July 2024 Devotional: Hospitality

By Major Tina Bottjen
Mat-Su Valley, AK Corps – Alaska Division

Growing up, I had always viewed hospitality as throwing elegant parties with the best foods that took all day to prepare. Hospitality, in my understanding, took valuable time, money, and effort. It was a gift for those that were extroverts that had lots of time and money on their hands. However, in the summer of 2005, my understanding of hospitality would be forever changed in a wonderful and powerful way.

Any officer in The Salvation Army can tell you, we move…. sometimes a lot, and almost always in the summer. In our officership here in the USA Western Territory, many of our moves have always happened around my youngest daughter’s birthday (Mid July). The timing of these moves often made it, so her birthdays were often a “family only” affair with no friends or even children her age there to celebrate with her.

We had just experienced such a move, one that took us from New Mexico to Alaska (thousands of miles away). Soon after moving, I was working alongside a volunteer, sorting items for the little thrift store attached to the back of the corps building. I shared how bad I felt for my daughter that so often her birthday was a small, family only event. She promptly told me, “Get me some invitations, I’ll give them out to some of the families I know with children her age. I can’t promise that anyone will show up, but I can promise to give out the invitations.” I went home and put the invitations together and gave them to her. I honestly didn’t expect anything to come from it though, who would want to come to a birthday party for someone they didn’t even know?

The day of my daughter’s birthday arrived, and we told her it was going to be a family birthday party (again, not much hope that anyone would show up.) We decorated for her party, as we always did. Just in case people did show up, I had hidden games, prizes, and goodie bags in my room. We took it slow that morning, wasting time with poor excuses for delaying the opening of gifts and eating goodies until the time I had put on the invitations arrived. It would be an understatement to say she was a little frustrated thinking we were just being ornery by making her wait.

As the time drew near, a car pulled up our driveway and out jumped a couple of girls her age, then another car pulled up, more kids, and then another! That day, 12 young girls came to celebrate the birthday of a young girl they had never met. As I took out the hidden games (including a piñata!), gift bags, and prizes, there were happy tears, laughter, and joy. They played games, ate too much food, and they gave her birthday gifts! We met several parents that day, people we would soon call friends. This gift of hospitality was so amazing, and soon we would call this place our hometown.

Scripture makes it very clear that hospitality is not only a gift and an expectation, but it is a requirement for believers. Romans 12:10-13 (NIV) tells us, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines hospitality as, “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests or hospitable treatment.” Hospitality is a way of living, a way of interacting with and sharing our life and time with those around us, all the time. Hospitality is letting people know they belong, not only in our homes, but also in our lives, and our community.

That day, my whole family felt welcomed and included in a community that we all still call home. Our lives were changed, because one woman shared her gift of hospitality by passing out birthday invitations, bringing twelve young girls and their families into our lives to celebrate our child and to welcome a new family to town.