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June Activate Post: Hospitality habits: Be our guest


Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 14:11

Just one day before the royal wedding of Dutch and Duchess of Sussex last month, Oprah Winfrey made an unexpected attire change. The change was not due to a wardrobe malfunction, but to avoid a fashion faux-pas as an invited guest. Oprah’s selected dress for the wedding—ivory in color— apparently would have appeared white on film, thereby clashing with regal nuptial etiquette, so she made the last-minute decision to wear another dress in a different color.

In the end, Oprah changed her outfit as a gesture reciprocal hospitality.

In the gospels, Jesus is often found telling His followers great stories about how to welcome the stranger and outsiders as a means of hospitality. And, under a closer lens, there are even times when Jesus instructs us about how to be a gracious guest.

In Oprah’s act of kindness as an invited guest can be found a few fundamental lessons for anyone engaged in Christ’s mission. Whether working to replace a roof across town or helping to build wells in Middle Eastern desert lands, manners matter. It may take great restraint and a little bit of homework to develop and refine the gift of reciprocal hospitality. Here are a few tips.

Choose conscious over comfortable. Be intentionally conscious of your cultural surroundings and less concerned about your level of comfort. Sleeveless shirts, open-toe shoes, and skirts above the knees can be highly offensive in some cultures. Research the region to which you plan to travel and know the fashion pleasantries and pitfalls. As a general rule, dress in layers. And, if you are tight on luggage space, ladies, a simple scarf can spare you grief and embarrassment.

Be grateful. When traveling abroad, be aware that many people have made sacrifices you will never know about to provide for your basic needs. A clean bed, an indoor shower, bottled water, and a simple meal are some examples. Offer words or gestures of thanksgiving, and then graciously accept the lumpy bed, the cold shower, and the bowl of room-temperature rice. To reject a host’s hospitality is simply rejecting an opportunity to be stretched and transformed. Isn’t that part of the reason you are willing to travel to new places and experience new things?

Be adaptable. After having flown across the Atlantic Ocean, not attending the wedding was not a viable option for Oprah, I am sure. Go with a plan written in pencil, not in pen. Things will disrupt your Western-cultured itinerary. The flight may be delayed. The worship experience may last three hours. The rainy season may pour on your parade. Adapt, adjust, and embrace the adventure. With every schedule shift, the Holy Spirit may be trying to draw our attention. Try to hear Jesus speaking, “Be my guest!”

Regina H. Moore is a TMS Global consultant working with the church ministry team. She is a member of the North Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church as an ordained elder. A former young-adult missionary who has preached and taught the Holy Gospel with a passion for social justice in more than 20 countries, Regina lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband, Nick.