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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

Watching the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, I could not hold back my tears as a team of refugees marched along with other athletes of the world. It reminded me of my own past, when I was a young athlete growing up as a refugee.

Like so many refugees today, we did not have a home. We felt like we belonged to no one and nowhere. We were seen as intruders, and many host communities and individuals were hostile and unwelcoming. We only felt safe in places where people did not know who we were.

‘Like so many refugees today, we did not have a home. We felt like we belonged to no one and nowhere.’

As an athlete, I had to be the best to get a chance at competing, and even then it depended on the prejudices and biases of the coaches. Unlike the athletes at Tokyo, I often felt that my talents and abilities only mattered if they could be exploited and used to benefit others. I felt invisible and as if I did not matter.

The need to belong

We all need shelter and somewhere to sleep safely at night, but the human desire for a home goes much deeper than this. It is rooted in our need to belong, and our need to be loved, accepted and appreciated for who we are.

The Bible’s beginning and end – creation (Genesis) and new creation (Revelation) – give us insight into what it means to belong and flourish in the home God has made and placed us in.

Geovanna and her family had to leave Venezuela but they have found a new home and community in Colombia.

Geovanna and her family had to leave Venezuela but they have found a new home and community in Colombia. Photo: Ferley Ospina/Tearfund

The Bible describes Eden, our original home, as a beautiful garden, planted by God with all kinds of plants. In the garden humans lived in harmony with God, with each other and with wider creation. Eden was more than a place to live. It was a place of peace, worship, loving relationship and sufficiency.

Genesis 3 describes how Adam and Eve’s disobedience broke up this home. They were removed from Eden and had to make their home in a broken world.

The rest of the Bible tells the story of God’s mission to redeem and restore his creation. In the book of Revelation we are given a glimpse of what this will look like: a place where once again there will be strong relationships and no pain or unmet needs (Revelation 7:16; 21:4).

Hospitality

Armed conflict, natural disasters and climate change force millions of people to leave their homes each year in search of somewhere safer. For countless others, instead of being a place of peace, home is where they experience pain, neglect or abuse.

Through the practice of hospitality, we can all help to provide places where people feel accepted and part of a loving community, no matter their background or current situation. The Bible makes it very clear that this is an important and transformational role of the church (Matthew 25:34–40; Hebrews 13:2).

I was a refugee at a time when there was little information about the causes and difficulties of displacement. It is no surprise, though, that the most welcoming were churches and believers. They gave shelter, food and clothing and allowed their buildings to be used as schools. Above all, they were kind. They provided us with a home.

Discrimination and prejudice have no place in our communities. Instead, we should show the love and compassion that Jesus spoke about when he explained to us what it means to love our neighbours as ourselves (Luke 10:25–37).

Written by

Written by  Emmanuel Murangira

Tearfund Country Director for Rwanda.

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