“Home.” It is a word most of us speak or hear daily and perhaps hourly. It of course has different meanings depending on usage and context. When we use “home” personally, it refers to our residence; a place with at a minimum, a kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. I suspect that I am like most reading this article in that “house” and “home” were one and the same to me as a child developing language skills. In my case, “home” meant the same house to which my parents brought me from the hospital until I went away to college. Only when I had grown up did I fully appreciate the blessing this was, especially since that stability had been in jeopardy because when I was about five years old, because my father’s business went under and my parents had to take out a second mortgage.
What if we had no home? For me, that reality had perhaps not been so remote at one point, as I came to learn. Or what if home was far away? The Bible and today’s headlines are full of stories of such people.
You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:19
One well-known example of an uprooted people is the ancient Hebrews, who were forever wandering or captive. As a result, they were often removed from their beloved homeland. Part of each weekly staff meeting involves sharing devotions, which we take turns leading. My most recent opportunity came up last Tuesday, when I reminded my colleagues of the various Jewish exoduses. It gave me a chance to both reflect on my own recent trip to Italy and share my love of opera. I played for them a video recording of the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco. This simple tune of longing almost instantly became an anthem of national pride for Italians and remains so 175 years after Nabucco’s debut, despite its setting among a different people in a far-off land and time. In this case, the “home” was a nation, which perhaps is most relevant today to those refugee from war-torn Syria or places where gang violence is prevalent, such as much of Central America and Colombia.
This summer, members and staff of Westminster are engaged in learning and conversations to determine what we can do to be a place that welcomes the stranger. There are many, many considerations and it is far from being as simple as just hanging a sign that says “immigrants welcome” (though our signs have indeed drawn in worship visitors who have told us the signs made them feel comfortable!). Of course, we’ve been providing a temporary home for families for quite some time by hosting Greater Des Moines Family Promise. These families move into a permanent home after exiting the program. We’ve been part of helping over 100 men, women and children find a home. Last year we made a commitment to finance construction of two “tiny homes” in support of JOPPA’s planned housing communities for Des Moinesians experiencing homelessness. (It turns out that we’ll have an opportunity to actually build these houses; stay tuned to future newsletters for details.)
What does your heart tell you to do to in order to be hospitable? To what is prayer guiding you in thoughts and actions?
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
Is it important for you to meet the “angels” you are comforting? Or is it enough to know that your contributions (monetary or otherwise) are providing a safe place for someone in need?
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6.
There are plenty of opportunities and no shortage of need.