Hospitality: Building Community in New Zealand
By Megan Gilbert, Global Strategy Missionary to New Zealand
Note: Megan and Kris Gilbert are featured missionaries in Global Strategy’s impactX2 year-end campaign. Gifts to the Gilberts through December 31, 2019, may be doubled through a matching gift. Click here to learn more about the Gilberts or for giving options. Or click here to learn more about the impactX2 campaign.
When we first moved to New Zealand, I was unprepared for the common occurrence of people just dropping in for a “cuppa” and a chat. I would scramble around looking for something to offer and trying to quickly tidy up the most obvious messes. But it didn’t take long to grow accustomed to the informal nature of hospitality in New Zealand, and we began to view the open door to our home as the opening to deeper relationships.
Hospitality is simply the offering up of our homes to meet the needs of those who enter, whether that be physical, emotional, or spiritual needs. It is extending the same grace and care to others that God has richly poured out upon us, and this is why it’s such a fitting doorway to meaningful conversations about life and faith. In particular, sharing food has a way of breaking down barriers and creating a sense of unity where otherwise this would be a challenge.
About a year ago, we were reflecting on which of our ministry activities or events have been most successful and we came to the realization that nearly all of them have featured the sharing of food. Ladies “Cheese and Chocolate” nights; Mosaic dinners, where everyone brings something to share and we discuss a current cultural topic; or casual BBQs, where we intentionally mix our Christian and unbelieving friends—these have been the venue of the deepest conversations and most meaningful connection. New Zealand is very much an international community, and particularly Auckland, where 40% of the population is not native to this country. This means that people are often living far from extended family support and hungry for a community. What better way to introduce them to Jesus than to invite them into a loving community of his followers?
So what does this look like for us? It means we do house church on Sunday afternoons and share a meal together after we discuss the Bread of Life and pray. We invite new neighbors over for a BBQ. I host a mid-week morning Bible study for mums, inviting women from a variety of faith backgrounds. We host larger gatherings on public holidays to encourage “mixing” of our groups of friends, or we invite to our table those who don’t have other family to spend the holidays with. Some of our hospitality is intentional and planned, while other times it is spontaneous, a response to being faced with someone’s need and our ability to do something about it in the name of Jesus.
I remember an older couple, long ago, describing their regular practices of hospitality by saying, “When the wheels fall off of a person’s life, they will come back to the places they felt loved and accepted.” We want our home to be that kind of place, one in which love, acceptance, and grace flow freely, a safe space where walls can come down and God’s presence is experienced.