The heart of hospitality

When I think about hospitality, I think about providing space for people to feel seen and valued.  I used to think being hospitable meant setting a perfect atmosphere, making an elaborate meal or being an amazing party planner.  Those are all great things but I’ve learned that they aren’t at the core of hospitality.  I believe the focus of hospitality shouldn’t be about entertaining people, it should be about loving people.

When loving people is the focus, it relieves us of a lot of pressure.  Sometimes loving people does look like planning a beautiful party with all their favorite things so they feel loved and celebrated.  Sometimes loving people looks like opening your home and heart to them at the end of a long day when your house is a mess and you’ve been in the same work out clothes since 8am.  When people leave our home or our presence, the thing that will impact them the most is not how we look but how theyfeel.

Growing up in Hawaii, true hospitality has been modeled in so many ways for my husband and I.  Island culture is centered around family.  We grew up knowing that we could treat our friends homes like our own homes.  Everyone close to you is your Auntie or Uncle and the term “what’s mine is yours” was very literal.  I watched my parents always making room for people in our home.  In starting our own family, these are values that have become so important to us. 

Tiger (my husband) and I have three children and are full-time missionaries with an organization called Youth With a Mission.  We live in Kona, Hawaii and serve with one of the largest missions sending bases in the world.  We help lead a fitness ministry called Respect the Corners, which trains and sends coaches as missionaries to hard-to-reach nations.  Although there are a lot of different things we do within missions, I would say our primary job description is leadership development/discipleship.

What this means is that a lot of our time and energy involves mentoring young people (primarily 18-25 year olds).  However, our leadership responsibilities have become less of a job and more of a life-calling that has changed the way we see people.  What we’ve found is that people are longing for family.  Young and old, people are longing to be seen and valued and to have vulnerable relationships.  We’ve found that people’s lives are transformed when they’re in an environment where they feel welcomed and wanted and unconditionally loved.

A normal day for me is very full: full of children and people that I love and lots of opportunities to be hospitable.  When Tiger goes to work on the YWAM campus, my morning is spent doing homeschool with my three kids and a few of Tiff’s kids.  It’s such a privilege to create a space for for these little world-changers as we learn and grow together.  I’d say at least three days per week I have time with one or a few girls during my kids’ nap time.  They come over while I clean or cook and I help them process whatever’s going on in their lives, pray for them, love them, etc.  And most nights people either come over for dinner or stop by to say hi.  We joke now that we have a revolving door and we truly love it.

There are a few local boys from our apartment complex who also come over almost every.  They’re 5,6 and 7 and started coming over to play with our kids.  I found out that their mom passed away a few years ago and they’re being raised by their grandmother along with a few cousins.  Tiger and I have committed to creating space for them in our family.  We told their grandma that the boys are always welcome, they’ll never be a burden. When they come over, we all cheer.  It brings me so much joy when they walk in the door and open our fridge because I know they feel at home.  They know we love them. 

I should also mention that we have a rather small two bedroom apartment.  We live very simply and don’t have a huge budget to cook fancy meals every night.  But the space that we do have, the food that we have and the love that we have is given freely to everyone who walks through our door.  I have dreams of owning a huge home with lots of rooms that I can fill with people who need healthy family.  And yet I’ve found that when you’re faithful to love the ones in front of you, it doesn’t matter as much how much space you have or that your house is perfectly put together.  People are happy to come sit on our floor or at the kids table or to sleep on our couch. They always feel valued and loved, especially on their hard days.

Which leads me to an important point: Tiger and I wouldn’t be able to do any of this if we hadn’t first understood how much God sees us and values us and loves us.  Not too long ago, we were both very broken people.  We were searching for value in a lot of unhealthy ways.  And then we met Jesus. 

For me, hospitality is really just doing for others what Jesus has done for us.  When I was at my worst, Jesus saw me and loved me.  He showed me my worth by dying for me so that I could live in Him.  He sets a table before us and there is always more room at His table.  With a revelation of this kind of love, you can’t help but to be hospitable.  When we know our own value, we’ll start to realize there are so many significant ways we can invite people and help show them theirs. 

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Creating home