For two weeks, I had put on a good face, I had maintained a positive attitude, and I was ready to learn about God’s heart for the world through the 2005 InterVarsity Global Urban Trek in Manila, Philippines.
Here I was in a different country for the first time, committing six weeks of my summer to learning, listening, embracing everything that God wanted to teach me about the world and his global mission, and discerning where he might be calling me after college.
When Our Plans Fall Through
But then, I got sick.
I had in fact come down with one of the most common sicknesses in the world—traveler’s diarrhea. But the really depressing part was that I ended up being sick for the last four weeks I was overseas.
There’s nothing like having to worry all the time about where the next bathroom is. After a couple weeks, I began to think that my plans for a great summer might be ruined.
And yet, even though my summer wasn’t going as I had planned, God provided gifts of radical hospitality that I never expected and will never forget.
What does radical hospitality look like?
One of the first radical gifts of hospitality that I received was a simple foam mattress.
Before coming to the Philippines, I had never had anyone give up their own (or only) bed for me. The host family that I was staying with only owned a single foam mattress that was shared between two to three family members.
And they gave it up for me for six weeks.
I remember how startled I was one morning when I came down from the loft area (after a good night’s rest) to find the entire family of four sleeping on the bare cement floor of their living area.
For some reason, I had assumed that they had more foam mattresses somewhere. And then I was embarrassed by my assumptions.
For the rest of that summer, I was in awe of my host family and their generosity. Not only did they give up their only bed, but they also treated me as their honored guest.
Every night they would insist on filling up my dinner plate and having me eat until I was full before they ate dinner themselves. Their five-year-old son made sure to let me know that I was one of his favorite people through his many hugs. My host mother went out of her way and used the precious money she had to buy special meals for me, their sick American guest. A female neighbor even offered to give me a massage because she thought it might help heal my stomach issues. And on my last night, my host family prepared a lavish farewell dinner of Filipino spaghetti and fried chicken, and practically the whole neighborhood dropped by to say goodbye.
Even though I had come to the Philippines with expectations of how I would meet God, I left floored by the generosity, love, and grace that I had received.
In actuality, I left the Philippines having experienced God’s grace through these examples of radical hospitality in a way that I never had before.
After I returned to the U.S., I felt challenged to model the same kind of radical hospitality and grace that I had experienced from my host family in the Philippines.
One simple way I’ve done that is by committing to give up my bed to friends or family or visitors who come to my city and need a place to stay.
In the past, I usually would have offered a guest the couch to sleep on rather than my own bed. But since then, I’ve offered up my own bed. And every time I do, it becomes an act of worship to God. I do it in honor of the grace and generosity I experienced in Manila.
For more on becoming hospitable people, check out these resources: