Lydia Romanin grew up in Los Angeles, California, and is an alumna of Wheaton College. She enjoys writing, listening to people's stories, piano, and baking. She, her husband Nick, and their three kids currently serve with China Outreach Ministries at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Join her over the summer months for a blog series sharing and processing her experiences hosting a Chinese family.
This summer, we will have a female Christian student, M, and her mom, Mrs. M, staying with us. They will arrive in the middle of June and leave in the beginning of August. M has shared with me that she is excited for her mom to experience living with a God-fearing, Jesus-following family. We are all hoping that God will work on Mrs. M’s heart during her stay with us - that she will see Christ lived out.
As I document our family’s journey through cross-cultural hospitality this summer, experience life with M and Mrs. M through our stories told in this blog series. Through my posts about M and Mrs. M, I hope to share with you our interactions and commentary significant, comical, and awkward. Stay tuned for more scribbles from my diary as I document what it is like being the “hostess with the mostess” for God’s Kingdom (corniness intended).
Have you ever been a stranger in a foreign place? Maybe it was that time you studied abroad for a semester. Or that time you traveled to a different state or province. As a stranger, you don’t know the customs, you don’t know the local slang, and sometimes you don’t even know where to find a bathroom. As the word itself points out, everything just feels…“stranger” than normal. As comical as it can be to travel to a foreign country, it can also be frustrating, stressful, and difficult.
My husband and I were strangers somewhere once – strangers in Mongolia and strangers in China. Sometimes in China it felt like I was looking into a snow globe, from the outside looking in at a bustling city running on its own cogs and gears, and with its own rhythm and dynamics. Looking in from the outside was the norm. Feeling like I was part of the machine, inside the snow globe, was a rarity.
I always had my apartment, though. My little piece of America that I could always go back to at the end of a culturally frustrating day. In my apartment, I didn’t have to deal with the “Chineseness” of China. I didn’t have to rack my brain every few seconds of the day, wondering “How do they do this in China?” or “What would a Chinese person say?” My apartment was the place I would recharge for the next day’s cultural stressors and learning curves.
After getting married, my husband and I realized that both of us, perhaps because of our experiences as strangers in a foreign country, had a heart for hospitality. We wanted our home environment to be a place where people could recharge, feel relaxed, and feel safe. We are not the Ritz-Carlton by any means, but when we bought our current home, we decided we would leave one room for the guest or guests who needed a place to stay. Now, as missionaries to Chinese studying in America, we want to help Chinese people feel that though they might be strangers to America, they never need to feel like a stranger in our house.
We desire our house to be a place where people feel loved by Jesus - a love so powerful that it is transformational.
Soli Deo Gloria.
One part of being a loving host that is not readily apparent is extending your hospitality without the expectation of being thanked. It requires doing it completely out of a servant attitude. To be hospitable is to serve even when your guest rejects it, and even more so, to be willing to extend and continue hospitality despite the rejection. It is easy for us to force our ideals of hospitality on someone. It is easy for us to assume that our hospitality should make someone feel grateful, or to feel that as a host, you are entitled to expressions of gratitude. But being a loving host parallels the actions of Christ. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that “Love is not self-seeking.”
If hosting is all about our own glory, it is easy to offer a self-seeking hospitality. But if it is all for God’s glory, self-righteous hospitality is but a fleeting thought, for we know that we have a higher purpose and plan - God’s purpose and God’s glory.
Prayers of a Broken Host.
This summer, we will have a Chinese student and her mom staying with us. Although it is a bit intimidating to know that Mrs. M will have her first and perhaps only taste of an American family’s hospitality through us, we know that we can rely on prayer and God for wisdom. God will give us wisdom and patience for cultural differences and misunderstandings.
Having non-family stay with you is like having an extra pair (or two) of eyes observing all that you do and an extra pair of ears listening to all you say (as if the eyes and ears of our three children were not enough). Yikes! That’s when you wish you were sinless. If only. What am I going to do with Mrs. M all day?
God, would you help us pursue righteousness? Help us model forgiveness and repentance before our guests. May your grace be evident through our slowness to anger, in our stayed tongues and our loving efforts. Make your loving kindness shine through our sinful lives so that those who are strangers to you can become your children.
Having someone from another culture stay with you can be challenging because her norms are not our norms. This can cause communication problems, big and small. I know the student because I see her every week, but I have never met or spoken with her mom. What willll it be like to have her all of a sudden living with us day in and day out?
Lord, please give us understanding. Teach us how to love M and Mrs. M in ways that they understand. Father, give us insight to be culturally appropriate in our words and our actions.
Having someone older than you be your guest can also be an awkward dynamic. She’s raised her own child before, most likely using very different methods. What will she think of how we raise our kids? She has experienced much more life than we have. How can we express our differences respectfully but in the spirit of Truth?
Forgive us for thinking that only she will be transformed through this time, for more often than not, you transform us through our guests. Teacher, give us good questions during conversation. Help our parenting be a way for her to see the gospel of grace lived out. Anoint our lips with wise speech, not foolishness. Keep our hearts humble and teachable.