Conversations. We have them all the time! After all, how could we offer hospitality without one? But, have you ever thought of conversation itself as an act of hospitality?
Over the last few years our traditional ways of hospitality have not been made easier ... In fact, those of us who are, ahem, less inclined to issuing invitations for dinner, or baking homemade cookies to give away, have found some relief! And giving a wide berth to fellow side-walk users? Well, good physical distancing, of course!
But we are not off the hook.
Hospitality can be as simple as a greeting. An open face and eye contact. A smile and a nod. Saying Hello! to that neighbour when we’re taking out the garbage (we’re the relatively new ones on the block in this corner of Toronto.) A Good morning! when we pass a new face as we take our daily walk around the block.
1. Greeting is the most basic form of hospitality.
Greeting is the most basic form of hospitality. It is acknowledging the existence of a person who is loved and created by God. It is a way of saying:
I see you (as God also sees you)!
And so, we’ve been practicing. Recently, as a family we were walking to the local playground, passing a busy intersection. We nodded and greeted a woman walking towards us, making eye contact with her. She seemed even more eager than us to make conversation! Self-announcing: “I’m a newcomer to Canada!” and asking for help in finding directions. It turns out she is a speaker of the Twi language of Ghana and was going to look at a new work opportunity nearby.
What if the person you are greeting is new to your neighbourhood… new to this country like our ‘neighbour’ was? We are the faces of this new home they have arrived in—often very unexpectedly. We are the voices they hear. The ears that listen to them.
2. Listening to a Person’s Story
Listening to a person’s story is a powerful act of welcoming others and can provide a safe place for them to be open.
Where are you from? Beginning with a simple question can open up a fascinating conversation where you begin to learn about or connect with things you already know about their homeland, especially if done in a sensitive way. Put yourself in their shoes: How might you want someone else to relate to your experiences? Avoiding the more direct (and potentially threatening) how? and why? questions, you could try something like this:
- I can imagine that leaving ___ and immigrating here might have been a stressful and difficult experience. What was that process like for you?
- I’ve heard of some of the difficulties in your country, and I wonder how that might have affected your story of coming here?
Their story might be different from yours or mine. But are there aspects of their story that ring a bell in yours?
3. Sharing our Stories
Sharing our stories in return invites others into our lives, much like inviting them into our homes.
More importantly, sharing stories together creates a shared space as sojourners together. This shared space between you can be the beginning or furthering of a friendship that is marked by mutual respect and is a place where we can encounter God’s Story together! As they say:
Everyone has a story to tell.
You. Me. God.
While I (Ramón) have always had a strong desire to share my faith since I became a follower of Jesus in my teens, my passion for sharing personally one-on-one had slowly faded more into the background over the years. Two years ago, I attended an introduction to personal and biblical storyweaving, and it has revolutionized my life!
The stories I've heard in training have helped me grow deeper in my relationship with God. And, it has transformed my outward focus. It has enabled me to renew my passion for sharing the good news.
Sharing stories that are timely and relevant has transformed evangelism as I knew it. Now, instead of seeking to make a pre-prepared gospel presentation, I start by deep listening and connecting to what the other person is going through. This enables me to understand how to help the person understand the gospel in a way that is directly relevant to their personal situation. This is an exciting and enjoyable process to be part of!
I have developed friendships with various people I’ve met through tennis meetups in the Toronto area where we now live. Over many encounters on the court and after matches, I have been able to listen as deeply as possible when I have taken the initiative to explore their story through conversation that invites them to go deeper. Many of these conversations have opened the door to share some stories from my life of how I have experienced God in my relationship with Him. Sometimes there is a story from the Bible that comes to mind that is directly relevant to what my friend has shared about his life. Because of the storyweaving training I've taken, I was ready to share the hope I have in a relational, relevant, and timely way.
Storyweavers Global equips followers of Jesus for various conversational approaches to sharing Bible stories. One of their practitioners, who lives in the city of Mumbai, describes it as a ministry of “connecting well with people, and helping them to connect well with God.” Isn’t this the basis of good conversations? Good spiritual conversations?
So how do we begin to have these types of conversations? How do we invite people into an encounter with the Living God? We begin in the ways that we were talking about above: Greetings. Inviting them to share their stories. Sharing our stories.
And then, being prepared to say: That reminds me of another story…. Can I share it with you?
After all, God’s Story is the ultimate act of hospitality. God becoming human, becoming a part of our story so that he could invite us into His Story of redemption and new life.
4. Telling a part of God’s Story
Telling a part of God’s Story, where the relevance begins in their story, can often be connected to our story, and connects well with a story (or proverb or psalm or epistle) from the Bible.
Telling a Bible story in our own words…
- Where the depth of what we share depends on how much they are willing or able to hear.
- Where we strive to remain connected to God himself, all the while asking Him for discernment and direction.
All these types of conversations offer gracious hospitality that can build lasting friendships, which lead to deeply meaningful spiritual conversations. For us, this has been a transformation in our thinking about hospitality at our doorstep!
If you wish to be more prepared for having spiritual conversations, Storyweavers Global offers training to connect well and tell the stories of Scripture for a variety of topics including: Speechless Moments, Discipleship, Good News Conversations, Inside Out (healthy relationships), MovieTrax, and more. You can find upcoming events here: Storyweavers Global Events
After ten years of involvement in ministry in Oaxaca, Mexico with Wycliffe & SIL, Deb & Ramón Padilla joined Outreach Canada in 2021 bringing their skills and experience to serve existing diaspora ministries in the Greater Toronto Area, and across Canada. Their vision is to collaborate with local ministries to support more effective use and access to Scriptures and other resources in the minority languages of homeland communities of immigrants. Through networking with front-line diaspora ministries and churches, Ramón seeks to understand the various contexts and help connect and foster collaboration of resources and ministries for Scripture Engagement to flourish among diaspora communities. Through research and connecting with other researchers, Deb seeks to communicate information about language groups in the diaspora to those whose work it will inspire as they minister to these communities.