Many guests will bring a gift; if they do, accept it graciously. Do not receive a gift with your left hand; use both hands. The left hand is used to do “dirty work”. If they bring food or beverage, serve it during the meal. If they give you a religious item, put it aside, you can discard it later.
- Have a spot available inside the door for them to remove their shoes.
Before the Meal
- Seat the guests in the living room or family room; do not rush to the table immediately. You could serve appetizers, such as pieces of fruit, nuts, munchies, or a beverage. Enjoy conversation for a short time before serving the meal.
- Do not take them on a tour of your home. Certain areas are considered private in their homes, & it would not be acceptable to see your entire house. They may consider it “showing off.”
- If the guests bring their children & you have children, be sure your children are present when the guests arrive. Have them join you during this time, or they could take the guests’ children to another room until the meal is served.
- Do not sit with the bottom of your shoes showing, if you have shoes on; it is a sign of disrespect.
- During the first couple of visits, do not ask the woman to join you in the kitchen, unless she asks to help or to come into the kitchen; that comes later in the relationship.
At the Table/ During the Meal
- Seating may be different in their culture & show their position in the family or community. Gender & age may impact where they feel comfortable sitting. If possible, allow them to select their seat at the table. If you are hosting a large group with 2 or more tables, the genders may separate.
- Give thanks before the meal—explain “It is our custom to thank God for our food.” Pray in the name of Jesus; they’ll respect you. No need to hide your faith.
- Observe cultural differences of how they eat their food—use a soup spoon, fingers, with bread.
- Have soup spoons available to eat with.
- You may need to serve them by putting food on their plates; or tell them “It is our custom to … pass foods to serve ourselves,… to eat salad first, …”
- When asked if they want more, “no” may mean they don’t want to be a burden, so ask several times; in some cultures, it’s polite to say no at first.
- Don’t be offended if they don’t eat your food, especially children, older adults, or those who haven’t been in U.S. for a long time—it may be new & different. They may leave food on their plates.
Food Suggestions for Muslims
Their nationality will determine the types of food they will eat.
Show Honor to your guests by serving a nice meal with good food. It will show them that you care about them & honor them.
- Collect some international recipes, a cookbook or 2—More for Less by Mennonites is excellent, or look online, see recipe sample sheets.
- OK to serve American foods, but have something they’ll like—salad or veggie platter is safe.
- Try to make some food from their country—they will think you are wonderful & thoughtful; practice in advance, let your family try it.
- For Muslims, DO NOT serve pork, sausage, or ham; NO shell fish, hot dogs, ice tea, creamed salads, jello, marshmallows.
- Rice usually works; green salads, lamb, beef, & chicken are fine, unless they are vegetarian.
- Some cultures eat bread or pita with the meal.
- Yogurt is often served with or after the main dish, to take away the hot spicy taste.
- Dessert—fresh fruit, ice cream, almond or lemon cake, brownies, pie; they often like American desserts, but not sweet icing.
- Serve water, juice, or coke with the meal, usually not tea or coffee; most will not use ice; never serve alcoholic drinks.
- Tea or coffee is served after dinner; ask what they prefer; have several kinds of tea on hand—plain black or green, mint, chai.
- BBQs & eating outdoors are very popular with many Muslims, especially those who come from countries where the weather is warm much of the year. This is a good way to have several families over for a casual meal, with space for the children to play. Some of the men may want to help grill.
- Words to avoid—missionary, missions, evangelism, target group, witness, crusades, denominations of churches, ….
- Do not degrade Muhammad or Islam in any way; this is not the time to debate religions, but to share your heart & home.
- Do not discuss Islamic terrorism or Sept. 11, unless they bring it up.
- Even though you’ll want to avoid personal topics, they may ask you:
–How much money do you make?
–How much did you pay for your house?
–Have you lost/ gained weight?
–To singles—Are you planning to get married?
–To couples without children—Are you going to have children? Or Why haven’t you had children yet?
–What do you think about the current president? About his foreign policy?
- Conversation starters:
–If they compliment you on your home or something you have, reply “God has blessed us with this” or “Our parents have been very kind.”
–A custom we have is to read the Bible & pray together.
