Never Underestimate the Power of Simple Hospitality
“I DON’T THINK THEY PLANNED to have me over to convert me,” John recalls. “But they told me the Thanksgiving story and shared their food: Ten minutes of story and three hours of food. Real people sitting together. I like cooking. I wanted to know everything about cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, pies, everything!“ John says with a smile.
Even more than the food, though, John was amazed to see 3 generations gathered together at Thanksgiving. “I saw interactions between family--grandfather with grandchildren. Father talked to sons like friends. Older brother talked to younger brother like friends. And mother smiled. That’s missing in my family. It’s different. “
What began with a Thanksgiving meal turned into an open invitation on Friday nights for John to join his new friend, John Christiansen, to ask any questions he had, and to practice his English. Together they saw the movie, Apollo 13. He was so touched by his openness, his generosity, and his availability over the next 3 years. John recounts, “I saw something in the Christiansen’s. I always felt part of their family even though I had nothing to give back to them.”
Before Thanksgiving with the Christiansen’s, John’s faith journey began his first week in Philadelphia by refusing three invitations by campus missionaries to attend church. A few months later his neighbor invited him twice to church. He finally went, looking for something, but he was not sure what—maybe friendship.
John became a believer several months later at a Christian conference in Massachusetts, many thanks to retired pastor, Jay Hood. Jay spent time with John, listening to him, patiently answering questions and driving John 8 hours to attend the conference.
John encourages us to continue to invite others to church or to our homes for a meal. “Don’t be afraid to be refused. It’s normal. People refuse for different reasons. ‘I have shame,’ ‘I cannot speak English well, ’ ‘I have other things to do.’ The fifth time I was invited to church I went. From that day on I never missed a Sunday.”
Today, the Ko family always hosts Thanksgiving, inviting others to their home to share the same hospitality that John was granted in his early years in Philadelphia. Meilin, John’s wife, agrees. “Thanksgiving is a really good time to invite others. Eating around a table as a family feels very warm. That would be a very unforgettable holiday for them,” she adds. It is a reminder for us that with a little food, a little time, and a listening ear, we can open our homes, share our lives, and touch hearts for God’s Kingdom.