Hospitality and the Gospel

This is ugali, merere (slippery okra leaves), and roasted beef

I’ve only been a missionary for seven months, but my dad and stepmom have taught me for years about the power of food, hospitality, and the gospel. They witnessed firsthand the door of the gospel close in someone’s eyes when a missionary is picky or refuses the food that is offered to him or her. This is the main reason why the Holliman policy regarding food is “You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it!”

The point of this practice isn’t to be torturous, but to help all of us gain a perspective beyond our own desires for the good of someone else.

In my short experience in both Uganda and Kenya, I can testify that food is an area where everyone involved—both host and missionary—is paying attention at the beginning of a relationship. What I can promise you is that your ministry will not be far reaching if you come into a culture picky and demanding.

The door to the gospel is the kitchen door. I’m taking a few liberties here, but Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the [kitchen] door and knock” (Revelation 3:20). Hospitality literally means to love strangers, and a stranger is simply anyone who is different than you.

Hospitality and evangelism go hand in hand because hospitality is an attitude of the heart. It’s an understanding that while we were far away from God, strangers to Him, He called us close. We are invited to be friends of God even when we’re not lovely or lovable.

Discipleship is an invitation to friendship with Jesus, and that invitation is often extended over a meal.

Peter was the disciple who first came to understand that the Gentiles were welcomed into God’s kingdom. How did he make this discovery? He was praying and had vision about a picnic blanket—once again, I’m taking a few liberties here—full of all the animals Jews were not permitted to eat. Father God said, “Take and eat” to the astonishment of Peter. Of course, Peter was a good Jew and refused! Father God challenged Peter by saying not to call unclean what He has cleansed (Acts 10).

What Peter learned that day was that refusing to eat, being inhospitable, was keeping the gospel from reaching the nations.

Father God’s desire was and is for all men to know Him. If His disciples refused to gather around a table, to be in fellowship with outsiders, then the gospel message would never spread.

Food and hospitality are a big deal in the kingdom of God because food is a unifier of people. It’s hard to stay mad at someone with whom you’ve shared a meal because differences are resolved around the table. Friendships are forged around the table. In order for any sort of relationship to be built, you need to be in proximity and to be intentional, and the table provides a set time and place.

Gathering at the table also brings awareness to the sad fact that not everyone has an endless budget for groceries. Most missionaries live in countries where the people, if they are doing well, eat one big meal a day. They might or might not take tea and refreshment in the early afternoon. Some families are unable to send their kids to school because the choice is to educate their children or to eat dinner.

Food scarcity is real! It’s not just a ploy of nonprofit organizations to get donations.

You quickly learn on the mission field that whoever hosts you is sacrificing to provide for you. They are giving you their absolute best and they are serving you first. Everyone else in the home will eat after you. They will be happy with what remains once you’re satisfied, and they want you to enjoy a second helping. You cannot be picky as a missionary. You just can’t.

I’m not advocating suffering at every meal to eat what you hate. How does God get glory in that situation? If you’re called to the mission field, get a hold of these truths fast! Determine before you board the plane that you will eat like those you serve. Declare over yourself that you adjust to the food and culture quickly. God’s called you to a culture, right? So have fun exploring and enjoying the area and its food!

My experience when it comes to food has been incredible. Doors have opened to me and I’m gaining a reputation as the mzungu (white person) who eats like an African. I can eat with my hands now. I love ugali, which is a staple dish in Kenya. Allowing myself to explore and have fun makes every meal fun. My body is adjusting to my new environment.

You can’t be a missionary if you aren’t willing to be an explorer. Maybe that’s an extreme statement, but I just don’t see how it’s possible to live in a country and not eat the food. This is why training yourself and your family to not be picky and demanding is such a big deal.

Hospitality is much like gift giving. You must learn to be hospitable and how to be a good recipient of someone else’s hospitality.

Healthy Introspection

Introspection: the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.

I am an overly introspective person.

Is there a group called Over-Introspective Anonymous? 

If so, I need to go because the amount of time that I spend thinking things through is astronomical.

And annoying…..

There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you believe.

There’s nothing wrong with critical thinking.

