Before moving to Costa Rica four years ago, we lived for a year with Scott’s mom and dad. I learned a lot of important things in that time, but maybe the most important lesson was about food and hospitality. The two go hand in hand. One thing I observed over the year was that in the Freeman house there was always food and there was always enough. People were constantly coming and going and whoever came through the door was given a place at the table and something to eat. Scott’s mom, Arliss, is the queen of cooking large amounts of food – she somehow always knows that she’s going to need extra. As I watched food nourish the bodies and souls of her guests, I could see the atmosphere she was creating – one where everyone felt welcome and everyone felt at home. I can’t help but think Christ is so pleased with her. If he happened to walk through her door disguised as a homeless person, he would be treated as an honored guest.
This is one of the things I took with me as we moved to Costa Rica and it’s become almost an unwritten rule in my heart. If someone walks through my door, I will welcome and feed them, no matter what. There are months when I don’t know if I even have enough for my own family, but those are times when my faith is stretched. And somehow there is always enough. See, that’s the thing with being a missionary. Every single thing we have is given to us, and so we have to hold everything with open hands. Nothing belongs to me, it is all the Lord’s. Who am I to know that maybe something was given to me, not for me, but for someone else? Maybe I’m given an extra gift that is not intended for me, but given so that I can bless someone else? And there seems to be something about food that binds people’s hearts together. Eating together creates community. I think that’s why it’s included as one of the main activities of the early church.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
Teaching and prayer we know about. But fellowship (hanging out) and breaking of bread (sharing a meal)? Yes, those are just as important!
Right now there are a few teenage boys who seem to enjoy being with our family. They like to come over and hangout sometimes. They’ve come to know that they are always welcome, and if I have food I will always share with them. In fact, I actually love feeding them because it makes them so happy! And so I’ve earned the title of “Mama Leslie.” I have to think that the only way someone will call me “Mama Leslie” is if I treat that person as a son. The other day two boys came over and I gave them some food. We sat and talked after eating and one boy began to open up and talk about some painful things. He talked about how he felt when his cousin, the person closest to him, like a brother, died less than a year ago. He shared about how he felt when it happened, how he still thinks about it, how he doesn’t feel like he’s doing ok with God anymore. He showed such a vulnerability that I have never seen from him before.
They say that food is the way to a man’s heart. I think it is. If you want an invitation to speak to someone’s heart, feed them first. Welcome them as family.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” Matthew 25:35