Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Radical Hospitality

I have been struck by the practice of radical hospitality here at Kafakumba. It was obvious from the first day that John and Kendra Enright live out a unique hospitality that seems to include just about everybody. Meal time is a good example. The day we arrived there were two gentlemen here from an African church; we all sat down to a wonderful meal at the Enright’s table. Around that table have been a simple stream of people over the last few days: Jay, the young Indian man who seems to be almost part of the family. The Enright’s two grown sons, Brian and Nathan, who obviously love their mom’s cooking & the conversation. Anjulie, the lovely young Indian-Portuguese-Malay-German girl who is engaged to Nathan. Fred, the importer from South Africa up on business, whose faith and gentle spirit play themselves out on the piano and in conversation. Two wandering souls from Indiana who have come to learn. These meals have been a really special time as conversation seems to range across the most amazing topics—literally from birds and bees, to how emeralds form, to dance, to theology, to raising fish, to American policy, to living out one’s faith. If you know the Enrights, you know that we have participated in lively conversations! It feels good to take the time to talk.

Hospitality here is based on a generosity of spirit that extends to more than food. The front porch is open to anyone, and many, many meetings take place there. When we arrived John greeted us with a smile and these words: “Welcome to the circus. You’ve been warned, but you have no idea.” We don’t. What we have observed is a rather amazing gathering of all sorts of people. One never knows who will be on the front porch. Leaders, workers, friends, beggars, kings-- I wouldn’t be surprised at this point who might show up there. The large front porch is central to life here and is a combination conference room, living room, verandah. A lot of serious discussion seems to take place there. It is true, the Enrights just attract a lot of people.

John and Kendra are building a home here. I am fascinated by how the design of the house is driven by their commitment to hospitality. They have planned for only a small space to be theirs; a bedroom, bath, and study. The rest of the house—large living-dining room combination, kitchen, and two guest rooms are planned for common space with the people who will come. Another large porch is already evident.

One of the lessons we will take away from here is a renewed commitment to hospitality. As a child I experienced it growing up in a small Mennonite community. We experienced it in our years in the military, especially in association with Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Centers (now called Cadence International). We have grown away from it, however, as years have passed. It would be good to find it again.

1 comment:

Dorothea said...

I could not help but smile when you said you want to find that element of open hospitality again in your own life. Africa can do that to us Westerners. The Millers would smile to hear you, too. You are good at hospitality, so I'm sure if you go after it you will succeed. Do you remember the time you showed up at our apartment in Athens and we had forgotten that we had invited you for dinner? Too funny! It still makes me laugh.