It’s just that some of my “thinking” is actually tied to people pleasing. 


I am a recovering people pleaser and perfectionist. Old habits die hard. Just when I think that I’ve gotten it under control….

Well, you know how that sentence ends.

If your thoughts constantly revolve around “What will people think of me?” then that’s a sign that people pleasing is your motive. 

Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

Loosen up!

It’s okay.

You’re okay.

Keep moving towards your dreams.

Put away the measuring stick. There’s no need to compare yourself to others. You’re not them and they’re not you. 

I say all of these things as reminders to myself, but I know that we’ve all been there.

This is when the healthy use of introspection comes in handy. 

I only noticed my old habits creeping back in after reading through my last few posts and thinking back on several conversations from earlier in the week.

Now I know what areas need more attention. 

And it has nothing to do with what someone else thinks and everything to do with me growing, which is the natural byproduct of healthy introspection.

The opportunities in your reality

Did you ever watch The Brady Bunch movie?

It was a spoof from the ’90s that was not that great, but made me laugh nonetheless. In it, Mike Brady gave Bobby some great advice:

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

I’ve seen this “advice” plastered all over novelty items. (I also googled the saying and found out it’s the title of a meditation book. Go figure.) What a goofy thing to say, right? We all know that…..or do we?

Recently, I was part of a conversation where a friend said, “Do you know what I could be doing?” and then went on for about 10 minutes about a job he could have.

I told this friend,  “You’re right and I agree. But here you are, so what are you going to do?”

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming or wanting to better yourself. Just remember that improvement starts right where you are. The weaknesses we possess do not magically disappear with a new opportunity.

The more I listened to my friend, the more I understood that the root of the problem was not feeling appreciated. Maybe an elevated position, a better job would do the trick. These people would appreciate me. These people see my true potential.

Once again, there’s truth in these thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with getting praised and honored for good work. Just be careful that praise and accolades aren’t the primary motivators. Applause is momentary–and it’s fickle too.

Motivation really is everything.

What are you looking to gain from an opportunity?

Be honest.

Answering this one question will show you the motivations of your heart.

Like I said earlier, the messy parts of ourselves–the things we want to leave behind–won’t disappear. You can’t just move on and not leave the new address.

Look around. There’s a lot to learn, a lot to do right, where you are now. Don’t be afraid to dream, but don’t ignore the opportunities in your current reality either.

Trophy collecting is a bad hobby

I played Little League baseball as a kid and I was terrible.

Right field was where I belonged because that’s what you do with a seven year old girl with no athletic ability whose stepdad happened to be the coach.

Every season I got a trophy–even though I didn’t deserve one.

TrophyMy skills didn’t improve the one year I played softball either.

Every game my coach told me the same thing when it was my turn to bat: Take one for the team. 

So I would stand at the plate, let the softball hit me, and then walk to first base.

My only prayer was that the ball wouldn’t hit me in the spot that was bruised from the week before.

As terrible as I was, I still received a trophy…

And don’t get me started about my one year of girl’s basketball.

My only contribution to the team was scoring the winning shot for the other team, but I still received a trophy…

It would be foolish for me to display all of those trophies today, wouldn’t it? And yet that’s exactly what we do with our lives.

We are so proud of accomplishments that mean absolutely nothing.

I kill it at Candy Crush. I’m the top scorer in the Game Center! That has to count for something, right?

If you really want a trophy, go to a garage sale. They’re a dime a dozen.

If it’s a life of meaning you’re after, that requires a bit more effort.

Find something you love and get to work.

Quit flirting with mediocrity at the water cooler.

Get busy!

Yes, seasons of hard work–and even failure–will come as a result.

But I promise you that the rewards you do receive won’t end up in a garage sale.

The biggest lie in the whole wide (business) world

“The customer is always right.”

This is the biggest lie in the business world.

It’s also the biggest reason why most employees do not like customers.

These are the game rules:

A disgruntled customer complains to a manager. The customer was, in fact, wrong. The manager turns around and berates the employee for not appeasing the customer. The employee then quietly loathes all customers.

Everyone loses.

If the customer is always right, then the employees are always wrong….

