In my missions organization, missionaries are required to raise their own budgets. This means that missionaries must set up their own services and receive pledges for monthly support as well as cash offerings. I like this model, although it means a lot of traveling for missionaries. While the financial support is necessary to what we do, being a missionary is taxing in other ways. While not everyone can do financial support, there are practical ways you can love a missionary. This series will outline a few of these.
I grew up in a pastor’s home. We lived in a small town where there was maybe one restaurant at the time. So when we had guest speakers or missionaries, they always came to our home for lunch after church.
I can remember the ritual very well. We would wake up to find mom dressed for church and chopping vegetables in the kitchen, the crockpot already on. The smell of roast still takes me back to eating Sunday dinner with curled hair and tights. The best thing about this was being invited to the table to hear the stories from the missionaries. The warmth of meeting part of my Christ-family who lived such different lives. Sharing a table with these amazing people was always such a treat.
I’m on the flip side now. Now I’m the missionary and I find the need for a sense of family and home hasn’t changed. I traveled constantly for almost two years, spending each weekend in a different place. I remember one fall afternoon driving for hours before stopping for a granola bar and opening Facebook to see everyone posting about warming up with home-cooked chili. I wanted to cry.
There is something really special about eating together around a table in a home. There is a love in home-cooked food that is so special – there’s something about taking off your shoes and your jacket and sitting in a chair with a smashed cushion around a table with dents and dings.
I know it’s a lot of work to prepare dinner for a Sunday afternoon when you have a million other things to think about on a Sunday morning. May I suggest a couple of solutions to this?
- Let someone else host. I am sure that in your congregation there is a person or a family with a great gift of hospitality. Allowing this person/family to host a lunch for the visiting missionaries is a great way to expand the care for missionaries into the body of Christ. Find someone in your church who loves cooking and hosting, and who has a clean home, and ask them to serve in this way. Join the missionary family at their home for lunch. Bonus points if they have a guest room where they can offer a nap.
- Keep it simple. I have said, and many other missionaries have agreed with me, that I would rather have tomato soup and grilled cheese in a home than a steak in a restaurant. Hospitality isn’t about making a grand show. It’s about a spirit of welcome and love. Tim Chester in his book “A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table” says this: “The focus of entertaining is impressing others; the focus of true hospitality is serving others…
- Get take-out. One of the families who hosted me for lunch stopped at KFC on the way home from church. And it was wonderful. I got to take my shoes off and relax around the table with this wonderful couple and their kids. The conversation was warm and relaxed. It was really memorable for me.
A few practical considerations:
- If you or the host doesn’t have children, invest in a few different age-range toys and/or some movies (or just pick up some crayons and blank paper!). Yeah, the missionary kids will probably have iPads or some other device but just room to stretch out and be noisy is an incredible relief for them.
- If you are hosting a family with a baby, offer a quiet room for them to set up their pack-n-play if they have one. If you’re hosting a mom who is still breastfeeding, invite her to feed the baby as needed and if possible provide a comfortable private area as well.
- If you are cooking, you might think to include a really kid-friendly option. These kids will eat whatever you make (lest their bottoms be blistered once they get to the mini-van) but an option to have pizza or hot dogs might really make their day.
- Move or secure any breakables. No one wants to stress out about this.
- Vegetables! Please make vegetables for us. Traveling a lot makes it difficult to get healthy food. I know it’s tempting to make the most buttery delicious thing you can think of, but I was desperate for vegetables when I was traveling. We eat a lot of ‘treat’ food itinerating so having a healthy meal is a huge relief.
- Check with the missionary ahead of time about any dietary issues. I can assure you 99% of missionaries do not want to trouble you with preferences – but if there is an allergy they will tell you.
- Again, simple is great. Soup and bread is wonderful. A substantial salad is awesome. Don’t let fear of not being fancy enough stop you from having this great experience.
Questions to Ask Ahead of Time:
- Will children be joining you? What are their ages?
- Do you have any allergies?
- If you or the host has a pet, ask about allergies.
- Will you have time to relax after lunch? (Sometimes we need to leave straight away for an evening service…this can help you determine what to offer for lunch.)