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The year before, a French family came to visit for a few days, and we all bonded immediately despite the language barrier. We shared fondue, homemade French quiche, and chocolate chip cookies, which turned out to be a huge hit! After carving pumpkins together and celebrating a birthday with them, we were all sad to say good-bye. As they put on their shoes to leave, I told them that the most important thing in our life was knowing Jesus—not in a religious way, but in an authentic, personal way. Thanks to God’s provision, we just happened to have a Christian tract in French to share with them. Before they left, Kerry asked if he could pray for them. Our two families gathered in a circle in our front room and held hands while Kerry asked the Lord to bless them. When we opened our eyes, everyone in their family was crying, even the father who had turned to face the window so we wouldn’t see his tears. The Lord had touched their hearts. We have stayed in close touch with them, and we look forward to the day when we will be reunited.
In this unique family ministry, even though our children are young, they play a significant role. They change the sheets with us, help prepare the food, and often make signs to welcome visitors so they don’t feel like strangers. One darling young lady from Vietnam took the bus to our street and then walked up the front steps, lugging her backpack. As she approached our house, I saw her take out her camera and snap pictures of our front door. The kids had covered the door with homemade signs welcoming her “home.” She had tears in her eyes when I opened the door to greet her.
We joke that when our kids grow up, they will either have houseguests all the time, or they will never have a visitor for the rest of their lives. Their childhood is being defined by the internationals streaming through. Our children are homeschooled, and many assume they are completely sheltered from the world. If they only knew. Our kids are exposed to people from other countries, cultures, religions, languages, and worldviews. They have played basketball with Chinese twins. They have gone grocery shopping with Slovenians. Charlie played football to the cheers of French children. In fact, now we prefer to say we global-school our children, because they are exposed to so many cultures through our houseguests and international travel of our own.
We’re often asked, “With all those strangers in your house, how do you know the children will be safe?” The obvious answer is, we don’t. But how do we know they’ll be safe anytime, anywhere? Of course, we are cognizant of the risks involved in this ministry, but we have felt the Lord guiding us each step of the way. After all, Hebrews 13:2 tells us, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (NIV). The disciples were told to stay with strangers, and Paul couchsurfed his way through Asia. That being said, we always pray before accepting a visitor, and we have said no on occasion because we didn’t feel a peace about someone. Usually we accept only families, thinking that ax murders don’t usually travel with their kids. But, as Kerry notes, “If they did, that would be good cover!” So far, we’ve come out unscathed.
A powerful side benefit of our hospitality is that we are getting on-the-job training in evangelism. Recently we had a family visiting from Vietnam. The father had fought in the Vietnam War. We played NERF gun geography together (shooting guns at a giant map we have in our playroom), and he shot that NERF gun with a precision and intensity I have never seen before! He clearly was familiar with guns. At dinner that night, his daughter mentioned that they were Buddhists, but that all religions taught the same thing. I was thinking of how to respond, but said nothing while I waited for the right time. Later, my eight-year-old son said, “Mom, that lady said that all religions are the same. But they’re not. Why didn’t you say something?”
Wow. Why didn’t I say something? I let an opportunity to spread the truth about Jesus Christ go by. And my own son rightly challenged me on it. Before our Vietnamese guests left, my daughter wrote a small book about God for the young woman. She included drawings about the Bible with the gospel clearly presented. The truth is that as we open up our home to strangers, Kerry and I are trying to be missionaries, but our children are often the ones most effectively sharing the gospel. They are learning how to talk to people from all over the world, to listen to their stories, and, we hope, to share their faith better than their mother does sometimes!
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