And that can’t be right either.

So where’s the truth?

As usual, it’s somewhere in the middle, hiding in plain sight.

A few weeks ago, I talked about how everyone is in the people business.

It’s in this universal truth that we find the answer to the question.

Sometimes the customer is right, sometimes the employee is right, and sometimes they’re both wrong.

Each circumstance is unique.

That’s why it’s wrong to wrap the core of a business model around a faulty truth.

Good managers understand this point. If given the freedom to lead with discernment, these managers create happy environments for both customers and employees.

Unfortunately, a lot of good managers are trapped by red tape. There’s nothing they can do without getting themselves into trouble.

And so “the customer is always right” comes back like a bad dream….

Not everything can be about the bottom line. Statistics–pie charts, sales goals, projected profits–can only measure so much.

The entrepreneurial spirit is spreading like wildfire for a reason.

I’m so excited that our society is breaking out of the Big Box and returning to cottage industries.

Cottage industries focus on people, on a bigger picture where dollar signs aren’t everything.

I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but relationships matter. Even in business.

You’ll only get so far using people as rungs because the corporate ladder is falling down.

But you don’t have to go down with it.   

A fugitive’s life

I went to school with a boy who never talked. It’s not that he couldn’t talk because I know that he could (a few times in class he would answer a question). He just didn’t want to talk.

He also never ate lunch.

I sat across from him everyday and watched him do homework as I ate my federally mandated portions. A friend of mine made it her personal mission to get him to talk. It never worked. He did, though, laugh at her jokes. She was quite funny.

I asked him to sign my yearbook and, to my surprise, he did!

“I shall maintain my silence.”

That’s all he wrote.

Everything about him was a mystery to me.

He was a genius who won a full paid ride to college….

He was an artist who wouldn’t participate in the senior art show….

He didn’t even come to graduation….

So many things to not know.

My biggest question is why.

Why was he hiding?

When you boil his actions down, that’s all he was doing.

He was full of potential; He had no reason to hide.

I have to ask myself the same question too.

Why am I hiding?

We all need to answer this question.

Why do we hide our dreams?

Why do we play it safe?

Why do we stay small?

I always wanted to ask that boy why, but I never wanted to ask myself.

And that’s because the answers reveal the fears I never wanted to face.

Until now.

I used to be a fugitive, running away from my own life….

I’m tired of hiding.

I am answering the questions–even when it’s painful–and slowly finding my way.

What about you?

It’s time to stop hiding, to stop living a fugitive’s life.

Answer the hard questions.

Stop running and start living.

Transitional daydreams

Ever been so lost in thought that it’s hard to come back to reality?

It’s a lot like daydreaming. You see all of these things happening around you, but it’s more like you’re watching instead of participating.

Maybe you’ve been there or maybe you think I’m a lunatic. (I won’t be offended if you think that.)

Either way, I think we’ve all faced times of transition and decision.

That’s where I am right now.

And, for me, it’s hard to know where to go when everything is colliding, when the past, present, and future are duking it out for time and attention.

How do you stay centered?

I find three things helpful:

1. Journaling

2. Reading

3. Praying

I journal a lot about my thoughts, feelings, etc.

It helps to capture my thoughts so they don’t end up controlling me.

Then I read.

I read my Bible, I read books, I read articles and blogs because that helps me gain perspective and see the bigger picture. Reading shows me that I am not alone in my struggles and that there are answers to my questions.

Lastly, I pray.

I talk to God about what’s happening in my life. A few weeks ago I wrote on the importance of prayer and how God is truly interested in our day-to-day lives. Nothing proves that to me more than in these moments of transition. The coolest part is that I’m not talking up to a ceiling, hoping that God is listening. I am confident that God not only hears me but also talks to me.

Without these three things, I would be one confused girl. That’s the truth.

I encourage you, my friend, to recognize what helps you in moments of transition and decision. Don’t wait until the pressure is on to figure it out either.

If you feel brave, share with me what helps you.

Rabbit trails about inadequacy

I enjoy walking to the bank. It’s a nice change from sitting  all day.

