“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:9-10
My time in Africa was wonderful and gut wrenching at the same time. I wrote about my thoughts on the painful aspects last Friday. Today, I will share some insight into the hospitality experienced on my trip to Nairobi, Kenya, Africa.
I stayed with Tyler and Amy Maxwell, as well as their children, during my trip. The hospitality demonstrated by them towards me was wonderful. Great conversation over wonderful dinners, in car rides, and during our times with the street boys. I was asked if I needed anything and whether I slept well; they also provided honest answers to my many questions. They served me well. The verses in Mark 9 regarding hospitality (included in a writing earlier this week) reflect the treatment I received from the Maxwells.
There are a couple of lessons I learned while I was there. One was that the Kenyans are a friendly lot. Just like my previous trips to other cultures, I experienced their desire is to be hospitable. They’re willing to share what they have with others. The Kenyan culture is one of sharing, up to and including their money. Friends and family are free to ask for help financially of each other, as well as for food, and other necessities of life. There are, of course, implications with sharing funds in that you (being a Kenyan, for example) might short yourself in your expression of sharing. Money given for one thing might be used for another should it be more pressing. That’s different than our Western thinking towards each other and strangers. All in all, every Kenyan I met while there was willing to help me when I needed it. They are indeed very hospitable.
Another lesson learned was that being immersed in a culture different than my own truly is exhausting. When I was telling my wife, Christel, about how tired I would be at the end of the day, she asked me to imagine how tired immigrants (legal and otherwise) and refugees feel when they enter into our culture. I was fortunate to have the Maxwells as an information resource. While there are resources available to immigrants and refugees, they still need to find their way through a culture that is arguably vastly different from their own, with its own prejudices and preconceived notions.
It turns out that hospitality is a multi-faceted concept. It certainly does include taking care of the necessities of life, be it food, clothing, money, or a place to stay. But, I believe, now more than ever, it includes the open hand of acceptance and willingness to help inculturate those who are not familiar with our culture, perhaps experiencing it for the first time. We are told in the Bible to be hospitable towards strangers (Hebrews 13:2). Perhaps when you see someone you don’t know, you’ll approach them with an accepting spirit towards them as a soul, and guide them in hospitable ways, regardless of their individual culture.
By Rich Obrecht