I am a Specialized Minister in the RCA. That means I was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament, but that I work in a specific type of ministry, not necessarily in a church context.
My ministry could be called Biblical Hospitality. It could be called Spiritual Direction. It could be called Christian Coaching. It could be called a type of Retreat Ministry. It is all of those things, and yet it’s none of them.
When pressed to explain what it is that I actually DO, the only answer I have come up with is this:
“I let complete strangers come into my house to spend the night, and I listen to them.”
When I say that out loud it sounds really bizarre, but that is what I do.
What began as a vision of using our home as a Christian retreat center has morphed into something completely different over the past year. My husband David and I host people – singles, couples, groups of friends – through AirBnB. They come to our home, spend a night or a weekend, and we chat. Sometimes we have coffee or share a meal; sometimes we take a walk together or we sit by the fireplace. But always, people talk and I listen.
I have always had an invisible sign over my head that says “Tell this woman your life story.” Apparently I have the type of face that invites absolute strangers to confide in me. It has happened in airports, bookstores, Taco Bell, shopping malls… Random people come up to me and ask me an innocuous question, (“Which looks better, this blue shirt or this green one?”) and suddenly they are telling me the harrowing details of their son’s suicide and how empty they’ve been feeling since; or they’re asking if it would be wise to marry the person they’ve lived with for seven years despite that person’s addiction, and do I think things will ever get better.
It’s a gift. And for the past year, I haven’t even had to leave my house to do this! I certainly don’t have any answers. But I am privileged to listen to their stories, and I hold those stories as sacred.
I’m in good company. Deborah, who was a judge in Israel, spent time under a palm tree in the hill country listening to her people: “the Israelis would approach her for decisions.” (Judges 4:5 ISV)
The writer of Hebrews advised, “Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 CEB)
And then the Apostle Peter urged his readers to “Open your homes to each other, without complaining. Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.” (1 Peter 4:9-10 NCV)
So, this is my mission from God: let complete strangers come into my house to spend the night, and listen to them. It’s just what I do.