By Jill Wondel
In the summer of 1996 I gazed out the window as my plane landed in Kiev, Ukraine. It wasn’t my first international trip, but it was the first trip I would take to a country entirely foreign to me, the first time I would live in a place where English was only spoken through a translator. Our guide met us at the airport, got us through customs and took us to the train station where we would board an overnight train to Kharkiv – our home for the summer.
It was then that I realized that our Ukrainian guide had traveled on that same overnight train from Kharkiv just to meet us and to welcome us to his country. He made sure we made it safely and helped us settle into the apartments where we would live. We learned that the families who lived there moved out and made other housing arrangements with friends or family so we would have a comfortable place to stay. That summer was life-changing for me, due in part to the radical hospitality of our Ukrainian hosts.
In my travels since, I have encountered this kind of hospitality all over the world – from Singapore to Dewitt, Arkansas, from the women who invited me to stay with them when I was a newlywed and nervous to stay alone, to the friends who volunteered their condo this weekend so my husband and I could spend a couple of days away.
Maybe you’ve experienced that kind of radical hospitality too? The kind where you get a glimpse of Jesus in the face of a friend? The kind that Jesus refers to in Matthew 10:40, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”
In a few short months we’ll get a chance to offer radical hospitality to people all over the world, a chance to be the face of Jesus to someone who may be like I was so many years ago, experiencing an entirely foreign place where they will only hear their own language through a translator.
In February at the Special Called Session of General Conference, United Methodists will arrive in St. Louis to gather and discern the next best steps for our denomination. We have the opportunity to be the friendly face in the airport, the guide on the train, the host in the hotel lobby, the smile at the doors of the Dome at America’s Center. We hope you will take this opportunity to welcome our guests and, in turn to welcome Jesus among us.
For more information or to register as a volunteer, go to moumethodist.org and click on the volunteer link. We can’t wait to see you there!