The Art of Welcoming: A 3-part Series on the Vision and Practice of Hospitality

February 17, 2020

Part Two: Meet Martha Clark

With a busy husband, eight kids, a dog, chickens, and a cluster of neighbors, Martha Clark has plenty of people around her! Yet her life oozes hospitality and countless souls have been fed, encouraged, discipled, and cared for at her kitchen table. Let’s see how she does it.

Martha, why is hospitality such a key part of your life?
What hospitality accomplishes in our homes can’t be accomplished anywhere else. When we invite people in, we see each other in real life, in real time. We see how someone cuts a head of lettuce and hear about their mom’s recipe. We linger in conversation. It’s so intimate and we really get to know people. It slows us down in the best kind of way, and that’s why I love it. 

How did you develop this value?
When I was dating my husband, people had us over to their homes, and I learned so much there–like how to relate in marriage or how to train small children. I’d watch them clean up or hear about their friendships. I even learned how to use a grocery circular! Their hospitality accomplished so much in my life. 

After we married, my husband, Jeff, had a greater vision for hospitality than I did, and it was sometimes hard to get on board with that. I had to die to myself as I opened my door. But once I got over my little temper tantrum and obeyed God, I realized how much I loved welcoming people into my home.

How do you fit other people into big family life?
We just invite people into the life we have. Our kids learned early that our home is not just for us: it’s for single moms who need a place to stay, or friends who want to talk, or new Christians who need encouragement. They were involved in all of it: playing games with other kids, eating, cleaning up, laughing. We hosted community group, had harvest parties, served lunches after church, and it all made memories for them. Even when they were older and didn’t always want to participate, they were able to see Jeff and me doing what God was calling us to do.

It’s also good to keep things simple. I often made soup on Saturday night and that’s an easy meal to shrink or expand for Sunday if we invite people after church. Nothing has to be perfect. Once we handed a guest dinner and it landed in his lap. Once our chicken tasted like lighter fluid. It all makes funny memories and binds us together. 

Are you ever scared?
Though I’m less intimidated about it than I used to be, it still happens. A few years back, Jeff invited a young single mom over who had come through the Bridge Course, and I was petrified. What if she doesn’t like us? What are we going to talk about? We ended up sitting in the backyard drinking ice water and connecting deeply. We talked about everything. I remember thinking, “I’m not doing this; it’s just happening.” And it was. God was doing it. This young woman climbed right into our hearts and is now a dear friend to our whole family. 

How has hospitality changed you personally? 
Besides making life-long friends and seeing God at work, it’s helped me to let go of my “stuff”. I grew up with a lot of family heirlooms and great importance placed on them, but God has changed my heart to love people more than my things. He has done a great work in that way. Am I really going to meet someone who needs a place to visit or stay and close the door to them to preserve my stuff? When I stand before the Lord am I really going to say, “It was just too uncomfortable, Lord”? 
I don’t want to regret how I handle these opportunities, even if I’m scared at times. I want my life to look different from the world. I feel like hospitality is a challenge from God: “I dare you to trust me.” And really, why wouldn’t I?

What are a few easy steps someone could take to grow in this area?
Have a mom and her kids over for a play date. Have people over for ice cream bars. Invite a new family over for lunch after church. Make dinner for your friends instead of always going to the nice restaurant. Share with people what you have (zinnias, ice skates your kids have outgrown, leftover birthday cake.)  And always, always stand on the porch until the last car leaves. Most importantly, pray. Ask God to help you see the opportunities before you. That is a prayer he loves to answer. 

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