Her sweet mountain home was small by most standards – especially for a family of six. Chickens pecked around her front yard as she washed the morning’s dishes in the tub outside. The hose stretched just far enough to get the job done. She’d already been up for hours. Afterall, someone needed to begin preparations for the day and start the fire that would warm the tub of water for our “showers.” Her shawl stretched around her shoulders, chasing away the morning chill as she moved from task to task, always a contented look on her face. I watched as she smiled and gave a handful of coins to the older neighbor lady on the road who was bringing her more fresh corn tortillas for us gringos. There in the early morning light, I watched and the thought occurred to me that Amalya was probably one of the most beautiful souls I had ever met.
She’s also the primary living example that has convinced me that hospitality is not really about stuff. Amalya and Lencho didn’t have tons of stuff. They lived simply, hanging clothes on the line to dry and working their small plot of land to provide for their basic food needs. Running water was sparse. Hot water, non-existent… unless you boiled it on the fire in the small shower shed which was next to the outhouse. I know they had furniture but I don’t really remember it. I do remember sitting around the kitchen table, talking, laughing, and praying with dear friends. I remember standing in her kitchen when she treated us to Horchata de Arroz on our first night there. I even remember eating fresh mango and squeezing lime on everything as I feasted in her kitchen. But I honestly have absolutely no recollection of what the table itself looked like. And, I’m pretty sure that no one dish matched another dish.
You see, Amalya and Lencho knew something that we have forgotten. They knew and lived the truth that hospitality mostly hinges on loving God and loving people the way He does.
I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced hospitality quite like I did that week in the mountains of Mexico. I don’t speak much Spanish and Amalya speaks even less English; but I felt like my heart was knit with hers by the week’s end. Why? Because Amalya opened her life to us – she invited us in. Not just into her home but into her life. And as she did so, she offered us kindness, encouragement, and warmth.
She invited us into her village and let us glimpse her heart – her love for her people, her brokenness over loved ones who keep God at arm’s length, her tenderness toward her family, her passion for translating the Bible into the spoken dialect of the people – many of whom do not know Spanish.
What’s more, her invitation came at a cost. As the week wore on, we discovered all the accommodations she had made to make room for us – like cramming her family of six into two beds in one tiny room (storage area) so that we would have places to sleep. We disrupted their lives in every way. And yet, they invited us in.
And, THAT, is what I think hospitality is really all about. Hospitality is an invitation. Hospitality is about creating the time and the space to say “come on in and commune with us. Just as you are. We want you here. Mostly, because you matter to God, but I want you to matter to me, too. Because you have a story and I want you to share it with me. Come on in out of the storm, hang up your travel-worn cloak, and just rest for a sec… while I get you a cup of tea and a cozy blanket.”
Hospitality is, at its root, an invitation.
This post is the third in a series of 31 days of posts where I’ll be exploring the topic of hospitality. If you missed the beginning, you’ll want to go here to get caught up. I’m linking up with other 31 Dayers here, if you’re intrigued and you’d like to see more or check out some other bloggers who are writing on a variety of topics. I’d love it if you came back to join me for all 31 Days so feel free to subscribe and get my little blog delivered right to your inbox. You can do so in the top right corner of this page.