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From stranger to friend

When we practise hospitality, strangers become friends

Written by Heidi Damon 2022

One of the best ways to get to know people is to share a meal with them.

One of the best ways to get to know people is to share a meal with them. Photo: Andrew Philip/Tearfund

Indra, Alisha (eight) and Prakash (three) on the steps of their home in Nepal.

From: Home and hospitality – Footsteps 116

How hospitality, kindness and planning can reduce vulnerability and help communities to flourish

In my country of origin, Sri Lanka, it is considered an honour to welcome someone into your home and to offer them food and drink. By accepting these refreshments the guest shows their appreciation for the host’s generosity and honours them in return. This simple act of giving and receiving deepens the relationship between them.

Hospitality is the act of opening our homes, lives, churches and communities to friends, neighbours and strangers. Warm and generous hospitality creates an environment where people are welcomed and included, and where strangers become friends.

Isaiah 58:7 reminds us that it is an act of worship to ‘share our food with the hungry and provide the wanderer with shelter’, and throughout his ministry Jesus emphasised the importance of this (eg Luke 10:25–37; Matthew 25:34–40).

When we practise hospitality we are responding to God’s generous love and acceptance of us, by loving and accepting the people around us.


Here are some key aspects of hospitality that can help us to warmly welcome everyone, whatever their ethnicity, religion, background or current situation.

  • Gratitude. Hospitality can be challenging, especially when we do not know the person or people we are welcoming. Approaching hospitality from a place of gratitude to God can help us to share God’s love and blessings with others.
  • Humility. We should welcome people in humility and respect – not seeking to change them, but offering acceptance and a safe environment in which they can grow and thrive.
  • Listening. It is a privilege to experience the richness, vulnerability and courage of someone’s story. Listening builds relationships and shows respect. It is a way of honouring the guest.
  • Celebration and mourning. Hospitality provides the opportunity for us to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15). As we share the ups and downs of life with others, understanding grows and relationships are strengthened.
Friends greet each other warmly in South Sudan.

Friends greet each other warmly in South Sudan. Photo: Tom Price/Tearfund

We all need to feel loved and accepted, and hospitality helps to meet this need. It deepens existing relationships and creates the space for new ones to flourish. It promotes peace, understanding and reconciliation and provides an environment in which all backgrounds and nationalities are welcomed, valued and celebrated.

Discussion questions

  • How do you help people feel loved and accepted in your home, church and community?
  • Are there people in your community who might not always feel included? If so, why is this?
  • What could you or your church do to make people feel more welcome?

Written by

Written by  Heidi Damon

Heidi Damon leads Tearfund’s global church engagement work.

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