A few weeks after being in Melbourne I spoke at a local Church for the first time. When remembering that Sunday it wasn’t the message that comes to my mind however but what happened that afternoon. The Pastor and his wife invited me along with the missionary couple I was staying with at the time to come over for lunch that afternoon. What was expected to be a two or maybe three hour visit at the most ended up being just over five hours with us leaving their home at 6:00 (at that time they didn’t have an evening service).
Of course we didn’t eat for five hours although that would have been fun. Instead you sit and have a chat or watch sports to start, eat lunch, go into the lounge and talk for a bit which is followed by coffee and dessert, then playtime if your a kid or naptime if your an adult, the occasional movie, and maybe a game. It isn’t always necessary to stay that long but is customary to stay at least three hours for a Sunday afternoon lunch.
That experience introduced me to the ancient lost art of hospitality which involves making a meal for a large group of people and having an extended time of fellowship at your home. This has many forms such as eating a dinner then watching a rugby game (nothing says Christian fellowship like watching men beat each other senseless), playing a board game which I wrote about in the past, having a Bible Study, or loudly singing praise songs in Arabic (and yes that did happen to me, they are all Christian friends but jokingly said its rough interpretation was “we are going to blow up this American.”)
Hospitality isn’t just about having people over for a meal either. If someone comes over for a visit your obligated to offer them the comfortable chair, a cup or coffee or tea, and a tim tam or other tasty treat followed by at least a ten minute chat. Failure to do this will result in losing the Kangaroo tied up in your back yard (just kidding).
This focus on hospitality raises some challenges for me as a single missionary serving in Melbourne since my idea of cooking always starts with those famous words “preheat the oven.” Now sure people coming to my house probably aren’t thinking “wow I wonder what culinary masterpiece John has whipped up for us tonight!” but at the same time there is a need to offer something a little better than spicy wedges
Editors Note: Spicy wedges are those thick french fries cut into wedge shapes and obviously are quite hot…please don’t make fun of spicy wedges or I will have to drive over to your house and cook you a meal…don’t tempt me….. I will do it
The thing is hospitality isn’t really about the meal (unless you serve biscuits and gravy) but about slowing down and spending quality time with friends. While I truly love and miss the United States my time in Melbourne has taught me that most Americans are far too busy. Scheduling a night once or twice a month even to have people over and have fun will do wonders for not only relationships but your personal life as well. So do yourself a favor and invite some friends for a night of hospitality, just make sure to have plenty of spicy wedges.