The bank manager normally mills around and talks to customers. Today was Friday, so he was dressed casually. Monday through Thursday he wears a suit–an ill-fitting suit–and he seems a bit jittery. I got to thinking that maybe he’s uncomfortable because the suit doesn’t fit him.

The sleeves go way over his wrists and his pants are too long….he reminds me of a kid playing dress up. Maybe he feels inadequate and that makes him nervous?

I realize I’m speculating and this guy could be the most confident man in the world.

But my imagined story is not far from a truth many of us face everyday.

Feelings of inadequacy can sneak up on the best of us.

I saw a girl from high school today in a restaurant. She always made me feel small and unimportant. When I saw her, I panicked and found myself looking down, willing her not to notice me.

I thought about her and the branch manager as I walked back to my office.

My rabbit trail of thoughts led me to this conclusion:

We all play dress up at some point. We all experience inadequacy from time to time.

The act of dressing up, though, is actually a great test of our faith.

Sometimes you need to do it scared. Whatever “it” is for you, I can guarantee you that the first few times you step out will require a great deal of faith.

Your clothes will be too big.

And then you grow in confidence until you’re like Arnold Schwarzenegger, biceps ripping out of the sleeves from all the muscle you’ve built up. (Sorry! My imagination just got the best of me again.)

 But growth like that takes time and practice and even a few failed test runs.

Don’t let these things keep you from trying.

Don’t let feelings of inadequacy stop you.

Relational poker and icebergs

I would be a terrible professional poker player because my ability to bluff is nonexistent.

Within two hands I would be slap broke.

But emotionally? Now that’s a different story.

You will probably find it hard to believe, but I am a very private person. Yes, me, the girl who is posting a blog every day for an entire year. But, really and truly, it’s only about 300 words a day. That’s not a lot when you think about it.

If you’re familiar with the writings of Ernest Hemingway, you know about the Iceberg theory.

icebergtheoryHe only shows readers the tip of the iceberg while the rest is submerged underwater.

And maybe, if you’re like me, your first thought goes to the Titanic.

It’s dangerous to think that there’s this whole other level to relationships, a part that you can’t see by only hanging out with someone at work or church or school.

Relationships take a lot of time to build. It’s really not that far fetched to think that you have to navigate relationships like the Titanic should have navigated the waters–with caution.

You can’t stay surface level and expect to have deep, meaningful relationships.

I can’t play games of relational poker, always bluffing and keeping my cards close, and expect to find myself surrounded by a community of relationally minded people.

And you can’t either.

At some point we all need to share our stories–the good times and the bad times–because that’s where hope lives, the places where darkness turned to light.

Not everyone is like the person(s) who hurt you so deeply. Give others a chance to prove that to you.

No more poker face, okay?

You and I can’t exist outside of a community, so let people in.

Character friction

Coming face to face  with your character flaws stinks, especially when someone is giving you a compliment.

In the last few weeks, I have been praised for my patience and self-discipline…

I wish that it were true.

I wish that I could easily accept the compliment.

But all I see are the many, many times that I lose my temper or decide to eat a doughnut when I need to eat a salad.

What are you supposed to do with that information?

It challenges me.

On the one hand, I appreciate the positive affirmation. Truly I do. People pay attention when you’re headed down the right path.

On the other hand, I know there’s still a lot of road ahead of me. I have not arrived.

This friction is natural. The rub is real. (I can go on and on with friction clichés, but I’ll stop now. You’re welcome.)

In life, this struggle is the ultimate checks and balances system.

Remember several posts ago when I talked about the voices that scream out your flaws?

They are constantly reminding you of all the reasons you’ll never measure up.

But agreeing with their cries will not help you. Trust me. I spent many years covering my ears and running for cover.

That’s no way to live.

Knowing your areas of strengths and weaknesses is important.

You can’t be too boastful about your strengths or too ashamed about your weaknesses.

Stay focused on where you are headed in life. Keep moving in that direction.

Work on your strengths and weaknesses accordingly.

Maybe this isn’t a struggle for you.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Duh, Audra, everyone knows that!”

But I can get stuck in the rut of introspection and miss out on the fun of the journey.

I want to loosen up a little and have some fun. Want to join me?