Chinese Hospitality

Some years ago I was invited to speak to a Chinese church in the area of San Francisco, California. The first time I went to minister there, a young Chinese-American man came to pick me up. I'd flown three thousand miles to reach San Francisco after a string of ministry stops, so I was already tired and frustrated. Then I discovered that the airline personnel had managed to break my luggage.

After we finally escaped the baggage area and settled down for the drive into the city, I told my host, "Sometime in the next couple of days before I leave, I need to pick up some new straps to hold my luggage together well enough to get home. Maybe there will be a place by the hotel where I'm going to stay."

When my polite host said in accented English, "Oh, no hotel . . . House," I was sure the trip had taken a sudden turn for the worse.

I thought, Oh, Lord, help me! Then I made a mental note to make a stern phone call to my secretary. She knows that I always prefer to stay in hotels so I can have solitude to prepare for ministry. It's not that I don't enjoy people's homes, but I travel too much to stay with people and remain effective in ministry. I can't constantly entertain or be entertained-I have no right to minister on the presence of the Lord if I don't retreat from distractions and spend time with Him.

When the car pulled up at the house, I was imagining that hundreds of Chinese believers would be waiting for me in a small room and that I would have no opportunity to recover from what had been a nightmarish trip up to that point. I am just being honest.

When I looked up, I was pleasantly surprised to see a gorgeous house with a beautiful water fountain bubbling and gurgling in the backyard. That wonderful first impression was dampened when I entered the house and was met by what seemed to be dozens of Chinese believers in the living room! I was tired, half-mad over the luggage incident, and I'd just had thoughts of a very large crowd in a house greeting me-here it was in real life. All I could think of was that I desperately needed a nap. (A few minutes of sleep will do amazing things to your spirituality.)

When my hosts politely asked me, "Oh, you want to join Bible study?" I was honest with them. I said, "No, I want to take a nap." They graciously excused me and led me to my room upstairs. It was very nice, so I decided to delay the irate call to my scheduling secretary for a moment. As soon as I stretched out on the bed, I fell asleep.

When I woke up an hour later, the house was quiet, so I peeked out the door to see if the crowd was still there. No one was around. I opened the door and stepped out to get a drink. I stumbled over something at the door, and when I looked down, I saw two luggage straps and two tubes of toothpaste neatly arranged on the floor at my feet. I had briefly mentioned my need for toothpaste during the drive, along with my mention of the two straps for the broken luggage. I picked up the items and said, "Now, isn't that something? I barely mentioned my need for these things, and here they are." When I put the toothpaste and straps on the bed, I sensed the Lord say to my heart, I am going to teach you something here.

I went downstairs and opened the refrigerator as my hosts had instructed me to do. To my surprise, I found two twelve-packs of Dr. Pepper and two half-gallons of a particular brand of orange juice that I like to drink! I said, "Boy, this is really a coincidence."

Then the lady of the house appeared and said, "Oh, Pastor, you find your drinks."

I nodded and said, "Yes, but how did you know that I like Dr. Pepper?"

"Oh, we talked to your staff. We know what you like."

When I went back upstairs, I said, "God, what are You trying to teach me?" That was when He whispered to me, If you can entertain man whom you can see, there is a potential to host God, whom you cannot see.

That weekend was the beginning of an incredible relationship that continues to this day In fact, whenever I preach in the San Francisco area, I often stay with my Chinese friends instead of hotels. Why? I learned that they know how to honor and to host their guests with uncommon hospitality They totally changed my understanding of entertaining, serving, and waiting upon the Lord.

According to our North American mentality, we are hospitable when we tell our guests, "Just come in, get whatever you want out of the refrigerator, prop up your feet, and make yourself at home." I don't know about other people, but I can't do that if it isn't my home and if I don't know my hosts extremely well. The only way I'll feel "at home" is to have my hosts make it happen. That takes a bit of effort, and that also explains why I usually prefer to stay at hotels when I'm traveling. I don't like to be a burden to anyone.

The Scriptures say that Jesus performed more miracles than could ever be recorded in the books of the world.' I wonder how many of those unrecorded miracles were simply the side benefits enjoyed by the villages, congregations, families, and individuals who truly received and graciously hosted the Messiah?

What will happen if we ever learn how to entertain His presence by waiting on Him? Is there any way to measure the potential of the supernatural power of God released in His people? If a city is to receive divine visitation, someone must learn how to host the Holy Spirit!

Let me illustrate my point by telling you the rest of the story about my Chinese hosts. The time came when a young man in that Chinese family decided to get married. I hadn't pastored or conducted marriages for many years, but this young man called my offices and said, "Tell Pastor Tenney I going to get married. Please ask him, `Would you come do the wedding?"'

My scheduling secretary called to pass along the message, and she said, "I don't see how you can do this." When I asked, "Who is it?" She said, "Oh, you know, the Chinese family."

Immediately I told her, "You tell them I'll be right there."

I flew to San Francisco with my youngest daughter at my own expense and did the wedding, and we had a great time. "Tommy, why would you juggle an already packed schedule and climb into an airplane for a long three-thousand-mile flight just to do a wedding?" You may ask.

You don't understand. It was in this family's home that I learned about the power of hospitality and the gift of entertaining. God used these gracious people to teach me how to wait on people and anticipate needs. They increased my potential to wait upon Him.

Excerpt from The God Catchers, p. 82-85 Author, Tommy Tenney PO Box 3355 Pineville, LA 71360 318-442-4273

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