Monday, August 16, 2010

Tea and Honey Sandwiches A Hospitality Story

'Is it okay to wash hands?' The young woman with a European accent and oil stained hands had come to the back door of the church building where the Sunday creche was in full swing. She had come to the right place for help that morning. A sink with hot water, a towel and meeting a young mother who just happened to be married to a mechanic. She explained their predicament. They had broken down right outside the church on their way north. They were in New Zealand as agricultural exchange students and today was their day off and they were traveling to the hot pools. They were too far from their farm to expect their hosts to come and rescue them. It was also a Sunday and many garages were closed.

I told her to wait for a moment and went back into church to find my husband. He was sitting in the middle of a row near the front and the Pastor had just commenced his sermon. Never mind, I was now on a mission to help these stranded Danes!

Husband found three Danish girls and one young American guy (another exchange student from the same farm) with their second hand car - an old Austin, funnily enough the guy's name was Austin and we are fairly certain that he bought it for the name rather than its mechanical dependability! The car needed some work to get it back on the road and then the realization of what I had set in motion that day dawned. 'I've offered to tow them home after church and fix their car and suggested they come for lunch.' You have? But....' Before I could respond, my husband had disappeared back into church with Austin who taken up the invitation of joining him for the rest of the service! I still try to imagine what it what have looked like had he taken the three Danish girls into the service instead!

On the trip home with our two year old son strapped in his car seat sharing the back seat with two friendly Danish girls my mind was fixed on what I was going to offer these people for lunch. It was not that I had forgotten to do the grocery shopping that week. We had not shopped for food because we had no money and the pantry was literally bare.

You see, I had taken a step of faith and given up my career to follow the desire that God had placed on my heart to be a full time stay at home mum. My second baby was due in just a few months. We had to leave the desirable seaside city we were living in as we could no longer afford the rents and my husband could not find work. We still owned a home in the North Island and had rented it out prior to my 'career move'. At least we would have a roof over our heads and hopefully my husband would find work again in the small town we had left. The last of our savings were spent on the move home.

It was good to be home but we were now in a predicament. No job was forthcoming and we had found out that because I chose to leave my post there was no entitlement to any benefits for six weeks from the time of application. We had no income at all. I had already been in touch with the bank, the power and telephone companies as deadlines for payments approached. And now we had run out of food and my husband had invited home for lunch a bunch of overseas students!

I invited the students into our home and my husband and Austin began working on the broken down Austin! The girls seemed very happy to be in our home. They told us all about their time in New Zealand and about their lives in Denmark. To be truthful I was not taking it all in, I was so focused on what I could feed them with and no boy had strolled past recently with loaves and fishes! But God had brought these people to my doorstep and it was lunch time!

But the cupboard was not entirely bare. There was a loaf of sandwich bread and a jar of honey - a welcome home gift from a beekeeper friend. I knew it was there but I had thought I could not possibly just serve up bread and honey sandwiches to our guests. But this is what God laid on my heart to do. To use all that I had left to bless these strangers. We had tea and some milk left so I brewed a pot of tea to serve with the sandwiches. I made an apology for not having coffee or sugar but there was sweet honey available.

And do you know what happened? They absolutely loved the sandwiches and declared how wonderful it was to taste real New Zealand honey! They kept on thanking us for our kindness. My husband managed to get their car running again and when they offered to pay for the work and forward the money to us he turned it down. We were in desperate need of money but we knew that this was the right thing to do. They insisted on giving my little boy the lollies they had brought with them for their trip and showered him with sweets and lollipops. They were able to resume their journey and as they left 'Thank you' and 'We will never forget you' was ringing in our ears.

Sixteen years have passed and I have never forgotten the Danish students (and Austin the American) that we brought home that day. It was an important lesson in hospitality and humility. I learned that even when it seems we have nothing to offer that God still expects us to reach out and help others. That you do not need to cook a fancy meal or offer five different choices of special teas. That sometimes just a humble plate of honey sandwiches and a pot of hot tea served with love can minister to the people God places in your path. To give unconditionally and not expect any kind of reward.

My new enamel kettle sits on the woodfired stove.
I swear tea tastes better when the water has been heated in this!

The following week amazing things did start to happen. People at church began blessing us - bringing us groceries and I learned how to swallow my pride and just say thank you and allow God to work through His people to help us out in our time of need. We never went hungry and that jar of honey seemed to last an extraordinarily long amount of time. There was still honey in the jar when after a few weeks my husband found employment. I was feeling just a little bit like a certain widow in the Bible who fed Elijah with the last of her flour and oil. Do you remember that story. As a result of her willingness to use what she had, her son was raised back to life!

Our Canadian visitors and our daughters' new found friends!

Since that time God has sent us many more people over the years. Friends, strangers and just last week Canadians! Some just came for tea or to spot koalas! Others shared in more substantial meals as God enabled and my kitchen abilities improved and for some we were able to offer significant help in their time of need and distress. I need to save those stories for other posts but our tea and honey hospitality experience is still one of my sweetest memories. I pray that it has encouraged you, especially if you are feeling that you do not have much to offer. A willing heart, an open home, sharing the talents that God has blessed you with and reaching out to those God places across your path. This is what hospitality is all about!

With Love and Joy,

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Mrs B said...

Love this! Thanks for sharing - and for the reminder that hospitality is just about using what we have, no matter how much or little at the time. We all need to step out more!

Rina ... also Chester or Daisysmum. said...

Oh Ann What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it with us. That is kindness from the heart. Hugs

Ruby said...

Great memories with a wonderful moral to the story! Thanks.

Jenn said...

I love this story, thank you so much for sharing. What a blessing to read first thing in the morning. =)

Suzanne said...

What a lovely story! A close friend is from Denmark and I never tire of her accent. My aunt had an Austin years ago and I just loved riding in that little car...LOL! And if you ever want me to search for a pie basket let me know, I see them in antique shops here.

Beth said...

What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing! I agree that too often we think that what we have isn't good enough to share. I know that I would have been delighted to sit down with you and have a honey sandwich...(me and Pooh...)!
Thanks for the nice comment on my blog. I don't know what is in store for us. Always ups and downs...
Love you!

Renata said...

Ann this is such a beautiful story - thank you so much for sharing it. God is so good & I love reading about how he provides - He always comes through (I know he's helped us through many sticky situations too).
Your gift of hospitality is inspiring & I thank you for sharing about it. Have a lovely day - ours is rainy here
Renata :)
PS I just got over the flu & remembered that I have the rest of that chocolate sitting in the pantry - mmmm I may just have to have a piece - it is the most delicious chocolate!

Camille said...

What a wonderful, inspiring story Ann! You tell it so well...lovely! I agree...we don't need to have LOTS to be able to share! God does provide and it doesn't need to be fancy. I am sure they thoroughly enjoyed those honey sandwiches...they would have "hit the spot"! :)

Thank you for sharing...I am sure it will encourage many in the REAL meaning of hospitality. Share what you have for the LORD's will always be a blessing.

In Him,

Elinor said...

I always feel encouraged reading your posts! Just loved reading about your hospitality experiences. Thank you for sharing


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