I KNOW that I should be more friendly and hospitable, but I feel so self-conscious that I freeze up. I simply do not know what to say." I could hardly believe my ears, for this was a good friend of mine, as well as the wife of a very personable minister who was speaking. Although this was a shocking confession, she voiced the sentiments of many of us ministers' wives.
Among the varied talents there is one that needs special development. The pastor's wife should be "given to hospitality." There are really no excuses for coming short here. Hospitality simply means meeting the needs of our brethren putting them at ease, providing comfort, expressing love and kindness. Jesus said, "Anything you did for one of my brothers here, how ever humble, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40, N.E.B.).*
It is easy for us to make the usual excuses: "I work and I don't have time to cook anything fancy," "I am too tired to entertain guests," or "I am too busy doing missionary work to have a Sabbath guest." Yet in our hearts we want to be hospitable, kind, and thoughtful. We should remember that when we are too busy to be hospitable, we are too busy! Sabbaths are to be a delight, and what better way is there to enjoy the Sabbath than in companionship with our Christian friends?
A dinner need not be fancy, but it should be nutritious and well balanced. Meal planning can be simple and informal, carried on without "hustle and bustle" in a restful, relaxed atmosphere. Even though we are tired, rather than permit an out-of-town guest to go to a restaurant or lonely room, how much better to say, "We would love to have you come home and have lunch with us. We plan to eat and then rest before returning to MV or the vesper hour." (Many times I have taken people home for dinner and then have had them happily volunteer to help us with some of our adventurous missionary projects.) Step right up and invite them. It is far better to have had several invitations extended than to apologize later with, "I thought some one else would ask."
Play "Lonely Faces" Game
I was once very shy, never quite sure what to say to people. Although naturally comfortable with my husband, I rarely had that built-in comfort nearby. Then one day I was impressed to think of the many others who must be shy or lonely. What a wonderful change came to me when I began to forget self and think of others. Now I play a highly spiritual game. I look around the church for lonely faces. The faces may be those of new members who dread returning home to blaring radios, TV, and family ridicule, or of members from out of town who have come to visit relatives who are nonchurch members. There may be the faces of students many miles from home, who can look forward only to an empty dormitory room and an empty stomach if they fail to get to the cafeteria. There may be those newly baptized members who no longer have their old associates, or the new denominational workers who simply seem lost in the sea of too-busy members. There are also faces of people who are gaining their first impressions as to what Seventh-day Adventists are really like.
Entertaining is looked upon as a pleasure in our home. The children help set the table, get extra chairs, and assist as hosts. I personally prefer to set all the food on the table at once and sit down with the guests. The food is then served with the least amount of effort. When unexpected arrivals increase the number of guests, I eliminate the danger of running out of food by serving individual plates. Even when the food is served family style one or two extra places are usually provided just in case someone drops in unexpectedly. Imagine their pleased surprise!
Train Others to Be Hospitable
The minister's wife cannot by herself meet all the hospitality needs of a church. But there are others who will share the experiences if they only know they are needed. Some will need a few suggestions, for there are those in our churches who want to entertain but don't know how. A woman in one of our churches was at a loss to know how to prepare food for vegetarians. How happy I was to list a number of excellent protein foods, and she was glad to learn that well-balanced vegetarian meals could be easily prepared with foods already on hand.
The pastor's wife will do well to allow the wives of the elders an opportunity to share in hospitality arrangements. Many of these women make outstanding hostesses, or are willing to learn.
In one of my husband's districts, the first elder's wife was not only very hospitable, but had a kind loving spirit that was contagious. She had encouraged the other women in the church to do likewise. With her, entertaining was a wholesale enjoyable feat. We are told by God's servant that if we were more loving, more kind, benevolent, and tenderhearted there would be one hundred won to Christ where now there is only one. A loving church is a fertile field for soul winning. When these women realized that hospitality could be an evangelistic tool they intensified their project to include all guests. One newly baptized member later testified, "I did not mean to become an Adventist, but these people were so nice!"
There are many ways of being hospitable we may offer transportation, provide a bed for an out-of-town guest, or help relieve overburdened mothers. We can find many opportunities to make others happy.
In making others happy and comfortable by our hospitality we are following the example of the woman of Shunem who lived long ago. She not only "constrained him [Elisha] to eat bread," but she encouraged her husband to "make a little chamber . . . and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick" (2 Kings 4:8-10).
As it is written:
"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb. 13:2).
* From The New English Bible. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1970. Reprinted by permission.