–We monitor what our kids watch on TV/ internet because we want them to live godly lives.
–The Holy Bible says … or Jesus taught us that ….
–If they share a concern or burden with you, offer to pray for them in Jesus’ name.
- Be a learner & a listener—ask affirmative questions, show genuine interest; avoid personal questions; Examples to ask: How is your family? Do you still have family back in (home country)? How long have you been in the U.S.? How are your children adjusting to school/community/new home? How can we help you adjust to life here? (if they’ve been here a short time)
- Do not joke or tease—their sense of humor will be different from ours & humor is the last thing to understand in a new language; they could feel ridiculed or insulted; puns never work.
- Let them stay as long as they like, within reason; don’t rush them out the door, clear your schedule; have an “exit strategy.”
- Don’t be surprised if your friends drop in to visit unannounced—it’s a compliment to you; adjust your schedule; serve tea, fruit, nuts, cookies; but be honest if you have to be somewhere on time.
- Always have a couple cans or boxes of quick-to-prepare foods & cookies or nuts on hand, in case someone drops in for a meal.
- If a Muslim man (or MBB) comes to your home, but your husband is not home, do not ask him to come in; tell him when he can come back to see your husband. And vice-versa for a woman visitor. You always want to be “above board” & very wise in your relationships with Muslims. Some nationalities have a huge problem with gossip.
D. WHEN YOU’RE INVITED TO THEIR HOME:
You may want to eat at an ethnic restaurant first, to sample the type of foods they may serve you.
- Ask if you should bring your family (children); most cultures will expect your children to come, but don’t force them; prepare your family for the visit—“The way they do things is NOT wrong, it’s just different.”
- Do not arrive early; instead arrive a few minutes late. They won’t mind, unless they have been in the U.S. a long time or consider themselves “American.”
- Plan to spend a long time there; don’t eat & run or it will insult them; clear your schedule.
- Take a small gift the first time you go—flowers, candy, fruit basket, dried fruit & nuts, American goodies (brownies, cookies, muffins;) never alcohol.
- Remove your shoes when you enter their home, especially if they are not wearing shoes, or you see shoes near the door.
- Be careful about compliments & admiring their things—they may think you’re coveting or be obligated to give it to you; “You have a nice home” is adequate.
- They may prepare food after you arrive; the woman will be in the kitchen; do not offer to help unless you become good friends or unless she has helped you.
- Observe cultural differences—may sit on floor with tablecloth on floor or a low table; woman & kids may eat later or in the kitchen.
- If they serve snacks before the meal, eat slowly & talk with host.
- Remember—the meal & talk are the main event.
- Follow their lead—sit where they indicate, wait to be served or until food is offered; OK to reach for things with some cultures, so they aren’t put in a servant position.
- You are expected to try what they serve (smile & eat!); they may serve you without asking; tell them if you’re allergic or have health restrictions.
- Remember their table manners won’t be the same as Americans.
- After friendship is established, it is OK to drop-in on them—it’s a great compliment to them—like Jesus & Zaccheus.
E. What Can Our Church/Ministries/Groups Do to Reach Internationals/ Immigrants through Hospitality?
- Plan international events & invite internationals—Christmas party or meal, newcomers luncheon, “Women from Around the World” lunch or dinner—include a testimony from an international who has come to Christ, dress in national dress or costumes.
- Organize English as a Second Language classes or tutoring in English; include intro to American foods, but also serve snacks from their country; have holiday parties.
- Sponsor a cooking class—teach American cooking, ask internationals to teach how to make their food.
- Adopt an immigrant family, provide an apartment with supplies; accept them, provide their needs (contact World Relief or other refugee resettlement organization).
- Adopt a people-group to focus on one nationality or culture in your community—What nationality is not being reached for Christ?
- Invite international college students to church homes for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring break, when dorms & dining halls are closed; include them in your family activities; use as an opportunity to share faith thru holidays and customs.
- Begin a fellowship group or congregation in their own language.
- Invite a missionary to train your church/group how to reach this nationality, or to speak to a meeting of that nationality.
- Include an international event with your Missions Conference, with international foods & friends.