Hospitality erases sorrow
By Lucia Eberle | Niger in West Africa
Hospitality in Niger. Photo by SIM.
In their May issue of SIMNow magazine, SIM Canada explore the power of hospitality. Lucia Eberle, who has spent the past 10 years ministering to widows in Niger through SIM’s Dorcas ministry, shares some of the many lessons she has learned over those years.
Hospitality is a high quality in the West African culture. You are always welcome. We give you the best seat. We offer you water. Greetings are long and then time stops. It STOPS. All the attention is upon the guest. There is no hurry. You can stay as long as you want. We will not tell you to leave. The guest needs to ask to “take the road”, which means he or she would like to leave.
It reminds me so much of how Jesus looks at everyone he meets: He stops. He cares about the person. He responds to the needs. He sees beyond the present situation. He gives hope and strength in the time of trouble. He loves.
It is with this deep biblical understanding of hospitality that we welcome with an open heart all widows to Dorcas as individuals with their own past and present. We welcome them with Christ’s love, hope and purpose, knowing that He is the one working in them through us. It’s a privilege to see right from the front row how God uses Dorcas in their lives.
A widow testified: “The first time I arrived at the Dorcas group, I felt like I was there forever. I was greeted. I got smiles. I felt there is no difference between us. We are united. All this is covered by love. You see, hospitality makes a difference. It erases sorrow. It gives hope. It takes the burden off. It gives friendship and trust among us.”
'B' knows about sorrow and suffering. Just in the past few months: physical back pain that makes it hard to do her work at the market; deep angry reactions of her adult son who has been living with a mental illness; unable to pay rent (four months behind); harsh treatment from a “friend” who used her kindness.
In every situation, Dorcas stepped in as we walk side by side in her life. We have taken her to see a back exercise specialist, given her four months of rent, paid for a door that her son broke as well as some furniture that was being made, and so much more. But the most important is that we stopped to listen, to be there in difficult times, to pray, love and give. That hospitality is at the centre of this ministry. Our goal through Christ is to erase their sorrow.
At Dorcas ministry, this is how hospitality has flourished:
Home: It can be our home, their home, the marketplace - we visit.
Openhearted: We listen and open our hearts - they open theirs.
Strength: Teaching of the word of God, prayer, a hug, help.
Purpose: God has a plan for each of them.
Individual: We stop and examine each widow’s situation.
Transformation: Our greatest joy is to see God’s work in their lives.
Acknowledge: Their pains, needs, and we act.
Love: The love of Christ is our model.
Included: Everyone is included (different backgrounds, ethnicity, nationality).
Thankful: We thank God for the way he is teaching us what hospitality means.
Years: Years of trauma are transformed by Christ's love, acceptance, and hospitality.
•Praise God for the difference the Dorcas ministry has made in the lives of women like 'B'.
•Give thanks for the hospitality that you have received in your life.
•Ask for grace and opportunities to show hopsitality to others who need it.
You can read more stories from SIM Canada's SIMNow magazine here.