On more than one occasion I have mentioned the wonderful colleagues that God had given us when we moved to Swaziland. One couple especially had a permanent influence on our lives by demonstrating to us what it means to open your home to someone. People in need would knock at their door and would receive a meal and a place to sleep if it was needed – sometimes even for weeks on end. When we arrived in Swaziland we met someone from their congregation who had “trouble” written all over his face. He was a church member but I’m sure he was not a Christian. He seemed to have one mission in life, which was to make life difficult for the pastor. He was quite an old man at that time and was put under church discipline when he made a young girl pregnant. We all gave a sigh of relief on behalf of our colleague who had now been released of this man.
A few years later my colleague received news that the man was dying (AIDS? We didn’t really know much about AIDS at that time, but it is highly possible). They went to his home and found that the young girl who had been living with him had left him and he was living in terrible conditions with nobody to take care of him. They took him from his home and brought him to their house where they looked after him until he died a few months later.
We have never been able to do things quite like they did, but we did make a decision to open our home as much as possible. And what a blessing this has been for us! One thing which we learnt from our colleagues was that it is not necessary to supply five-star accommodation and food when you make this decision. We did the best we could, giving a bed if it was available. Often our children had to sleep on a mattress on the floor when people stayed over. My wife became well-known amongst our friends because of the lovely chicken dish that she so often prepared (very good to eat but affordable to prepare). Missionaries from all over the world stayed over with us. People on short-term outreaches stayed over. Church leaders from other countries stayed over. Friends in need of accommodation for a week or two stayed over. OK, I’ll be honest – it wasn’t always good. There were times when we wished people would leave, but this happened so seldom that we prefer to forget about those times. For us it had mostly been a blessing. Hopefully some people had been blessed to stay with us.
In 1994 one of my wife’s close friends gave her a book: Open heart – Open Home: How to find joy through sharing your home with others. On the first page she wrote: To my dear friend, Wilma, who opened her heart and her home to us.
I don’t think we will ever be as open as my colleague (now retired) and his wife, but we learnt a valuable (and Biblical) lesson from them without which we would have missed out on a lot of joy.