In my junior year of college, I signed up for a summer outreach to Eastern Europe, what we referred to at the time as a mission “Behind the Iron Curtain.” Our team smuggled Bibles hidden in the interior walls of a mini-van and prayed earnestly for God’s grace through border crossings into places like Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland. Looking back, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

We wore skirts and gave testimonials through interpreters, bathed in large bowls on the floors of kitchens and ate crusty rolls and jam for breakfast. Swarmed by church crowds speaking in foreign dialects every place we ministered, it all seemed so adventurous.

As a campus rep for Eastern Airlines, I flew separately from my team of peers because free air travel, of course. At the time, I thought my free flight status was an allowance for not having to raise as much money required for the outreach.

But after a successful mission trip, free standby flights weren’t available.

That little allowance turned into a lesson in survival. Adventure was a word quickly relegated to storybooks when I was stuck in London with less than fifty dollars in my wallet. Every flight leaving London back to the US was overbooked four months out.

I panicked.

And a nice young man in the same predicament took it upon himself to show me how to use the underground and find a room at a youth hostel. We were nearly the same age but he was obviously more experienced in world travel. He even took me on the scenic route, past a tea party on the lawn of Buckingham Palace during my brief unexpected stint in the city, enjoying a bit of sightseeing.

I don’t remember his name or what he looked like. Only that I thought God sent an angel to help me through an unwanted predicament.

Once I secured a room, I never left to eat or shower on that hot, August evening. Lying on top of the bed with the window open, I  listened to the bustle of city dwellers below while sweating through clothes and praying for a breeze to blow; all of nineteen and completely overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of, well, everything.

Westminster Bridge at sunset, London, UK

Two weeks ago, I moved to London with my husband and son after eight months of waiting for visas. After a packing whirlwind and leaving my daughter behind to finish her freshman year of college, we flew through the night using frequent flier mileage and woke up in England.

Wedging our legs and nine bags into a Youth with a Mission (YWAM) vehicle boasting a passenger door that wouldn’t open, we were escorted to the house we’d only seen previously in photos.

A vase of daffodils greet us in the center of a borrowed table alongside a homemade chocolate cake decorated with white icing flowers. Kitchen cabinets are stocked with food labeled in unfamiliar brand names, carefully selected by a group of women from the church where we are serving.

I don’t yet know all the people by name that have helped us transition to a new culture.

Practical Hospitality

All I know is practical hospitality is the selfless act of inviting someone into your world without strings attached. It is a generous welcome unlike expectation or the assumption of reciprocity but an authentic love that bears the weight of compassion and is driven to do good from empathy.

It is what pulls me out into the streets among crowds of people now when fear tells me to view the world from the safe place at my window. Sometimes not knowing what you are doing is the opportunity God has been waiting to give someone else.

How can you welcome someone into your world this week?

 

Shelly Miller / Posts / Blog
Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications. Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, will release with Bethany House Publishers in the fall of 2016 with a second launching in 2017 with Lion Hudson. Find more of Shelly’s writing on her blog, Redemptions Beauty, and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.
  • DeanneMoore

    This makes me think of my Luke and all the hospitality he has experienced in the places he’s visited around the world in the past few months— and how it’s probably not entered his mind how it will inform his future. So thankful that Life brought you back to the place of memories now transformed into a new home. I am so thankful you were welcomed by daffodils, a full pantry and hospitality without strings attached.

    April 8th, 2015 18:35
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      Yes, we have no idea how what we do when we are young will inform our future, do we Dea? I’m thankful for the past that comes to the forefront in times of transition because they reveal God’s presence always with us, even when we aren’t paying attention to it.

      April 9th, 2015 20:12
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  • Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    What thoughtful care God showed you on your unexpected adventure as a young missionary and how special to know He’s already paved the path for you and your family in England. What a sweet, sweet blessing of hospitality that greeted you upon your arrival of full cupboards, daffodils and chocolate cake.

    April 8th, 2015 20:30
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      God is so generous and creative with how he weaves threads of life into something beautiful, often in ways I never expected. Thanks for being here Caryn.

      April 9th, 2015 20:14
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  • pastordt

    Great stories, Shelly. And I’m assuming you eventually got back home at age 19??

    April 8th, 2015 22:21
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      I thought about that little detail later Diana. Yes, I should’ve tied up that part of the story. My mother had to purchase a plane ticket for me, money she didn’t really have at the time.

      April 9th, 2015 20:15
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  • Mary Gemmill

    LOVE reading about your London experiences and hearing you so happy….. it does my heart good after praying for you for so long !! Email me a Harrison update when there is news. God Bless you all…I know He is ! xxxx

    April 9th, 2015 7:30
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      Yes, I hope you see the stories as fruit from your intercession Mary. I will email you soon with the good news! *wink*

      April 9th, 2015 20:16
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  • Lori Harris
    http://loriharris.me/

    Your words simply remind me that every of act hospitality comes straight from the hands of Jesus. He sees our need and meets it in such a way that we can’t help but feel loved.
    The older I get, the sweeter Jesus is to me.
    Praying you through your transition.

    April 9th, 2015 10:55
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  • Nancy Ruegg

    Your adventure at age 19 reminds me of one of mine–nearly the same age, 18. I was headed solo to Quito, Ecuador as a short-term missionary, with an overnight lay-over in Panama City. Although given instructions for what to do, this inexperienced traveler was clueless as several snags occurred in the plans. Just as God sent an angel to care for you, God sent several for me–in Costa Rica when I had to make a connecting flight that was not even on my itinerary; when I arrived in Panama City and had to get to the hotel; when the flight the next morning for Quito was not even announced, etc. Hospitality takes many different forms. It’s not just an invitation for a meal.

    April 9th, 2015 20:59
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  • Brianna Farr

    Brave.

    April 9th, 2015 21:28
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