We arrived at the First United Methodist Church of New Castle, Indiana, in June, 1976, for Mike's first appointment out of seminary. Young and ready to meet new people and begin ministry, we looked forward to hosting guests. The church arranged for Dr. Eli and Velma Hendrix to speak to the congregation on a mission Sunday. The couple traveled from Vincennes, a town situated in the western part of the state to speak about their work in Haiti.
Eli, an optometrist, and Velma, a nurse, regularly traveled to Haiti offering eye exams and donated glasses to the people.
Velma and Eli stayed with us in our small, two bedroom apartment. When they arrived, we were excited to meet them and learn about their numerous mission trips. Neither Mike or I were aware of what kind of outreach was happening in the small, poverty-stricken nation.
Velma and Eli were devoted to the Haitian people and had the resources to improve their quality of life. Despite having four children, regular trips brought joy to their hearts.
Mike and I listened to the stories Velma and Eli told as we ate breakfast before church. Their passion to bring improved vision to many people was strong and heartfelt. Our souls were blessed by their compassionate hearts and selfless service. We realized as we listened that we were entertaining angels sent by God to Haiti to do God's work.
After their presentation at church, we sent them on their way with gratitude for meeting these two servants.
An Interesting Twist
Mike's career found us moving from New Castle to Mt. Vernon, in 1979. After almost five years, we relocated to a church on the southside of Indianapolis. Following that, in 1989, Mike was appointed to the First United Methodist Church in Vincennes, Velma and Eli's home church.
We were excited to see our friends we'd hosted eleven years ago and to learn more about their church and family. When we drove into the parsonage driveway with our fully-packed cars, we followed instructions from Velma in a letter we received shortly before moving, to call when we arrived.
I took a minute to stretch my legs, went into the parsonage, and called our dear friend. Within minutes she was greeting us and welcoming us to our new community.
Although we weren't complete strangers, we were grateful for her warm welcome and prayed that during our time together at the church we could offer her and others in the congregation acts of love and service in God's name.
Welcoming strangers - new neighbors, new people at church or work - can sometimes feel scary. However, listen to where God may be leading as you interact with new people who were sent to you by God. Invite them to your home for dessert to make connections, hear new thoughts or ideas and possibly bring an angelic presence to your home and heart.
Hebrews 13:2 - Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing.
Angel: (noun) a person who performs a mission of God or acts as if sent by God.
Prayer: God, you direct us to love one another as you have loved us. We see how Jesus modeled hospitality and love in the way he greeted all whom he encountered. Give us boldness to invite others in your name so that our souls can be stirred, our hearts blessed and new perspectives welcomed as we grow closer to you and others in the kingdom. Amen.