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Thinking Out Loud

Radical Hospitality

by Michael Jinkins | Jul 18, 2017

Steve YoungBY STEVE YOUNG
Editor’s note: Today’s blog post is guest-written by Steve Young (pictured), executive director of Living Waters for the World, a Christian ministry that provides sustainable clean water, emphasizing relationships between volunteers and community partners. He is also a documentary filmmaker, guitar player, songwriter, husband and father of two. His blog, “Living in the Flow,” is available at https://livingintheflow.wordpress.com/.

We were temporary residents of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, in the fall of 2008, halfway through our two-month stay to adopt our first child, Lily Grace. Our interpreter, Julia, was a godsend, helping us navigate the many conversations required each day, translating from Russian to English and back again. Along the way, we began to get to know more about this bright young woman, who had learned English to make a better life for herself and her family.

When we learned that she still lived at home with her parents, we decided to invite the three of them out to dinner – it seemed like the least we could do. Julia was stunned, as apparently no one had ever done this before. We had a wonderful evening in a local pub, getting to know her father, Slava, a driver for a bank executive, her mother, Sveta, an administrative assistant, and sharing stories, hopes and dreams.

Radical HospitalityWeeks passed, and finally the time to leave Kazakhstan was drawing near. One morning, Julia greeted us with, “My family would like to invite you to have dinner with us this Sunday before you leave, if that would be okay.” We were touched by the invitation and enthusiastically accepted.

Sunday arrived, and we bundled up 10-month-old Lily Grace to make the drive through the snow and ice to the small apartment in a Soviet-era high-rise where Julia had lived with her parents all her life. When we walked in, we were warmly greeted by Julia, her parents – and her aunt, cousin and grandparents.

Rounding the corner, our jaws dropped. A table had been beautifully set and could barely contain all the bowls and platters of food, many Kazakhstani specialties among them. The family had begun cooking the day before, providing the best they had to celebrate with us.

We were overcome with emotion by this extravagant demonstration of hospitality, deepening bonds between new friends.

In a world so divided, how does this happen? How do bridges get built in spite of it all?

The Rev. Todd Jenkins, a Living Waters for the World volunteer leader, shares that the practice of “radical hospitality” as demonstrated by Jesus to those he encountered is “an invitation to deliberation and depth in relationship; a hospitality that allows our guests to be the focus of everything that we do.”

Our Living Waters partners strive to do this at every step along the way, in the warm embrace, the negotiated covenant, creating a banner of handprints and yes, even in the construction of a water system.

The opportunities lie around every corner. Soon to be nine years ago, strangers from the other side of the world became friends, sharing bonds of love in the context of hospitality. Today, Julia is married with a little girl of her own – some of those shared hopes and dreams fulfilled.

This day and every day, with loved ones near and far, may you experience and practice the radical hospitality made possible by God’s grace.

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