A friendship had not even been established with a Middle Eastern refugee family of eight when they invited us to their home for a meal. Jamal and Bushra put on a lavish spread in their simple small home. We felt bad they spent so much money on us. There was a language barrier between us but that did not seem to bother them. I asked what each dish was called and practiced saying the words which delighted them. They delighted in honoring us as their guests. Left-over food was put in a container to send home with us. Later I returned the container to them with some freshly baked cake. That was the beginning of a relationship which has flourished into a friendship.
Showing such a display of warm and generous hospitality towards strangers and friends is an outstanding characteristic of many Muslims no matter which Islamic country they come from. They are our teachers when it comes to hospitality. Buying, preparing, cooking and serving many dishes of food, plus cleaning up, might seem too time consuming and exhausting to us, but for them it is a delight and an energizing honor to do so. While outreach in Christian circles uses entertainment by music artists, charismatic speakers, programs, and dvd and book resources, outreach to Muslims will be most effective through home hospitality.
It speaks volumes when we invite them over for tea or a meal. We can start with a tea invitation. Cake(usually without icing), some fresh fruit and nuts are sufficient. A meal of fish or chicken, rice, and salad usually goes over well. Reassure them when you invite them that you will not serve pork or alcohol so they can come relaxed about those prohibitions. Some are concerned that chicken or beef would be halal according to Islamic slaughtering standards. Nowadays we can buy halal meat in many of our grocery stores. It works best if we invite just one individual or a family over rather than a group if we desire to go further than just serve food and extend a friendly welcome. Religious monitoring of each other is common. Ministry and sharing will deepen if there is privacy.
Did you notice that the first eight letters of the word hospitality spell hospital? Hospitality provides the environment when God, our Healer and Savior, often causes their emotional wounds, painful memories of war or fleeing, present struggles and challenges, and fears and anxieties to come to the surface. We suddenly move beyond a cultural exchange of customs. It is within the private context of a warm, loving, and safe Christian home where they can open up and share their hearts and stories. Listening to them usually creates the climate to offer praying for them or reading from the Word. This touches them deeply. We can share our stories with them, too. I often share about my past wounds and the healing found in my Savior. To say hospitality is fruitful and powerful is an understatement. Hospitality is much more than serving food. It is potentially a dynamic healing ministry.